By Pastor Daniel W. Brettell
What an incredible difference seven weeks makes. Just fifty days ago, the eleven of them—these apostles—were cowering behind closed and locked doors wondering just what was going to become of them. And then . . . and THEN . . . it happened just as Jesus promised. Before his ascension, Jesus had said to them,
“I will pray to the Father,
and he will give you another Counselor,
that he may be with you forever….
The Counselor, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
he will teach you all things,
and will remind you of all that I said to you” (John 14:16, 26).
And now, on this Pentecost, as they gathered together again, now though without fear and without any concern for what the future held, we’re told that “Suddenly there came from the sky a sound like the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” and that “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:2, 4).
Listen to those words, and feel those words, “like the rush of a violent wind” and “they were filled with the Holy Spirit.” If there is anyone who has any doubt as to what that wind was, then just to listen to the very first verse of the very first chapter of the very first book of the Bible:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Now the earth was formless and empty.
Darkness was on the surface of the deep.
God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2).
Some translations say that it was a wind from God that swept over the waters.
It is no accident that Luke uses words that parallel Genesis. Just as it was no accident that in John’s Gospel he too parallels Genesis when he writes:
“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through him.
Without him was not anything made that has been made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness hasn’t overcome it” (John 1:1-5).
My brothers and sisters, what is that—who is that—John refers to when he writes, “In the beginning was the Logos—the Word?” It’s Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was in the beginning with God and all things came into being through him, and not one thing came into being without him. God didn’t create him—did not create Jesus; he was with God, he was . . . he is God.
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And what is it—who is it that Luke refers to in Acts when he says”Suddenly there came from the sky a sound like the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” It’s the Holy Spirit. My brothers and sisters, these verses from Acts, from Genesis, and from John are the very foundation of our understanding of the Triune God—of the Trinity. God is one. God comes to us in three forms depending upon our need. From Genesis, we know God the Father as Creator. From the Gospels, we know God the Son as Redeemer. And now from Acts, we know God the Holy Spirit as Sustainer.
And to you, you six who today affirm the promises of your baptism, hear this message and take it into your hearts—treasure it:
God created you in love
God redeemed you with his grace–and
God sustains you in communion with other Christians
We begin our worship, with the words, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” but how often do we think about those words as we proclaim “AMEN” and perhaps make the sign of the cross. I say “perhaps” but I would be more accurate if I said that we SHOULD make the sign of the cross when we refer to the Trinity.
In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther said, “In the morning, when you rise, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Luther continued, “In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “
Why? Because we are blessed by this great and wonderful God, who knows our needs and our weaknesses; who knows that we—his created—have sinned and will continue to sin, so we need his redeeming love. We are blessed by this great and wonderful God who knows that as we go through our day, we are faced with constant trial and temptation, so we need to be sustained in our faith—and as our faith is sustained by his Spirit we serve as an example to others in our community.
You see my young brothers and sisters, that’s what this day is all about for you. Yes, you are affirming your faith. You are affirming the promises made by your parents and your God-parents years ago, but it is only through the work, the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit that you are able to make that affirmation. You may have come in here today, nervous and hoping that you won’t make a mistake. But I can assure you that weren’t alone. I come in here every Sunday hoping I don’t make a mistake. And on those rare occasions that I get through an entire Service of the Word and Eucharist without making a mistake, I know that it wasn’t because of anything I did, but rather because of the work of the Holy Spirit sustaining me—just as you will be sustained by the Holy Spirit today and every day for the rest of your lives.
In your letters to me—letters that I asked you to write telling me why you wanted affirm your baptism, each of you—in your own way and in your own words—impressed me with the depth of your personal theology.
One of you said, “I want to learn things about him that I would never even think of.” Well, if you would never even think of it, how could you possibly learn about it? Through the power of the Holy Spirit, that’s how.
Another of you said, “The experience of Catechism, at such a family-like church, has opened up my eyes to how important my religion is.” And another said, “It [confirmation] gives you the strength to know that God is always around protecting you and comforting you.” Don’t forget that! It is through the community of your church that the Holy Spirit works to sustain you; it is through the work of the Holy Spirit that you know that God is with you.
Still another of you said, “I want to be confirmed because I want to grow my faith and learn more about the Lord.” You will grow your faith through the work of the Holy Spirit which will enable you to learn more in communion with your brothers and sisters in the Christ’s church on earth.
And I was literally blown away when I read first in one letter, “I will be connected to God in a completely new way,” and then in a second letter, “When you are confirmed, you are becoming closer to God and the Holy Spirit.” That’s what the apostles felt on that Pentecost nearly 2,000 years ago when they were filled with the Holy Spirit for the first time.
When you stand up here today and you profess your faith in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit, you are doing far more than you may understand right now. You will be declaring to us—your brothers and sisters in that faith—that the Holy Spirit is at work in you and through you. You will be declaring to us that you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, not through any work of yours—although you have worked hard for two years of Confirmation classes—but not truly through any work of yours; rather you are proclaiming and displaying the work of God as he draws you closer to him.
This day is a day of celebration for you and your families, but it is also a day of celebration for this whole assembly of God’s people and for all of Christ’s church here on earth. And all of us need to understand that what we are seeing here today, is as great and wonderful and mysterious a sign as that which took place 2,000 years ago when the wind of God—that breath of God—the Holy Spirit descended upon those eleven.
We are truly on Holy ground here today, as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit fill Ashley and Carly and Deron and Mariah and Shannon and Zachary in order to begin a whole new relationship with them; a relationship that will last for the rest of their lives here in God’s kingdom on Earth. Alleluia! Praise God!
Let us pray.
May the peace of Christ which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in the joy of our resurrected Lord and Savior who died to redeem our sin, and in the Holy Spirit who enters our lives to sustain our faith. Amen.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible
Copyright 2010, Daniel W. Brettell. Used by permission.