mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ. Amen.
sure you’ve all heard the phrase, “Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.” Most
of us, at one time or another, have probably been in a social situation where
we felt like the odd person out. Maybe you were tagging along with a married
couple or dating couple, and making things rather awkward for everybody. Maybe
you were part of a larger group, but somehow didn’t seem to fit in, didn’t
quite click. Perhaps you were part of a work effort, or some sort of team, and
didn’t feel like you were contributing.
it’s us in those situations, and sometimes it’s someone else. That’s the way
it is with many people. They’re always hanging around. They get noticed to
some degree. They may even do quite a great deal of good now and then. But
for some reason, they never seem to make it fully into the limelight. They
never seem to grab quite the attention that the others around them do. It
almost seems that, if they weren’t around, it wouldn’t be a very big deal to
you ever get that feeling about the Holy Spirit? I mean, after all… we’ve
already got the God the Father, right? Creator of heaven and earth and all
that. And after our human ancestors goofed up His creation by sinning and
continuing to sin, God promised He would send a Savior to make things right
know the story as well as anybody: The Son became a man, Jesus. He lived a
sinless life and died on a cross, taking away all your sins. He came back to
life, showing He had defeated sin, death, and the devil. He sent His followers
out to tell everyone that “God so loved the world, that He gave His
only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have
everlasting life.” They did, the church grew, and Christians have been doing
it ever since, right? End of story?
as the Hertz Car Rental commercial says—not exactly. We know that’s not quite
right. In fact, if there were a lot of other thoughts and recollections being
conjured up in your mind as I spoke that over-simplified story of creation and
redemption, that’s good.
and prophecy, incarnation and redemption, resurrection and evangelism. We know
that a big part of the story is missing. One of the main players is a
John Madden would say, “Hey, wait a minute!” Where’s the Holy Spirit? Isn’t
He part of the team, too? He isn’t just an afterthought, is He? Maybe we
ought to take a closer look…
hear some of our neo-evangelical or Pentecostal brethren speak of faith, you’d
think it was all about the Holy Spirit. For every single aspect of life, from
what car to buy to how to run the government, it seems that the guidance of
Holy Spirit is sought. Some folks want to constantly have a tangible feeling
of the Holy Spirit’s power and direction, providing them confidence, letting
them know they’re doing the right thing.
we don’t bring the Holy Spirit into the realm of all our secular decisions on
purchases or governance to such a degree, but maybe we could take one lesson
from these fellow Christians. That is: It wouldn’t hurt to keep the Holy
Spirit in a more prominent place in the Trinity, and in our lives.
get me wrong. Preaching Christ crucified must always remain at the heart of
the Christian message. I’m not at all suggesting that unless you continually
have a “warm feeling” in your hearts, sparked by the Holy Spirit, you somehow
aren’t saved, or you are some lesser form of Christian. There are
those, of course, who insist that it is only through a dramatic “conversion
experience” that we can be certain of our salvation. Others say that only
through certain tangible signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence, such as speaking
in tongues or performing miraculous healings, can we prove we are in a state of
such ideas would make it all about us and our actions, and those who hold such
ideas are rightly condemned in our church’s confessions as Schwermerei,
enthusiasts. They have wrongly separated faith and salvation from the
objective realities of the means of grace God has given us: His word and
sacraments. They have made salvation subjective, dependent upon human
feelings, human thoughts, and human actions.
we know that our hope rests not in ourselves, not in our abilities or emotions
or accomplishments, but in the work of God. And this work is the work of the
entire Trinity: The Father who sent the Son, the Son who came and died, and,
yes, the Holy Spirit, too. To a greater extent than we sometimes realize, our
salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit.
confess as Christians in creed and song that we believe in and worship one God,
in three Persons. Within the Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
relationships exist. The scriptures, the creeds, the Lutheran Confessions, and
many other expressions of our faith describe the relationships within the
Godhead. Relationships can only truly exist among persons, not between persons
and things, or persons and impersonal powers. To have a healthy relationship,
each person must be conscious of His own existence, His own place, His own
we view the Holy Spirit as a lesser form of God, as simply a power of
God rather than a Person of God, we are guilty of sin. We are guilty of
minimizing the Holy Spirit’s person, of reducing His God-ness, of viewing Him
as not God, but merely as a characteristic or a feature of God, rather than as
we look at the Holy Spirit from our Epistle lesson today, let’s keep in mind a
very important fact:
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS NOT JUST A POWER, HE IS A PERSON.
speaks. He lives. He works. As a person, the Holy Spirit is capable of
relationships outside of the Godhead, too. As God, He has relationships with
every one of His fallen, sinful creatures, from Adam to you and me, from the
first of all sinners to the greatest of all sinners. It’s a relationship that
has been broken by sin, but He is committed to mending it.
any other broken relationship, the first step in coming to reconciliation is to
speak, to communicate a concern about the relationship and a commitment to
making it better. A commitment of love. Of hope. Of intent. We say, “I
believe in the Holy Spirit… who spoke by the prophets.”
person of God, from the earliest times, came to ordinary human beings and
communicated to them and through them, so that God’s people might hear of His
commitment to them. These concerns and commitments were recorded for us in the
Holy Scriptures, which speak themselves about this phenomenon.
Book of Hebrews tells us that “God spoke to His people of old by the prophets,”
and the Old Testament is full of references to when the Spirit of God came to
these men to communicate His will and His intentions, His Law and His Gospel.
St. Peter’s second epistle, the apostle writes: “Above all, you must
understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own
interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men
spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
too, continue to be spoken to by God. Not through a direct revelation into our
hearts and minds that some might desire or imagine. That is dangerous to our
souls, for words heard or generated from within ourselves can be both weak and
we rely on the Holy Spirit speaking to us in the certain and true words He has
recorded in the scriptures. These are the words that convey the promises of
baptism. Words that bestow the forgiveness of sins in absolution. Words that
recount Christ’s presence in the Holy Supper.
is why we speak and sing and pray God’s words in the liturgy of worship,
and not our own words. He speaks to us in His perfection, and we rightly speak
back to Him when we offer up His words.
addition to speaking, the Holy Spirit also lives. More than that, the
Holy Spirit is life itself. From the very beginning of creation, when
the Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters on the formless earth, life
has been linked inextricably to the Holy Spirit. Adam’s lungs were filled with
the Spirit of God, which made him into a living being. Again, from the creed:
“The Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.”
back to the second article of both the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds, we note
with awe and wonder that even the very incarnation of Christ, the Son of God
becoming living flesh, took place because of the life which the Holy Spirit
provides: “He was conceived by the Holy Spirit,” we say in one creed
and “was incarnate by the Holy Spirit,” in the other.
vision of the valley of dry bones being brought to life is a vivid example of
the life-giving power of the Lord’s Holy Spirit. Not only is Ezekiel brought
to the valley by the Spirit, but the same exact Hebrew word, ruach,
breath or spirit, is used several more times in that story to indicate just how
the dry bones would be made to live again.
the verse just before the beginning of today’s Epistle lesson from Romans 8,
Paul tells us that it was not the Father who raised the Son from the dead, and
not the Son Himself, but rather the Spirit, this “Lord and giver of life” that
we regularly confess as a church. Paul goes on to say that this very same
Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies, raising us to life eternal.
it’s a good thing He will. For without the Holy Spirit, our Lord and giver of
life, we would not only be lifeless in the physical sense, but we would still
be dead in our sins and trespasses.
would be as dry and dead and hopeless as the bones Ezekiel saw in the valley.
Without the Holy Spirit, our bodies would be doomed to forever rot and decay in
the hopelessness of the grave, and our souls would be destined to languish and
suffer eternally in the fires and torments of hell.
reason we need not fear this, the reason we can be confident in our hearing of
the Gospel and in the promises of life eternal it has made to us, is also the
Holy Spirit. For in addition to speaking to us, and giving us our earthly
lives, the person of the Holy Spirit also works faith in us. In our hearing of
His speaking, in the words of Scripture and baptism, preaching and Supper, He
bestows and strengthens and perfects the gift He has given us: Trust in all
the promises that were made by the Father, and fulfilled by the Son.
is not ordinary work, and it is certainly not human work. It is divine work, the
work of God, work that could only be accomplished by Him who is fully God. The
Spirit spoke to you, the Spirit worked in you, and the Spirit gave you life.
not leave it as just a past-tense reality, however. God makes clear in Paul’s
letter, also, that this speaking, this working, and this living are ongoing
activities of the Holy Spirit.
Spirit that has spoken to you through the scriptures continues to speak to us
in God’s Holy word: To us, and through us. To us, as
indicated in verse 14: “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of
God.” Through us, as indicated in verses 15 and 16: “And by Him
we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit Himself testifies with our
spirit, that we are God’s children.”
the Spirit speaks to us, and through us, we are blessed with His power whenever
we have the opportunity to learn and speak His words, and to carry out in our
daily lives: In our personal devotions, our witnessing to our neighbors, in
our prayers for the unsaved and the less fortunate, and, yes…He even works in
us when we’re filling out our financial pledges on how much He has led us to
contribute to the ongoing work of God’s kingdom. The question then becomes:
Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us in these matters, or do we let other
spirits—selfish, prideful spirits—control our lives?
Spirit that has worked in us also works with us. As He daily
convicts us of our sins and drives us to repentance, and as God forgives us
those sins, we are renewed to co-operate with the Spirit—not co-operating in
our salvation, of course, but in living our lives and furthering the kingdom.
work, this not-living-according-to-the-sinful-nature, is part of the obligation
of which Paul speaks in verse 12. For if we live according to the sinful
nature and not the Spirit, we have pushed away all of God, not just part of
Him. Our work is not an earning of our salvation or an earning of our adoption
as God’s children, but it rather is an indication, a response, a sign of the
precious gift of our salvation and adoption. It is the outward manifestation
of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, one sign of which is our wanting to share the
Gospel message with others through the work of the Church.
the same Spirit that gives us life, both now and for eternity, also
lives within us, and we in Him. By the Spirit, we are given the gift of
faith. By the Spirit, our sinful nature is put to death. By the Spirit, we
are made children of God. By the Spirit, we are made free from fear of
condemnation; free to serve enthusiastically, free to love liberally, free to
promised that He would send the Spirit to His apostles, and, through those
apostles, to His church. He promises that the Spirit will be with His
followers forever. He has come to dwell in you as you were reborn of water and
the Spirit in your own baptism. Your body is the Holy Spirit’s temple, which
will be resurrected by that same Spirit on the last day, just as Jesus was
raised from the tomb.
must, of course, never lose sight of the cross, of the suffering and death of
Jesus. We should be ever mindful of the sacrifice He made for us, and the love
it demonstrated. Yet, as we do, let us also remember that we are made children
of not just the Father, but children of the fullness of the one, true God:
Father, Son, and yes, Holy Spirit. That Holy Spirit, the person as well as the
power, is fully and truly God, who with the Father and the Son is yours to be
worshipped and praised, now and forever. Amen.