“Come, Holy Spirit, God and Lord” Rev. Steven Sommerer
May 23, 2021 Pentecost Sunday
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today in the Church Year we celebrate the bestowal of the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost. The God we worship is the Triune God. That means that while God is one, He is three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While God is of one will and desire that we be saved, each of the distinct persons of the Trinity does in communion with the other its unique function. God the Father is God; the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, but there aren’t three Gods – only one… and, yet, within that unity, each person does His work. God the Father in communion with the Son and the Holy Spirit is Maker of heaven and earth. God the Son is the Redeemer who came from the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s work is less known, but equally important… the Spirit sanctifies us by calling us to faith.
The Prophet Ezekiel shows us the Spirit’s work when Ezekiel has a vision of a valley filled with dry bones… Notice, the text emphasizes, “They were very dry.” But through the preached Word of God, the Holy Spirit caused the valley of dry bones to come back to life.
The point is the natural mind and heart of man is very dry… there’s no spiritual life in you. You’re a bag of dead bones wrapped in skin. When the Word of God is preached, the Holy Spirit brings the dead to spiritual life. “Faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ,” Romans 10 says.
The Holy Spirit’s unique, necessary, saving role in the Trinity is to take what Jesus did at the cross and bring it into your ears and your forehead and your lips through the Means of Grace, so that you can know Jesus and be alive in Christ and be saved. Jesus says in our Gospel: “The Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father will testify about me.” The Holy Spirit points us to Jesus.
And the Holy Spirit creates faith. It’s arrogant to think we can come to God on our own power and own terms. Until the Holy Spirit works in you, you can’t choose for Jesus – you’re nothing but bleached, sun-dried bones. You can’t decide for Jesus. You can’t invite Jesus into your heart. Ephesians says, “You were dead in your trespasses and sins.” Until the Holy Spirit came into your life, you weren’t morally neutral, checking out the spiritual landscape and picking Jesus. 1 Corinthians says, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the spirit of God.” Romans says, “The sinful mind is hostile to God.”
Our fallen condition is such that we foolishly believe we’ve got great spiritual capacity, but it’s only from the Holy Spirit through God’s Spirit-given Word that we learn the devastating reality of the Fall: “No one comes to Me,” Jesus said, “unless the Father draw Him.” You aren’t OK. You aren’t basically good people. You aren’t fine on your own. You need an infusion of life – and, praise God, that’s just what the Holy Spirit does in the waters of Baptism.
So many foolishly think they sustain their own faith… so soon after confirmation or when they move away from home they don’t worship, don’t read the Word, don’t receive the Sacraments… in their minds, they’re OK. If that’s your thought, repent… If you starve your faith, no matter how good you feel about yourself, you will burn in the fires of hell forever. You and I need to be rescued and delivered by the Holy Spirit into the Kingdom of God. Ephesians says, “Faith is a gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.”
The Holy Spirit is also the true author of the Bible through His chosen writers. There are only two ways that the Holy Spirit changes us from dead, dry bones to living children of God. Jesus says, “No one can enter the kingdom of God, unless he is born again of water and the Spirit.” “Water and the Spirit” is Baptism. The Holy Spirit chooses to locate Himself. He doesn’t hide. He comes to us in Baptism to forgive our sins, as we see in Peter’s sermon from Acts 2: “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” Baptism is God’s mighty Word joined to water… He locates Himself so as to be found… so that you will be baptized and get your kids baptized, and know where to find the most precious life-giving power of God – right there in the water and Word.
Generally, churches that don’t baptize babies are also churches that don’t believe we are saved by grace alone. That teach you must take the lead and make the connection to God. But this dishonors God and takes His glory and credits the sinner. Paul said, “Faith is a gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Another way God creates faith and bestows His Holy Spirit is through His saving Word. 1 Peter says, “You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable through the living and enduring Word of Christ.” In God’s Word and Baptism, the Holy Spirit does just what Jesus says, “He testifies about Christ.” God’s Word comes in two main teaching, a Law Word, that convicts us of our sins and ties us in knots. It says, “You are lost and cannot be saved on your own.” Then comes the Gospel, the Word of God’s grace in Christ that loose the chains that bind us and sets us free in Jesus’ cross-won victory.
What else does the Holy Spirit do? He strengthens your faith. You can’t stay a Christian if the Holy Spirit weren’t constantly reaching out and working in your lives through His Word, Baptism, and His Holy Supper. This is why you don’t baptize your children and then kill their faith by starving it. You don’t carefully disciple your child till confirmation and then say now you’re on your own.. The Spirit doesn’t just start you off, He wants to strengthen and preserve your faith, but it’s like our bodies need food, our souls need God’s Word and Sacraments. Philippians 1 says, “The Lord who began this good work [of faith] in you, will carry it on to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So especially, dear graduates, don’t starve your faith. Be fred with the Word of Life.
What else does the Spirit do? Well, the Holy Spirit brings new impulses and empowers you to do God’s work as the Holy Spirit reaches through you to bless the world. The Holy Spirit is alive and powerful and active. You don’t graduate to be useless bumps on a couch collecting money and being cared for. In the same way, God didn’t save you and me to be bumps on a log, but to “live under Christ in His kingdom, serve Him in everlasting righteousness and blessedness.” God has given you your time, talents, and treasures to use for the work of His Church and for the spread of the Gospel. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, glorify God with your body.” God wants to use you; the Spirit says, “You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do the good works He prepared in advance for you to do.” Can you help with Bible School or Sunday School? Why not? Is your fear stronger than the Holy Spirit? I don’t think so. Can you invite your neighbor to church or talk to your own kids, classmates or teammates about Jesus? Why not? You know God promises to give you the words… So put on your big boy pants and get to work. God would use you to do great things for His Kingdom. Get over the excuses and go!
King David taught us a good prayer for the many times we fail God: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me, Cast me not from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.” And now as a forgiven child step out in faith; pray, worship, serve Him, and all this under the assurance that God in His grace has called you and joined you to Jesus’ resurrection victory. You have a life of purpose as you are saved by God’s grace and serve your Savior.
Even your perseverance in the faith until Christ’s return isn’t your work. The Holy Spirit works in you, Philippians says, to will and to act. Luther wrote one of the most beautiful confessions of the great saving work of the Holy Spirit, teaching us that our faith, began, continued, bringing forth good works, strengthened and preserved until death all flows from the Spirit. It’s so perfect and concise. I encourage all your homes to have the catechism or this hymnal, and use that Catechism to teach God’s truth. Turn with me to page 323 in the front of your Lutheran Service Book. As we celebrate God’s life-giving, faith-creating, body-raising Spirit we’ll speak together the 3rd Article and meaning in the 1st column there on page 323.
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 truth faith. In the same way, He calls gathers enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one, true faith. In this Christian Church, He daily and richly forgives the sins of me and all believers and on the last day He will raise up me and all the dead, and give unto me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.” Thank you, Jesus, for your Spirit. Kindle in us the fire of His love. Amen.
And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.