Today we take the time to celebrate the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, as we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost day. Yes, we are going to talk about that person of the Trinity of which it seems we Lutherans are most afraid. Personally, I think it is a healthy fear that we have, because we do not want to err in our understanding of the Holy Spirit, His power and His work. I say that, because we have seen too many TV evangelists and others abuse and misguide many people, even may faithful Christians, concerning the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes and does His work as He was sent to do by the Father and the Son. And He does His work the way He pleases according to His good and gracious will. For us to impose anything else on Him, namely our ideas of what He should do and how He should be is, simply put, silly.
Let us get into our text. Our text begins with Jesus announcing that He is going away and then we have the disciples reaction. We begin at verse five, “5But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. ” (v.5-7). The reaction of the disciples to Jesus’ announcement is grief, sadness, and sorrow. The disciples are sad for themselves, theirs is a selfish sadness. They will miss Jesus. They have not taken the time to think things through. They do not want to understand the importance of Jesus’ going away, the importance of His sending the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, patient as He always is with His disciples, reassures them that this is for their own good that He is going away. Again, Jesus reminds them that unless He goes away, He cannot send the Holy Spirit to them, but when He goes away He will send the Holy Spirit who will be a Helper and even, as some translations call Him, a Counselor for them.
The second part of our text outlines the work of the Holy Spirit. We pick up at verse eight, “8And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer” (v.8-10). The work of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and the judgment of the devil. Now let us take a moment to look at these three.
The Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of sin, the sin of unbelief in particular. Please understand that Jesus is not just speaking with His disciples, His “faithful,” strong in the faith, disciples. He is speaking to us here today in the year 2021. The Holy Spirit still comes to us today to convict us of our sin of unbelief. Sure, we come to church, we say we believe, but do we not have doubts, at times? Do we not, along with the disciples, misunderstand what Jesus is doing for us, becoming sad, even angry when we believe that Jesus has left us, because things are not going the way we think they should? Yes, even in our faith we have times of doubt and unbelief. We may even think to ourselves, was Jesus work on the cross enough, and was it for me?
The Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of righteousness, that is of self righteousness or work righteousness. Again, Jesus’ words are meant for us today. How often do we catch ourselves expressing our faith in terms of all the wonderful things we have done or are doing for the Lord. I am not saying that we should not be glad about our work for the Lord, but how often does what we are doing get in the way of what God does for and through us? We talk so much about what we have done and what we are doing that what God does is no longer important. You know, the devil is very subtle. He does not come to you and say, “All your good works are so good that you deserve to go to heaven.” Rather, he slowly gets you talking about all your good works so that your concentration shifts from your dependency on Jesus, and His death and resurrection, to your being dependent on yourself, and Jesus being dependent on you and what you are doing. He gets you to thinking that you can be a champion for the Lord. Of course, he does this so subtly that you do not notice until it is too late.
And the Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of the judgment of the devil and to remind us that salvation belongs to the believers. This is where the Holy Spirit gently nudges us to say, “hey, don’t you think you’re depending on yourself a little too much?” “Don’t forget that it was Jesus’ life and death on the cross that saved you, it was all that Jesus did for you, living a perfect life for you in your place that saved you, it was Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection for you personally that saved you, you did not save yourself.”
The Holy Spirit is alive and well in our world today. He is at work in our world and in us today. And we must understand that He works the way He wants to work, or as we say, when and where He pleases, giving the gifts He comes to give and giving them the way He wants to give them. Today He works through means, He works mediately, which is not to say that He cannot work immediately. Let me explain. The usual way the Holy Spirit has of working with us today is not to speak directly to us, not to come to us and show Himself to us; not to move in us to speak in tongues, or to babble. His usual way is to work through means, namely through the means of grace; the Word, that is the Bible, Confession and Absolution and the sacraments, that is Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Holy Spirit comes through these ordinary earthly means, the Word, the Bible as you read it and as your hear it read. He comes through confession and absolution as we confess our sins and as we hear His word of absolution, “Your sins are forgiven.” He comes through the sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He comes through simple water and the Word, and through the bread and wine, His body and blood, and the Word, to do His work, to show us Jesus’ life, His suffering and death, to show us Jesus’ resurrection, to give us the gifts that He has to give, namely the gifts of faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
Today the Holy Spirit delivers His gifts through the means of grace as they are given by our pastor. Our God is a God of good order. He knows that it would be rather chaotic for Him to just throw His gifts out at us or to us and beside, we would probably not believe it anyway. If Jesus appeared to us and then left, we would have a hard time believing it. So, God gives us the Holy Spirit and His gifts in a more orderly way, through the means of grace, delivered to us by our pastor.
And these gifts are delivered for us to use, not for us to take for granted, nor for us to hoard, nor for us to waste. The best illustration I can give you is the one I used a couple weeks ago and several times before, and one I am sure I will continue to use because it is a fitting illustration, it is the illustration of a pitcher of water. Please remember, as all illustrations are, do not push the point too far or you lose any meaning that might be there. God’s gifts are like water in a pitcher. We come here every week to have Him fill our glasses with the gifts that He has to give, through our hearing the Word, through our confessing our sins and hearing His words of absolution, our remembering our Baptism and our being given the Lord’s Supper. As we are filled with His gifts we get to the point that we overflow and those gifts spill over to others, and we are so excited that we share our faith with others, so they too will come to the Lord’s house, with their cups, to be given the Lord’s gifts as well. Those who do not come to be given the gifts are like the cup that stays away from the pitcher, and even what water it did have will evaporate so that it no longer has any, and that person loses their faith. Thus we see the importance of coming to the Lord’s house to be given His gifts. We come to the Lord’s house, we are filled with the Word and the Sacraments and then, excitedly we go out and tell others. Jesus’ life, Jesus’ work on the cross was enough. Jesus’ died for me and for you.
Last week marked our nineteenth anniversary as congregation and pastor. This morning as we begin another year together, as the Lord wills, I want to reiterate my commitment to you, the same commitment I made nineteen years ago. First, I commit to you that I will continue to pray for you, individually and personally. My usual habit is to begin my morning in prayer and scripture reading. Each morning I pray for a portion of the members of St. Matthew Lutheran Church personally, by name. I will also continue to pray for any special prayer requests you have made, including all those listed in our bulletin each week.
Second, I promise to continue to deliver the goods to you, that is, to continue to proclaim the good news to you, and to administer the sacraments to you, to speak God’s word of forgiveness to you. As you come here each Sunday, and on other days of worship and as you have need at other times, I promise to continue to share God’s Word of comfort and hope with you.
Finally, I promise to continue to be an example to you, though a sinful example and I will be an example by keeping my priorities straight. My priorities are first, my own personal relationship with God, second, my family, namely my wife, and then my children, and third, my work as your pastor. I continually pray that the Lord will give me the strength and ability to demonstrate these priorities in my life and as I demonstrate them, I pray that you will make them yours.
And now, as I did nineteen years ago, and as I often do, and as I am recommitting myself, I will ask you to recommit yourself. I ask two simple things from you. First, I ask that you will continue to pray for me. Pray that the Lord will continue working through me to reach you as well as others. Pray that the Lord will continue work in me to keep me faithful, and to preach faithfully even to the point of death.
Second, I ask that you will continue to come to be given the gifts that God has to give to you through me, making regular and diligent use of the Lord’s gifts. Come to divine service and Bible Class, come often to be given the gifts the Lord has to give to you through me.
Today is Pentecost Sunday. Next week we will celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday and the fact that God shows Himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And the following Sunday we will begin the Pentecost Season, the Non-festival portion of our church year as we call it. The color on the altar will be green, the color of growth. Summer will be beginning meaning that many will be on vacation. Unfortunately, too often too many people have a tendency to be tempted to skip church during the Summer, because they are on vacation and away and so forth. This tendency is one of Satan’s ways of tempting you out of your usual habit to be in divine service hoping to break that habit. May I encourage you, as we have heard God’s Word, as we are given His gifts here today, as we have recommitted ourselves to one another and to Christ, that with His help we also recommit ourselves to Summer divine service attendance. God loves you so much and He has so much He wants to give to you. Come and be given the gifts, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.