Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Day of Pentecost

The Day of Pentecost (B)


The Confirmation of Chloe Adams and Bradly Lowery

May 27, 2012

Text: Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

Pentecost and Confirmation go together. The Feast of Pentecost has historically been one of the Church’s traditional Confirmation Days. And the reason is this: Both are a celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the early Church, as He came in the sound of a mighty, rushing wind, and tongues of fire came to rest on each of the apostles as they preached the Gospel in languages they had not previously learned or studied (Acts 2). The Spirit continues to dwell with His Church in the preaching of the Gospel, leading us into all truth (John 16:13). Confirmation is the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon our confirmands in their Baptism in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When Chloe and Brad were baptized into Christ, they received the same Holy Spirit who came to the Church on the first Pentecost. Today, the questions that were answered for them and the vows that were made for them at their Baptism by their parents and sponsors, are spoken and made by their own mouths as they make their good confession of the Lord Jesus and His doctrine as they have come to know it from the Holy Scriptures and Luther’s Small Catechism. As God’s own children, they are publicly confessing the gifts God gave them in their Baptism. It is a confession they can only make by the Holy Spirit. Pentecost and Confirmation both celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on His Christians. Pentecost and Confirmation go together.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to His apostles and His Church in our Gospel this morning. There He promises that the Paraclete will come. The Paraclete. It’s a Greek word. The ESV translates it as “Helper,” but the title means so much more than that. Paraclete can be variously translated as “Helper,” “Counselor,” “Comforter,” “Advocate,” and it means all of these things and more. It literally means one who is called to someone, meaning one you call to your side in a time of crisis, like a mother who runs to the side of her crying child who has fallen off her bicycle.[1] The mother is a paraclete. She helps, counsels, and comforts. She helps. She cleans and bandages the wounds. She counsels. She identifies what caused the accident and imparts her wisdom for avoiding bicycle injuries in the future. And she comforts. Her very presence is comforting. She scoops her child into her arms and consoles the little one. This is what God, the Holy Spirit does for us. He helps us who have been wounded by sin and death. He cleans us up and binds our wounds with the healing medicine of the Gospel. He counsels us. He identifies the sins that afflict us and imparts true wisdom to us through His Word to avoid sin and do the will of God. And He comforts us in all our afflictions. His very presence is comforting. He demonstrates and imparts the love of God for us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And Jesus Christ is what the Holy Spirit is all about. He proceeds from the Father and the Son to bear witness about the Son (John 15:26). And He works in us, as He is working in Chloe and Brad today, to bear witness about the Son in our confession of Christ and in our daily vocations (v. 27). He’s all about the Son. That’s His work, to point us to Jesus, the Son of Mary, the Son of God. For this reason the Holy Spirit has sometimes been called the “shy” Person of the Holy Trinity. It’s not that He’s bashful. But He’s always pointing us to Jesus as the way to the Father. He’s always pointing us to Jesus and His innocent suffering and death for the forgiveness of our sin. He’s always pointing us to Jesus and His resurrection for our eternal life. Lutherans are often accused of not talking enough about the Holy Spirit. The reality is, though, that when we’re talking about Jesus, we’re talking about the Holy Spirit. Because we cannot know Jesus apart from the Spirit. St. Paul tells the Corinthians that “no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3; ESV). Because, as we memorized in the Small Catechism, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”[2] Apart from the Holy Spirit we cannot believe in Christ or confess Him. We’re trapped in unbelief by virtue of our sinful nature which is spiritually dead. The Holy Spirit has to come, just as He came to the Church on Pentecost, and breathe new life into us, make us a new creation, by His gifts in the Gospel and Sacraments. He comes so that we will know Jesus. “He will glorify me,” says Jesus, “for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). The Holy Spirit is always pointing to Jesus.

And He works through means. He attaches Himself to means so that we will always know where to find Him. Otherwise we might not know which spirit is speaking to us. If we trust feelings in our hearts or guts or voices in our heads, we’ll never know whether it’s the Holy Spirit speaking to us or an evil spirit. But we do always know that in the Scriptures it is the Holy Spirit who speaks. That is why we can absolutely trust the Scriptures as the divinely inspired and inerrant Word of God, because even though the Scriptures were penned by sinful humans, the apostles and prophets, those apostles and prophets were writing the very Word of God. The Holy Spirit speaks through the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit speaks through the preaching of those Scriptures. And we know from the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit comes to us in the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Word and Sacrament, these are the divinely appointed means by which we know the Holy Spirit is present and doing His work among us, ever pointing us to Jesus. And this is what He does as He comes to us in these means. Jesus says He convicts the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: “concerning sin, because they do not believe in me,” says Jesus (v. 9). Through His holy Law, the Holy Spirit shows us to be sinners and convicts us of unbelief. “(C)oncerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer,” says Jesus (v. 10). The Holy Spirit shows us in the Gospel that now Jesus Himself is our righteousness, who has ascended into heaven in His crucified and risen body, where He ever makes intercession for us before the Father. Now, when the Father looks at us, He does not see our sins, but only the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, His Son. And finally, “(C)oncerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (v. 11). The Holy Spirit shows us in the Gospel that Satan is judged, defeated in the victory of Jesus Christ by His cross and resurrection. We are no longer enslaved to the devil. In Christ, we are free. And notice that in this way, by means of the Word of God and the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit is paracleting us. He is helping, counseling, comforting us, as He delivers Jesus to us, our Savior and our Advocate. He doesn’t come to us in spectacular displays of mighty, rushing winds and tongues of fire, or the miraculous speaking of languages we never previously learned or studied. But then again, He never promised that He would always come to His Church in that spectacular way, with those spectacular gifts. He does promise that He will always come to His Church in Baptism and in Scripture and preaching and Holy Absolution and the Lord’s Supper. He does promise that by these means He will impart the most important gifts: faith in Jesus Christ, the hope of eternal life, and the love of God with which He fills us so that that love spills over to one another.

And that is what we celebrate on this Day of Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit according to the Promise of the Lord Jesus. And His coming to the children of our heavenly Father in Baptism, which we celebrate in the lives of Brad Lowery and Chloe Adams on this, their Confirmation Day. This is a day we celebrate our own Baptism into Christ along with them. For we, too, were made God’s own children in Holy Baptism, where the same Holy Spirit was poured out upon us to direct us ever to Jesus Christ, who died for us and who has been raised from the dead so that we can have eternal life. The same Holy Spirit who was given to us in Baptism works in us to will and to do what God commands, what we call sanctification, and to bear witness to Christ in our own lives of confession and vocation. The coming of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost and Confirmation. They go together. Today is a day of great rejoicing. For by His Spirit, God has made us His own. Because the Spirit gives us Jesus, who purchased us with His blood. The Spirit gathers us into the Church. And here in this Church He daily and richly forgives all our sins through the Word and Sacraments. He gives us new life in Christ now, and on the Last Day, He will raise us and all the dead, and give eternal life to us and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true. For the Spirit of Truth can never lie. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] The Rev. James Blain
[2] Luther's Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).

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