The Epistle. Acts 2:1-11
The Gospel. St. John 14:15-31
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
These are the opening words from today’s Epistle Lesson. They tell us precisely what happened that day when Christ sent the Holy Spirit to indwell Jesus’ gathered followers.
In the following 26 chapters we get a look at the many ways in which the Holy Spirit empowered the early Church. The 12 Disciples, Paul, others, all went out and boldly, shared the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the surrounding region.
The result was an empire turned upside down. People were converting to Christianity in droves.
Of course opposition grew at the same time… and almost at the same rate. But despite the opposition and persecution, the Church grew and prospered and flourished. It seems to be a constant theme that God ordains.
The Church will grow even under the most extreme circumstances. Jesus promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail over the Church, so we should always keep that in mind.
We know the outcome of world history with a great measure of certainty. Perhaps not the details of how and when, but certainly the direction and the final outcome.
This is all because Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to continue the work of redemption.
And its important that we see the word another here in this Gospel passage this morning as an important word in the stream of what Jesus is saying.
Jesus says that He will send another helper…another comforter. Implying that the work of the Holy Spirit will not be wholly something new and different, but something of a continuation of what has already been going on.
This Comforter or Helper (another name given to the Spirit), is a word coming from the Greek word parakletos (one who is called along-side)
He comes along side of us to help and comfort us as we continue along our walk in the Christian life.
Yet no matter how much we speak of the Holy Spirit we still find Him difficult to understand at certain times and in some ways. Just how He works is not completely clear all of the time….maybe most of the time.
He is sometimes referred to as the silent member of the Trinity. This designation has some truth to it. In fact if we look at how the Holy Spirit is presented in Scripture, we don't find Him being a prominent player as Jesus was.
He is mentioned, but if you read closely, you will notice that though His work or His function and even His presence is noticeable and prominent, He is actually quite quiet about Himself and His real function is to point us to Christ and His saving work.
The Holy Spirit does not call attention to Himself at all…unless you see the underlying power in a certain event. Rather, He is always busy keeping Jesus present and front and center in the life of the Christian.
We find our Scriptural support for this from a few sources. Jesus says only a chapter prior:
“…when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (John 15:26 ESV)
Jesus spoke about Himself. We don't find the Holy Spirit making Himself central as Jesus did.
Jesus says in John 16: “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14 ESV)
The Holy Spirit’s work is the glorify Christ. Not Himself.
Though He should be glorified equally with the Father and the Son….being equal to both. We confess each time we come together in our Creed that the Holy Spirit, “…with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified.”
We may say that we live in the age of the Spirit and this is true, but the Spirit I'm sure desires more that we continue to keep our focus on the passion, death and resurrection of Christ first and foremost.
He points us to what Christ is doing and has done, rather than what we are doing. We cant help recognize when reading the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit is at work, but His work is always turned away from Himself.
Jesus has said recently in our lessons: “…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26 ESV)
The Holy Spirit’s work is glorifying Christ and His Kingdom by bringing to remembrance all that Christ has said and done.
Our Prayer this morning went like this: “O GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort…”
So the work of the Spirit has at least 4 elements to it. The Father sends the Spirit to:
1. Teach hearts.
2. Send light.
3. Give right judgment.
4. Give joy through obedience.
This is how we are pointed back to Christ and glorify Him…through the Holy Spirit.
Teaching hearts is done by sending light….sending understanding.
When we receive the light of understanding we gain right judgment. When we judge rightly, we are joyful and comforted that we have done so and that the Father is pleased with our works done in Christ through the Spirit.
We ask after hearing recited the 10 Commandments, after each Commandment: “Lord have mercy upon us and incline our hearts to keep this law.” We are asking here that the Spirit would do the inclining of our hearts, but it is not toward the Holy Spirit, but to the Laws of God.
We are doing that very thing that our Collect prescribes. We ask God that by His Holy Spirit He will send us the light of understanding and of right judgment in all situations where the Commandments of God are concerned and that by obedience we may be joyful people doing His commands.
And this goes on in all aspects of Scripture.
If we look again at the Gospel for today, we see the Holy Spirit’s work many times throughout this passage.
Right off the bat, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” How can we love God if we do not have a heart to do so?
The Holy Spirit works in us a heart to love God. We don't have the will or the ability to do this on our own. It has to be given to us and worked into us. Our hearts have to be inclined to act this way.
Because by nature they are inclined away from God.
And this is not a command here to say, “If you do this…If you love me” …as if its conditional.
It is saying, “The people who love me are the ones you will find keeping my commandments.
It’s not a command to love God, though we should. It is a statement of fact.
If you love God, you will be found keeping His commandments. It’s not telling us to love Him more in order to do it better. We cannot love God without Him first loving us.
It is telling us about a work of the Holy Spirit already presently working in us. We obey God’s commandments. Why? Because we have been inclined to love Him.
It is an indicative, not an imperative.
“The world,” says Jesus, “cannot accept this.” Why? Because the world…those outside of Christ…don't love God. The world does not love Christ.
Those outside of Christ do not love Him, or God, because the Spirit has not yet inclined their hearts to do so.
We do so because the Holy Spirit indwells us at our baptism and works in us from that point on to incline our hearts to love God more and more.
Paul writes this: “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” (So understanding is a gift from God)
“And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:12- ESV)
They are not discerned or understood or comprehended by the unspiritual but by those who have the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told them (and again, by extension, us) that He would not leave His people as orphans. He will come to them.
The Holy Spirit brings Christ to us. He lives to glorify Christ and to make Christ present to us.
Recall back at Easter time when Jesus comes along side the two men walking to Emmaus? What does He do at that time? He opens the Scriptures to them.
He tells them all of the many places where the Old Testament points to Christ. Points to Himself.
It is a Christian axiom that all of Scripture is about Christ. The Holy Spirit comes as the One who makes sure that we find Christ in all of the places where He is to be found in the Bible.
Jesus says as much today in this passage. Judas (not Iscariot) asks how they (how we) will know. How will Jesus manifest Himself to His people once He is gone? How will we know Jesus is manifesting Himself?
Jesus says that those who are found loving Christ will be found at the same time loving His Word. Loving all that He said and did.
That is one of the ways in which Christ is manifested to us. Of course He sustains us and manifests Himself to us in the Eucharist as well. (A central tenet of the Christian faith.)
Christ is made spiritually present to us when we partake of the Bread and Wine of the Lord’s Supper.
We spiritually eat and drink of Christ by the Holy Spirit’s manifesting power.
Finally, the Holy Spirit works in us and sustains an eternal union with Christ.
An eternal union….not one that will be broken.
The Disciples would not have been completely ignorant of the concept of the Holy Spirit or His work. In the Old Testament, they would have read in 1 Samuel: “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him [David] in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward.
Then further down it says: “Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the LORD tormented him.” (1 Samuel 16:13-14 ESV)
So not only here do we hear of the Holy Spirit rushing upon David, but leaving, departing from Saul the King.
And David himself writes in Psalm 51: “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:11 ESV)
Jesus, when He teaches His Disciples uses words about the abiding of the Holy Spirit in such a way so as to convey something that will be permanent and uninterrupted rather than fleeting and coming and going.
So there is a great privilege in receiving the Holy Spirit as we have done. He is with us and He is in us…and He is the same Spirit who came at Pentecost, worked through the Disciples and Apostles of Christ, empowering them to boldly carry the Gospel.
And He is still working today, right now. Not giving new revelation. But pointing us to the final revelation of Christ. If it’s something new it’s new to us perhaps but it has to be tested by the infallible Scriptures.
The Holy Spirit was present at Jesus’ conception, baptism, in His teaching and preaching. He was present in the casting out of demons. He was present at Jesus’ death…(Jesus through the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot or wrinkle) and at His Resurrection, quickening Christ to rise from the dead.
So Pentecost has great meaning and significance for us. Christ went away as we commemorated last week, and the Holy Spirit came as Jesus promised.
And He is active in the life of the Christian, leading us, guiding us and pointing us always to the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.