“Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created: and Thou renewest
the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104.30)
The new life bursting out everywhere in the Spring and early Summer
after a long, barren winter makes us think of the power and the mercy of
God spoken of in Psalm 104: all that God has to do is breathe out a bit
of his Spirit, and the leaves unfold, the flowers bloom, the birds sing
their songs of praise to their Creator. The same Spirit which so long ago
moved over the face of the waters, bringing order out of chaos, and light
out of darkness, still works in nature. “Thou sendest forth thy Spirit,
they are created,” says the psalmist, not they were created, “and thou
renewest the face of the earth.”
On Rogation Sunday we recognized God’s general work in nature, asking
his blessing upon the crops that are being planted this time of year.
Today, Whitsunday, we also recognize the work of God through his Spirit,
but this time in another work: the renewing of our souls and the recreation
of sinful humanity, which is the budding and blossoming of the love of
God in the lives of men and women. On the first Whitsunday, or Day
of Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection, and ten after the Ascension,
God recreated his Church. The Apostles who had been scattered by
fear and misunderstanding on the night of Jesus’ arrest were now given
power to speak with boldness the truth of the Gospel: that this same Jesus
had risen from the dead. So it is not the giving of life to hard,
lifeless seeds that we commemorate on Whitsunday, but the giving of life
to hardened hearts. This is the springtime of a world once lost in sin.
On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to be not just in the world,
for we have seen that the Holy Spirit is operating at all times in the
world, but to be in men, to reconcile them to God, directing them on the
pathway to heaven. Again remember that it was apostles, cowardly
deniers of our Lord, who were recreated into bold witnesses, ready to die
if necessary for the Gospel. “Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created.”
Again, I would remind you that it is the present tense that we see here.
The same remaking which God worked in the apostles can happen today as
we throw off sin and cowardliness, and begin to live the life of the Gospel.
That same Spirit of Pentecost is working every time you turn from sin to
righteousness, from yielding to temptation to fighting it off. It
is working whenever we cast off discouragement and apathy and start living
for God in his strength.
That is something which you must realize. God’s Holy Spirit is
in you by your Baptism and Confirmation — ready to help, strengthen, and
save. If you continually and consistently call on him for help, he
will by degrees, step by step, make you a better person, make you more
like Jesus, make you ready for heaven. Some people speak of the Holy
Spirit as a person who makes an immediate, sudden change in a person.
But what was the experience of the apostles? They certainly received
the Holy Spirit at once (so do we at baptism), but it took them many, many
years to spread the Gospel; indeed that work is still going on. Even
after the day of Pentecost, there was room for the spread of the Gospel
in the lives of the apostles: Peter and Paul had to work out their differences;
Paul had to struggle with the thorn in his flesh. So the Holy Spirit
is in each of us entirely, but it remains for us to put him entirely to
work in our lives.
Recall that this Spirit which we possess, is the same Spirit active
in creation at the beginning, and active in nature now, meaning that it
is a Spirit of order and peace, not of confusion and conflict. There are
many people who say: “I’ve got the Holy Spirit and I speak in tongues,
and I dance in the Spirit, and I do all kinds of unusual things that I
never do normally, and what’s more, because I do all these things, I’m
a better Christian than you are.” Make no mistake about it the Holy
Spirit does not cause confusion and discord, it does not make Christians
say “I’m better than you are.” The Holy Spirit brings order to our lives,
peace and happiness, and humility. When dealing with the Corinthians,
the Apostle Paul made it quite clear that the greatest gift of the Holy
Spirit is love. Faith and hope are close behind in importance, but the
greatest gift is love. Do you want to know if you have the Holy Spirit
or not? Then ask yourself these questions: how much faith do I have
in Jesus Christ, the Son of God? how certain is my hope in eternal
life? how strongly do I love God and my neighbour? If you can
answer yes, I believe that Jesus can save me, and yes, I have a sure hope
of eternal life in heaven with my Saviour, and yes, I love God with all
my being and my neighbour as myself or if you can at least say that you
are working towards making such answers, then you have the Holy Spirit.
Then God is working his recreation in you. Don’t pay a bit of attention
to the standards set by other people. Follow the standard of faith,
hope and charity which is found in the Bible (I Corinthians 13).
This is the truth, the solemn truth. The Spirit of God and Christ,
the eternal Spirit who worked in creation and on the day of Pentecost,
is with us now. He has been with us since our Baptism. He has
been with us as we grew up, teaching us all the good we have ever learned,
and making us chose what is right. He has taught us to pray, has
filled us with peace and happiness. And how much more would he have
given us if we had not refused to follow his prompting. This is the
gift which our master has left us. Let us pray that he will mercifully
continue and finish his heavenly work of recreation in each of us, that
he will wash away what is unclean, healing what is sick and wounded.
Finally may he bring us to that blessed country where striving has ceased,
and all is directed and fulfilled with the blessed Spirit of the Father
and the Son, to whom be praise and glory, world without end. Amen.