“The Spirit’s Power” John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
The Day of Pentecost (B) 5/20/18
Pastor Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL
It was one of the most closely guarded and best kept secrets. Not even the Vice President of the United States knew about it. That is, until he suddenly became President after the death of Franklin Roosevelt. I am, of course, referring to President Harry S. Truman and what was known as “the Manhattan Project.”
It “officially” began on December 28, 1942, combining a number of research efforts that were already underway, including those at our own University of Chicago by two scientists, Enrico Fermi (and yes, that is where the Fermi Lab gets its name) and Leo Szilard. The goal – weaponize nuclear energy… and do it quickly. U.S. Intelligence had heard for some time that Adolph Hitler had a team of scientists working on the same.
Two and half years later, on July 16, 1945, in a remote desert location near Alamogordo, New Mexico, the first atomic bomb was successfully detonated. It was ironically known as the “Trinity Test” and it sent an enormous mushroom cloud some 40,000 feet into the sky and released energy equivalent to around 21 kilotons of TNT.
It is important to note that this was about four times the energy expected. Add to that the fact that no one really knew what to expect in regard to the damage brought about by powerful blast, the intense heat and to a far greater extent, the amount of radiation emitted.
Put quite simply, the best of minds then and there had very little idea of what really had been unleashed.
Interestingly enough, the same, my friends, can be said about the Day of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Of what was unleashed… poured out… given so abundantly.
The difference being that this was God’s doing, not man’s. And what resulted was not a blast of destructive power generated here below, but oh-so healing and helping power… comforting power… from on high. Power that did not take life, but instead gave life, and this, abundantly… this, to its fullest.
It is the Spirit’s power – God the Holy Spirit – the Third Person of the Holy Trinity who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified. Yet, quite amazingly and sadly, the person and work of God the Holy Spirit is likewise one of the best kept secrets. How many Christian men, women, teenager and children know what happened on the Day of Pentecost? How many of them realize and recognize its incredible importance… its impact upon every Christian and every Christian Church? To us, today?
The truth is, there would be no Christians and no Christian Church except by the Holy Spirit. There would be no Christian faith and coming to that faith, except by the Holy Spirit. There would be no “being made firm in the faith”… believing and confessing, living and dying in the faith… apart from the Holy Spirit.
Taking this all to the ultimate personal level, you and I my friends, would not be where we are right now, have what we have in regard to all of the spiritual blessings and treasures that are ours both now in time and in eternity… if it was not for the Holy Spirit at work in you… in me… and starting right here… at the Baptismal Font… and continuing here at the Holy Altar and Communion Rail… as well as what we take into our ears… take into our hearts and minds… the very Word of God that is preached and proclaimed to us from the Lectern and Pulpit. These, the Means of Grace… Word and Sacrament… in which by which, through which the Spirit continues to work in us conveying the forgiveness, life and salvation that is ours in Christ Jesus, bestowing true peace and contentment, guidance and direction, strength and perseverance to continue on fighting the good fight of faith. It is all the Spirit’s doing.
It is so easy to say… to confess in our creeds that we believe in the Holy Spirit. But what that all means, can easily escape us, be put aside and forgotten much to Satan’s joy. The evil one can easily blind us to what the Spirit is doing so wonderfully and marvelously in us and in God’s people… here and around the world. Speaking of marvelous things…
This past week, I attended the NID General Pastor’s Conference where I heard about and got to meet a fairly new brother in the faith. He does not live close by, actually in St. Petersburg, Russia. And his coming to faith by the Spirit’s power is an interesting one. For you see, this brother is an accomplished musician – pianist and organist, I believe – whose Spirit directed path to Jesus was none other than through the music, hymnody… of Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the great Lutheran’s of all time. This dear brother loved the music, but then fell in love with the words, the Words of Holy Scripture put to music by Bach. Words… divine Words… which worked faith in this precious individual.
And even though he speaks very little English… and even though this new brother in Christ didn’t get a lot out of what was being said at this conference… he never stopped smiling. He never stopped beaming with the joy that was in him… the joy instilled in him through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The power… the Spirit… that is there for us. The power… the Spirit… that is in us and all the faithful. A spiritual power and force of the highest magnitude unleashed on the day of Pentecost and then in us on the day of our baptism. The Spirit’s power that is still radiating out, spreading out to the four corners of the world. The power… the Spirit… who seeks to work mightily in us individually and corporately… as a church… as this church, this congregation… St. Paul’s, Lockport.
Of all the things that a congregation can be known for… being a place where the Spirit fully and richly dwells is right at the top. For where the Spirit dwells, there truth dwells, as our Gospel text bears out. Indeed, where the Spirit dwells there Jesus Christ dwells for it is the Spirit’s sole work to point us to Christ… to keep our eyes ever fixed on Jesus.
It is the Spirit’s work to hold before our eyes the cross of Jesus and remind us again and again of what was accomplished there and what we now have in and through our Lord and Savior.
It is the Spirit that reminds us again and again of what we have been given to enjoy now… today… and every day throughout our brief sojourn here on earth and what awaits us… all prepared… ready and waiting… in heaven.
And so it is, my friends, that now and always, we give thanks to God for the Spirit’s power… He who is at work in us. Amen!