27 May 2007

The Voice and the Works of the Spirit

"Gentlemen, unlike all of you, the Holy Spirit does not talk about Himself." So said one of my dear fathers in Christ at the seminary. He was quite right, both about us men and, more importantly, about the Holy Spirit, who brings Christ Jesus to us from the Father, and lays Him upon our hearts through the Gospel. The Spirit is most actively present and at work, not when we are talking about Him, but when He is speaking Jesus to us.

Today is the Feast of Pentecost, however, and there is something to be said about the Holy Spirit, after all. There is the witness and revelation of the Holy Scriptures, and the confession of the Creeds, which do catechize us in the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. The fact that it all comes back to Jesus, is not to leave the Spirit out; for you do not have the One without the Other. What is more, Jesus is "the Christ" because He is anointed by the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world. He receives and bears the Spirit, on our behalf, in order to bestow the Spirit upon us; which is to share with us the very life and love of God.

Jesus says that, while you cannot see the Holy Spirit, you are able to hear His voice and to behold Him in His works. The voice and works of the Spirit are the means of grace, the Gospel-Word and Sacraments. In hearing the Word of the Gospel, you hear the voice of the Spirit and receive Christ Jesus. In Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and the Holy Communion, you are the object of the Spirit's work, and you receive Christ Jesus.

Dr. Luther comments in the Large Catechism, that the the gifts and blessings of Holy Baptism are more than enough to occupy our consideration for our entire lives. Each day appropriately begins with the confident confession that we are baptized into Christ! As He received the anointing of the Spirit in His Baptism, so does He pour out the Holy Spirit generously upon us in our Baptism. By His Word of the Law and the Gospel, the Holy Spirit returns us daily to those life-giving waters through repentance and faith in the forgiveness of sins.

Concerning Holy Absolution, Dr. Luther writes that Christians who know the Gospel will gladly run a hundred miles in order to confess their sins and receive forgiveness from their pastor, as from God Himself. This gift of Holy Absolution is the Lord's breathing of His Holy Spirit into our hearts, into our bodies and souls, so that our dried up, dead and dusty bones are resurrected to new life. As we are born of God in Holy Baptism, so do we breathe divine life in Holy Absolution. And as we inhale this forgiveness, so do we exhale forgiveness of our neighbor's trespasses against us. Nothing could be more basic and fundamental to the Christian life.

It is well known that Dr. Luther understood the Sacrament of the Altar to be the very Gospel, the Word-made-Flesh for us men and our salvation. The Body and Blood of Christ Jesus are the truly Spiritual food and drink, by which we are nourished and sustained through the wilderness of this life, unto the life everlasting. Another Lutheran father in the faith, Wilhelm Loehe, viewed the entire life of the Church on earth as a kind of journey to and from the Altar of the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything that Pastor Loehe and his congregation did, which was considerable in every way (and extended all over the world), he regarded as a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the One who feeds us with His holy Body and gives us to drink of His holy and precious Blood. To live such a life of faith and love, and to offer such thanksgiving, is also the voice and work of the Holy Spirit in us.

The Holy Spirit does still bestow the gift of tongues. Not gibberish, but the voice of the Gospel. It is translated into the numerous languages of the world, whereby those languages (and the people who speak them) are sanctified and united in the common confession of Christ. For with the heart we believe, and with the tongue we confess; as we have heard, so do we speak.

1 comment:

Rev. James Leistico said...

even without seeing the reference to our dear father professor, I knew it was him.
Thank you for preserving this preaching of God's Word