Monday, May 24, 2010

Pentecost Sunday 2010

Pentecost Sunday
John 14 23-31
Bror Erickson

[23] Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. [24] Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
[25] "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. [26] But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. [27] Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [28] You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. [29] And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. [30] I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, [31] but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here. John 14:23-31 (ESV)

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
The Holy Spirit, faith is His work. He is the one who brings all of us to faith, quickens our dead spiritual life, and brings us to faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for our salvation. The Holy Spirit does so much, but doesn’t get much attention. This is by design. His job is to point us to Christ not Himself. He comes to us through the word of God, and points us to the salvation we have in Christ. But with all that it is fitting that we spend at least one day a year emphasizing His work and thanking Him for it. Without Him, none of us would believe in Jesus Christ, or the word of God as we have it in the Bible.
This very word of God has been in large part his work. Here Jesus Christ promises the Holy Spirit to the Disciples in a very particular manner. He comes to all who believe, faith being the primary manifestation of the Holy Spirit. But He doesn’t come to all in the same way or with the same task. He has promised the Holy Spirit to the Disciples in such a manner that He would perform a specific task for them. He would teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all that He has said to them.
We can be thankful for this promise, that means that the word of God as we have it in the Bible is reliable. This is why one of the criteria for what is and isn’t considered “canonical” is that it is written by an apostle. “Canonical” is a word that comes from canon with one n, meaning rule, or list, not to be confused with cannon with two ns, meaning a big gun used to break breaches in the fortress walls of Rhodes. To be canonical a book had to be written by an apostle, (and his laundry list doesn’t count) or have the seal of approval of one of the apostles, because the apostles have this promise. This is why, say the letters of Clement of Rome, as brilliant and orthodox as they are theologically, and included in some early lists of scripture don’t make it in the Bible. He wasn’t an apostle, but was in the generations of those that followed. They are left out. . There have even been some that have made it into our Bibles, that have been disputed but are left in subordination to those that we are certain of, those we know were written by Paul, Peter, John and the Four Gospels. From these, all Christian doctrine as we have it in the Apostle’s Creed, for instance, is drawn. (The list we have today, that makes up our Bibles was first compiled by Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria Egypt, and recorded in his Festal Letter of 367 AD). The dispute over which books should be listed and which not and why is most popularly recorded in Bishop Eusebius’s book “Church History.” And most of this dispute revolves around the “provenance” of the letter. If it was indisputably written by an apostle, nothing else really mattered much, they had this promise of the Holy Spirit. I use the word “provenance” which is a word used in the world of antiques to determine if something is genuine or not.
This is important, because we cannot make scripture. Only God the Holy Spirit can make scripture, we have to remain subordinate to scripture. We have to be led by the Holy Spirit through scripture, and cannot be superior to it, even in so far as we might want to decide as an individual or as a church that something is scriptural or not. We can’t change who wrote it. We have to let a book’s provenance speak for it and leave it at that. If it was written by an apostle we have to listen, because the Holy Spirit was promised to them in this way, not us. The apostle’s word is holy, is scriptural, is binding, is canonical.
So it doesn’t matter what you feel. Sorry, it just doesn’t. I had a conversation with a pastor just the other day. Wanted to make me pull my hair out. Every sentence started with “well I just feel” but he couldn’t back anything up with scripture. The road to hell has warm fuzzy feelings. I would presume the bosom gets hotter the closer you get to the flames behind the gates. God doesn’t ask us to feel. Feel we can, but they must not lead us contrary to scripture. A Christian holds himself bound to what scripture says. A Christian investigates scripture to see what it says, why it says it, how it says it, and leaves his feelings out of his determination of what it says. Because the Holy Spirit isn’t promised in feelings, as wonderful as they can be at times.
This is why we spend three years in confirmation, this is why Abigail and Christopher have been spending an hour and a half once a week with me after school reading scripture and discussing it with me. So that today when they make this profession of faith before you. They are not going by what their parents believe. Not going by what they feel. But by what the Holy Spirit has taught them to believe through the work of the Holy Apostles that is Holy Scripture. Confirming that they believe what the Holy Spirit has given all of us to believe as found in Holy Scripture.
Now may the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep them, and you in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.


mollo said...

My son got confirmed this Pentecost! I'm so proud of him.

Bror Erickson said...

That's awesome! My son has a few years yet.

Brigitte said...

It's such a special time ("special" being such a lame word). What does one say to a parent (auntie) of confirmand? A big hug and a "thanks be to God" with fervent prayers for the young person. God bless your family, Mollo!

Brigitte said...

Pastor Erickson says: "The road to hell has warm fuzzy feelings."

That really is quite a warning.

I have a very close and dear Mormon friend who was my neighbor. As far as religious feeling goes we could be twin sisters. She speaks about the Father in glowing terms, etc., etc., and yet confesses nothing the same. I hope that part of what animates her is the true word which Joseph Smith mingled into his own writings.

Nevertheless, it is not at all the same faith. But it seems to "feel" the same.

I read something about the Holy Spirit which helps me a lot.

"Now this is the article of the Creed that must always be and remain in use. For we have already received creation. Redemption, too, is finished. But the Holy Spirit carrioes on His work without cfeasing to the Last day. For that purpose He has appointed a congregation upon earth by which He speaks and does everything. For He has not yet brought together all His christian Church (John 10:16 or granted all forgiveness. therefore, we belive inh Him who daily brings us into the fellowship of this Christian chruch through the Word. Through the same Word and the forgiveness of sins He bestows, increases, and strengthens faith. So when He has done it all, and we abnide in this and die to the world and to all evil, he may finally makie us perfectly and forever holy. Even now we expect this in faith through the Word.

...These article of the Creed, therefore, divide and separate us Christians from all other people on earth. Even if all people outside Christianity--whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites--believe in and worship only one true God, they still do not know what His mind toward them is and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him. Therefore, they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they do not have the Lord Christ, and besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Spirit." (Large Catechism)

The fact that the Holy Spirit is about continuous forgiveness (which is by corollary continuous repentance) by which faith in Christ is strengthened is a little sobering and yet exceedingly joyful (because it does not depend on us) and because we can be as honest with ourselves and each other as necessary.

And in this strengthened faith we not only "feel", or "think" we assert that God's word is true and when he says: your sins are forgiven, they are, and all the other things scripture asserts.

This continuous forgiveness is something that I did and did not know growing up. Every night we said: "God's grace and Jesus blood makes all the damage good." (Gottes Gnad und Jesu Blut machen allen Schaden gut.) It was a comfort every night. But I did not understand that that is how it is. Repentance and forgiveness continues as long as we walk by faith and not yet sight. This is the Spirit's work.

Brigitte said...

Sorry about the typos. Obviously, I forgot to check it.

Bror Erickson said...

I managed the typo's so not to worry.
Feelings are fickle, nothing to rest on. oh at times my heart is warmed reading scripture, that is good. Puts me in a good mood etc. But it isn't faith. Everyone has warm fuzzies. Though like I said, I think the bosom probably burns warmer the closer you get to the flames behind the gate.

Brigitte said...

I think we women have lots of fuzzies all the time about many things. We love fuzzies.

All of which not to denigrate a genuine holy joy, but we have to be careful of ourselves. And sometimes there seems to be no joy, but then there is a kind of joy in trusting when you can't feel the joy, which is also joy, so really you can't even ever be entirely joyless...