Sermon for June 8, 2014
Texts – Acts 2:1-21, John 20:19-23, 1 Corinthians12:3b-13
I find that Lutherans talk mostly about Jesus. As Mark Allen Powell puts it, “We’re very Jesusy people.” We claim to be Trinitarian in our theology, and defend that label proudly. But when it comes to the topics we like to preach about and study I think the breakdown looks something like this:
God the Father 7.65%
God the Son (Jesus) 92.3%
God the Holy Spirit 0.05% (and then only in a whisper)
Maybe it harkens back to the days when we referred to the third person of the Trinity as the Holy Ghost, and we’re afraid of ghosts. But I think it is more because of the unpredictable nature of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is very hard to put in a box which we can tape up and label with a Magic Marker.
The work of the Holy Spirit is also hard to boxify. Calling, enlightening, and sanctifying. Comforting, teaching, and guiding. Gathering, enlivening, and sending. And the only picture we have of the Holy Spirit is of a dove on Jesus shoulder. Even the Hebrew word ruach (pronounce the “ch” as though you are clearing your throat) has three basic meanings: wind, breath, and spirit. The Holy Spirit is really hard to pin down, just like wind or breath. And we don’t like things w can control.
Yet, without the Spirit we are lost. In his explanation to the third article of the Apostle’s Creed, Martin Luther writes:
I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith. Daily in this Christian church the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins—mine and those of all believers. On the last day the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.
I wish the new translation had kept the word “sanctifies,” what a windy breathy word that is. And it is a nebulous word that more accurately befits the work of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is breathed into us by Christ in the upper room with the disciples. With the Spirit is also given the power to forgive, a power normally reserved for God. But since God the Spirit is with us and within us so is the power of the Spirit at work in us and through us.
And there are other gifts that come with the Holy Spirit, it’s like the haul some people get on their birthday. Gift upon gift, upon gift.
There’s speaking in tongues, preaching, teaching, discernment of spirits, compassion, love, joy, generosity, hospitality, baking lemon marangue pies for the pastor (and many others too numerous to mention here.)
In 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 Paul writes, “4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” All these many and varying gifts are from the one Holy Spirit who calls all people to use their gifts to serve the one Lord, God. And it is the same God whom we are called to serve that makes those gifts active in our lives.
For many of us, the fear comes from the fact that God chooses which gifts we will have and we are given no say n the matter. The gifts come from God, we are given the power to use them by God, in the service of God. In no way are the gifts meant to be ours to use for our own purpose. As a matter of fact, Paul goes on in vs. 7, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
God gives me specific gifts by the Holy Spirit to be used for the sake of the community. And God gives you specific gifts by the Holy Spirit to be used for the sake of the community. When we use our gifts in concert with one another then we truly become the Body of Christ as God envisioned us to be. It is then that we become like the disciples witnessing in the streets of Jerusalem to the amazing and wonderful acts of God, to the praise and glory of Jesus Christ.