Reclaiming the Holy Spirit
Pastor and theologian Wilhelm Leohe once compared the church to a river flowing through time. He emphasized that the church wasn’t a territorial or local establishment but all of God’s people in all times and all places. He went on to talk about mission as simply the movement of the church through time. Wherever the church was being the church in the communities and places it was called to mission was being done.
I was reminded of Leohe’s work as I prepared for Pentecost this week. Pentecost is a funny day. We often refer to it as the birthday of the church but it never quite garners the hoopla of Christmas or Easter, it hasn’t made the mark on secular calendars like the other two. Even liturgically it is often seen as simply a transition between the season of Easter and the lull we call ordinary time or time after Pentecost. I have heard Lutherans refer to Pentecost as the one day we talk about the Holy Spirit; as if we need to shift our focus of Jesus Christ to be able to talk about the 3rd person of the trinity. In the contemporary church it often seems like talk of the Holy Spirit is reserved for those communities who participate in seemingly supernatural faith practices such as faith healing and speaking in tongues, things that are usually alien to mainline liturgical communities like ourselves.
Brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit shouldn’t be alien or foreign in a Lutheran Church. Some of you may remember Martin Luther’s explanation of the 3rd Article of the Creed from your years of confirmation. Let me refesh your memories.
“A. I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intellegence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel,
enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true
faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy
the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true
faith. In this Church, He generously forgives each day every sin
committed by me and by every believer. On the last day, He will raise
me and all the dead from the grave. He will give eternal life to me
and to all who believe in Christ. Yes, this is true!
I strongly believe that that the church must reclaim the importance of Pentecost and give it back it’s rightful place alongside Christmas and Easter as a major festival of the Church. Because as goes our connection to the Holy Spirit so goes our ability to call Jesus Lord, and as goes our sense of being called so goes the mission of the church. The Holy Spirit isn’t about speaking in tongues although that may be edifying for some Christians. But first and foremost God gifting us with the Holy Spirit is about calling and empowering us to be the Body of Christ. This is why the third article of the Creed groups the church and the Holy Spirit together, this is why Pentecost is both the day God first gifted his children with the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Church; and I would go so far as to say this is why in large parts of the American Church an inability to talk about and sense the leading of the Holy Spirit has led to disastrous failure in focusing on mission. I believe that actively remembering that God has gifted the whole church with the Holy Spirit would lead to much renewal in many congregations.
Brothers and sisters the Pentecost story that we read an Acts isn’t a one-time event that happened to people a long time ago in a faraway place. It’s a story we relive at baptisms when the Spirit calls a new believer and every time we gather to do the work that God has called us to do. My friend David Barnes graduated from Seminary a few weeks back, he has been called as a Mission Developer in the Baltimore area, his first call will be funded entirely from the Synod and he is called to build and develop a congregation entirely from scratch. Heather and I are among David’s prayer partners and through the call of the Holy Spirit are connected to this congregation to be. A few years ago this community had the awesome opportunity to invest in and/or pray for a new mission start in this Synod New Hope in Farley, this serves as a reminder that we are not an isolated community whose story begins with immigrants to the American Shores in the mid to late 1800’s. But our story begins the same place that all Christian communities of the past preset and future. That is with a God who made us, loves us, and calls us to be the church flowing like that river that Wilhelm Leohe speaks about from the source, God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit until we reach the river’s mouth and spill into the Glory of God.
Brothers and sisters the Holy Spirit is nothing less than the God of Life living and moving in us. Empowering us to do amazing and wonderful things as ________ Lutheran Church a part of the Body of Christ. It’s easy as a congregation to get wrapped up in our own needs and struggles that we forget we are a part of something so much grander. Only when the Holy Spirit is reclaimed can we remember who we are. How do we reclaim the Holy Spirit? It begins by talking about it more than once a year; I challenge all of us to spend some time in intentional prayer asking for the leading of the Holy Spirit in the lives of these churches. And I want to challenge us as a congregation to spend more time in communal prayer, when WELCA meets every meeting should begin an end in prayer, when I meet with bible study groups I am going to try harder to cultivate deep prayer, in the near future I will provide opportunities for us to gather for the sole purpose of prayer. Because brothers and sisters a praying congregation is a living congregation, a Spirit filled congregation is a congregation doing mission and part of something great. Please pray with me.
Send again your Holy Spirit to your disciples in this place. Breathe in us so we may be a breath of fresh air to the world around us. Convict us and lead us out of our comfort zones into the future you have called us to boldly and faithfully. And give us life Lord so we may live for you and you alone. In Jesus’ precious and Holy Name.