“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon on this, the festival of Pentecost, is the Gospel lesson read a few moments ago from the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John. Dear friends in Christ: On the day of Pentecost, “there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting,” but that was not the greatest miracle of that day. On the day of Pentecost, “divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them,” but that was not the greatest miracle of that day. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance,” but even that was not the greatest miracle of that day. The greatest miracle of that day is attested to by the crowd who gathered there. “We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Not wind, not fire, not even tongues, but what those tongues proclaimed is the most amazing miracle of that day. For on the day of Pentecost, the assembled crowd heard the Word of God; they heard the Gospel, and they believed.
The Holy Spirit comes through the Word, the Holy Spirit comes bringing the Word, the Holy Spirit does nothing apart from the Word. The signs and wonders He brings are not an end in themselves, they point us to the Word. His task is twofold: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my Name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Teach and remind, teach and remind. That is His task until Christ comes again. He teaches us the Gospel, proclaiming to us the rich and abundant promise of Christ’s dwelling in, with, and under the Church; in, with, and under Christians. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my Word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Those who believe the Word, the Word brought by the Holy Spirit, the Word which brings the Holy Spirit, by the faith which the Holy Spirit Himself creates, receive the very indwelling of God Himself. Your body quite literally is made into a temple, a place where God Himself is present. That is the Spirit’s work, to bring the Trinity to dwell with you, so that one day you will dwell with the Trinity. What the pagans desired, what the mystics yearned for, you receive only through the Word.
That’s right. The Trinity dwells within you through the Word, the Word which is outside of you, the Word written in the Scriptures, the Word proclaimed by preachers. Not by the strength of your faith, not by the fervency of your prayers, not by the power of your emotions, not by dreams or visions, but by the Word, and the Word alone, does the Triune God make His home within you. The Holy Spirit teaches us that Gospel promise, but the other side is the Law, that any who refuse to heed the Word have no place in Christ or Christ in them. “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the Word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” We cannot love Christ and despise His Word; we cannot expect the Spirit to work in any other way than through the Word. But we certainly do try, don’t we? We need books recounting visions and dreams to convince us that heaven is for real, because we don’t trust the Word. We construct our own moral code, giving approval to behaviors that we are already engaged in, because we don’t trust the Word. We change churches to ‘feel the Spirit,’ because we don’t trust the Word. We pick and choose which commandments suit us at the moment, because we don’t trust the Word. We are much more apt to believe the signs and wonders of a TV preacher than the proclamation of a faithful pastor, because we don’t trust the Word. We gauge the Spirit’s work in our own lives by our emotional response, because we don’t trust the Word. “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.” The Spirit’s task is to condemn all self-chosen spiritualties, to call out any who would minimize, ignore, or explain away the Word.
He does this for our good, for basing our hope, our faith, our certainty on anything other than God’s Word is laying a foundation on shifting sand. Christ’s Word is certain, Christ’s Word is sure, Christ’s Word alone can bring us hope. That is the Holy Spirit’s second great task: to remind us of the beautiful comfort that the Word gives. “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my Name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Teach and remind, teach and remind. The Spirit reminds us of Christ’s parting words. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” In a world filled with danger, in a world filled with confusion, in a world that quite literally appears to be losing its mind, we grasp after any source of certainty that we can find. It is in uncertain times that people turn to visions and dreams, emotional experiences and their own feelings. We are looking for something to cling to.
And it is the Holy Spirit’s task to give us that anchor, that sure foundation we need: Christ’s Word, Christ’s Word of peace. Peace is His gift to His disciples, and these are no idle words. This isn’t some cheap gift; He does not give as the world gives, with a shaking hope and throw-away wish. He is now at the point of going away on a journey in which He will have to fight for that peace against the powers of darkness of violence, a peace that He will have to bring back from the depths of death. But He also knows where and to whom He is going, and His promise of peace is therefore a benediction full of grace and divine power.
He departs to the Father’s throne, but that path will lead into the very pit of hell, through death itself. He is preparing for a confrontation with the evil we deplore, the evil one who holds this world in his sway. “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of his world is coming.” The ruler of this world is coming, with swords and clubs, torches and a betrayer, the cross and cruel death. But the outcome is not in doubt; the Spirit reminds you of Christ’s victory. “He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” That is the great task of the Spirit, to remind the world, to remind the Church, to remind you and me that Christ has triumphed over the ruler of this world. The Spirit reminds us that when evil tried to conquer Jesus, when it marshalled all of its cruelty and violence against Him, when it even put Him to death, Christ still emerged alive on the third day. Jesus goes boldly to His death, for the way of the cross is a march of victory in the midst of defeat, glory in the midst of humiliation, joy in the midst of sorrow. “Rise, let us go from here,” He tells His disciples. He is ready to go, He is ready to take on the ruler of this world head on, for that is the Father’s will to win your salvation.
“You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.” Christ’s departure is for your good, because He departs to win a place for you and then He takes His rightful seat at the Father’s throne to prepare for your arrival. In humility, He submits to the Father’s will, going to the cross to win your salvation. Jesus leaves that night with you in mind; He is thinking of you as He prepares to meet the powers of darkness in the final confrontation of the cross. That is the Spirit’s work: to remind you that Christ departed for you.
He continues this work here in this place, on this very day. Today, on the Lord’s Day, this celebration of Pentecost, the great miracle of Pentecost is repeated. There will be no rushing winds, no tongues of fire, not even the speaking of many languages. But yet the miracle of Pentecost is happening again, right before your eyes. “We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Here, in this place, the Word is being proclaimed, preached to all who will hear. Here, in this place, the Holy Spirit is doing His work, teaching and reminding, bringing the Trinity to dwell among us and even in us. Here the saints of God are told, boldly and unequivocally, “Your sins are forgiven.” Here a child, little Eleanor is told, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Here you are told, “Take eat, this is my Body; take drink, this is my Blood.” Nothing flashy, no visions or dreams or speaking in tongues going on here today; just the Word, doing its work, bringing the Holy Spirit, to do His work in you, creating faith, sustaining faith, assuring trembling hearts, hears searching for certainty, hearts searching for something to hold on to, with the very words of Christ: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” In the Name of Jesus, Amen.