May 27, 2012
Acts 2:1-21, John 15:26-27: 16:4-15
Welcome to Pentecost! It’s the Feast of the Holy Spirit. That’s why we are surrounded by symbols of fire and wind, and the image of the dove that descended on Jesus at his baptism. Today on this day of wind and fire, we will affirm our faith together in the words of our baptism and the Apostles’Creed, that ancient statement of what we believe about who God is. We join with these young men who will stand before you and share their growing adult faith and make for themselves the promises which were made for them when they were baptized those fourteen or fifteen years ago.
But wait! Who is that Holy Spirit? What’s the Holy Spirit do, anyway? When it came time to write their statements of faith, it was easy for these boys to identify what they knew and believed about God the Father and Jesus, God’s Son. Their roles as creator and sustainer, as savior and healer are pretty clear. But when it came time to talk about what they believe about the Holy Spirit, they had a harder time. What about you? How would you talk about what you believe about the Holy Spirit? Do the readings for today give you any images or language that would be helpful. Maybe. Maybe not.
The Creed we say together just says: “I believe in the Holy Spirit”….then it goes on to talk about the church, “The Holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins….” And then about the last days, our own resurrection and life with God forever. Hmmm. Not very helpful.
Those of you who grew up Lutheran and had to memorize the Creed and Luther’s explanation of the Third Article may recall “I believe that 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 one true faith, even as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it in the one true faith. In which Christian church he daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.” That’s more of a help, I think, as it begins to identify some of the gifts the Holy Spirit, the Advocate Jesus is talking about. The Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps.”
That means that the Holy Spirit is now the connection for us between God the Father, and our connection to God the Son. When you see a sunrise or a sunset that makes you want to shout “Author, Author!” it is God’s Spirit that makes that connection for you that such beauty is a gift of the creator for your delight, as well as a phenomenon of physics of light and air vapor. When you feel as if you are in God’s own house when you look up in the forest, it is the Spirit that opens your heart to feel the sacredness of that space. You touch the hand of your new baby or grandchild and are moved to tears at the miracle of life before you. It is the Spirit making the connection to God’s marvelous creation touching you.
Your compassion for your friend who is suffering with cancer and your prayers for her healing are the Spirit at work, summoning Jesus’ own care for humanity and his power to heal. Your urge to share your experience of Jesus’ presence when you prayed for a miracle and it happened, is the Spirit speaking Jesus’ words of truth about how life works in God’s care. The faith in God’s love and in Jesus’ words of comfort when you feel as if you can’t go on, are the Spirit’s comfort and witness to the truth that God knows your fear and hears your cries, and walks beside you always. When your sins and failures overpower you and you don’t know where to turn to relieve your guilt and find acceptance again, it is the Holy Spirit who brings you back to church to hear that God never stopped loving you. It is the Holy Spirit that makes you want to be here to worship and praise and sends you out to face another week of the world’s woes.
And the Holy Spirit is us, the community gathered in God’s name and in God’s living word. We are the church that is the communion of saints. We as the church are the givers of forgiveness by the assurance we offer that God has carried away all our sins and covered over all our failures when Jesus overcame evil once for all. We as the gathered community offer God’s promises in baptism and Jesus’ presence in the bread and wine that we share. We are the bearers of God’s good news in the world by our care for the least of society, buy our words, and by what we do to change how the world works. Yes, the Holy Spirit is the key to all that we know of God’s Word in Jesus, because the Holy Spirit is the gift that calls us, gathers us, enlightens us, makes us holy, and keeps us close to God’s heart in the one true faith.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear then now.” Says Jesus as he readies his dear disciples for his torture and death. “But when the Spirit comes he will guide you into all truth…he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” We all have come to know how a word of hope can change the world for us – whether it is spoken by a friend, read in the Scripture, breathed in the sunset air, or heard in a word or phrase from a hymn or sermon. When that happens to you, remember that it is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus and of the Father that dwells with us in our everyday, reminding us of God’s great love, reminding us of Jesus’ life among us to make that love so personal, reminding us of the grace and forgiveness that makes us God’s beloved people, and reminding us that God is still at work in us and in our world to spread that love to every person and every corner of our world. Come, Holy Spirit, speak to our hearts and fill us with your love.
Now may the peace which passes all understanding, keep your hearts in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.