Day of Pentecost

Readings: Genesis 11:1-9 | Acts 2:1-13 | John 14:23-31

Text: John 14:23-31

Have you ever pondered how the message of the cross reaches you and me today? Every generation has to go through a period of learning. It’s not that we have to completely start from scratch. However, how could this message of Jesus’ death and resurrection be carried down through the generations? It’s the belief of many that the Christian faith is just a matter of traditional belief being handed down.

In the time of Hitler, he believed that he could eradicate the Jewish faith both by separating families and making it dangerous to be a professing Jew. In the time of the Roman government, they believed by persecution that they could convince people to not be so foolish to follow this Jewish sect called The Way. Perhaps if Hitler and the militant Caesars had been right about faith merely being a matter of personal determination, then they could have succeeded in exterminating it.

Now, the Jewish religion may be the leftover of God’s work before the Messiah, but it was once God’s work which formed them. How much more is Christianity God’s work for the people of every nation!

But how did those events of the first century reach us? After all, if it were lost to antiquity like so many figures, or distorted by word-of-mouth recollection, then the Gospel would be a pale shadow of the events. In fact, we could be so bold as to say that if we did not know of Jesus’ sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection, all would be lost. Jesus could have died a thousand times, but if it did not reach us in 2023, it would be to no avail. The Apostle to the Hebrews writes along this vein of thought,

“Then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:26)

Jesus only had to die once to take away the sins of the world. Everything which follows draws us back to that one, single event. (This is also the simplest way to view the Old Testament and New Testament: Everything before Christ comes anticipates His coming, while everything after points people back to the death and resurrection of God’s Son.)

Pentecost, the day when the first fruits were gathered in for Israel, was the day which the God of Israel chose to gather this first fruits of the Church. And that gathering continues generation after generation. Oh, how the faithful wish that such large changes could be worked by the Word of God in our own day! What would it look like if there were three-thousand baptisms in Lebanon, or even in larger cities? The Church on earth would go wild for this miracle.

But any farmer knows that not every year is a bumper crop. Despite all the best techniques, the most meticulous attention, it all depends on what comes down from heaven. The success of the preaching of Christ crucified does not hinge on our methods, because the success comes down from heaven, as the rain which waters the earth, making it bring forth and sprout (Isa. 55:10-11).

So, consider what we asked God in the collect of the day:

O God, on this day You once taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the light of Your Holy Spirit. Grant us in our day by the same Spirit to have a right understanding in all things and evermore to rejoice in His holy consolation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

We believe what happened on the first Pentecost is true, just as true as the tomb is empty and Jesus is not there. We also believe that God has not stopped loving the world for which He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

So, our prayer to God is that, just as He once created and kindled faith in those who heard the Gospel, that He would do the same in our own day. Will it mean 3,000 baptized in one day and at one place? We haven’t seen such a watershed moment since. However, God’s saving will is unchanged. God’s Spirit is no less powerful. And His Word is no less potent in our day as it was in the accounts we have in Scripture—from the day He spoke, “Let there be…” (Gen. 1:3, et al) to the day that same “Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” (John 1:14)

Since Christianity is not simply a study of what God once did, but how our Lord God continues to act today as He did in the past: What does the Holy Spirit do and how is He at work today?

I pray that you not be deceived by those who claim human achievements as the work of the Holy Spirit. The modern idea of “speaking in tongues” or performing miracles really is not the Holy Spirit’s work. Tongues were truly displayed on Pentecost when the Gospel was spoken by Aramaic-speakers but heard by people of so many disparate nations. That’s what the Holy Spirit did, not the meaningless babble that is said to be “tongues” today. Those signs were given that day as echoes of what God had done in the past—the rushing wind recalling Elijah and the encouragement to preach even in a time of popular apostasy (1 Kings 19), the burning bush to Moses where God promised that He would fulfill His promises (Exod. 3), the languages once confused now reunited by the Gospel for people of every nation (Gen. 11), the Spirit being poured out so that the darkened sky of Golgotha (Matt. 27:45) so that sons and daughters, young and old, call upon the Name of the Lord and are saved.

The Holy Spirit is not interested in drawing attention to Himself; it’s all for and about the Incarnate Son of God.

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.

The Spirit is sent to teach us to know Jesus, to bring to remembrance all that He has said and done. His work is clear wherever the Word of Jesus is believed and lived by—”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.” But where do we find that? Is it just a world-wide scavenger hunt to locate those who love Jesus and keep His word? Not at all!

The Apostles’ Creed gives us a simple guide to where to look for the Holy Spirit’s work: “I believe in the Holy Spirit: the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”

In the simplest terms, the holy Christian (or catholic) Church is this: “This is the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.” (Augsburg Confession, VII). The Holy Spirit gathers believers together. He’s not a divine lightning bolt which zaps individuals. He works in the hearts of people to seek out other believers and bring them together around the Word of Jesus.

The communion of saints is both the unity we have with all Christians—despite differences due to weakness of faith or heterodox teachings—and which is tangible in the Sacrament of the Altar. Even while not all Christians may not commune together because of false teaching, we do all rejoice in the Lord’s work.Because of the Holy Spirit, we are “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” That’s because He has taught us this: There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:3-6)

We sinners all together bask in the forgiveness of sins. It’s not that we are people with an overactive conscience. We are people who recognize the hot wrath of God, which we have deserved! But the Holy Spirit has taught us even more to receive a peace which the world can never give—a peace which cannot be wrought by our best efforts.

The resurrection of the body…this is our hope! What we see now is only death, decay.

The life everlasting—What we look forward to. It’s not fantasy, but reality. What changes is how willing we are to accept this truth. Is the death and burial of your husband, your friend, more powerful that Jesus resurrection? Is your own declining death and march toward death more than the Holy Spirit can handle? I think not.

Rejoice today and always in what God’s Holy Spirit has done and does do, for the salvation of you and people of every nation and language. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

The Feast of Pentecost

Readings: Genesis 11:1–9 | Acts 2:1-21 | John 14:23-31

Text: John 14:23-31

We often think of the Day of Pentecost in the past tense.  Around May 11 in the year 33 (or 29),[1]

“they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”[2]

That day, there were miraculous signs at which the people wondered.  Peter stood up and gave a miraculous, multi-lingual sermon, and that day 3,000 people believed and were baptized.  Such an event catches our attention, but nobody has seen it since.

Many Christians are misled by teachers who claim to recapture the wonders of that day.  They claim the Holy Spirit always causes people to speak in new tongues.  But as one pastor noted, it’s like children who get so distracted with the wrapping paper that they ignore the gift itself.[3]  The great miracles that accompanied Pentecost are just wrapping on the gift of multitudes believing in Jesus and being baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.  So, the real center of Pentecost is not the impressive signs, but the last verse Peter quotes from the prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”[4]  That’s of course, why the selection for the Second Reading ends at that verse.

And if that’s the main point of Pentecost, it’s certainly not just a past event that we long for or try to recreate.  If you think about it, isn’t it interesting that the charismatic movement claims to recreate the events of Pentecost, even though this was the once-in-time birth of the Christian Church, but nobody thinks to recreate the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord, which was accomplished once for all.  The Holy Spirit is a very present help, because Pentecost is about the peace which the Holy Spirit delivers to souls from every nation.  To you, He brings the peace with God of your sins forgiven.

In fact, the Holy Spirit has always been God’s messenger of peace.  The newly formed creation fell through the unfaithfulness of Adam and Eve.  By just the 10th generation of the human race,[5] people had become so corrupt that God said, “I am sorry that I have made them.”  So God planned judgment against all of sinful humanity in the Flood, but “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”[6]  God showed mercy by delivering sinful Noah and his family from the “torrents of destruction.”[7]  The Lord called them into the safety of the ark while the rest of the unbelieving world was judged.  Then at the end of the flood, Noah sent out a dove.  At first, the dove returned because she “found no place to set her foot.”  But 7 days later, Noah sent the dove out again, and “behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf.  So, Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.”[8]  The dove returned as the messenger that God’s judgment was complete.  She proclaimed a new peace between God and man for all who believe.

Then there was the Prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones (chapter 37).  “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry.”[9]  They were the bones of sinful, dead people.  In their despair, they said, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.”[10]  They had fallen under God’s just condemnation.  But the Lord also said, “Why will you die, O house of Israel?  I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn and live”[11]  So the Lord commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath:  “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”[12]  The breath of God, which is His Spirit, proclaimed peace and resurrection to those slain by sin.

Finally at the banks of the Jordan, the Spirit appeared again.  God’s only-begotten Son, Jesus, came to the river and was baptized by John.  “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”[13]  Just as the dove on the Ark announced the end of judgment, the Spirit announced the end of God’s wrath in His own beloved Son.  Just as the Spirit raised those dry, slain bones of sinners, the Spirit preaches peace and resurrection in Jesus, the Christ.

In the Gospel, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 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.”  In the scope of all time, Jesus was with us for a tiny fraction of that time, just over thirty years.[14]  If salvation only happened for Jesus’ contemporaries, all the people before and all of us after are lost.  But in that short period of time, Jesus accomplished foretold, everything necessary for the salvation of the world.  He was born and shares in our flesh, yet without sin.  He was perfect in His fear, love, and trust in God above all things and He perfectly loved His neighbor as Himself.  He was also the perfect atonement for our sins.  God raised Jesus from the dead, never to die again.  Finally, as true God and true Man, He ascended to God the Father to blaze our way to heaven, and serves as our heavenly High Priest.  All of that took place over the course of 33 years, but the results are eternal.

Just before the Gospel reading starts, in verse 16, Jesus tells His disciples, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.”  The Helper, the Holy Spirit, is the one who draws people—past, present, and future—to call upon the Lord Jesus and be saved.  He does this through the powerful Word of God, which He “brought to the remembrance” of the Apostles.  In the Spirit, they wrote the New Testament as the trustworthy record of God’s Word.  Now, the same Spirit calls you to believe through the Scriptures.

And the Holy Spirit is more than simply a memory aid.  What the ESV translates as “Helper” is literally Paraclete—an Advocate, or Counselor.  Luther said this about the Spirit’s title:

[It] designates a person who acts as counsel for one who is accused or charged with some crime, and who in that capacity undertakes to defend him and win his case, to advise and aid him, and to admonish and encourage him as occasion may require.[15]

The Holy Spirit takes an active role in bringing the word of Christ to our minds and hearts.  And we desperately need His aid!  The devil, the world, and our flesh are also busy trying to make us forget Christ’s Word and substitute it with some man-made imitation.  Like the Catechism says, “God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature which do not want us to hallow God’s Name or let His kingdom come.” This work is not as simple as forgetting God’s Word.  The work of God’s enemies is so that we profane God’s Name by not taking Him at His Word and making the Gospel into a new burden.  Rather than, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (period),” they would have us add our own works to prove we’re genuine, true Christians.  In a dreadful wavering between doubt and pride, souls are harassed to think they have never truly achieved such a wondrous gift as being called children of God.  Instead of proclaiming the Gospel, as we hear Peter and the Apostles in the New Testament do, it’s always listening to that hissing accusation, “Yes, but are you really a Christian?  How many people have you told about Jesus?  How many hours did you spend reading the Bible this week?”  Sorry to say, even though this sounds like good guidance, and may come with plenty of Bible verses to recommend it, but actually it’s confusing the Gospel and turning it into a burden.  The Church and her children are born out of the preaching of the Gospel to the undeserving, the weak, the failures, the thoroughly sinful.  Out of that new birth comes the joy of salvation, the impetus to tell others of the great things God has done for you, the delight in His Word, the free spirit which loves to serve God and neighbor.  But the Gospel which the Holy Spirit proclaims is always Peace in Christ.

God the Holy Spirit comes to us in our weakness.  When the world and the devil call us unworthy, delusional hypocrites, the Holy Spirit preaches, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”[16]  When we see our sins washing over us, so that we think there’s no hope left for someone as awful as me, the Spirit consoles us with the words, 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”[17]  So, the Spirit truly does advocate for us and counsel us with God’s living Word.

In the Spirit’s comfort, Jesus says, “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.”  It is the peace which He gained for you by all of His work—His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and His coming again.  It is a peace beyond that of the world, because there is no perfect peace on earth.  Many have promised it, but none have delivered.  All of them are either failures or tyrants. If we look for that peace anywhere besides Jesus, we will always be left troubled. 

But your Lord gives you peace beyond the fleeting comforts of this world.  His peace stills all fear because your life now belongs to the eternal God who rules over all.  Are you troubled by what you’ve done or failed to do?  His blood covers all of your sins.  Are you afraid of what will happen in the future, or that you won’t be able to handle it?  Your days belong to His loving care[18] and there is “nothing in all creation that is able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”[19]

This is the peace which the Helper, the Holy Spirit gives to you.  The peace of God is yours through good and evil times, because it’s built on the sure foundation God only-begotten Son, given for you.  So, believing this Word of God, and His power at work through His Word, The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] 50 days after the traditional dating of Good Friday as March 25.  33 based on the length of Christ’s earthly life.  The date of His birth is debated because of calculation errors, and is likely to be 4 BC based on extra-biblical history.

[2] Acts 2:2-4

[3] Pastor Rolf Preus, Sermon for Pentecost 2012 –

[4] Acts 2:21, Joel 2:32

[5] Genesis 5:3-29

[6] Genesis 6:7-8

[7] Psalm 18:4

[8] Genesis 8:11

[9] Ezekiel 37:1-2

[10] verse 11

[11] Ezekiel 33:11

[12] Ezekiel 37:5

[13] Matthew 3:16-17

[14] Luke 3:23

[15] Sermons of Martin Luther, vol. 3, p. 300 (ed. John Nicolas Lenker)

[16] Luke 19:10, Matthew 5:6

[17] Matthew 11:28-30

[18] Matthew 6:34

[19] Romans 8:31-39

Day of Pentecost (John 14:23-31)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR

Day of Pentecost + June 9, 2019

Text: John 14:23-31

“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. 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.” When Jesus says this, sometimes it makes us feel pretty good about ourselves. After all, when we look at what we’ve done, we might find that we make a pretty convincing case that we’ve kept Jesus’ Word. After all, we’re here at Church. We do good for our families and in our communities. We are good people. And we like to hear that Word of God proclaimed. Therefore, it means that we love Jesus.

Sometimes we feel good about that. Sometimes we don’t. Because we all have, at times, found that we failed to keep Jesus’ Word. We ignored it. We got angry with it. At the time, it didn’t give us what we wanted. It told us not to fall into that sin that we like so much. It told us that we had rebelled against a good God by being evil. And since we did, we do deserve death and hell. When it suited us, we did not love Jesus. We did not love the Father. We did not love the Holy Spirit. All because His Word was not our word, which is much more enjoyable to keep.

Our own word—the word that I came up with. The word that makes sense to me. The word that we think everyone else foolish for not listening to. We turn to that instead of Christ. My word looks out for me. My word lifts me up.  My word tears down those against me. My word speaks my reality, what I want. And my word can take me where I want to go, by any means necessary. My word doesn’t have time to be patient when the Lord says wait on Him. My word doesn’t rely on the Lord to provide for what I need. My word looks out first for myself, and others I’m not too busy. And that’s why my word is sinful. My word is evil. My word must end.

In our Old Testament lesson from Genesis 11, there were a whole group of people gathering around their own word in the land of Shinar. Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly…Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”  You notice how much that sounds like a twisted version of the Creation?  By their own word, they were going to build a tower, and by that tower they were going to reach heaven. They were going to make a name for themselves. A name that was over every name. The Lord took their words, and confused the languages. And He did it for their sake. For if their word remained united, there would be no sin impossible for them to inflict on themselves, each other, and the world

The same is still true today. Have you ever found the people you disagree with the most seem to be talking a different language than you do? They say one thing, but you know those words mean something else than what you mean? The Lord is still at work, protecting both us and our neighbor from our sin becoming even worse than it is. We may dream of what it would be like if congress could get along, or the world didn’t have so much division.  But the trouble isn’t in the disagreement; it’s in our sinful hearts.  The Lord has set a limit on the sin of Man. And anything that exceeds it never lasts long.  History shows us that again and again. The Lord is patient, but He is also merciful. Our own word never goes as far as we think it should. And that’s good news.

But there is better news than that. Because there is a Word that breaks through the barrier of language and confusion. A Word that breaks through our sinful desires, and the plans of our neighbors. A Word that breaks through sin and death to deliver life, and light, and forgiveness, and salvation. Fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead, the Word of God was spoken in Jerusalem. Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians heard them telling in their own tongues the mighty works of God. Telling of Jesus Christ, the sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus told His disciples, “…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.” What Jesus said, His Word: That He was crucified, died, and was buried, and that he rose from the dead on the third day. In this, He brought peace. Peace for the rebellious, evil sinner. Peace with God. Not peace as the world gives. Not peace according to my own word, which is a peace that only lasts until I can get something better for myself. Jesus gives an eternal peace. The peace of sins forgiven. The peace that comes from a sacrifice that pays for everything. The sacrifice of the Son of God. Jesus, the Lamb, who died for your peace. So now, you can stand before Holy and Almighty God. No longer as an enemy awaiting their sentence. But now a beloved child with a home, and a place forever.

The Word of peace from your Lord, of your Creator, settles your heart in a way that human words could never do.  In the face of overwhelming loss and deep suffering, human words evaporate like mist.  When the “earth gives way…and the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea” human words are empty.  But the Word our Lord speaks, and plants home in our heart, that Word alone can support us.

Yet Jesus still said to His disciples, “You heard me say to you, I am going away.” Although He ascended into heaven, it is better for us that He went away. Jesus is here differently, but absolutely still here. He’s here by means of His Word. Wherever that Word is proclaimed, there is Jesus. He even gives us His body and His blood. So His presence is not just in spirit only, but physically as well. 

And still, Jesus is bold to says to them, and to us, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” The world’s word, our own word will still lead us into sin and evil. Even when we think that it’s for our good. The sinful nature is that strong. And fighting against it feels overwhelming. It always sounds so much easier to let that other word sweep us away, into where we believe it will take us, good or bad. Yet, Jesus dares give us hope. Jesus dares give us assurance. Just like He did to the disciples. Just like He did for those on the Pentecost after His resurrection: The sin and evil of this world, the sin and evil festering inside our own hearts has been overcome. That His cross and His sacrifice are sufficiently powerful to overcome it all. That His Word is stronger than our deepest-felt pain. That His Word is stronger than our loneliness. That His Word is stronger than our loss. That His Word is stronger than our sadness. That His Word is stronger than our sin. That His Word is stronger than death. That the Word of Jesus Christ is more powerful than all the other words in the world, because He has already overcome the worst that sin, death, and the devil can dish out. And He died, rose, and ascended for you, and He will come again in glory. 

This is the Word that we treasure. This is the Word we keep close to our hearts. This is the Word we love. The Word-Become-Flesh, who made His dwelling among us. The Word through whom we are loved by the Father. The Word that forgives us, raises us from the dead, gives us eternal life. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Pentecost Day (Confirmation Sunday) (John 14:23-31)

Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Churches, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR
Pentecost Day (Confirmation Sunday) + May 20, 2018
Text: John 14:23-31

It’s a beautiful thing to witness young men and women on Confirmation Day confess their faith publicly.  The flowers are beautiful, they look handsome in their best duds, but the really wonderful thing, the true miracle of the day is seen in response to the words of Jesus: “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.”
“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.”
What’s not so beautiful is the statistic that half of confirmands leave the Lutheran confession for box churches, or leave the Christian church entirely.  Many congregations see the effect of this and wonder where all the middle-aged and younger people are.  Studies are proposed, blame is assigned, and surveys are conducted all to figure out what happened.
Worrying that we will lose our confirmands amounts to idolatry of self.  Yes, really.  If only we were clever enough to come up with an attractive youth program, if only we had one of those praise bands that people say the kids like (but secretly it’s them who are bored with liturgy and hymnody), if only our pastor were a miracle worker who could use a shepherd’s crook to draw in more people (and of course the kind of people we think God’s church needs).
You hear the common thread with all these suggestions?  It’s our work that we’re worrying about.  Now it’s possible that curmudgeonly Christians could drive people away by being overly judgmental and cold toward people they view as outsiders.  It’s possible that the young woman who makes a bad decision and gets pregnant, is shunned by people who claimed to be her church family.  But assuming we’re a sincere Christian congregation that endeavors to love everyone, there’s another place to look for keeping confirmands in the true faith.
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.
For the past two years, these young men have read, learned, and inwardly digested God’s Word.  They have regularly and faithfully given up their Sunday afternoons and been immersed in the Word of God.  But that’s just two years of their life.  Once they’re free from their parents telling them to go to Junior Confirmation, they might decide sleeping in is preferable, or hanging out with their friends who aren’t burdened by religion and have the whole weekend to themselves.  The same goes for when they move out after they graduate.  If they go away to school, their parents have no control whether they keep going to church or not.
If this is your worry, repent.  Though we were to drag someone to church or scream into their ear, we could not make one single convert to Christ.  That task is beyond the ability of parents, pastors, or any Christian. It is a divine work: “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.”
This is where those beloved words of the Small Catechism come to bear: “I believe I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” (Creed, 3rd Article)
These young men are here today because of the work of the Holy Spirit (and yes their parents brought them), but the day is come for us to rely on God the Holy Spirit.  Recall that at one time, many of you were in the same position, and here you are today.  Others never were, and yet here we are today.
Our Lord teaches us in John 3, 8The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”” (John 3:8)   Even though on Pentecost, the disciples were given a vision of the Holy Spirit’s work, now we simply see His working much the same way we see the trees blow in the breeze.  We now hear His voice (the Word of God) and we see men born again, confess faith in the one-and-only Savior, and remain true to Him.  We see boldness and sacrifice when these men and women put their faith above other things in life.  We feel a peace which the world does not give, because we have a God who rules over the heavens and has secured our eternal home.  We do not see this, the way the world sees, but we know and confess that it is the Holy Spirit who does all this.
It’s a reminder and comfort for all of us, when we worry about the state of the Christian church in this place, other parts of the country and world.  We long for the days when churches were packed and out the door, but I can almost guarantee you that was not just the Holy Spirit at work.  It was social pressure, it was the fact that there was nothing on TV and the stores were closed.  But in the midst of social pressure and so many distractions, the Holy Spirit’s work comes into better focus.
Our Lord promised, “On this rock [the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God], I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).  That promise remains true no matter what year it is, no matter what ideas are popular today, or who you meet on the street.  The Church is the creation of the Holy Spirit, and what He creates is more powerful than anything in this passing life.
So, our hope is in the Lord who works all of this.  No need to worry, no need to devise plans, only pray and believe the promise in Philippians 1:6: “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Amen.  This is most certainly true.