Fifth Sunday of Easter
April 28, 2013
Dear friends in Christ.
Whenever you watch a sporting event like basketball or football, baseball or even NASCAR, it is very seldom that you get a glimpse of the people operating the cameras. Oh, sure, from time to time the network might give you a wide angle shot of the stadium crowd or maybe an unusual angle of home plate, and in that shot you will see one or maybe two different cameras with their operators. But on most occasions we never see them. Even though they have the very important job of following the ball as it arcs toward the outfield wall, and capturing all the action of the game so that we feel like we are right there in the stadium we hardly ever see them. We know they are there because we are being blessed by the important work that they are doing, but in all reality they are the ones who work behind the scenes, as it were. Well, in many ways this is how the Holy Spirit works in God’s kingdom. He works behind the scenes. He works quietly and often times subtly as he does his most important work of calling people to faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Though we can often tell where he is and even sometimes see what he is doing through the work that he has accomplishes, like most camera operators, we never see him. This is why we want to take a few minutes today to take a look at the important work that the Holy Spirit does so that we might learn why it is so very important for us as Christians.
Well, as Christians, we already know why the work of the Holy Spirit is so very important! We know that the work of the Holy Spirit is so important because he is the one who calls people to faith through the Word of God. He is the one who causes faith in Jesus to spring up in a person’s heart so that through that faith they might have eternal life, just as Jesus promised us when he said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV84) And again, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16, NIV84)
Now, if I were to stand up here this morning and tell you that I had a gift of $10.00 for each and every person who came to church today, that would automatically mean that no one would be excluded from that gift. Each person would be given a $10.00 bill as they left church today. So, even if you were the last one ushered out of church today, you would have no worries because you trusted me when I said that I had a $10.00 bill for each and every person. In essence this is the same promise that Jesus made when he went to the cross. He proclaimed and promised that the benefits of his death and resurrection were for all people. He ransomed everyone and no one was left out. But, let me extend that illustration just a little bit more. What if, as you were leaving church today, I did offer you a $10.00 bill, but for whatever reason instead of taking it and being blessed by an extra $10.00, you simply walked by and didn’t take it. Even though the money was yours and you would have been blessed by it, you refused to take it and now you are not receiving those blessings. Not only are you not receiving the blessings, it is your own fault that you did not take the gift that was offered you. The same is true in God’s kingdom. It is the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts to call us to faith so that we might receive the blessings that Jesus offers us. However, if someone resists or refuses to believe all the blame lies on the person who refuses to believe in Jesus.
Sadly, this is our natural spiritual condition and this is why the work of the Holy Spirit is so important! As Paul tells us in Ephesians, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." (Ephesians 2:1–3, NIV84)
By nature, we were nothing more than spiritually dead and blind enemies of God. We did not naturally come to faith in Jesus as our Savior nor did we, one day, out of the blue, simply decide that we were going to become Christians and follow Jesus for the rest of our life. No; because by nature we were no different than a corpse lying in a coffin! Though a well meaning pastor might have promised us a gift of $10.00, we would not have been able to take it. Even if he had come to our coffin and placed the bill in our hand so that we took it to our grave, it would have done us no good, because we were dead and blind enemies of God.
But now, everything has changed because of the important work that the Holy Spirit has been about in our hearts! The Apostle Paul says it this way, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." (Romans 5:1–11, NIV84)
We are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us while we were still sinners only because the Lord himself poured out upon us, the promised Holy Spirit. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that we have been called to faith by the Gospel. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit calling us to faith, in most cases through the water connected with the Word in baptism, that we now believe in Jesus as our Savior. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that we have been gathered together as believers and enlightened with his gifts, sanctified—made holy—and kept in the one true faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. It is the Holy Spirit who works through the Gospel in the Word and in the Sacraments to call us to faith and strengthen our faith in Jesus who has freed us from our sins by his death and resurrection.
This is the work that the Holy Spirit is continually doing, and this is the work in which we participate every time we take the Word of God with us. Though we have no power to call someone to faith, we have many, many opportunities to plant the seeds of God’s Word in a person’s heart by humbly and confidently sharing our faith. We have many opportunities to tell others about Jesus, their Savior, who died on the cross and rose again from the dead, so that through these beautiful words of the Gospel the Holy Spirit might have the opportunity to work in another person’s heart and cause the seeds of faith to grow.
What greater, more important work could there be than the work that the Holy Spirit does! Though we might expect to find the Holy Spirit right in the middle of the picture, like the reporters who cover the sports action, he is the one who works behind the scenes, like the camera operators. Though we have never seen him, we know that he is at work. He is at work in our hearts today, strengthening our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Yet, he is also at work in every part of the World. He is working even now, every place that the Word of God is being shared and taught. He is working through that word, calling people to faith in Jesus Christ their Savior, strengthening their faith, enlightening them with his gifts, sanctifying them and keeping them in the one true faith, in Jesus their Lord and Savior.
Pastor David M. Shilling
GraceEvangelical Lutheran Church--Le Sueur, MN