Summary: At Pentecost, we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit--GOD PRESENT in us, with us, and for us. The Spirit is our Intercessor, helping us to pray.
Sermon for Pentecost Sunday Yr B, 8/06/2003
Based on Rom 8:26-27
Grace Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat, Alberta
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
A little boy stops in front of a church with his bike and he sees the pastor come out. The pastor says "Come inside, I want to show you something.” The little boy says to the pastor, "But somebody will steal my bike.” The pastor says to him "Don’t worry, the Holy Spirit will watch it.”
So the little boy goes inside and the pastor says, "Let me show you how to do the sign of the cross. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen. Now you try it.” So the boy says, "In the name of the Father and the Son, Amen.” The pastor says, "What happened to the Holy Spirit?" The boy replied "He’s outside, watching my bike.”
Today, of course, is the Day of Pentecost. The day set aside in the church year to focus on the giving of the Holy Spirit to the followers of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is that rather strange, Third Person of God the Holy Trinity. Like the boy in the joke, there are all sorts of ideas out there about who or what the Holy Spirit is or is not. I rather like the way the apostle Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit in our second lesson from Romans today: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
So, according to Paul then, the Spirit is our Intercessor, our PRAY-ER. The Spirit is GOD PRESENT in us to help us pray—even when our only prayer is a groan or a sigh; nonetheless it still is a prayer offered to God by the Holy Spirit through us. It is an expression of the state of our soul at a time when words are hard to come by or fall short of describing adequately what is really going on in the depths of our lives. The following story provides a good example of the Holy Spirit as GOD PRESENT in us and as our INTERCESSOR, OUR PRAY-ER.
Over at last. That’s the only thought she could think about just now. Over at last. The funeral finished. The committal service completed. She was home now and weary; bone weary. Her husband, Carl, was safely tucked into the grave. How had she ever endured the year of his agony?
Carl and Melissa Gregory were in their early 60s. Carl had worked for the railroad most of his life. It was blue collar work but he got paid well. Melissa worked outside of the home on occasion. She had secretarial skills. Occasionally she helped out at her church. Sometimes she would get work as a “temp” filling in at the secretary level. The Gregorys had two grown children. They had lived too far away to make it back for the funeral. That was all right with Melissa. They had come so often during the year of Carl’s dying. She thought their presence during the waning days of his life was more important than their presence at the funeral though she did miss them terribly that day. It was tough after the funeral and all to come home to an empty house.
Carl’s cancer was diagnosed just about exactly one year ago. His doctor caught it at one of Carl’s regular check-ups. “You’ve got a growth in your prostate gland,” Dr. Bean had told Carl. “We’d better do a biopsy.” When the results of the biopsy came back Dr. Bean was a bit upset. The growth was malignant. The cancer was there and spreading fast. Dr. Bean was fond of Carl Gregory. And Carl had been faithful in getting his annual physical. Still, here he found cancer in an advanced state. Dr. Bean called Carl Gregory with the bad news. “You’d better get in here as soon as you can, Carl,” Dr. Bean had said, “We’ve got to go to work on that cancer right away.”
Melissa remembered that phone call from Dr. Bean like it was yesterday. Could it really be a year ago today? And what a year! Carl was so sick. Nothing the doctors tried seemed to work on the cancerous growth. Carl was in and out of hospitals and treatment centres all year. Wherever Carl was sent, Melissa followed. They were a lonely pair trudging off to ever new venues of healing—healing that never came. Melissa could only think of that year as a kind of hell. And now hell was over. Carl had died at last. The funeral was over, too. And she was home alone. What new kind of hell awaited her now?