Spirit Navigation System

imageGPS systems are on sale quite a bit on the internet lately because more people are using either their smartphones or their cars have built-in navigation systems. Whether people are better at arriving at their desired destination is probably a different question. People still get lost. People still blindly follow the GPS directions and end up on dangerous, deserted roads.

I remember that during long drives as a kid I would study the 50 state atlas. I loved figuring out where we were going and I also loved finding unique places in the atlas. I also enjoyed the mileage charts that revealed how long it was between two points.

This Sunday the church celebrates the Feast of Pentecost. This red colored feast is a celebration of the sending of the Spirit to lead the church to become witnesses of Jesus.

In the book of Acts I find how human words can never fully explain what God is doing in the world. So St. Luke writes, “Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing win, and it filled the entire house where they were  sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each of them.”

The words “like a mighty rushing wind” and “divided tongues as of fire” both show the limit of words to completely describe how the Spirit was at work that day of Pentecost.

I will always find myself humbled by the power of the Spirit to be at work in this world. God is doing more than I can imagine. God is beyond my comprehension and the work of the Spirit of God certainly confirms that truth.

But Pentecost is not just about the amazing power of the Spirit at work in this world. Pentecost is a celebration of why the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Jesus said, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:26-27).

Time for a little review from the third article of the Apostles’ Creed: We are not going to believe in God because of our reason. I cannot think my way into believing in God. There is no amount of knowledge that I can gain that will turn me into or keep me a follower of Jesus. I cannot work my into believing in God through my physical strength. I can keep trying to do good works to train myself into the righteousness of God, but St. Paul reminds us in Romans 1:17, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

My good works are never freely done with good desires for neighbor when done with the selfish motive of trying to get myself right with God or with my neighbor.

It is the Holy Spirit that leads me to believe in God as my savior. The spirit does this by pointing me to Jesus as my redeemer. The spirit works through the church as we hear the Gospel and receive Baptism, Holy Communion, and Absolution.

Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, is a reminder to the church that our mission is empty without the spirit and the Spirit would be empty without Jesus.


Interesting day at church

How much do we expect miracles to happen when we come to church on Sunday morning?

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Mark 1:21-28

On the Sabbath day Jesus entered the synagogue in Capernaum and began to teach. Everyone was astonished at his teaching. To experience the teaching of Jesus face to face would be a miracle in and of itself.

Immediately there was a man with an unclean spirit in the synagogue. This might seem like the beginning of a Sunday school story. What I mean is that this seems like something that happened a long time ago. Sunday stories are nice for the kids, but for me, a rational and thinking adult, do they mean much to me?

The question of this man with the unclean spirit is an important question for me. I don’t think I have a head twisting evil spirit working through me, but dangerous and subtle yet still is my own unclean heart.

He asks, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know you are–the Holy One of God?”

What has Jesus come for? What does he desire to do with us sinners who have been made unclean through impure thoughts and wicked ways?

Exorcism stories might seem strange to you, I know that they are almost unreal stories for me. But I know the truth of what it means to live hostile in my heart against God’s desires for me. I know what I want to do according to my faith, but according to my body I seem to daily struggle. I understand the worry of the man with the unclean spirit. My God, I am a sinner. He should want to do remarkably horrible things to me. But Jesus told that unclean spirit, “Be silent, and come out of him!”

I have not been able to give that kind of command to myself. I have tried to tell myself to stop and start following God’s commands. It is the power of the Jesus’ words and works that I need. It is in that synagogue that I find the miracle of Jesus at work. He drives out sin and fills the space with his teaching.

May I obey my savior with my heart and with my deeds. Indeed it will only be by the word of Jesus that I will be made clean.