Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost [b] September 26, 2021
38John said to [Jesus], “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
In the Name of Jesus.
There was nothing. Nothing, that is, but God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; three persons, one God.
Then God created the heavens and the Earth. The Father spoke. The Son is the Word. The Son went forth. And the Holy Spirit?
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The Earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
But how does a Spirit hover? The Hebrew word given in Scripture here is a verb used for birds. The imagery is not so much of something hovering, but of a bird soaring and gliding, flying and swooping over a valley. The Father speaks, the Son goes forth from the Father as creator, and the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is swooping, as a bird over a valley, as he, the Spirit, distributes the gifts of creation when and where he pleases.
Then, creation falls in sin. The Holy Spirit breathes life, and the sinner lives. The Spirit of life cleanses, and the sinner is sanctified, made holy. The Spirit sent from the Father and the Son calls and gathers and enlightens, and the sinner is gathered into the Church.
In the Creed, then, we spoke of the Holy Spirit as the Lord and giver of life proceeding from the Father and the Son.
Where the Holy Spirit is, there is life.
Do you have the Spirit? How would you know if you did, if you didn’t? He’s not like a hitchhiker you can pick up—you know whether or not you have a hitchhiker, he’s either with you in your car or he’s not. The Spirit’s not flesh and blood to be seen.
Do you have the Spirit? When is he there? How would you know?
But he’s God the Spirit—the Lord and giver of life—so it would seem good to know where, how, when, he is.
John said to [Jesus], “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”
The Holy Spirit is there, we can be sure of that. Satan doesn’t cast out Satan. If unclean spirits are being cast out, the Holy Spirit is there.
But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.”
That gives us something to go on.
Where is the Holy Spirit? Look for the Name of Jesus. At the Name of Jesus being spoken, at the gifts of Jesus being preached, at the Gospel of Jesus being proclaimed, there is the Holy Spirit. And with the Spirit there, sins are being forgiven, sinners cleansed, life breathed in, and the sinner justified.
But it is hard to get a fix on where we are to find the Spirit.
“The wind blows where it wishes,”
“You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is,”
“with everyone born of the Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit, as the wind blowing where and how it chooses, as a bird swooping over a valley, the Spirit distributes gifts where and when and how he chooses.
So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it. Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”
The Holy Spirit gives his gifts as he chooses, as he appoints, as he has promised.
Moses is tempted to control how the Holy Spirit will give his gifts. Those around Moses wanted him to tell Eldad and Medad to stop proclaiming the Lord’s Word. But the Lord’s Word comes by the Holy Spirit.
Moses is a prophet. He will have the Lord’s Word go forth. He rejoices in the Spirit bringing gifts to the Lord’s people.
“Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!,” [said Moses].
The Father speaks; at the Father’s speaking, the Son goes forth from the Father to redeem fallen life; and the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is swooping, as a bird over a valley, distributing the gifts of redemption and life when and where he pleases.
The Holy Spirit breathes life, and the sinner lives. God the Spirit cleanses, and the sinner is sanctified, made holy. The Spirit sent from the Father and the Son calls, gathers, and enlightens, and the sinner is brought into the Church.
Do you have the Spirit? Where is he? When is he there? How would you know? He is where Jesus has promised him. He is where Jesus speaks him forth. He is located at the proclamation of the Name of Jesus.
The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, [said Jesus,] whom the Father will send in my Name, he will teach you all things and will bring to your remembrance all which I have spoken to you.
How will you know if you have the Holy Spirit?
You bear the Name of Jesus, and where Jesus has placed his Name, there is the Holy Spirit distributing the gifts.
To you is spoken the Gospel, the forgiveness of your sins, and where the Gospel is spoken, there is the Holy Spirit cleansing the sinner, cleansing you and me.
To you is given the Body and Blood of Jesus, and where Jesus is, there is the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son.
In the preached Word of Gospel, the Holy Spirit is there, distributing the gifts of Jesus. As the Church sends Philip and Rachel Jaseph to bring the gifts of the Gospel to people our Lord loves in Uruguay, the Holy Spirit is there in the words of Jesus, forgiving sins, gathering into the Church, justifying sinners.
In the preached Word, in Baptism’s gift of the Name, in the Body and Blood of Jesus, in the conversation of the Gospel among Christian brothers and sisters, there is the Holy Spirit keeping you, keeping me, keeping our families in the Name of Jesus, gathering us daily into the Church, enlightening us with his gifts.
In the Name of Jesus.