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 24, 2015

The Day of Pentecost

The Day of Pentecost (B)

May 24, 2015
Text: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

            Jesus promises the Helper will come (John 15:26).  The “Helper”… The word, actually, is Paraclete.  You may know Him from other translations as “Advocate,” “Counselor,” or “Comforter.”  He is all these, and more.  We are speaking, of course, of the Holy Spirit, who helps us in our weakness, advocates for us before God, counsels us by His holy Word, comforts us with the Gospel of Christ.  “Paraclete” literally means one who is called to the side.  When a child falls off her bike, she calls for Mommy.  Mommy comes to her side to paraclete.  She helps, counsels, and comforts.  She advocates getting back on the bike.  The Holy Spirit is at our side as our Paraclete.  He is poured out upon us in Holy Baptism.  He works on us and through us in His Word and the Holy Supper.  He dwells with us and makes us His temple.  He proceeds from the Father and the Son.  Jesus promises the Paraclete will come, “whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father” (v. 26; ESV).  The Spirit proceeds from the Father, through the Son, a little foretaste of next week’s Feast of the Holy Trinity.  And though the Spirit is from all eternity, and has been here in His creation from the very beginning, “hovering over the face of the waters” when the earth was without form and void (Gen. 1:2), He was poured out upon the Church in His fullness that first Pentecost after our Lord’s resurrection (Acts 2), blowing through the house like a mighty rushing wind, bestowing tongues of fire on the disciples and loosing their tongues to preach… To preach Christ crucified for sinners, Christ Jesus risen from the dead… To preach, not just to Jews, but to the whole world, each visitor to Jerusalem hearing the Gospel of Christ in his own native language.
            “(H)e will bear witness about me,” Jesus says (John 15:26).  That is what the Holy Spirit does.  He always points us to Jesus.  He is often called the “shy” Person of the Holy Trinity, because He does not seek attention for Himself, but for Jesus, by whom we are restored to the Father.  The Spirit is always helping us with Jesus, advocating for us through the blood of Jesus, counseling and comforting us with Jesus.  “He will bear witness about me,” Jesus says.  “And you also will bear witness,” the Lord promises His Apostles, “because you have been with me from the beginning” (v. 27).  The Apostles were the official witnesses of Jesus Christ.  The qualification to be an Apostle is to have been with Jesus from the Baptism of John until the Ascension (Acts 1:21-22).  You actually had to have seen the risen Christ with your own eyes.  That is what made you a “witness” in the full sense of the word.  And now, with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Apostles’ mouths were opened to speak this eyewitness testimony to the world, to preach Christ, the Savior.  That is how it works with the Spirit.  He is poured out on us in our Baptism.  He bears witness to us about Jesus.  He gives us living faith in Jesus.  And though we are not witnesses in the same technical sense as the Apostles, we witness His resurrection in His Word, and as the risen Jesus gives us His Body and Blood.  By His Word, we’re with Him, from the Baptism of John to the Ascension, indeed, from the creation of the world to its consummation at Christ’s return.  And the Spirit opens our lips and looses our tongues to speak; some to preach in the Office of the Holy Ministry, some to confess in their daily lives and vocations, one and all to testify of Christ.  The Spirit bears witness about Christ first to you, then to your neighbor through you.  But He’s always pointing to Jesus.
            The Church needs the Holy Spirit because we can’t see Jesus face to face.  Our Lord has ascended into heaven.  He is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  He is coming back soon, to judge the living and the dead.  But in the meantime, we cannot see Him with our eyes, as the disciples did during His earthly ministry.  He is with us, to be sure.  He is with us in a very real and tangible way.  But that way is hidden in Words and water and bread and wine. So we need the Spirit.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t believe Jesus is with us.  This kind of thing is spiritually discerned, as the Apostle Paul reminds us (1 Cor. 2:14).  The natural, unconverted person cannot accept it.  It is foolishness to human reason.  It is a miracle of the Holy Spirit that you believe any of this.  That is the Spirit bestowing faith in Christ where and when He pleases in those who hear the Gospel (AC V:2-3).  You cannot believe this by your own reason or strength.  The Holy Spirit calls you by the Gospel, enlightens you with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps you in the one true faith of Jesus Christ (SC II: Third Article). 
            Notice that it is through the Gospel that the Holy Spirit brings you to faith.  Now, the Holy Spirit is God.  He is bound by nothing in and of Himself.  He can do what He wants.  But He has graciously bound Himself to means, the Means of Grace, the Gospel, so that you can always know how to find Him.  He has bound Himself to preaching and God’s Word, and to the tangible Gospel of Baptism and Supper.  There you can be sure that it is the Holy Spirit giving you comfort and counsel in Christ, not some other spirit, some evil spirit giving you false comfort and counsel in someone or something other than Christ.  This is important: If a spirit speaks to me in my head or gives me a feeling in my heart, how can I know this is the Holy Spirit?  I can’t!  It could be a delusion.  It could be an evil spirit.  But when I hear the Gospel, I know it is the Holy Spirit who speaks to me.  I know it without a doubt.  And when I receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, I know it is the Holy Spirit who takes possession of me, with the Father and the Son, one God, now and forever.  The Spirit works through means, and He has told us what they are, so we can always be certain.
            And that is how He testifies to the world, too.  By His means.  By the Word.  In preaching.  In your confession.  In this way He convicts the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement.  Concerning sin, “because they do not believe in me” (John 16:9).  The only sin that shuts a person out from God is unbelief.  The forgiveness of sins is given freely in Christ who died on the cross as the payment for sin, and who has been raised from the dead.  He convicts the world “concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer” (v. 10).  The only true righteousness that avails before the Father is that of Jesus Himself.  Jesus is vindicated in His ascension to the Father.  His righteousness is demonstrated before all.  And in the preaching of the Gospel, the Spirit declares to the world that Jesus’ righteousness results in justification of the sinner before God.  Believe in Him, and God counts you as righteous.  You shall not die, but have eternal life.  Finally, the Spirit convicts the world “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (v. 11).  The devil is defeated.  The world judged Christ to be THE Sinner, and executed Him on the cross.  The great mystery is, so did God.  He made Him to be sin who had no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).  But now, having paid for the sins of the whole world in His bloody suffering and death, Christ Jesus is risen from the dead.  God’s Judgment is for Him!  And for us!  And against Satan.  Satan and the demons are damned.  The Gospel publishes the judgment.  The Spirit bears witness to Christ.

            And He leads the Church into all truth (John 16:13).  Again, this is always and only through the Word, through the Holy Scriptures.  If anyone comes proclaiming a new truth revealed to him by any other means, run.  Run away, and don’t look back.  That one is a false teacher.  The Spirit guides us into all truth through the Word.  It is not a truth that evolves.  It is not a truth that changes with the times.  And it is not dependent on your feelings about it, as if what is true for one is not true for you because you don’t feel it’s right, and you feel better about another truth.  No.  The Truth is One.  The Truth is Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).  And it is all things whatsoever Jesus has commanded us, which we are to teach the baptized until our Lord comes again (Matt. 28:19-20).  The Spirit speaks to us in the Scriptures.  He speaks what He hears from the heart of God (John 16:13).  All that the Father has belongs to the Son.  The Spirit takes what is the Son’s and declares it to you (v. 15).  The Spirit, poured out on you in Baptism (your own personal Pentecost), brings you into the very life and love of the Holy Trinity, by washing you with the blood of Jesus.  God’s own child, united to the death and resurrection of Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit, your Paraclete.  It is right there in the Words spoken over you at the font: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.           

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