The Spirit’s Declaration to You

The Spirit’s Declaration to You

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from
God our Father, from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and from the gift of
His Holy Spirit, which comes to you through this Word and through these
sacraments. Amen.

The text for this morning comes
from the Gospel according to Saint John.

It is always a privilege to bring
the kingdom of God to a baby because in that great gift and in that act is
God’s Spirit at work. It is not a ritual or a rite that the church has brought
about and has kept using. It is not an empty act. It is God’s promise attached
to that water, bringing the kingdom of God and faith to a child that is unable
even to speak to you and me about the faith that is within her. That is the
coming of the Holy Spirit with power, but it sure doesn’t look like it, because
when that little girl goes home and throughout the years of raising that little
girl, just like you when you were raised up by your parents after you were
brought into the kingdom, you still fussed, and you rebelled, and you argued,
and you stamped your feet, and you did all sorts of things that set you apart
from your parents and from God at times, showing yourself to be that which you
are and which she still remains, a sinner, but let not this world and let not
the world’s intimidation tear from you or from me this promise that God has
brought faith and His Holy Spirit dwells with her as the promise is given.

You see, we live in a world that
looks at this as hocus-pocus and rejects such things and says, “If you don’t
follow our point of view of reality, then you are not compassionate, you’re not
understanding, and you’re not in line with how the world thinks in this day and
age. For example, in this world, the world has a way of thinking and a way of
interpreting that thought pattern and a way of making that thought law. It does
so by intimidation, harassment, and chastisement so that, if you don’t toe the
line of the world, you will be persecuted. That is very true. It even happens
in our great land, for why else would there be such an uproar for Christians
who hold to marriage being between a male and a female? But to not uphold that
truth from God’s Word is to not be compassionate, is to not be understanding,
is to not toe the line; therefore, we will be disenfranchised and shoved to the
side by the world.

God does not work in such manner.
He works through manner like this. It doesn’t look like a great thing. There’s
no sparks going off and a tongue of fire coming from above, and yet, God is in
that little girl as fully as He’s in you or me. Just as Christ did not come
with a grandiose and very great pageantry, but came born of a virgin who had
not yet been married to the man, Joseph, the stepfather of our Lord. Born not
in a great palace but born in a lowly manger. That’s how God works in this
world for you and me. It is not how the world works. If you can intimidate, if
you can have power over, you are the one. But humility and servanthood and
humble means is how God works in you and me.

Now, haven’t you heard the great
argument, “I don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites.”
Exactly! Great place for us hypocrites to be here. But the world looks at that
and says, “See, this whole faith thing is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. It has no
power or no rule. Look at what it puts out….the product,” of which you and I
are products of the faith and when the world looks at us and says, “Well, I
know the whole story on this Joe or this Jane, and they don’t have it all
together, let me tell you!” That is how the world works, isn’t it? The church
continues to receive you and I who don’t have it all together back, doesn’t it?

The husband of you and I, the bride
of Christ, continues to receive us back and clothes us again with the white
garment of His righteousness, which the world does not have. And the world
asks, “You’ve got the robe of righteousness from Christ? You don’t look like
it.” Exactly right, just as that baby doesn’t like it but it has it, because
she’s been given it according to God’s promise.

Today is the gift of the Holy
Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came on the disciples in the chapter of Acts that
was read and people who could not speak in other known languages were given
that gift that day. By the way, if you notice, too, did you hear? Arabia was
mentioned. They spoke good Arabian. The point being, that was a great gift that
God used to create the church, and then He sent those people back to their
homes where they took that faith and proclaimed that faith. They did not proclaim,
“Look at my life. I’m the example that you wish to follow. I’ve got a book
right here that, if you wish to know how to become a stronger Christian, read
this book. Follow my tapes and my DVDs and you, too, shall have it.”

The church said, “Here am I, a
broken and condemned man, and here’s where God found me.” You’re that example.
Here’s where God found you, and you were fed and nourished, nursed and toddled
on the leg of your Lord and received back like the prodigal son was received
back time and again, but not through some mountaintop experience always, but
through these means that God has given, a word that’s preached and read, water
that’s applied with a promise, and bread and wine with the blood and body of

Now, twenty-four years ago I heard
a statement that caused me great mind-bending kind of figuring it out. I don’t
understand it. How can it be? It seems too harsh, because if it’s really true,
then…. Well, let me tell you what it was. It was from our Book of Concord,
which is a great explanation of the faith, and in it was written that the Holy
Spirit has bound Himself….not because He has to but because he chooses to bind
himself to work in the lives of His believers, His children, through the
preached Word through the Lord’s supper and through baptism, and any claim that
God the Holy Spirit worked outside of these appointed places and means is of
the devil. I kind of thought, Whoa, that seems to be pretty bold and brazen
to say such a statement because aren’t we limiting God and boxing Him in?
Because He’s God!

In the creation of the world, God,
all powerful, could have created the world in any manner or means of His
choosing, but He chooses to speak it audibly, vocably into being, using the
Spirit which hovered over the waters of the deep, as the text says. When God
did what He did in the Old Testament with those dry bones, He could have put
sinews and muscles and flesh and the breath of life, a soul into those bones by
any other form or fashion, but He chose to do it through a proclaimed word with
the Spirit working through that word. That is how God has chosen to work. He
doesn’t have to. He’s God. He has chosen to do so for your and my comfort,
because in this world where so much of the world is saying, “Show me God. Prove
to me God. I want to experience God. I want to encounter God.” And all kinds of
options are available. This is the way to encounter God. This is the way to
experience God. This is the way to have a relationship with God. But none of
them or very few of them point to these means. You want to encounter God? You
just saw God encountered with a little girl. You want to encounter God? You’re
getting encountered by God right now through all the Word that’s been read and
preached and sung in your ears. If you want to really encounter God, you take
that faith that God has given you through that proclaimed Word and you believe
the promise that here in that bread and wine with the flesh and blood of Christ
is forgiveness, joining Himself to you, His bride, and joining you to one
another, His church. That is how God has chosen to work.

Now the world looks at this and
says, “Did God really say that? Did God really say that?” Just like He did with
Adam and Eve in the garden. That is a good question, and all we have to answer such
a question is, “Yes, that is what God said.” His Word does not leave the
proclaimer’s mouth without accomplishing that for which He sent it. And it’s
not an empty word, not mere vocables. The Spirit is moving with that Word,
accomplishing it when and where He pleases, so that we can say, “There’s God,”
and not, “He’s somewhere.” “There’s God,” and not, “He’s such a great
preacher.” “There’s God,” not, “Wow, you know, if it’s in a silver chalice,
it’s a little bit better than a plastic cup.” Or, “If it’s with that
kind of wine and not that kind of wine, it’s a little bit better.” That’s
how the world thinks and works.

We live in a world and in an
environment and with ourself that doesn’t grab hold of this but fights this. At
moments, this makes sense and it’s beautiful to us, and at other moments it
seems way beyond, too extreme. That is the struggle of living out our faith in
this world. In this world, again, that wishes to say to us about God, about
living out our faith, about bringing God’s truth to this World, don’t do it
that way. And yet, God the Holy Spirit, who doesn’t speak but is sent by the
Son, He will bear witness about me. When He comes, He will convict the world
concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. We become that leaven in this
world and that light in this darkness and that salt to a very bland world. In
living out our faith outside of these halls, do we come into contact with the
world’s animosity toward whose child we are. Just as this day, we have made
this child the archenemy of Satan and prior to this was not as much of an
archenemy as this child is now, and you as parents know, as you raise your
children, the great challenge of making sure that their own flesh in this world
does not rob them of this gift because that’s what it’s after. That’s what it
desires. And it does so by slow attrition more often than some catastrophic
event. Waterboarding to the max, one could say.

This world looks upon what we are,
who we are, and how we became what we are in Christ as full of fertilizer, and,
yet, we must live this out in this world for it’s dead and dying. And the great
comfort is God is saying to us, “Be not afraid to go forth with such good news.
Be not fearful of a world that works for intimidation and chastisement. Let it
not bind your lips nor your work that I’m accomplishing through you by my
Spirit. For I come to bring things about the kingdom. I may not fix in this
life this person’s emotional state but I’ll save their soul,” God says, “and
I’ll bring them comfort. And I’ll bring them peace from their guilt and shame.
I may not make this marriage into the bliss that God promised while you live in
this world because you’re two damned sinners, but I will bring you forgiveness
to bear to one another in Christ. I will bring you hope in the midst of all
kinds of travesty and tragedy that you’ve experienced and have had done to you.
I will bring peace.”

That’s not what the world promises.
It’s a bunch of rules and regulations, and if you don’t follow them
accordingly, you won’t get it. God says, “You don’t follow it, but I still give
it to you because I bring myself to you and draw you back in.”

You may think, Will I ever get
over this catastrophic event that happened in me?
You may not, but you will
know God is a loving God because He says to you each time He comes to you
through the Holy Spirit in that Word and in these means, He says to you, “Thou
art my beloved. I clothe you again. I fix all of your doubts and fears. I dust
you off and send you back out in this world to be that witness to this world.”

We are in it alone, brothers and
sisters, as far as our sight goes, but we are not in it alone according to
God’s promise. He works. His Spirit promises to work, and if you want to find
Him here and here alone is where you found Him. Finally, after twenty-some
years, I finally got it in my head for the sake of the kingdom that it’s not
going to work unless it works by God’s manner and means which are infallible,
powerful, and effective. Just as you saw this morning, so it continues until
you lie in a similar state in a coffin which is only the portal through which
you pass to eternal life.

God be praised. He has shown
Himself where to be found, and found at all times there in those places, that
Word and sacrament.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and minds on Christ Jesus whom the Holy Spirit reveals to you to life