Reading: Acts 2:1-21
Grace to you and peace in the Spirit of Life, who calls us through the gospel, amen.
Every story has a main character, doesn’t it? In many of the stories we read on Sunday, the main character is usually Jesus, right? Sometimes one of Jesus’ disciples is the main character instead – like Peter or Thomas, or Mary Magdalene. We have stories where Jesus' mother, Mary, is the main character. And in the Old Testament, we have all sorts of other people who get to play the role of main characters – Moses, David, Hannah, Ruth, and Esther.
What about today? Pentecost Sunday? Who is the main character in our story today?
Today, the main character is the Holy Spirit. In fact, you could say that the Holy Spirit is a major character in the entire story of the Bible, though perhaps we don’t often think of the Spirit that way. So I thought that maybe I would try to find some of the places where the Spirit is mentioned in Scripture and put them all in a word cloud. I also added some of the languages that we use in our worship, as well as some of Luther’s Small Catechism. Here’s what came out when I took all of these ideas about the Holy Spirit and put them in a word cloud:
(See Word Cloud on next page)
Take a minute or two to take a good look at this word cloud. Once you’ve taken a minute or two, I’d like you to write down, or circle a few words that stand out to you.
What words stood out for you?
Now take another minute or two, and go back to the word cloud. Is there a word that you see now that you didn’t notice earlier?
I think for many of us, the Holy Spirit is the least familiar person of the Trinity. But did you know that, without the Holy Spirit, there would be no such thing as a church or even a Christian? In Luther’s Small Catechism, he talks about the Spirit like this:
I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead, the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy, and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith. Daily in this Christian church, the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins – mine and those of all believers. On the last day, the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.
What Luther is saying is this: I could know the entire story of Jesus. I could read the Bible cover to cover. I could go and get a Ph.D. in theology. I could have all the information in the world, but without the Holy Spirit, I wouldn’t have faith. It’s the Holy Spirit who calls us through the gospel and stirs up faith in our hearts. It’s the Holy Spirit who takes everyday people and turns them into followers of Jesus.
I want to go back to that quote from Luther’s catechism again. But I want to read it a bit differently. You see, the word for Spirit in Hebrew is ruach. It’s not a masculine word. It’s a feminine word. And that’s why some people speak about the Holy Spirit using feminine pronouns – because the word for Spirit is a feminine word! So how does it sound to you if we change up the pronouns?
I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead, the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with her gifts, made me holy, and kept me in the true faith, just as she calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith. Daily in this Christian church, the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins – mine and those of all believers. On the last day, the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.
What do you think? Do you notice a difference when you hear it this way? Does it take on a different meaning for you?
As you know, in the fall, after a lot of Spirit-filled conversations, we chose a name for our shared ministry – “Spirit of Life Ministry.” And the logo that Kendra Jacob-Azevedo designed for us had a dove, to represent the Holy Spirit. I’d like to go back to that word cloud one more time. Is there a word there that inspires you when you think about our shared ministry, about our community of faith? What word do you hope becomes a part of who we are as Spirit of Life Ministry?
Let us pray.
Life-giving God, you have poured out your Spirit upon us, and your Spirit has called us through the gospel. Inspire our shared ministry, Spirit of Life Ministry, to embody _________, to encounter you as ___________, and to share __________ with those around us. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.