Summary: On Pentecost Sunday, we learn that the Holy Spirit is the Strong, Silent Type. He is sent by Jesus and God the Father, he is sent here to teach us, and he is sent to proclaim the Lord’s peace.
One of the summer jobs that I had as I was going to school was being a stadium usher at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN. I’d work some concerts, and at the end of the summer I might work a preseason football game or two, but for the most part I was there during Twins baseball games. And we had to be there 2 hours before the game started, and we were there well after the last fan had left the stadium. And after a game was over, I guess I used to think that that’s it: they closed down the place and the fans, players, vendors, and other workers all went home. But that wasn’t quite true. As soon as the game ended, another army of people began their work of cleanup. There were dozens and dozens of custodial workers who would sweep up all the spilled nachos and sunflower seed shells, mop up the spilled beverages, and clean up the ketchup and mustard that had squirted out of hot dogs. Of course, right when these people were starting their work, I was leaving. And yet I knew when I came back the next day the entire stadium would swept, mopped, and looking clean once again. Not a whole lot of people really notice the work of these people, but I guarantee that if they weren’t there for a week, people would miss the work that they do.
That’s kind of how the God the Holy Spirit works. The Holy Spirit didn’t send his only Son to die, the Holy Spirit didn’t carry our sins to the cross and suffer and die for them. And at first glance, it doesn’t seem as though the work of the Holy Spirit is all that spectacular. The Holy Spirit goes about his work in a silent way, behind the scenes. And yet, the work that he does is of utmost importance. Today on Pentecost Sunday, we will see that the Holy Spirit is the Strong, Silent Type. He is sent by Jesus and God the Father, he is sent here to teach us, and he is sent to proclaim the Lord’s peace.
Did you ever wonder why the Apostles’ Creed begins with the words “I believe…” while the Nicene Creed starts with “We believe…”? Why is one singular and one plural? The Apostles’ Creed developed as a confession that new converts to Christianity would recite at their baptism. It was an individual’s statement of their faith, and so it has the singular “I believe...” The Nicene Creed was formulated about 300 years after Christ. And the Nicene Creed was written as a confession against many false teachings of the day. You know, when we look at Christianity today, we see it splintered into so many groups: Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and so forth. And then we see it splintered even further into subgroups: these many different types of Baptists, there at least 20 different Lutheran Synods in the U.S. alone. Of course nothing is new in the Christian Church. Even the apostles had to deal with individuals and groups who would accept much of the Bible, but also would add their own ideas to it. And early on in the Christian Church, there were quite a number of denominations: groups called the Donatists, the Nestorians, the Apollinarians, the Monophysites, the Arians. Now we won’t discuss every single point of doctrine this morning, but in a general way these groups had false ideas about Jesus Christ. Some groups would deny Christ’s divinity, saying that he wasn’t God, or if he was, he wasn’t as much of God as God the Father was. Then other groups went overboard in reacting and said Jesus is God, in fact, he is just God, and wasn’t ever really a human being. The Nicene Creed was written by the True Church to combat these false teachings about Jesus. That’s why we confess every communion Sunday, “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ… of one being with the Father.” In other words, Jesus is on the exact same plane as God the Father. And yet we also confess that Jesus “became fully human.” The mystery of the incarnation is that this God, who is so high above us, not only came to our earth, but became a human being, like one of us.
But the other key phrase in the Nicene Creed that we really want to hone in on this morning has to do with the Holy Spirit, whom we confess “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Once again, there were people, in their efforts to make Jesus something less than God the Father, who would say that only God the Father has the power and authority to send out the Holy Spirit, and since Jesus doesn’t do that, he isn’t really God. That false teaching is dealt with head-on not just by the Nicene Creed, but more importantly, by the Word of God itself. In Verse 25, listen to how Jesus states that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both him and the Father, “All this I have spoke while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”