The helper – the comforter. The Holy Spirit. He is the one whom Jesus promises to send – whom Jesus did send on Pentecost. And it is the same Holy Spirit who is with us even today. Building the church, making us holy, bringing salvation to one heart at a time.
When we think of the Holy Spirit, we think of fire. Of a mighty rushing wind. Of Miraculous signs and wonders. Speaking in strange tongues. 3,000 baptized in one day. Peter healing the man in the temple. Stephen’s vision of Christ enthroned as he is martyred. Paul’s trip to Damascus with the bright light. The power of God.
We don’t think of people sitting quietly listening, singing the same old hymns, going over the same old liturgy again. Certainly that’s not how scripture describes the work of the Spirit is it? The Spirit is the powerful, the fire, the wind, the great and mighty deeds of the apostles, not the sort of quiet church we have – with few people, a mostly silenced organ, a stark contrast to that first Pentecost to say the least.
Then the Holy Spirit was preceded by a mighty rushing wind. Then fire rested on the apostles. Then Peter preached with power and conviction of Jesus death and resurrection. And when the final count was taken, the church grew by 3000% in a day
But, Peter wasn’t doing anything more than we do.
The gift of the Spirit is not the fire, or the wind, the tongues or any of the miracles we hear about. Those are temporary signs. The work of the Holy Spirit – as Jesus himself says tells the disciples is to “bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” To bring to remembrance.
That doesn’t just mean that they will be able to recall things. Jesus isn’t promising them a dose of Divine Ginseng brain booster. So what does Jesus mean, “bring to your remembrance”?
The nation of Israel had the Passover as a remembrance. But it wasn’t just a time to think about things. After all, the people who could actually remember the exodus were long gone. They were dead even before the nation of Israel got to the promised land. It’s not just to think about things. As the people continued to celebrate Passover, God was bringing that salvation to them. It was a remembrance: the salvation that God had worked was the same salvation that God now worked for them. God would protect and defend his people – even when in exile, even when under the thumb of Rome – because it is who He is and what he has always done for his people. The evidence is in his deliverance of Israel from Egypt, his giving them the land of Canaan, his preserving them through the time of the exile, and bringing them back into the land of promise.
So, when Jesus says, the Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance all that I have said, he wasn’t just saying, The Holy Spirit will help you record things accurately in the Gospel books – although the Holy Spirit did that, too. It’s also Jesus, saying, The works I do for your salvation, the Holy Spirit will bring them to people through the preaching off the word, so that the salvation accomplished on the cross is given to you. That’s what remembrance was for God’s people in Holy Scripture – taking hold of the salvation God promised. For us it is taking hold of the salvation Jesus won for us. That’s the remembrance that the Spirit brings to us. Because without the work of the Spirit, we can not even believe the promise that God gives.
There are some who think that, once you take the first step, then the spirit swings into action and does his part. Once you decide, once you trust, once you do this or that, then the spirit starts his work. But the spirit works where and when he wills to bring faith in the promise in the first place.
It does no good for Jesus to die, if we are not told of that death for our sins. And it does no good to be told of his death, if it is not for you. And it being for you does no good unless, by faith you receive the promise. And that’s where the spirit comes in. The spirit gives faith in the promise. He works through the Word of Jesus, bringing faith into your heart so that you can receive the gift of salvation.
That’s why we can talk about remembering Baptism, even though most here were baptized as infants. It doesn’t mean “Hey think about that time your hair got wet.” It means, recall and hold onto the salvation that was given when you were torn from Satan’s grasp and made a child of God. It means that, by daily contrition and repentance you put to death the old Adam with all his sins and evil desires, and that a new man arises to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. This is the daily struggle of Christian living.
We are told that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;” We might wish it were fire, wind, mighty preaching, increasing membership. But it’s not. The spirit works patiently and quietly in your hearts, every day bringing you salvation through Jesus sacrifice. Every day working in you the fruits of repentance. Every day increasing in you those fruits. It’s a struggle. It’s not easy. The your flesh wars against God’s Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit creates a new spirit in you so that you desire the things of God. But your flesh is still weak. You still struggle.
That’s why we must be in the word. Why we must come to receive the gift at the altar – because your flesh is weak, and you need to surround yourself with the spirits tools. So that the Spirit can continue his work in you each day: Killing and bringing to life again. Contrition – sorrow over sin, and repentance – faith that grabs hold of the promise of salvation. A new life in Christ.
Luther says, the Holy Spirit, as his name implies, makes us holy. How are we made holy? When, by faith we grab hold of the promise of Christ. And the spirit gives us the faith to do just that.
Faith is not – can not be a work of ours. If it is, then it is not salvation freely given – it is salvation given when you do something. The salvation is earned by Jesus, and brought to you by the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the word, in the water of the font, in the body and blood of the altar. That’s how the Holy Spirit works. Through the means that God has promised.
It may not be impressive by the world’s standards. But it’s overcome empires. Lasted through war, famine, disease, drought, through life and even into death.
The Spirit brings you salvation because the Spirit brings you Jesus. And where Jesus is, he gives you His heavenly Father. Now, the Spirit has made you a child of God. And you are no longer your own. Through the font he has done his work in you, and you are his. Through the preaching of the word that work continues in you. Through the Holy Supper you are fed with the things of God – and the Spirit continues to graciously bless you as you are given Jesus, and as Jesus gives you his Father.
Grant this Lord unto us all.