Sermon for May 19, 2013, The Day of Pentecost
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: John 14:23-31
Sermon Theme: “The Spirit? Yeah, the Holy Spirit”
(Sources: Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 23, Part 2, Series C; original ideas; Emphasis online Illustrations and Commentary; Harper’s Bible Dictionary)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the most difficult concepts, entities, persons, “things” to understand about Christianity is the Holy Spirit, and what we call “the Office of the Holy Spirit.” So a lot of people avoid even thinking about the Holy Spirit until Pentecost when they have to. I hope my sermon will help with the understanding.
Ever since Harvard Medical School professor, Dr. Herbert Benson, started what has come to be known as the “Mind-Body Medicine Movement,” by proving that daily meditation can bring about beneficial physiological effects, such as lower blood pressure and prevention of certain diseases, some folks have equated that with the Holy Spirit. The only thing is that Benson believed that intoning a Hindu monosyllable like “om” worked as well as Christian meditation.
While relaxation and meditation can help stressed out people, what is working within is in no way the Holy Spirit. Not that the Holy Spirit cannot produce physiological as well as spiritual results.
Some people who are into the New Age Movement or into some type of Buddhism think they see a similarity between concepts from those religions and the idea of the Holy Spirit. One of our Seminary Professors at Ft. Wayne, Naomichi Masiki, explains Buddhism for us like this:
Zen Buddhism, practiced largely in Japan, is often considered the final form of Buddhism. Unlike the original teachings of Buddha, it does not require followers to forsake the world to live in seclusion. Nor does it teach that one needs to train oneself rigorously in order to become a Buddha.
Rather, it teaches followers to live as if they were already buddhas. As in traditional Buddhism, the main teaching of Zen is still how one may be rescued from this world of suffering. But the attention is now drawn not only to the rigorous exercises of self-discipline, but also to the empowerment of one’s heart. Today, many Americans, especially younger people, are attracted to Zen Buddhism.
Quite without knowing it, it seems, we are affected by our religious culture to confuse the office of the Holy Spirit with such postmodern spirituality. As in Zen, the main focus is how to feel a god within us. Is the Holy Spirit leading us to look within ourselves for “God” and our feelings about Him? Not at all!
The Holy Spirit comes to us through the external Means of Grace, and His focus is always on Christ Jesus, not on our feelings. The assurance which the Holy Spirit gives is not, Zen-like, inside us, but in Baptism, in the preaching of the Word, and absolution, at the Lord’s Supper. Not some vague spirituality, but Christ in flesh and blood.”
Sometimes the best way to explain a mystery like the Holy Spirit is by using an analogy. The word used in our text to define the Holy Spirit is “Helper.” The Greek word for that is “Paracletos.” In the Hawaiian language, the word used for Paracletos or Helper is “Kokua,” which literally means helper. In Kalaupapa, the famous settlement in Hawaii for lepers, during the early years of isolating people there with Hansen’s Disease, a person had to take the leper to the settlement. That person was also known as “Kokua,” the Helper, and when that person entered the leper colony with the patient, he never left.
Those folks who agreed to become a kokua essentially gave up their own lives for the sake of the other person, choosing to companion them for the rest of their days. They cast their lot with one who had become an outcast forever.
And so it is with the Holy Spirit, He enters us, who are filled with the leprosy of sin, and He remains as our Helper, our Companion, and is always there for us.
In today’s text, Jesus clarifies for us concerning the office and work of the Holy Spirit. As I have pointed out, the world offers us a wide variety of options for a pseudo Holy Spirit, but Jesus reveals the true office of the Holy Spirit, our Helper and our Comforter.
According to our text, the office of the Holy Spirit is the bringing to our remembrance all and only what Jesus has ever spoken and taught. We must not be confused when the world tries to teach us that the Holy Spirit is merely a created motion in things, an impersonal being, a mere power. Anything, whether in Buddhism, Hinduism or whatever, that does not directly lead us to loving Jesus and His Word cannot be of the Holy Spirit; after all, He is one God with the Father and the Son.
As verse 26 says, “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.”
Because we are in the midst of spiritual attacks by the devil, the world, and our flesh, we pray that Jesus will give us the Holy Spirit to enlighten us, lead us, and give us understanding. The devil tempts us to bring in alien thoughts from popular religiosity and our own reasoning, and to replace His words with modern mantras.
The purpose of the office of the Holy Spirit is also to comfort us with the peace of Jesus. Jesus contrasts His peace with that which the world gives. The world may promise peace with money and property. The world may promise peace with success and status. The world may promise peace with good health and long life.
The peace that Jesus gives is especially spiritual peace; you must have that first to have any other kind of peace. And English psychiatrist wrote not long ago, “With peace in his soul, a man can face the most terrifying experiences. But without peace in his soul he cannot manage even as simple a task as writing a letter.” Perhaps, you, like me, have experienced that some time in the past, where you went through the darkest night of your soul. And the peace of Jesus came into you before you totally bombed out.
It is very comforting to know that Jesus left His peace right where the Holy Spirit carries out His office. We don’t have to look for the Holy Spirit to give us the peace of Jesus up above the clouds. We don’t have to look for the Holy Spirit to give us Jesus’ peace in our hearts either. The place where the Holy Spirit grants us peace of Jesus is in the Church here and now. In Holy Baptism. How certain! In Holy Absolution. How personal! In Holy Supper. How present! How near!
Unlike popular notions about the Spirit and spirituality, the office and work of the Holy Spirit is for our comfort and joy. He is our Helper, Advocate, Counselor, Defender, and Comforter. Constantly attacked by our sinful flesh, the devil, and the world, it may seem to us that we also have lost Christ. In our days of trial and temptation, he Holy Spirit directs us to the place where Jesus gives His peace and consolation. Today, that place is at the altar rail, partaking of His Holy Body and Blood, given and shed for us. That is the dearest gift we could receive on Pentecost! Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.