John 15: 26, 27 (Confirmation/ Pentecost 2016)
“Jesus, Send Your Spirit”
It is truly a good thing when our Confirmation Sunday lands on the same day as a Festival. It is even better when it lands on one of the big three: Pentecost. Do you see the clear and simple connection? Jesus taught his disciples for three years. The night before he dies for them he reminds them that their life of faith has only just begun. He promises to send the Spirit who will enable them to give clear confession and testimony of Him to the world.
Today we hear the clear confession of the Lutheran Faith. Today we review the Bible-based teachings of Christianity at large. Today we pray for young adults. Today we remember the sending of the Holy Spirit upon His Church. Today we ask for an extra portion of the Spirit on our children and upon ourselves. And Jesus, who died, rose and ascended, has promised to send us His Spirit. Our prayer this special day, and always, is “Jesus, Send us Your Spirit!” He makes good on the promise. Jesus has already sent his Spirit on them and us.
On Them and On Us
Jesus promised: “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.” Jesus calls the Spirit “The Counselor.” The word John used is paraclete. We don’t use that phonetic version of it much anymore, but the word drums up all sorts of comforting pictures of what the Spirit is and does. He gives counsel, advice, and wisdom. He is an advocate and a defender of souls and truth. He gives understanding and instruction.
The Spirit has tools for his work: the truth. He works through the means of God’s grace; through the Gospel in Word and Sacraments. When God’s servants (parents, pastors, teachers, counselors, etc.) speak the true Words of Christ the Spirit is being sent to hearts and minds.
The students have been taught what we have been taught. They were given the Spirit of Truth upon their Baptisms when God called them to faith and made them his children. In Baptism he washed away their sins. Ever since then, their parents have seen to it that they continued to hear the Words of the Spirit, at home, on Sunday morning, in school, in catechism instruction. Every where the Word is taught Jesus is sending his Spirit on his children.
That can and ought to be said of all of us here. These students, along with us, do well to pray daily, “Jesus, send us your Spirit.” Paul encouraged Timothy, after he had already trained to be a pastor: “Continue in what you have learned and become convinced of. For you know those from whom you have learned it and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3: 14-15)
Now we continue in what we have learned. Jesus, send your Spirit on us by sending us your Word. The Day of Pentecost and Confirmation is a double reminder to remain faithful to the Words of Jesus. In them we have wisdom that leads to eternal life. May we hear them, learn them and take them to heart! Send your Spirit on us, Jesus, by creating in us hearts that are eager to be in your house, where your Word is preached and explained. Make us eager for your Holy Supper where your body and blood are offered and your death is proclaimed for our salvation! Today, these baptized children of God will we receive that Supper for the first of many times. Both Sacraments will continue to be an outpouring of the Spirit on their hearts.
In the Gospel we have the Spirit. In that Spirit we have a Paraclete for life and for eternity: a counselor, an advisor for life, a support group in grief, and advocate before the Father, a defender from temptation, a Comforter of priceless worth! He goes with them and us as well.
With Them and With Us
Jesus completes the thought “He [the Spirit, who goes out from the Father] will testify about me.” And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”
Just a brief doctrine course: In our creeds we confess that the Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Jesus is reminding us of the beauty of the Triune God. That teaching we celebrate next Sunday! The idea here is that they are all on the same page: What the Father wants done the Son does. What the Father wants said the Son and the Spirit say exactly the same. What the Spirit does is point back to the will of the Father and the Word of the Son. They are all on the same page and they are all about testifying about the words and work of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.
Who of us does not need a Counselor? We are not born with wisdom. We are born in a darkened understanding. We are blind sinners living in dark work of evil. Who of us is not troubled by many things? Who of us does not bear the burden of guilt? Who of us can claim exemption from God’s condemnation and eternal wrath? Perhaps the most obvious need we see this morning is the need to put away this thought that we have learned all there is to know about God, or at least have remembered enough without striving to be around it all the time. Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to cleanse my heart of sinful thoughts and selfish goals.
Jesus sent the Spirit to testify; about what, or whom? Jesus says, “ … about ME.” The Spirit testifies to Jesus. The Spirit through the Word brings us to Jesus. He brings us to his life-giving words of forgiveness and peace. The Spirit leads us to the cross where his redeeming blood was shed for us. The Spirit brings us through the open door of his grave and shows us that it is empty. The Spirit testifies that Jesus has ascended to the throne of God where he continues to reign over all things for the good his people, the Church, for your children, and for you.
Jesus calls us to testify. John used word that is phonically pronounced “martyr.” How appropriate for his followers. Many of them were killed for the testimony about Jesus. All of them certainly died with the confession of Jesus Christ on their hearts and lips. Today we recall that His Holy Spirit empowered these same people from fear in locked room to the courage of public speaking. The Counselor gave them boldness to proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord and baptized thousands of repentant sinners.
Theses confirmation students were made “martyrs.” No, they were not put to death for their faith. We already have seen that they will know of this kind of persecution in their lifetime. They did feel apprehensive about today. But today the Spirit goes with them. The Spirit lead them to give clear testimony to the things of God’s Word. He will also lead them to confess that they would rather face death than to fall away from it. To that they say “Yes, with the help of God.” And their helper is the Counselor of Truth who goes out from the Father. They and you are testimonies to Christ and to the grace of God that made you his people.
He goes with them. He goes with us. He goes because Jesus, who lives above all dominion and power, says so. He goes because he comes from the Father who loves us so dearly. He goes with us where ever we have his Word and sacraments on our hearts, in our ears, on our minds and on our lips.
Think of it in the simple terms of the nursery rhyme:
“Everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went, the Lamb was sure to go.”
So every where the Bible went, Bible went, Bible went, everywhere the Bible went the Spirit and the Lamb are sure to go, upon and with his children to eternity. And recall the closing promise of our Savior Jesus: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Amen.