The Day Of Pentecost

S. Pentecost.24 Ez. 37, Acts 2:1-12, John 16:1-15

“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”

And that’s the main thing—the rushing mighty wind, tongues of fire, speaking unlearned foreign languages in the presence of native speakers are awesome, yet, not really the main thing. The heart of the matter is the Paraclete’s convicting the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.

What does this mean? Well there are lots of spirits out there, but the two big ones are the Holy Spirit and the unholy spirit the devil, the spirit of the world. Pentecost is about trading places, the latter with the former.

How does the spirit of worldiness get into us? Lots of ways but I can share mine…

I think for me, it was CPH and Saturday morning cartoons. They kind of blended together for me as a kid, because the same artist doing Samson killing the lion was doing Jonny Quest and Batman. So they kind of meshed into the same Marvel-DC-Xn universe in an unforunate way.

I truly wondered, as a kid, when the Sunday School lessons would get to Batman? Elijah, Elisha seem like forerunners—same universe? I figured: maybe in high school? But then, in high school, our hippy deaconess just had us sit in a circle and sing camp fire songs which made me miss the cartoons even more. It was… 1977, ’78?—a different time, you understand… 😉

Like the Valley of the Dry Bones… does it not sound Zombie to you? A huge army of the undead animated by the spirit? Sounds creepy—because the Marvel and the Xn universe had been unfortunatley entwined in my young mind. Maybe that was my fault? I prefer to blame CPH.

Anyway, when Jonah and the Whale, Ezekiel and the Valley of the Dry Bones end up on the same shelf in you mind alongside “Jonny Quest”, “Dark Knight Returns”, “I Am Legend”, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, then the stories of the Holy Spirit-Wind-Breath descending as a Dove at Jesus’ baptism, or coming like a freight train with fire (and unlearned foreign languages) to startle a Pentecost crowd of 1st century Jewish tourists, or Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead, rising bodily from the dead himself, passing through the sealed grave-stone, the locked door of the Upper Room to scare the beejeebers out of his disciples—become difficult to distinguish.

It’s happened to me. It’s happened to you; and, if it hasn’t yet, the day will come, and perhaps is now here? when the temptation to put them all on the same shelf will be strong.

But, why?

Many Xn writers have undertaken to give an orderly account as to why this happens to most all Modern People, but none better, I think, than C.S. Lewis in his Oxford History of English Literature in the 16th century, which we’re finishing up the next Wednesday evening (or two 😉

Before the 16th century, Lewis shows how most everyone saw the world as constantly created, redeemed, sustained by God’s spirit-wind-breath. They really did not distinguish the wind whistling through the trees from the Spirit of God.

16th century Englishmen like Hooker, Andrewes, Herbert (rather remarkably!), wholly believed in heaven, hell, sin, grace. They knew the Son of God, 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity—in which Trinity each Person by himself is God and LORD—actually took on human flesh from the virgin Mary, walked among us, bore our sins, healed our diseases, died for our transgressions, rose bodily the 3rd day, ascended into heaven, and comes to us with his forgiveness, mercy, and love, with his life-giving breath, especially in the Divine Service of the church catholic and her pastoral teaching office.

For them “the world is charged with the grandeur of God/ It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;/ …And though the last lights off the black West went/ Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs/—Because the Holy Ghost over the bent/ World broods with warm breast and with Ah! bright wings.

But they were exceptions to the rule. Lewis shows how they were the last, pre-modern men spoke of fortune and fate, heaven and hell, sin and grace, death and resurrection as easily as they did of shoeing horses, falconry, BBQing pigs, and navigating the North Sea. None of those things was more or less real than the others.

But, in the 16th century the majority of would-be “Christians” like Calvin banished from the world Jesus’ really-here Body, the Holy Ghost’s warm breath and bright wings, as mere medieval superstition, childish nonsense adults must outgrow. Lewis shows how the dazzling figure of Calvin (like Marx and Lenin in one person) still dominates, then as now.

But, the Paraclete does not give up on us. He still comes today, by word and sacrament to convict the world (and by “world” we mean the unbelief that lives on some large or small shelf in all our minds): of sin, because, sometimes we believe “Science!” more than Jesus; of righteousness because, sometimes we think our works not Xt’s alone make us right; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged, yet, sometimes, we still pay him obeisance…

Science, facts, arguments this is how the spirit of worldiness gets in, unavoidably. My favorite Narnia book, The Silver Chair shows both how it happens and how it can change. The Green witch has captured Puddleglum, Eustace and Jill in her underground world and with dark enchantments and powerful arguments persuade them there is no such thing as sun, Narnia, Aslan. They almost sucumb until Puddleglum stamps out the weird, green fire and says Narnia and Aslan may be childish tales but those children’s stories ring more true, more lovely, more worth living and dying for than her dreary world; so, thanking her for their supper, Puddleglum announcs they are leaving her court to live like… Narnians.”

The Narnia books brought me full circle. Lewis helped me see that the children’s stories are really the true ones and the enchantment of Science and worldliness and demonic scepticism the false. But like Puddleglum it is not superior reason or intellect that gets us out of that trap, but simply the love of Christ, the fire of the Spirit awakening faith and love in us which he works now by word and sacrament.

This is the way the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with, Ah! bright wings, bestowing Peace, surpassing all understanding, guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

About Pastor Martin

Pastor Kevin Martin has served six Lutheran congregations, beginning in 1986 as a field-worker in Trumbull, Connecticut, and vicarages in Arlington, Massachusetts and Belleville, Illinois. He has been pastor of congregations in Pembroke, Ontario and Akron, Ohio. Since 2000, he has served as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Raleigh. Pastor Martin is a lifelong (confessional!) Lutheran (even though) he holds degrees from Valparaiso, Yale, and Concordia Seminary St. Louis. He and his wife Bonnie have been (happily) married since 1988, and have two (awesome!) adult children, Bethany and Christopher. Bonnie is an elementary school teacher. The Martin family enjoy music festivals, travel, golf, and swimming. They are also avid readers and movie-goers.

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