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Monday, October 24, 2016

10232016 - 22nd Sunday After Trinity - Apostle's Creed - "I believe in the Holy Spirit."

October 23, 2016
I believe in the Holy Spirit,

Growing up in the Bible Belt of the South, you easily find in most every town a Baptist Church on one corner, a Pentecostal church down near the creek and a Methodist or Episcopal church usually in town.  To find either a Catholic or Lutheran Church meant you had to drive sometimes an hour or more one way.  But what was very clear if you attended any of these churches no matter the name the Holy Spirit was working.  As a child I remember attending an African American church that clearly would call upon the Holy Spirit during the service, because the people believed in the clear and manifest work of the Holy Spirit.  They would shout from the pew, ‘preach it’, ‘Amen’ and other acclamations of praise.  For some of us this would be seen as rude and disconcerting, but these people would not just hear the Word of God, they would let the Word of God inspire them to speak and in one sense cheer on the preacher and this was a strongly conservative Lutheran Church.
At our latest LCMC Convention in Denver, Rev. Ebassa Berhanu preached the opening worship.  Though born in Africa he grew up in his formative years in Minnesota.  Not only have I met him, but attended many meetings with him.  When we would sit around the table talking, he is very reserved, very soft spoken and very quiet and introspective.  But Sunday October 2, 2016, Ebassa didn’t speak with timidity or lack of conviction.  Ebassa was given a gift that we confess in the Apostle’s Creed.  For nearly 30 minutes, Ebassa not only engaged, but mesmerized and inspired many in the audience.  He not only preached the Word of God and the purity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but simply allowed himself to be led, inspired and emboldened to preach by the power of the Holy Spirit on him and his message.  Many people I talked with afterwards, who watched whether in person or on the internet agreed even three weeks later, Ebassa was on fire with the Holy Spirit.
You see, today we turn a page in our confession of the Apostle’s Creed.  We have talked in the last 7 weeks specifically of the Father Who Created the heavens and the earth.  Declared that Jesus Christ the Second Person of the Holy Trinity came down to earth and walked among us, healed many people, but ultimately was crucified, died, was buried, but rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  And boldly confessed Jesus Christ will come again as we said last week to judge between the living and the dead.  And today as we turn the page, we now move to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
We confess, I believe in the Holy Spirit,”.  Our confession of the Holy Spirit is a simple, yet powerful acclamation that the same Spirit that inspired people to shout ‘Amen’ or inspires a preacher to speak with clear boldness and authority like Ebassa did at the convention, is the same Holy Spirit that we believe in and boldly claim today with our confession of I believe in the Holy Spirit,.
Martin Luther who pounded the 95 Theses on the door at Wittenberg almost 499 years ago in his Small Catechism makes a bold assertion of what not only belief in the Holy Spirit means, but how it applies to each of us today.  Luther writes in his explanation of the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed, “What does this mean? I believe that 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.
You see this same Holy Spirit that is not only the Third Person of the Holy Trinity is directly responsible for our faith.  Luther says even our ‘reason or strength’ cannot be used to believe in what Jesus Christ did on the Cross of Calvary.  Unlike other churches, Luther says we cannot believe without the divine Work of the Holy Spirit.  For “the Holy Spirit has called [me/us] by the Gospel”.  The Holy Spirit breaks through our at times hard outer shell that we put on like a coat to protect us from the cold winds of Western Kansas, but the Holy Spirit cuts through all layers and powers that we think we have in order to ‘call each and every one of us by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.’
When we confess, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” we believe the Holy Spirit is not only the Third Person of the Divine Trinity, but the Holy Spirit calls each of us with the Gospel.  For in this call, we receive the proclamation of God of the forgiveness of sins and life and salvation.  We hear the sweetest story ever told that changes our eternal destination.  For it is through and by the Holy Spirit that the Holy Spirit, “enlightens [me/us] with His gifts and kept [me/us] in the true faith.”  This is the gift of God our Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and by the divine Work of the Holy Spirit the gift that is offered unto us when we confess, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,”.
Yet you might ask, I don’t feel any different, I don’t understand how this can occur for me here in Goodland, KS?  Six years ago today in this very sanctuary, I took my ordination vows and publically accepted the yoke of responsibility signified by the stole as the Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church.  I say this not, and let me repeat that, not to hold it over anybody, but simply because one person who was here that day felt how tangible the Holy Spirit was in our congregation of Emmanuel.
Jason Trupp who at that time was Pastor of the Four Square Church here in Goodland took part in my ordination reading one of the lessons.  After that day when meeting with other pastors here in town, Jason made not only an observation, but an acclamation of being able to see and feel the Work of the Holy Spirit here at Emmanuel at my ordination.  Not only in the ordination and installation, but Jason said the Holy Spirit’s presence was so tangible for him and his wife Beverly.  At that acclamation I agreed and said, yes it was present and we as the people of Emmanuel remember the Holy Spirit with a simple light fixture.

It’s not one of the lights out in the sanctuary proper that help you all to read the bulletin or sing the songs.  The Light that reminds us of what the Holy Spirit continues to do with our confession of “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” comes from the altar.  The eternal light is the beacon, the light in the darkness of our fallen world that daily reminds us of Gods continuing to walk with us in our walk of faith.  It is the reminder of how Martin Luther explained it in the Small Catechism.  Our belief in the power of the Holy Spirit Who still today inspires pastors to preach with vigor and vitality like Ebassa, but also the people of God to respond to God’s Work for us, in us and how the Holy Spirit keeps us in the true faith.  May we not only remember what the Holy Spirit does when we see the eternal light when we enter for worship or the darkened sanctuary at night, but believe and boldly confess with the entire church on earth, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,”.  AMEN.

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