Rev. Kenneth A. Greenwald

June 9, 2019

Are You Listening to the Spirit or to the spirits?
John 14:23-31

Peace be unto you on the day of  Pentecost.  Our text today is from John chapter 14, Jesus said t; "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you, but the helper, the Holy Spirit whom the the father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I've said."

There's 5 minutes left in the game it's been an exciting drive, and our teams ahead by 10 points.  It's just tremendous, the cheerleaders are out there and they're there cheering us on, we're listening and we're so excited, sweat pouring down my face, and then something happens, our team is not doing so well, they keep losing ball.  And pretty soon, point-by-point, basket-by-basket we're behind, and the final buzzer sounds.  The spirit has changed, from a spirit of triumph and excitement and victory, to a spirit of defeat and the spirit of maybe next year. 

There's lots of spirits, team spirit, school spirit, the spirit of adventure.  Two weeks ago was Memorial Day when we think about the spirit of patriotism and the spirit of service and sacrifice that many have made for our country.  There are many spirits.  Even alcohol some how along the way got the name spirits didn't it, and we also have the the term mean spirit.  But there is only one Holy Spirit, and he is called in scripture by several names, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, or in Greek the Paraclete, which means the helper.  In the Nicene Creed we confess together with the church of ancient times, that there is one Lord the Giver of Life who proceeds from the Father and the Son.  I remember asking on my professor way back in seminary, "If God the father is the creator of all life why do we say there in that third petition that the holy spirit is the Lord, The Giver of Life." And he taught me there something I will always remember about two kinds of life.  The life that comes into us when we are born, or rather when were conceived and born, and that life everlasting that is given to us by the Holy Spirit. 

We confess that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, as Jesus said here in our text, "I will send the Holy Spirit to you." Early Christians recognized that people can be dead, but alive.  That is dead in their sins, while alive in the body.  But that's no kind of life to live because it's only a little while until our body is dead as well.  But Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into his disciples, he said, "Receive the Holy Spirit, and go forth and forgive sins."

And so Jesus breathes on us too.  When Jesus breathes on us, he breathes the Holy Spirit, who in turn brings us something, this life we've been talking about, this life of the soul, and that's the work of the Holy Spirit, to bring us to faith in Christ.  St. Paul teaches us this when he says in 1st Corinthians 9, that no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the work of the Holy Spirit inside that person.  And so it is the Holy Spirit who moves through the church, who moves though the world, and he plants faith in people, through Word and Sacrament he brings them over from death to life, right now, and on the last day will raise them up in that new body.  He plants that word inside us now, it grows and grows until it is reached the harvest on that day.

So Jesus here in our reading today says that when the Holy Spirit comes as he promised, he would do something, he would take what is Jesus' and give it away to his disciples, those who follow him.  We mite ask what is that?  And Jesus says, He will bring all things, all that the Father has.  As the Spirit of Truth, we recognize the Holy Spirit is the one who brings us the truth about who we are and who God is.  And here he tells us the truth that if we love Jesus we will obey his teachings.  We certainly recognize that don't we.  That love for God, is going to result in love for each other and good works. 

You know that if you love your husband or wife it isn't just something you say on Mother's Day, or Father's Day, or birthday, or anniversary is it.  But it's something that a spouse shows to their loved one, it comes out in daily service, it comes out in kind words, it also comes out in words of forgiveness when in this life we hurt and harm each other through our words sometimes and actions.  But that love is planted in us and grows.  If there is no words of love coming out of us, and no acts of love the spouse is going to start wondering, "Hey honey, how come you don't ever reciprocate here, how come you don't show your love."

The Holy Spirit is God's teacher.  Schools gone out over the past few weeks in our community, the universities have let out, and I know it seems that students are happy to get away from their teachers for a while, and I suspect that the teachers, though they might not admit it, are also happy to get away from their students for a while, it works both ways doesn't it.  But we certainly, at all times, need the Holy Spirit to teach us the way of God.  For if we are left to our selves we are blind to God, we do not know his ways, but the Holy Spirit is sent to teach us, to help us in this way.  So if you want to learn from the school of the Holy Spirit where do the classes meet, where do we find the Holy Spirit.  The scriptures are clear to tell us that we do not find the Holy Spirit by our own efforts, that is by our own hard work, or our own soul searching, by looking deep down inside ourselves and seeing what's there.  No, the early Christians confessed that the Holy Spirit spoke by the prophets in an outward and audible way, not inside a person, we're not left to just dive into our own soul and see if he's there.  But someone else spoke the Word of God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  And those prophets and apostles wrote that Word down for us, and we can read and hear it today, written, preached read and taught, the Spirit keeps speaking on us.  So my Christian friends it's always important when you're in this Holy Spirit school to meditate on his Word.  Meditate, take it to heart, not go into your heart and see what's there, but first take God's word into your heart.  For Jesus says the Holy Spirit will teach you all things, he will bring you to remember all the things that Christ has said.  Now when the Holy Spirit speaks to us he convicts us, he convicts the world of sin and guilt and us as individuals of the things that we have fallen short in God's command. 

But then the Spirit also works not to leave us there in our despair, but to come to us and connect us to the work of Jesus Christ.  There we see in the Cross of Christ the full atonement made for the sins of the world for your sins, for my sins.  What joy, what contentment, what victory, what peace is ours when we contemplate how great our sin, is but how much greater is the love of God in the forgiveness of sins which Christ has won for us.  We definitely want the Holy Spirit as our teacher each day.  We want be there to learn his lessons.  He will always lead us away from credit for our own works, because the Holy Spirit wants to keep us not under the works of the law, the demands of God, oh you haven't done this, oh you need to do that.  Those things always are there, but they show us the mercy of God, we call this by a word, we call this sanctification, I'm sure you've heard that word before but do you know what it means?  Sanctification, to be sanctified.  It means to by taught and lead by the Holy Spirit, as a Christian, as God leads us in these good works.  And so the Holy Spirit comes to us, and does his mighty works in us in two ways.  First of all he justifies us, he declares us by faith not guilty, puts that forgiveness of sins on us.  And then for the rest of our lives he's there working in us, teaching us, guiding us, sanctifying us, and leading us to follow Christ in all things.  This is what the scriptures means when Jesus says he will take from what is mine and make it known to you. 

But it's also important for us not to believe every spirit that we hear,  for there are many spirits, but the scripture says test the spirits, test the spirits to see if there true.  But how do you do that.  Well you go to the thing that God has giving you as his gauge, his guide, his word.  And the spirit whatever it is that is talking to you, compare it to what God's word says and there you will see if it is from God or not.  For the Spirit of God will always bring us the gifts of the Spirit.  St. Paul mentions some of these, joy, peace, patience, kindness, love, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against these things there is no law of God preventing us from going there. These are the things the Holy Spirit works in us, and these are the good works that God will cause to flow out of us as the Spirit moves in us, these are the fruits of God's Holy Spirit in our lives.

So I ask you today on Pentecost Sunday, since the fruit season is coming on isn't it, do you like fruit, do you like to eat the apples and pears that are just forming now, coming out of their blossoms.  In just a few months they'll be here, and we'll be eating them, and they wont have to to be trucked in from Mexico or California, but even the orchards of Indiana and the mid-west will be filled to overflowing, we ask and hope and pray.  But the question is how is your crop this year, today.  Is the Holy Spirit working in you to produce his good works, to produce a bountiful harvest in God's Church.  You see it begins in your life right now, as you hear God's voice speaking to you through the Holy Scriptures, calling you from sin and death, to life and forgiveness and love, and comes flowing out of you if you show these good works to your neighbor, to your family, to whoever God puts in your path.  As you rely on his Word for those tough moments of life, and there are many tough moments aren't there?  And as we put into practice what he has given us, living in agreement, forgiving and loving one another.  And all of this for most of us began right there in our baptism, for some of us when we were adults perhaps, the moment we believed, God's Spirit was and now is at work in us.  We pray that God's Holy Spirit will keep us and our children connected to God's Word, learning his truth, so that Holy Spirit can continue to help us to grow in our life as a child of God.  In this way the Spirit moves among us, and reminds us that's what we're here for together, as St. John's Lutheran Church.  So be filled by his Spirit, and live in his joy.  On this day of Pentecost may the Spirit of God touch all of your hearts today.  Amen.

Synod President Responds to SCOTUS Same-sex Marriage Ruling
June 2015
A one-person majority of the U.S. Supreme Court got it wrong - again. Some 40 years ago, a similarly activist court legalized the killing of children in the womb. That decision has to date left a wake of some 55 million Americans dead. Today, the Court has imposed same-sex marriage upon the whole nation in a similar fashion. Five justices cannot determine natural or divine law. Now shall come the time of testing for Christians faithful to the Scriptures and the divine institution of marriage (Matthew 19:3-6), and indeed, a time of testing much more intense than what followed Roe v. Wade.

Like Roe v. Wade, this decision will be followed by a rash of lawsuits. Through coercive litigation, governments and popular culture continue to make the central post-modern value of sexual freedom override "the free exercise of religion" enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

The ramifications of this decision are seismic. Proponents will seek to drive Christians and Christian institutions out of education at all levels; they will press laws to force faithful Christian institutions and individuals to violate consciences in work practices and myriad other ways. We will have much more to say about this.
(read more)