SCRIPTURES – Ezek. 37:1-14; Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-27 & 16:4b-11
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16)
The day of Pentecost was such an exciting and amazing day. Imagine: you hear a sound like a great wind blowing. And then, little flames appear over everyone’s heads, and you all start speaking in different languages, languages which you had not known before. Truly incredible! If this happened this morning this would be quite a lively place!
Well, realize this and take this to heart: all of the exciting things that happened on that day of Pentecost were based on one rather mundane thing that is mentioned only in passing. The story of Pentecost begins like this: “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.” Those who were in that place heard the sound and received the visible outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Those who were not in that place did not.
Was it a happy accident that Christ’s disciples were all together in that place? No. Before He ascended into heaven Jesus had ordered them to stay in the city until they were clothed with power from on high. And so, they were there together, trusting in the Lord and waiting for His promised blessing. And when, ten days after He ascended, that promised blessing was poured out, they were there to receive the Holy Spirit.
What does this mean for you? You often hear me speak about the importance of being in church and joining in the Divine Service. I don’t say this for my sake, because a fuller church makes me feel better or look like a more successful pastor. I don’t urge your attendance so that our offerings will be better. I do this for your sake, that you might in this place, God’s house, receive the outpouring of His Holy Spirit and the eternal blessings only the Holy Spirit can bring.
Can receiving the Holy Spirit really be that simple, be just a matter of coming to church? Oh, it’s not that simple. There were thousands of people in Jerusalem on that day when the Holy Spirit came down, yet only Christ’s disciples received the Holy Spirit. What was different about them? They were there in Jerusalem in obedience to their Lord’s command. But, even more, they were there because they expected to receive a great blessing from Jesus. He had promised them a great blessing from the Father, the Spirit of truth; and they believed He would keep His promise. And so, the difference between the disciples and the other people in Jerusalem was that the disciples had an obedient and expectant faith in Jesus. That faith received the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
An obedient and expectant faith in Christ is not easy, especially in our day of superheroes and amazing computer generated graphics and exciting movies and visceral, driving music; in our day when what you desire you expect to get, and quickly and at an affordable price. Where’s the excitement in church? Where’s the dynamic, powerful, life-changing presence of the Holy Spirit in confessing sins and singing the same words over and over again and listening to a 15 minute or so talk?
I imagine the army supply clerk who does little more than sign requisitions and fill supply requests might feel this way about his service on this Memorial Day weekend. Stories about members of our military who laid down their lives in heroic acts are told. Heroes are remembered and honored. Ah, that’s the army! – not signing requisitions.
Did you know that the reason about 2,500 soldiers in General Washington’s army died during their winter encampment in Valley Forge in 1777-78 was not because of cold but because of the lack of food and clothing? Congress was trying to control, and so was interfering with, the work of quartermasters, and as a result the army was not being supplied. Soldiers weakened and got sick, and during that bleak winter roughly 20% of Washington’s army perished. Through the mundane work of supply clerks soldiers are supplied that battles might be fought and won!
Even so, it is vital that you be in God’s house to be supplied by God. But, it is vital that you come expecting to be supplied. Christ pours out His Holy Spirit here! His Spirit is to be desired and treasured, not belittled as uninteresting and boring. Yearn for Christ and His Holy Spirit, and you will receive eternal blessings.
“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me,” Jesus says. He has bound His Holy Spirit to His words. Talk; that is what the Holy Spirit does. But, as we see pictured for us so vividly in Ezekiel 37, the voice of the Holy Spirit is more than just mundane speech. His words are powerful to raise the dead to life!
“He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” This is what the Holy Spirit tells you. The ruler of this world – Satan – is under Christ’s judgment. Do not fix your eyes on this world and the things of it, then, lest you share in his eternal condemnation. Yearn for, and come to receive, the blessings Christ gives by His Holy Spirit! You will receive the forgiveness of all of your sins, the forgiveness Jesus won for you on the cross. “Believe this,” says the Holy Spirit, “and you are without sin in God’s eyes!” For if, as Jesus says, sin is not believing in Him, then you who do believe in Jesus are not guilty of sin. No one can accuse you who believe in Jesus of being sinful if Christ says you are not! You have been given a new and eternal life in Jesus. Now, go forth in joy and live it to His praise and glory!
Christ’s disciples, after they received the gift of the Holy Spirit, did this. They did not have a great music program to attract people to Jesus. The held no high positions of authority and responsibility and weren’t well known leaders of men. They had no dynamic networking plan; no fabulous Facebook page; no Twitter account. They had no beautiful churches to which to invite people. All they had was the message of Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, and ascended for our salvation, and the blessing of the Holy Spirit upon them. They went forth to proclaim Jesus in words, in the water of Baptism, and in the bread and wine of His Supper; and today people across the world, including you and me, know of Jesus and believe in Him.
The same word of salvation in Christ that the apostles proclaimed is proclaimed here. The same Sacraments Jesus gave them are given here. This, then, is the place of Pentecost today. Here the Holy Spirit takes what is Christ’s, and so also all that is the Father’s, and gives it to you. Believe this! Expect this! Receive this! And, life eternal, with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is yours. Amen!