Pentecost, what a wonderful day. The fiftieth day after Christ’s victory over sin, death and the devil. Ten days after His ascension to rule over all. The day the Holy Spirit came and filled God’s Church in a building in ancient Israel. This day is the beginning of our church going out into this broken world, proclaiming Christ’s Victory and God’s healing and renewing of His groaning Creation. Sent from the Father by the Son, the Holy Spirit to guide and empower His Church. The Triune God revealing Himself to us by His Word.
And how does He reveal Himself to us today? The Holy Spirit, breath of a mighty wind, to empower speech in God’s people for the benefit of all, to help us in our weakness, our brokenness, and to draw all of Creation to the fulfillment of our hope, life everlasting in Jesus. The Holy Spirit sent down to walk alongside us, but how is He with us? I can’t see Him or hold Him, but we do hear of people feeling the Spirit, and being moved by the Spirit. What’s going on there, Who is this Holy Spirit? Well if God is revealing Himself to us, condescending to our level to help us understand the truth, perhaps we start with His name, Holy Spirit.
Language is a funny thing, we say spirit, breath, wind, but when I’m translating from Hebrew or Greek I only see one word. For our ancestors in the Faith, spirit, breath and wind are the same; He is Holy Spirit, Holy Breath, Holy Wind. This is why we say the Trinity is there clear as day in Genesis, though we might translate it differently, the Holy Spirit, Breath of God, Almighty Wind, hovered over the waters. And by breath we speak words. Let there be light! And there was. (Genesis 1). And later, the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us (John 1). Here we hear the relationships in God, the Father speaks, by the Holy Breath, the Spirit, His Word, the Son. God is Father, Son and Spirit; God is Speaker, Word, and Breath. Always working together, without a speaker there is no word, without breath there is no word and without speech what is a speaker? One example of this is Christmas, The Father begot Jesus conceived by the Holy Spirit, or the Speaker begot the Word by the Holy Breath. But why has He revealed Himself like this, how does this help us?
Ok three things, power, unity and work. One thing it shows is that, especially today, the Holy Spirit empowers us to speak Holy things, to proclaim the Word of God as Peter and the Apostles did all those years ago. It’s not my breath that brings God’s forgiveness and healing, it’s not from my spirit rather it’s from the Holy Spirit. So if I rely on my breath, my work, my power, apart from the Holy Spirit, my words are not God’s. If I rely on myself, no matter the effort, I cannot bring Christ, the Incarnate Word, to others. If it’s by my breath it’s not of God, if I’m inspired by the Holy Spirit God is at work. Now you can work so hard so as to loose your breath, if it’s without the Holy Breath in the end it’s nothing. However, if by the Holy Spirit, He always draws us to Christ.
And this is the second thing. The Holy Spirit is the one who inspires and empowers Church, that’s why in the Creed the third part is I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Christian Church, forgiveness of sins, resurrection, and life everlasting. The Holy Spirit is the one beside us, at work in God’s Word and Sacraments, here today as we gather. The Holy Breath is the one who draws us into a warm relationship with God in His fullness, He is the presence of God. How can I say that, that the Holy Spirit is the presence of God? We’ll let’s just say I break COVID rules and come right up into your personal space, breathing down your neck, warming you; you’d know I’m close because of my breath. And it’s so much more if God’s Breath warms us, not down our necks but filling our lungs and we walk with Him actually breathing the self same air. All Christians, the whole Church, inspired by the same Holy Breath, we are united together by Him. And then we can speak as though God Himself is speaking, filled with His Spirit and bringing Jesus’ renewal to those around us.
And a third thing, the Holy Spirit isn’t a thing, He’s a person. He might not have a simple name like Father or Jesus, but He’s no less active, no less powerful, no less God. When the Father breathed on Adam, the Holy Spirit gave Adam life; all breath is from the Holy Spirit this is why we confess He is Lord the Giver of life. And He was at work throughout the Old Testament bringing life, resting on people giving them portions of God’s gifts, superhuman strength to Samson, great wisdom to Solomon, and the ability to speak God’s Word, to prophesy, to countless down to John the Baptist. He even took Elijah up into heaven on that fiery chariot. And today He guides us into all truth (John 15:13), those encouraging words He gave you, that drive to do good in that moment, and the ability to pray. To pray with the Breath of God, breathing in and out, God’s grace in and our failures out; even when our breath fails and we have no words, the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf in groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26). We can just breath, in and out with the Holy Spirit, in the presence of God.
Those three things, He empowers us to speak Jesus, He unites us together in Jesus, He work in and through us for Life.
The Holy Spirit, He is truly a wonderful gift, even the Lord of Gift giving. And according to the promise of God’s Word uttered by the Holy Breath in His Church down the ages, you have received Him in the laying on of hands at Baptism. Of course He can move and work however He wants, and He does work outside of ordinary means; yet God promised that you receive His Spirit in Baptism so you can have assurance of His presence in your life. However, although we have received Him we may try to remove Him like getting ride of good clean air with smoking; clean air gives many benefits, but second-hand smoke tastes foul. How do we clear our lungs? We breath, in and out; breath in or receive well God, His Word, His Sacraments; breath out or remove sin and evil. Pray God’s Word, morning and night; gather with each other around God’s Word; come together to His altar. Walk in step with the Holy Spirit and breath together as one. This is the life of the Christian, what we confess every time in the Creed. So as we continue to sing together, breathing the same air in and out in time, as we join together in prayer. Know that we are only united by the Holy Spirit, be filled and changed by Him and breath Him as you go out to continue His work of Pentecost, to proclaim Christ’s Victory, to speak life and courage to those around you, and to spread the Holy Breath wherever you go.
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now to when we will always breath as one. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.