In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Look up on the banners. What do you see on the left side? A descending dove for the Holy Spirit who came down at Jesus’ baptism. And on the right side? Fire. The fire of the Spirit descending from heaven on Pentecost. As a kid I would hear that story and think, “Cool.” As an adult I wondered, “Why fire?”
His Law has no power to change you and make you better (Galatians 3:11). The Law always accuses (Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:10). You may delight in what is right. But you will always fall short of what you yourself expect of yourself, let alone what God expects of you. The Law has no power to change you or make you better or save you. The power is in forgiveness. In Christ’s Word and Sacraments (Romans 1:16-17).
Calvary’s cross was the final consuming fire. There all sin was burned up. Christ willingly went the way of cross to save you from yourself, from your sin, from your inwardly focused life. In order to Pentecost you. To light the fire of faith. To turn your life outward again. So that the Holy Spirit’s fire rests on you burning up the sinful you and lighting the fire of God’s you in you.
Pictures always place that fire above their heads. But it doesn’t say what part of the anatomy the fire rested on (Acts 2:3). It does say what happened: they spoke as given utterance by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4). Carried along by that breath of Jesus, that mighty rushing wind, which breathed life into dead clay in the beginning (Genesis 2:7), and breathes the breath of faith into dead souls now, they spoke the mighty works of the God (Acts 2:11b) who saves. And what is more wondrous than a God who does not give you justice, who does not give you what you deserve, but gives you His undeserved, unreserved, unfettered Fatherly love for you. Who deals with your first order of business saying, “You have sin. It is destroying you. But repent for in Christ Jesus your sins are forgiven. There is nothing to keep you from Me. Heaven is open. My blessings are yours. My own life spirit is yours. All this by the word you hear. Which lights a fire in your heart.”
Hearts on fire, you also speak that faith that fires up faith in other hearts. That’s what’s happening here today as these young men confirm their faith. The Holy Spirit was given in Holy Baptism to Adam and Josh, killing the old Adam in them, raising up a new man of faith—Christ—in each of them. That new man of faith grew in stature in them, died here and there along the way and was raised up again whenever the word of forgiveness in Christ was proclaimed to them. That fire of faith, Christ in them, will be strengthened every time His own body and blood is put into their mouth through the bread and wine of His Holy Supper. Today they will speak—and in a sense, not them but the Holy Spirit through them—that faith given them. Our hearts will be overjoyed to hear it. They will be welcomed to His Table where that fire of faith is passed out again and again with wine and the Word of Christ our Lord.
May it never go out!
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON