|The Sermon for Pentecost
THE GOOD LIFE
The good life – think about it for a moment. Our culture is constantly calling us to live it. More than that, the media offers many suggestions on how we can achieve it. The good life will be yours if your children get that particular toy that was so neatly demonstrated during the Saturday morning cartoons. If you teenagers will only wear the right’ designer clothing, popularity will surround you just as the clothes do. And of course, every adult has a secret shopping list that fills our daydream with everything from vacations to far-off places to cars with all the options. The irony of it ail is that such a selling job often robs us of the real good life.
If we had a magic wand that could meet all of the things on our lists, it wouldn’t be very long – maybe by next week – and we would have a new list and again be in search of “the good life”.
Friends, do you really want the “good life”- not just the life that means that tomorrow you have more than you do today, nor some fantasy world created by some ad agency that is never to be found? For anyone in search of the “good life” Pentecost provides all that your heart desires, and it does it right now.
THE NEED FOR THE WATTER OF LIFE
Jesus addresses each of us; “If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, �0ut of his heart shall flow rivers of living water ‘”(John 7 :37-38)’
The picture of the good life that Jesus holds before us does not at the same time enslave us by encouraging our desires for what we don’t have. Instead, Jesus presents Himself. “Come,” He says. “Drink from Me.” Jesus’ invitation is aimed at our deepest longing for happiness and the good life.
The land where Jesus walked was dry, dirty, and dusty. People with sandeled feet needed to wash them over and over. In such a world, water meant life. From ancient times to this day, the hiker who “becomes lost without water faces imminent death. The dry desert wind whips around a person, and the sun creates an oven in which the body is quickly dehydrated To have water is to live, to lack it is to die.
Jesus knew that the world through which He walked was parched by a force more severe than the power of the desert wind. He knew and faced the power of sin. It was the strong force of their rebellion against God that broke the relationship of Adam and Eve to the world around them. God had planted a great garden; flowers, fruits and foods were close at hand But man’s hand, reaching out against God, at the same time planted thorns and thistles. Now the desert’s dryness and winter’s cold are threats to human life. Constant effort and caution are required, and in spite of all the sweat of our brow and our modern technology, we and the land we live in remain under the curse of our rebellion.
Luther pictured well our plight when he stated that the human being, even without Christ, will encounter God in such ‘basic elements as water, fire and rope. The water, however, will drown him, the fare will burn, and the rope will hang him. But, Luther continues, the person who has seen God in the manger and on the cross “will use the rope to haul water from the well and the fire to boil that water to cook the family dinner.”
Our lives are not “good” because our own sin – our refusal to behold Christ first – has dehydrated us of purpose and meaning. The junk food of gossip and grudges, the deceptive delicacies of infidelity and indecency the main courses of pride and power – these poisons are offered to us by the prince of this world as the answer for our hunger, Each of us has been invited to his banquet; and each of us has sampled of his fare.
Some have sampled till they are full, but all of us have failed. Our tongues still have the taste of sin on them. We know how incapable we are of resisting those delights that-are specifically served to suit our strongest appetites. If we formed a self-help group this morning and called it “sin-watchers,” it is doubtful whether anyone of us could lose even an ounce of sin, let alone the pounds that have accumulated through the years. None of us is fit. We are all obese with sin.
Nothing short of a radically different diet will save any of us from certain death. Someone must come to us from outside and change us within.
THE LIVING WATER OF THE SPIRIT
Pentecost presents that someone. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came as our provider. The Spirit, who made us children of God at our Baptism, now flows through us as a river of “living water”. The challenge is not to seek something but to recognize the Spirit as He holds Jesus Christ before us in the living water of Baptism, in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, and in the Good News of God’s mercy. The Spirit gives us faith so that we might receive the good gifts of God.
These gifts were purchased at Calvary, where the earth literally shook with the cosmic consequences of Christ’s death for us. Faith, forgiveness, and freedom flow from the fountain of Christ’s atoning death. If we want the “good life” it is ours in these good gifts and nowhere else.
Water – cool, clean water – brought to mind a picture of productivity and peace for the ancient Israelite. Water meant that life could go on in a hot and hostile land. It meant that grass could grow, that fruit trees could blossom, and that man and animal could live. It was the same for Jesus’ audience. It is the same for us.
How fitting that Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as the living water within us I All the benefits of His work – forgiveness of sin, fullness of life, victory over death- are “bestowed by the Spirit in the life-giving Word and Sacraments. The good life – the full life – is the life in ‘Christ that the Holy Spirit gives and sustains. It is yours and it is mine by virtue of our baptism. It is nourished by the Word of God as we search the Holy Scriptures and attend the Lord’s Supper. Now everything, from our greatest triumph at work to our most trivial moment at play, is changed like Luther’s water, fire, and rope into a part of the good life in Christ.
That dry and deadly spirit, Satan, despises our baptismal water even as he opposes the living waters of the Holy Spirit within us. They defeat the death that our sinful life deserved and drown it in the atoning life and death of Jesus Christ. No life, however glamorous, can hold a candle to the good life in Christ.
In times as troubled as ours a young man from a successful family sensed this truth when he left a promising career as a member of the British Parliament to serve as a garish pastor in “England. His name was George Herbert. He speaks of his search for the good life in a poem that includes these lines;
At length I got unto the gladsome hill,
Brackish waters – that’s all that most people in our day are finding in their quest for the good life. Our quest could have ended at the same stagnant, still pool. But on Pentecost the Spirit of God brings pure streams; of water from outside and causes them to gurgle and gush forth within us. Our sin is washed away; our thirst is quenched; our appetites are changed; and our lives, like the Garden of Eden, bear good fruit.
THE FRUIT OF TH5 GOOD LIFE
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5: 22-23). This is the good life. It is ours by the Spirit’s presence, for He holds us to the source of our salvation, Jesus Christ.
The ancient world was rocked by Pentecost. This event resounded throughout the Roman empire through the apostolic proclamation of the Gospel. Those ancient, Pentecost Christians displayed a different life-style They called others to “the good life” in Christ, and the Spirit turned the tongues of men from brackish to living waters.
The same sequence will follow as we live the good life of the Spirit. How noticeable it is when someone changes in behavior pattern! Changes in mood, in language, in actions – we recognize them quickly in those whom we know well. We worry or rejoice according to the nature of the change. You are Pentecost pilgrims. You are and will continue to be noticed. Those around you will recognize the difference. Your good life in Christ will stand out as sharply as an oasis in the desert. Even more significant will. be the discovery that the difference is not in you, but in the Spirit who dwells within you and who invites them to quench their thirst in Christ. There are only two places to drink, only two tables at which to be seated, only two ways to live life.
One caution is necessary. The Holy Spirit did not deliver the apostles or any of us from struggles. The good life in Christ- is ours, but the Spirit leads us not to some kind of Utopia, but back to the cross where we are to daily drown our sinful self with the living water.
Luther so aptly describes our struggle when he writes:
For a pious Christian is still flesh and blood, as other people are. He fights against sin and evil lust and feels what he does not want, to feel, whereas non-Christians are wholly unconcerned about these things and do not fight against them at all… The Christian should fight against the sins which remain in him and which he feels, should should permit the Holy Spirit to work with him, and should sigh without ceasing to be relieved of sin. Such sighing never does cease in believers, but they have an excellent Auditor: The Holy Spirit Himself.
Share your struggles with the Spirit. He will listen every time.
The good life will not escape you even in times of trial.