50 days after Passover; the crowds are streaming into Jerusalem for the observance of the required feasts.
We also know that this time commemorated the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai.
So much excitement; friends and family catching up with each other, holding fast to Yahweh’s Law and enjoying the fruits of the year’s labor.
You can just imagine them reclining at the table and talking about the events of the day.
With only the official decrees of the Roman Governor and the admonishing posts of the Pharisees and Sadducees, they had to read between the lines and talk to their friends in order to get caught up on all the details.
And the name of Joshua Bar Joseph just kept coming up amongst as many as 120 of his followers.
They just couldn’t stop talking about his crucifixion, death and resurrection from the dead!
Only a lunatic would suggest such a thing bearing the consequences of Roman law on not disturbing the grave. Why risk death, even talking about it; unless…Jesus was really alive!
(Roman Edict On Grave Robbery: F. Cumont : “Violation of Supulture in Palestine at the beginning of the Christian era,” Journal of Roman Studies. xxii (1932), 184-97.)
Oh undoubtedly the Romans and the Pharisees and the Sadducees tried to downplay these fantastic claims; but the more they persecuted those apostles, the bolder they seemed to become!
The disciples closest to Jesus even told them about Jesus’ Ascension right before their eyes into the heavens; as alive as anyone can be the undeniable divinity.
He had just finished teaching them in the 40 days after His resurrection saying, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and all the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
You can just hear them asking themselves, “Jesus in the Flesh is gone…but the Spirit of God is coming?
Is this the same spirit that “was hovering over the face of the waters,”(Genesis 1:2) at the creation of the world?
Was this the same Spirit that gave the Prophet Ezekiel that amazing vision of the valley of dry bones coming back to living bodies of flesh and blood?
You mean that same Spirit of God that was conferred upon Isaiah who said, “Bring good news to the poor…to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives…(and) to comfort all who mourn.”? (Isaiah 61:1-2b)
You can almost feel the breathless anticipation at the table, “That Spirit’s coming? I wonder…when?”
Well they did not have to wonder for long and the apostles knew before anyone did; because the Spirit rested on them, empowered them and eventually led them throughout the empire to tell anyone who needed the Messiah.
Have you ever met that humble individual, with that particular gift of Prophecy from the Holy Spirit?
(1 Corinthians 12:10)
I mean undeniably and constantly full to the degree they don’t care about anything else?
Some particularly interesting examples from Scripture are; Elijah, Hosea and Jeremiah.
They were outside the norm, counter cultural, virtually and completely outside of society; frequently brutally suffering the derision of their peers and utterly lacking in creaturely comforts.
Poor Elijah was actively pursued by the evil Queen Jezebel and had to live off of wild honey and roasted locusts.
Art Winker tells me they taste just like French fries…I hope I never have to find out!
Hosea was actually commanded by God to marry a woman God said would cheat on him! (Hosea 1:2-3)
And Jeremiah had to wear an oxen yoke about his neck! (Jeremiah 27:2, 8-11)
Needless to say they were all undeniably outside the norm, counter cultural, brutally suffering and isolated from polite society.
More importantly, they were unique vessels of God’s voice speaking through the work of His Spirit.
And they did the Spirit’s bidding regardless of the difficulties life held for them.
Trust me; nobody wants this job or should be looking for such a position in the kingdom of heaven.
Even though the briefest moments of glory can hold you for years, the time in between can be singularly unbearable.
Maybe you have encountered such a person, in the midst of your sphere of friends and family.
I believe I have met one such person in my lifetime, and let me tell you she likewise lived a life of poverty, disunity and difficulty that was breath taking in its’ scale.
In spite of all that she never missed church or the multiple opportunities to devote herself to the public gathering around God’s Word.
She prayed constantly in the midst of her chaotic and emotionally painful life.
Above all that, I believe she had the Holy Spirit’s gift of Prophecy.
She didn’t want to be a pastor…she knew better. She knew she was a sinner, and the truth be told she probably didn’t realize God was speaking so clearly through her.
But just coming out of the seminary, having been taught by some of the most brilliant theological minds our church has to offer, I never heard anything as profound as what she would occasionally say in Bible Devotion with her winsome approach to God’s Word.
It didn’t happen that often; but when it did, she spoke God’s Wisdom in such a way that it would utterly freeze the room in astonishment that something so deep could come from her.
When we would respond with questions about where she heard it, her face would draw an immediate blank and she would reply, “What did I say?”
My reply back to her was, “Gloria, I’m not sure, but maybe you didn’t say it…maybe the Holy Spirit did.”
To this day I wish I had done a better job of writing those words down, maybe it was just what we needed in the moment, but not forever.
I don’t know for a fact that the Holy Spirit gave her the gift of prophecy, but if I have ever been in the presence of a prophetess…she was as good an example outside of Scripture as I’ve ever seen.
Today the Holy Spirit continues giving out His’ gifts according to the discretionary needs of the Proclamation of God’s Word and the administration of His’ Sacraments.
And whilst we cannot say with any certainty who will get what the Spirit has to give, we can affirm with the Gospel today, He is at work at Faith Lutheran Church.
And we can even more emphatically affirm that “according to His divinity, He is of one essence with our Savior Jesus,” (SD VIII ) That He will “convict the world concerning sin”, (SD V ) and that He is given and received, not through the law, but through the preaching of the Gospel (SD VI , Galatians 3:14).
In John 16:14 concerning the Holy Spirit Jesus says, “He will glorify Me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (SD XI )
So no matter what gifts of the Holy Spirit we may celebrate today, we can have confidence that we know our Lord Jesus because of the working of the Holy Spirit.
And we do the work the Holy Spirit has called us to do, because He enables us to do it.
And we have hope in our eternal outcome, because He opened our eyes to that hope in our Savior Jesus Christ’s Death and Resurrection from the Cross.
Holy Spirit, you are indeed with us, you breathe life into us and you sustain us through His word. AMEN.
(Turn up the Lights)
Let us pray the Prayer/Collect of the Day again, found in your bulletin out loud together.
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. Amen
Now may that peace which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus always. AMEN.