The Day of Pentecost
St. John, Galveston
Rev. Alan Taylor
In Nomine Jesu
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive.”
It’s a great text for this Pentecost Sunday because each of us has received the promised Holy Spirit in our Baptisms. As such, we are equipped, as the redeemed of God, to tell others about Christ and to comfort and console them as they face life’s challenges. We are, as the Scriptures say, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for (God’s) own possession, that (we) may proclaim the excellencies of him who called (us) out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Not only is this a great passage for Pentecost, but it’s also very appropriate for today because it reminds all of us, and, on this day of Jenna and Devon’s confirmation, it reminds each of you, that the only place in this whole world we can quench our thirst for forgiveness and grace is in Christ Jesus. Therefore, the text is plea to remain faithful in receiving the gifts of God. If we cut ourselves off from Christ and the means He provides to quench our thirst, we will, in fact, die of thirst. Or, perhaps I should say, we will die because our thirst for Christ will die. Which is to say, there is no substitute for our gathering around God’s Word and Sacraments week after week in the Divine Service.
“Stay thirsty, my friends.” You may recognize those words as the trademark of the most interesting man in the world. How did he get such a lofty title, you may ask? Well, for one thing, he is said to have won the lifetime achievement award, not once, but twice. His words carry weight that would break a less interesting man’s jaw. And, if you ever met him and he were to mispronounce your name, rather than correct him, you’d be compelled to change it. He is, after all, the most interesting man in the world. And, his counsel is always the same. “Stay thirsty, my friends.”
It’s just a trademark though, a tagline, if you will, because thirst, real thirst, is a distressing thing to experience. When the body thirsts there is a physiological change that takes place. The cells in the body actually begin to break down. Over time, if water is not replaced, dehydration becomes severe, cells throughout the body begin to shrink as water moves out of them and into the blood stream, part of the body's efforts to keep the organs saturated with fluid. All the cells shrink, but the ones that count, perhaps more than any other, are the brain cells. They don’t operate normally when they’ve shrunk. Changes in mental status follows, including confusion and ultimately coma. As the brain becomes smaller, it takes up less room in the skull and blood vessels connecting it to the inside of the cranium are apt to pull away and rupture.
To die of thirst is a terrible way to die. “If anyone thirsts, Jesus says, let him come to me and drink.” “This is not a physical thirst (says Luther), such as is felt for beer or wine, but a thirst of the soul, a spiritual thirst, a heartfelt desire, yes, a distressed, wretched, terrified, and aroused conscience, a despondent and frightened heart which longs to know on what terms it is with God.”
To thirst, in a spiritual sense, is, in fact, a good thing, because it is that thirst, that distressed, wretched and terrified conscience that is quenched only in Christ. As the Holy Spirit works in our hearts through the power of God’s Word, we come to know just how much we need Christ Jesus and His forgiveness. Thus, by the working of the Holy Spirit in us, we turn to God in repentance, saying, “I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto to you all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended you.” And our hearts, brought to life by the power of God’s Spirit, rejoice to hear God’s verdict in Christ. “I, in the stead and by the command of Christ, forgive you all of your sins.” To thirst, in a spiritual sense, is a good thing because it is the Gospel of Christ for which we thirst.
The greatest danger we face, what with the ready availability and the free access to God’s Word, is the temptation toward apathy regarding the Gospel. The Gospel of God’s grace in Christ is easily presumed upon such that our thirst and craving for it diminishes over time. In Luther’s day, he saw it happen in as little as a decade. He says, when the Word was first proclaimed twelve or fifteen years ago (and here he’s talking about when the Lutheran church came out from under Catholicism), the people hearkened to it eagerly. Everybody rejoiced that it was no longer necessary to plague oneself with good works. People remarked: “Thank God, we now have water to drink!” At that time, they were thirsty, and the Gospel doctrine tasted good to them. We drank of it; that was a precious teaching. But now we are sated and tired of the drink. Therefore, God will have to forsake us and let us die of thirst, for He remains only with those who feel their wretched condition.
It’s Law and Gospel, isn’t it? Those two doctrines summarize our whole relationship with the Almighty. We thirst because the Law shows us how far short we fall of God’s glory. But, the Gospel floods our hearts and minds with pure grace.
Again, in the words of Luther, “Christ chose words that addressed themselves to the heart and to those who felt the need of them. These are comforting, friendly, and charming words; they refresh, console, and strengthen the thirsty. Christ put it this way because His Word, unless it is preached to the thirsty, is more despised than accepted. This is apparent also in our day, just as it was among the Jews. They were full and drunk with vain holiness and felt no longing for this drink.
“If anyone thirsts, Jesus says, let him come to me and drink.” A man sat in the office of his pastor. He was distraught. He believed that he had so turned away from God that he had committed the unforgivable sin. The Bible says, if anyone blasphemes the Holy Spirit he commits an unforgiveable sin. Pastor, the man said, I’m so afraid I’ve committed that very sin! The pastor listened to the man as he poured out his heartfelt concern. Finally, with all confidence and certainty, he said to his distraught parishioner, the very fact that you are here expressing such a concern is evidence of the fact that you have not rejected the Holy Spirit. Anyone who is not thirsty has no desire to drink.
So, stay thirsty, my friends. Stay thirsty for Christ Jesus and the gifts of forgiveness and grace that only He can give. Stay thirsty for the consolation and the comfort that soothes your troubled soul. Stay thirsty for God’s Word, for holy Absolution and for the body and blood of Jesus that are so freely given to you in the Divine Service. Stay thirsty that you might be a holy priest, one set apart and equipped by God to come to the aid of others whose troubled soul thirsts for peace. Stay thirsty that you’ll treasure the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on you in the water of Holy Baptism, that, even as you confess today the gifts God given to you on that day, you’ll confess and treasure them all the days of your life. God grant it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria
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