Feast of Pentecost
27 May 2012
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Agent Phil Coulson is a national hero. At least, in Marvel Comics. But he is not in the limelight. He is not noticed by the public. Agent Coulson is perfectly happy to do the background and behind-the-scenes work, while Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the rest end up saving the day. He himself admires these heroes, and would be the first to tell you not to pay attention to him, but to the Avengers.
In a similar, but infinitely greater way, the Holy Spirit is God. Yet He is not in the limelight. He is not noticed much. He is perfectly happy to do the background and behind-the-scenes work in giving and strengthening and sustaining your faith, as Christ Jesus saves you. Even though He is equal to God the Son, the Spirit would tell you not to focus your attention on Him,but on Christ alone.
Here we are. Ten days after the Ascension. Jesus had told the Eleven to wait in Jerusalem until He sent them the Gift that would come on this very day; the Holy Spirit Himself! He taught them a great deal about the Spirit, as He prayed and promised them on the night before He died. Now, it was finally coming to pass.
The children of God were receiving the Spirit of the Lord, and were prophesying, just as the Prophet Joel had foretold. Through this gift of speaking in languages they had never studied, the Lord was taking His Gospel, and spreading it to great numbers of people, very swiftly!
The Spirit was using this Word of God to breathe new life into vast armies of dry bones, as He took those who had languished, waiting for God to act throughout the centuries. Now, He had, and now, He resuscitated them, breathing life and immortality to them as a gift through Christ Jesus!
The Lord God provided this Feast of Pentecost in His Old Testament Church to anticipate this very day that the disciples were now experiencing. This harvest festival was 50 days after Passover. Now, 50 days after the ultimate Passover, the Holy Spirit was harvesting thousands in faith for the Lord. No one could see Him or touch Him, but the Holy Spirit was and is working through God's means.
Pentecost would now be remembered for the event it had anticipated; this harvest of faithful, which the Lord reaped through the preaching of St. Peter and the others. Yes, it was the work of the Spirit, but He does not magically work by Himself. The Spirit gave words to Peter to preach. And He worked through the Baptism that washed some 3,000 people into God's kingdom that day.
There are many who would try to persuade you that the Spirit is working when you can feel it. That somehow your heart is burning, or you have some calming peace. Well, He may give you some reassurance like that, but He never promises it.
What He does promise is to work through the Means of Grace. He will work through every Baptism to deliver forgiveness, rescue, and salvation. He will attend the preaching of Christ's Gospel, so that the Word of God is spoken clearly and work through that Law and Gospel to bring forgiveness and life. He will be at that altar, bringing the body and blood of Christ Jesus to you, that you may eat and drink forgiveness, life, and salvation.
You fall into the same traps. You can end up talking about the Holy Spirit as if He is your imaginary friend. You grieve God when you look for this Spirit where He is not to be found. And you grieve Him when you pay too much attention to the Spirit, rather than Christ! Don't start looking for gifts that were not promised beyond the generation of the apostles. Nothing will come of that, except perhaps, the wasting away to dry bones, while you look away from the renewing and refreshing and reviving Word.
Christ is the perfect and ultimate hero, who has rescued you, not from some alien invasion, but from yourself, and the pains of hell that you were courting. And the Holy Spirit is the agent who brings you into contact with your divine Hero, bringing you to be rescued.
Thanks be to God, who sends His agent to deliver Jesus to you, that you may be His, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Amen.