Pastor Joel Leyrer - Pentecost - Sunday, June 5, 2022

Text: John 14:23-27

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Dear Friends in Christ, We know that certain occupations and events are deemed worthy of their own designated appreciation days. But did you know there is an appreciation day for just about anything?

According to one internet resource I checked, there are ten appreciation holidays for today alone. June 5 is Hot Air Balloon Day, National Gingerbread Day, National Veggie Burger Day, National Sausage Roll Day, International World Environment Day, plus 5 others. Each one of those mentioned is to get our special recognition and appreciation today. I will leave it up to you how you wish to celebrate.

While trivia like this may be amusing, as vital information it falls squarely into the category of IBU – interesting but useless. And it has virtually no impact on our lives.

Nevertheless, what it can be useful for is the idea of a specially labeled day. Today we mark an event that truly is worth remembering and celebrating, and which does have a huge impact on our lives. That, of course, is Pentecost, which we could also certainly designate as

            HOLY SPIRIT APPRECIATION DAY

That is what we intend to do. Based on the words of Jesus, we will happily review

1. What the Holy Spirit does for us, and

 2. What the Holy Spirit brings to us

Our text is a snippet of an extensive conversation Jesus had with his disciples on Maundy Thursday evening, shortly before his arrest, trials, and crucifixion the next day. We could classify the general content of John chapters 13-17 as a farewell address filled with instruction, comfort, and encouragement. 25"All this I have spoken while still with you,” Jesus told them.

But he also told them he would soon be gone. How will they retain what Jesus said this night and throughout his three-year ministry with them? That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. 26But the Advocate [alternate translation, which we will use: Counselor,] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

The fact that Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Counselor is both interesting and worth exploring, and we’ll come back to that in just a minute. But first let’s consider the two things Jesus says the Holy Spirit does: He teaches and reminds.

Think about this. Where do we have a record of what God has done? Where do we have a record of the words spoken by Jesus? Answer: In the Gospels, as well as throughout the Bible. Who reminded the writers of the Bible of what they were to include? God the Holy Spirit. In that sense, he was very much the “teacher” and “the reminder.” Behind everything that is written in the Bible, then, is the Holy Spirit.

This brings us to that vitally important doctrine of Scripture (and one that sadly, has been abandoned by many mainline Christian denominations) we call “verbal inspiration.” Definition: God the Holy Spirit so influenced the writers of the Bible that the words and thoughts they wrote were not their own, but the very words and thoughts of God.

The Apostle Peter put it this way in his second letter (1:21): “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy [teaching] of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things [prophet = God’s spokesman in both Old and New Testaments]. For prophecy [God’s Word] never had its origin in the human will, BUT PROPHETS, THOUGH HUMAN, SPOKE FROM GOD AS THEY WERE CARRIED ALONG BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.”

So it is that we as Christians confess in the Nicene Creed: “We believe in the Holy Spirit who has spoken through the prophets.

The personal implications of this teaching cannot be overstated. First and foremost, verbal inspiration means that every promise of God made in Scripture – for example, the promise to help, forgive, protect, and ultimately save us through the work of Jesus Christ – is 100% trustworthy and reliable.

Maybe within your circle of acquaintances you know someone who identifies themself as an agnostic. If not, you’re familiar with the term. The word “agnostic” comes from two Greek words that mean “not known.” The agnostic says God cannot be known; that he is at best the Great Unknowable One.

Verbal inspiration says just the opposite. It is the happy declaration that God can be known. We can and do know his character, his justifiable hatred for sin, his benevolent plan to redeem sinners like us, as well as his continued love and care for his children.

How can we know these things? Because it has all been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit in the Bible.

While the world we live in says truth is whatever you want it to be depending upon your personal preferences (“that may be true for you, but it is not true for me”), verbal inspiration, once again, says just the opposite. It is the truly liberating teaching that we don’t have to go searching for the truth or try to construct it ourselves – because it already exists. There is such a thing as true, objective, standardized truth.

There is a sieve through which every idea and thought and philosophy can be sifted to see whether it is true or false, moral or immoral, ethical or unethical, to be embraced or to be avoided – regardless of what the prevailing culture preaches. That sieve is the Word of God given to us by none less than God the Holy Spirit.

And while that may make us a minority in the world, it makes us faithful to our God – and content within our souls.

In a sense we’re really getting ahead of ourselves, because before we can be taught or reminded of the truth, it must be in our possession. That, too, is something the Holy Spirit does for us. We call this the work of conversion, and it is worthy of our review on this Pentecost Sunday…

The Bible tells us that in our natural state (that is, before the Holy Spirit gets his hands on us) we are spiritually blind and dead. On our own we could not choose spiritual life any more than we chose physical life; we’re nothing more than dry bones until the Spirit of God breathes life into us.

Luther speaks of this in his Small Catechism. In his explanation to the Third Article he writes: “I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel [the Gospel in Word and Sacrament = the Means of Grace], enlightened me with his gifts [the greatest of which is faith], sanctified and kept me in the true faith...

In other words, it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to believe. He’s the Faith-Maker. So it is that we as Christians confess in the Nicene Creed: “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life” – spiritual life.

Put all we’ve said thus far about the Holy Spirit together and we’re ready to go back to the name Jesus attaches to him in today’s lesson. Because he is the Inspirer of Scripture and the Faith-Maker, he is also our “Counselor.” This is indeed an appropriate term.

The word used in the original Greek for this title comes from a verb that means to urge, encourage, speak words of encouragement, console, comfort, cheer up. The point is that the Holy Spirit gives us good counsel.

And isn’t that true? Working through the promises that are ours in Word and Sacrament, he counsels us. When we are perplexed, he comforts us with words of encouragement, telling us not to fear because he is there, and he loves us with an everlasting love.

When we are sad, he doesn’t ask us to pretend the pain and heartache we feel doesn’t exist. It does. But he consoles us with the promise that although our troubles are very real, yet from the perspective of eternity they are but light and momentary.

When we are fearful of the future, he urges us and encourages us to fight the good fight of faith and go forward in the strength that he provides. And above all else, he reminds us that through Christ we are forgiven – which means the big stuff has already been taken care of, so we can be confident that he’ll help us with the little stuff as well.

You get the picture. He is our Divine “Counselor.” He speaks to us, encourages us, comforts us, and urges us on in his Word.

How vitally important, then, that we be in the Word, because this is where we find God. And as we find him and spend time with him there, this is the result: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

The world defines peace as the absence of conflict or trouble. In a sinful world that rarely happens, and when it does, it is often short lived. If history teaches us anything, it’s that sinful man has a lust for domination, and one conflict eventually gets replaced by another. World War 1 was replaced by World War 2. Today it is Ukraine.

That kind of external worldly peace is not what Jesus is talking about here.

There is a peace distinctive only to those who know Christ. It is a strong, lasting, and inner kind of peace. It is a confident peace that resides within us regardless of the situation we find ourselves in or the situation in the world today.

And while the world and our own country seems to be spiraling downward in so many ways, it’s the peace of knowing that for now we see but through a glass darkly; the peace of knowing that God is aware and will in his time make all things right.

It is the peace of knowing that though we have and will sin, we are forgiven. Though we have not always conducted ourselves worthy of our high calling, we are nonetheless loved unconditionally. It is the peace of God that passes all understanding. It is a peace to be savored and enjoyed; a peace that leads us to be untroubled and unafraid. It’s the peace of knowing we reside firmly within the grip of God’s grace – and he’s never going to let go.

But let’s get back to Pentecost. It may have been a while since we’ve contemplated what the Holy Spirit means to us. Without him, we wouldn’t be here. Without him, we would stumble aimlessly through life without hope and without direction and without salvation.

But we have hope and we have direction, and we have salvation. And there is only one reason for that: God the Holy Spirit has called us to faith and in a very real but unknowable way resides within us.

Therefore, in our prayers tonight let us thank God for his grace and Christ for our redemption, as well we should. But on this Pentecost, let us consider today to be Holy Spirit Appreciation Day and especially thank him for his vital and enduring work in our lives. Amen.