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The Day of Pentecost

May 20, 2018 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Pentecost

Passage: Acts 2:1–2:21

†††In the Name of Jesus†††

Pastor Murray Keith

Text: Acts 2:1-21

Date: May 20th, 2018; Pentecost Sunday; Series B

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

  • Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday.
  • We remember how the Holy Spirit worked in such a miraculous way among the disciples and the church.
  • All of our readings for this morning describe the work of the Holy Spirit.  
  • The Old Testament reading shows us that the Holy Spirit - working through the Word of God - is powerful enough to even bring dry bones back to life. 
  • The Epistle reading is the account of the Pentecost event itself. 
  • The Gospel reading is Jesus' promise to send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who will bless the church in many ways.
  • Pentecost Sunday is a day when we focus on the work of the Holy Spirit.
  • At times, Lutherans have been accused of not paying enough attention to the Holy Spirit – and we will discuss this a bit later.
  • There are some Christian denominations who make the work of the Holy Spirit their primary focus.They emphasize feelings and emotions. They focus on miraculous signs and wonders and incredible spiritual gifts.    
  • Among these denominations there is a lot of talk about the Spirit of God moving them to a decision in their life – a decision to accept Christ into their hearts, or a decision to follow Jesus.
  • A big part of their worship service is being able to feel the Holy Spirit or being able to sense God in some physical way.  
  • They will look to things like speaking in tongues, or sudden emotional outbursts, or loud crying and wailing – to confirm that God truly is among them.  
  • This is somewhat foreign to us Lutherans, isn’t it?
  • I have never experienced or witnessed these types of things happening in a Lutheran Church before.
  • So, do Lutherans believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in the church and in our world today?
  • Is it true that Lutherans have neglected the Holy Spirit in our teaching and practice?  
  • Well, I would like to read for you Dr. Martin Luther’s teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit  - this is his explanation on the third article of the Apostle’s Creed in his Small Catechism.
  • The third article of the Creed is:

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

  • What does this mean?  

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 true 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. 

  • So, is it true that Lutherans neglect the Holy Spirit in our teaching and practice?
  • Absolutely not.  
  • In fact, we believe the Holy Spirit is very much at work in the church and in our world today.  
  • The Holy Spirit is at work in our lives personally - every day, every hour, every minute.
  • But the Holy Spirit does not take centre stage.  
  • The Holy Spirit is a background actor.
  • He does not point to himself - but instead always points to Jesus.  
  • He does not draw attention to what he is doing - he has you focus on what Jesus has done for you.
  • Picture a live theatre play.  The theatre is entirely dark.  Pitch black.  It is so dark you can’t even see your hand in front of your face.
  • Then a spotlight comes on - it lights up one bright circle on the stage and in that circle is the actor.
  • That actor, illuminated among all the darkness, becomes the sole focus of the audience.
  • The spotlight enables you to see the actor - and at the same time - draws your attention to the actor.
  • Once the spotlight is shining on the actor you don’t really notice or focus on the spotlight itself - but only on the actor it is shining on.
  • This is the way it is with the Holy Spirit.
  • The Holy Spirit shines on Jesus so that he can be seen and that your attention may be drawn to him.  
  • Now, this is certainly not to downplay the importance of the work of the Holy Spirit.
  • Again from the Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him.”
  • Without the incredibly important work of the Holy Spirit in your life you are in complete darkness.
  • We read in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”  
  • From Dr. Luther again, “The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”
  • The work of the Holy Spirit in your life is not a onetime event, but is a continual receiving - a continuous flow of the Spirit and his gifts in your life.
  • But here is a key difference between Lutherans and some other denominations.
  • We don’t look for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives through feelings, emotions, speaking in tongues, and other manifestations like these.
  • The Bible does not reveal to us that this is where we are to look.
  • The Bible reveals to us that we look for the Holy Spirit to work through what we refer to as the “means of grace”.
  • It is through the means of grace that we receive the gifts of faith, forgiveness, holiness, salvation and eternal life that have been won for us by Jesus.
  • The means of grace are God’s Word, Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion.
  • If you want to know where the Holy Spirit is working in your life look to the means of grace because that is where God has promised to be and has promised to be working in your life.
  • We don’t look for the Spirit in our emotions or feelings or in some grand experience.  
  • There is no certainty there.  There is no promise that the Spirit is at work in these ways. 
  • No, we look for the Holy Spirit where he has promised to be at work for us – in the Word and Sacraments in the Church.  
  • The Holy Spirit’s work is objective and outside of us.  It is not dependent upon our feelings and emotions.
  • To be sure, we might have strong feelings and experience emotions when we encounter God and receive his gifts - we might feel a bit emotional when we approach the altar for Holy Communion, we might be brought to tears as we sing a hymn that really speaks to us at a given moment, and so on.
  • But we do not base our certainty of the Spirit’s activity in our lives on our feelings and emotions.
  • There might be times when we don’t feel particularly moved or feel much of anything at all.
  • But, thankfully, regardless of how we feel - we know that the Holy Spirit is working in our lives through his Word and Sacraments to nourish us spiritually.  To bring us and keep us in the one true faith.  
  • To give us the peace and comfort that surpasses all of our understanding – no matter what we are facing in our lives.
  • The Holy Spirit works through the means of grace to literally transform us to be his holy people who love and serve him by loving and serving our neighbour.
  • The Holy Spirit works through the means of grace to keep us in the one true faith, that on the Last Day, God will open our graves and raise us from our graves to life everlasting.  
  • My brothers and sisters in Christ, “…it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).  Amen.

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The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.