Monday, June 01, 2009

Sermon - Pentecost - Luke 15:26

Pentecost Day 2009
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
“Help from the Helper”

A Blessed Day of Pentecost to you, as we mark and remember the outpouring of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Easter. The disciples gathered together and spoke in miraculous fashion, telling the gathered nations about Jesus. Pentecost is, after Easter and Christmas, the highest festival in our church year. Pentecost highlights the person and work of the Holy Spirit. And today is also the day in which 7 young people participate in the Rite of Confirmation, recalling and renewing their baptismal vows.

As it is Pentecost, we expect to hear about the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. He is called the “Comforter, Guide, Spirit of Truth, Lord and Giver of Life”. He is God, along with the Father and Son. He has divine attributes, works, and names. And he receives our worship and praise just the same.

Here in our text from St. John, Jesus introduces the Spirit by yet another name. He calls the Holy Spirit the “Helper”.

One of those mild insults in our modern vocabulary is to tell someone, “you need help!” As in, professional help. You're messed up in some way and you need someone to straighten you out.

And in a sense, we all need help, don't we? We all have problems and challenges. We all have failings and faults and issues. In spiritual terms, we call this sin. The imperfection that corrupts our nature and marks our thoughts, words and deeds. The guilt we inherit from our parents and incur on our own. And that sin causes all sorts of problems in life – within ourselves and between us and others. Problems that we can't solve for ourselves if we are honest. Sin itself is the problem, and we are powerless against it.

One of the great mistaken quotes from scripture is that “God helps those who help themselves.” That's just not in there. In fact if scripture teaches anything it's that we CAN'T help ourselves. Saying we need help is an important admission. We can't help ourselves. But God can. Jesus does. And the Holy Spirit himself is the Helper. So how does he help? What does he do?

Jesus is very clear about the Spirit's “job description” if you will. He uses the following verbs to describe the Spirit's action. The Spirit will: Bear Witness, Convict, Guide, Declare, Glorify. All of this goes together.

The Spirit bears witness to Jesus. His main job, or function, you see, is to point us to Jesus, the Savior. So many today use the Spirit as another excuse to get distracted from Jesus and the cross. But the Holy Spirit is the one to lead us back to this central teaching of our faith – that Christ was crucified for sinners like you and me, and that by his blood we are made clean and righteous before God.

The Spirit also convicts us – that is, he makes us believe. He doesn't force us to believe, but we can't believe without his help. We can't believe by our own reason or strength. If we believe, the Spirit gets the credit, for faith itself is a gift.

The Spirit convicts us of sin – he shows us through the Word how our lives don't measure up to God's law, and he calls us to repent. Not just to feel sorry for our sins, but a complete change of heart and mind which turns away from sin and turns toward Christ in faith.

The Spirit convicts of righteousness - just as Jesus preached the good news, so now the Spirit works through the written and preached word to do the same. Announcing the forgiveness that Jesus has won for us – promising us victory over our enemy the devil, who already stands judged, and pointing us to the final day of judgment when God's plans are all fulfilled. Through the Spirit's work, we believe all this.

He declares the truth of Christ, and does it all for the glory of Christ.

The Holy Spirit is the Helper. He helps Christ in working for our salvation. Pointing us to what Christ has done and is doing. Distributing his gifts in word and sacrament. And he helps us – well, he really does his work without our help, doesn't he? We simply receive it, like all of God's gifts.

The Catechism teaches that the Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies. Those words are on this banner...

He calls each of us to repentance and faith in Christ.
He gathers us all together as one people – one body – the church.
He enlightens us, that is, he helps us to “see the light” - through the word of God which dispels all darkness.
And he sanctifies, that is, he makes us holy in Christ.

So the Spirit, the Helper, is at work. Never without Christ or apart from Him. Always encouraging, guiding, comforting, leading. Invisible, but working through visible and sure means – the word of God and the gifts of Baptism and Holy Communion. Helping Christ and more than helping us to receive his blessings.

When I was a kid, my dad would often do a project in the garage, and ask me to come help. I don't think he needed my help, though. I think it was really to spend some quality time together, or maybe to get me out of mom's hair. I began to wonder if he really needed a “light helper” to stand there and hold the light for him while he worked. He could have easily done it without me.

Likewise, God doesn't need our help, Christ doesn't need our help. The Spirit doesn't need our help. But we need our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We need help, and he gives help and more. Thanks and praise to the Father and Son who send us the Spirit, the Counselor, the Comforter, the Helper. Amen.

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