The Day of Pentecost (A)
May 31, 2020
Text: John 7:37-39
This morning we see the pattern worked out in real time, in the lives of our own dear members. First Jesus gives the thirsty to drink of His Living Water. Then, in doing its work, the Living Water becomes a spring in the person, flowing out of him in rivers. Living Water in; Living Water out. That is the pattern. And the Living Water is the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. So this morning, the Lord Jesus has come among us, and He has poured His Spirit upon and into Cayden by the waters of Holy Baptism. Living Water in. Water in the wilderness to slake the thirst of the parched. Life to the dead. Now the Spirit has taken up residence in you. He has become a spring of Living Water within you, to pour out in rivers. Not just from your “heart,” as your English translations say, but literally from your “belly.” The Spirit does not reside in your heart as the seat of sentimentality, warm and fuzzy feelings, or ecstatic emotions. No, no, He plants Himself much deeper than that… In the deepest part of you, your very core. And from there, He flows. Living Water out. He flows. Not you. He, the Spirit, is the Living Water, and from Him come the rivers of faith toward God, fervent love toward the neighbor, good works, holy vocations, confession of faith.
And so we see the other side of the pattern this morning. Our dear children, baptized into Christ, instructed in the holy faith, the doctrine drawn from the Scriptures, Living Water in… now confess that faith as they have come to know it from the Small Catechism. Living Water pouring out. That is the Rite of Confirmation. The Spirit, the Living Water implanted in them at Baptism, now flows forth in rivers of confession. And it is serious business. This isn’t just a rite of passage. These young people are renouncing the very devil and all his works and all his ways as they confess the faith into which they are baptized. They are confessing truths that will make them a target for the world’s mockery and rejection and persecution. They are crucifying their own sinful flesh. It is painful to Old Adam to say such things. In fact, it kills him. And they are promising things in front of God and His Church that very few adults could promise. That they will live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed, remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death. That they will continue steadfast in this confession and Church, and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it. They are committing themselves to be martyrs if it comes to it. There is nothing sentimental or warm and fuzzy about these promises. Only the Holy Spirit could be the source of such a thing. Behold, the rivers of Living Water as they flow.
That is the pattern for the whole Church of God. Pentecost. Jesus, having died on the cross for the sins of the whole world, including yours and mine, now risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, makes good on His Promise to send another Helper, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. The Apostles are gathered together in one place, congregated in the Name of Jesus, as is the essence and nature of the Christian Church. And the Spirit blows through like a mighty, rushing wind. In our Gospel, Jesus says the Spirit is Living Water. Here He is wind, breath filling the lungs. But the pattern is the same. He comes upon the disciples, tongues of fire resting upon them, the wind filling them. And then the rivers flow. The breath within them is exhaled in confession and preaching. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4; ESV; emphasis added). The miracle isn’t just that they began to speak in other languages, it is that they began to speak the Words of God! The Spirit within them was now flowing from them. They confess their faith. Peter preaches his sermon. The Prophets are fulfilled. Water in the wilderness. Life to the dead. Christ crucified is risen! “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (vv. 38-39; emphasis added). The Living Water, the Spirit poured into the disciples and Peter, flows forth in confession and preaching, into the ears of the hearers, who also now will be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, and they will receive the gift of the Spirit. And then they will confess. The Living Water will flow from them, to others who will be baptized and receive the Spirit. You parents brought your children to the font, and now look at them on this, their Confirmation Day. More importantly, listen to them as they confess, as the rivers flow. You brought them to the font, and they will bring their children to the font, who will also confess and bring their children to the font. And the rivers flow not just from here to those present in this location and to others beyond this location, but through the generations. The Promise is for you and for your children and for all, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.
And that is the Spirit’s work, isn’t it? “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him,” we confess with Dr. Luther in the Small Catechism. I believe that I cannot believe. Isn’t that a strange thing to say? But it is true. We don’t look for the source of Living Water within us. God must do it. The Spirit must do it. “(T)he Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” He has called you in Baptism and by His Word, to believe in Jesus Christ and be His own. He has turned on the lights for you as you grow in His Word, by Scripture and preaching and all that Catechism memory work and class time. He has sanctified you, that is, made you His own holy possession, set apart for Him, redeemed by Jesus Christ and now given to do the work He has for you to do in the world. And He keeps you in the holy faith of Jesus, the faith you confess today, by these same gifts: Your Baptism into Christ, the Word, the Holy Absolution (the forgiveness of sins), and now, the Holy Supper of His Body and Blood.
This is what He does for the whole Christian Church on earth, for all those seated here today and those all over the world, throughout history, unto the Day our risen and ascended Lord Jesus comes again to raise all the dead and give eternal life to you and all believers in Christ. He richly and daily forgives you all your sins. He fills you with Himself in His Word and Sacraments. Living Water in. You confess it and live according to it. Living Water out (but never emptied!), flowing forth in rivers of abundance. This is most certainly true.
So, dear Christians all, such is the pattern of your life. You come to Jesus, thirsty, parched, as the deer pants for flowing streams (Ps. 42:1). He gives you Living Water, His Holy Spirit, poured out on you in Baptism, continually filling you by His Word and Sacrament. And He flows, rivers of Living Water… He flows from you in faith and love and good works and Christian confession. And that shapes every day of your life. Every day the Spirit forgives your sins through the blood and death of Jesus Christ. Every day the Spirit raises you to new life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Every day you love and serve and speak in the Name of Jesus Christ. You confess Him. You do not deny, but confess. For you love Him and believe in Him and live in Him. And even if the day comes when you must die for this confession, you are not afraid. The Spirit within you will open your lips and teach you what you are to say. They are the Words into which Cayden and all of us are baptized. They are the Words confessed by our confirmands this morning. The rivers will flow. And you will never die. They may kill you. But you still live. For Jesus lives, and the Spirit who has called you, keeps you. It is all His work. He is faithful. He will do it. Let the Water flow. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.