Sermon for Pentecost

Text: John 16:14
He (the Spirit) will give me glory, because he will take what I say and tell it to you.

Thrilling us with Christ

Over the years people have asked why it is that the Holy Spirit seems so absent from the Lutheran Church or more so from a particular congregation in which the questioner has been worshipping. During the conversation I usually discover that this dissatisfaction with his/her own congregation has arisen because of a visit to another churchís worship service where it seems clear that the Holy Spirit is really active.

One person said something like this, "I found that service like a spiritual electric storm: people speaking in tongues and falling over, people laughing, dancing and singing. It was like nothing Iíd ever seen. I was absolutely freaked out. I was literally unable to speak for about an hour afterwards. If that was real spirit-filled worship, then it seemed to me that the church Iíd grown up in doesnít have the Holy Spirit".

This person goes on to say that he began to question whether he was a Christian at all; whether the Holy Spirit was actually working in him or the church he belonged to. If the Holy Spirit really is at work in his life then shouldnít he feel, experience or see more signs that the Holy Spirit is central to his life as a Christian and to those in the church?

To answer questions like this, one of the best places to go to find out more about the Holy Spirit from Jesus himself in John chapters 14-16. Todayís gospel reading comes from these chapters and I have chosen to highlight just one verse but really you have to read all of these chapters.

Jesus teaches us the Holy Spiritís role and work is not to get us to focus on the Spirit and dazzle us with all kinds of experiences that cause us make these the-be-all and end-all of our Christian faith. Jesus states that the task of the Holy Spirit is to draw us to Jesus;
to make Jesus the centre and focus of our lives;
to teach us about Jesus;
to lead us again and again to Jesus after we have been led astray by the world, or Satan or our own sinful nature. Jesus says the Spirit will "tell you all about me", "he will give me glory" and "he will reveal to you whatever he receives from me".

The Holy Spirit leads us to believe and have faith in Jesus. He fills us and thrills us with the grace and love of Jesus and reminds and comforts us with the certain knowledge that even when it seems God is far away, or that people donít care, or that life is throwing at us every hurt and grief that it possibly can, the Holy Spirit points us to the love of our God as shown to us through Jesus death and resurrection.
He assures us that Jesusí love for us is right there with us in the most severe situations.
He reminds us of the promises that the Scriptures tells us over and over again that the love that God has for us can never be quenched.
He strengthens us and helps us to be confident and strong by pointing us to the cross and reminding us that with Jesusí we can endure any circumstance and trouble.

Isnít that what Paul meant when he said that he when was hungry, or thirsty, or persecuted, or whatever trouble came his way, he had the strength to endure all kinds of conditions? How could he make such a bold claim? The Holy Spirit reminded him in each courage-destroying situation that he is in Christ and Christ is in him and nothing can separate him from the love of Jesus. He says that he feels the most contented in difficult situations because then he feels the protection of Christ over him. Because of the grace and love of Jesus, he says he feels the strongest when he is the weakest. A person can only make a statement like that when it has been revealed to him/her by the Holy Spirit.

So where is the Holy Spirit working; what is the sign of his presence and his power? He is wherever Christ is being spoken about, wherever the words of Jesus are read and spoken. He is there in all his fullness wherever people worship and pray in the name of Jesus. When you believe and trust in Jesus you have that faith through the Holy Spiritís work in you and the Holy Spirit filling you.

The Holy Spirit never wants us to become obsessed with him or preoccupied with feeling his presence and power. He doesnít want us to be overcome and obsessed with anything that will block our focus on Jesus. What the Holy Spirit wants is that we become obsessed with Jesus Ė his relationship with us and our relationship with him. Jesus is the core and centre of our faith. He is the revelation of Godís love. He is our Saviour.

I like to think that the Holy Spirit is like the stage director of a theatre performance. The main character, Jesus, is centre stage with spotlights focussed on him and everyone in the audience has their eyes fixed on Jesus. This is only possible because behind the scenes the stage director has set up the lighting, the backdrops, the music Ė everything. Likewise the Holy Spirit sets things up so that all who come can only see Jesus. Even though the theatre is filled with darkness, we can see every act of love and hear every word of grace that comes from Jesus.

We donít need to wonder if the Holy Spirit is working in our lives when we set our eyes on Christ, and believe and trust in him. Lutherís said, "Believe, and youíve got it" ("Glaubst du, so hast du"). It does not matter what else we feel, experience or donít experience. It doesnít matter whether we are stressed, depressed, average or exhilarated with joy and enthusiasm, the Holy Spirit is there in all his fullness and urging us to grow deeper in Jesus.

When we see the Holy Spirit at work like this we stop wondering if the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives and in the church and start to see what he is doing. We are able to see better the way the Holy Spirit often works in unspectacular and ordinary ways.
When a family brings a child for baptism,
when a teacher or parent talks to a child about Jesus,
when our youth meet in Bible study, prayer and worship,
when the folk at aged care are encouraged by a friendly word,
when we gather around the altar for communion,
when the school kids lead us in worship,
when we sing songs and hymns that are ancient, modern and in between,
when the sick and discouraged are supported and cared for,
when two people make up and are friends again,
there the Holy Spirit is at work.

When reading or listening to God's Word heís the one who taps us on the shoulder and makes us realise,
"Hey, thatís me God is talking about.
Thatís me who needs a new beginning.
Thatís me who has been sidetracked by the things of this world, or wandering aimlessly through life.
Thatís me who has stepped on toes, hurt others and been so unappreciative of what they have done for me".
That's how the Spirit works. He confronts us and urges us to take a good look at ourselves and where we are heading, to make a u-turn, to leave the old behind and try something new. He's the one that won't let us stay smug and contented in our comfort zone. Heís not afraid to challenge us and stretch us to go and do things for Christ; things we have never done before or ever imagined ourselves doing.

He reminds us that there's more to life than making money, striving to be the best, driving ourselves to the point that we are so tired, stressed, irritable and at breaking point.
Heís the one who says to us, "Stop being so self-focussed. Stop looking into yourself all the time and being depressed by what you see, or fool yourself into thinking that what you see in yourself is enough to get you through. Look up, look away, look to Jesus and let him turn your around; let him take control!"

Dale Bruner has written extensively on the word of the Holy Spirit and he says this. "It is a relief to know, is it not, that we can be normal, struggling Christian men and women and still be filled with the Spirit. It is not necessary for us to glow in the dark or be radiant with victory in order for us to be God's servants and be experiencing the power of God's Spirit. Ö I believe that the Spiritís sign, desire, and work is that we be overcome again, thrilled again, excited, impressed, and gripped by the wonder, the majesty, the earthiness, and the relevance of Jesus and his Word to our world. The Holy Spirit does not mind being Cinderella outside the ballroom if the Prince is honoured inside his Kingdom. Ö The work of the Holy Spirit is simply to thrill us with Christ Ö. (F D Bruner, The Holy Spirit Ė Shy Member of the Trinity, Augsburg, Publishing House, 1984).

Spirit of God, lead us to Christ and keep us united in him, trusting in him as our Saviour and God forever.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
31st May 2009

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Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, revised Australian edition 1994.
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