From earth to heav'n ascending,
And, heavn'ly wisdom to impart,
The Holy Spirit sending;
In trouble He will comfort you
And teach you always to be true
And into truth shall guide you."
So did Martin Luther paraphrase our dear Lord, Jesus Christ from our Gospel lesson. It's the night he will be betrayed. But Jesus does not leave his disciples alone. He gives them the promise of the Paraclete, translated as the Helper our lesson or in some Bibles, the Comforter. The Paraclete is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. When Jesus returns to his Father after his crucifixion and resurrection, he will send the Holy Spirit to guide his disciples, indeed, his entire Church in the way of truth. They will not be left alone. Jesus' earthly ministry is drawing to a close, but his work of drawing his sheep unto him is not complete. The Holy Spirit will continue this work.
Now, since we don't talk about him as often as we do about the Father and the Son, we need to remember who the Holy Spirit is. He is not an it. He's not some mindless force. He is the Third Person in the Trinity, God Himself! He proceeds from the Father and the Son from eternity. And Jesus sends him to you, to be your helper, to comfort you, to guide you.
The tool the Holy Spirit uses to guide you is his Word, the Holy Scriptures. St. Paul writes, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness..." (2 Timothy 3:16) and St. Peter agrees, "No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:20-21) The Holy Spirit works through this Word, as it is read, preached, taught, sung, prayed, and spoken in the Sacraments to guide Christ's sheep into the way of truth.
And yet there is hardly anything more despised in all the world than the Word of God, either by omission or commission. Most completely disregard God's Word as if it's some dusty old piece of literature like Moby Dick or Great Expectations (certainly not something that applies to your day to day life!). Others actively attack it, denying it's truth, calling good evil and evil good. Yes, the Holy Spirit is certainly despised by this generation. And even among the Christians, many have become pessimistic concerning the Holy Spirit's powers and have rendered him impotent.
But the Holy Spirit is not impotent neither is his Word powerless. This isn't the first stiff-necked generation the Holy Spirit has worked on. He's been doing this a long time. It was the work of the Holy Spirit that spread Christianity around the globe from a little speck in the Middle East. Our ancestors were tree worshipers when he met them. Yet with the power of the Word he turned their hearts to Christ!
Jesus says the Holy Spirit works by convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
Concerning sin, because they do not believe in Christ. The root of all sin is unbelief. Adam and Eve bit of the forbidden fruit, because they didn't believe God. And without faith it is impossible to do anything but sin. The author to the Hebrews writes, "without faith it is impossible to please [God]." (Hebrews 11:6) and St. Paul writes, "whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23)
Indeed, unbelief is the damnable sin! Jesus says, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:17-18)
And so the Holy Spirit confronted pagan Greeks and barbarian tree worshiping Germans and Norwegians and whatever your ancestors were. He confronted them through the Apostles and men, who never even met an Apostle, yet they were armed with the same unfailing word. And the pagans left their idols of silver and gold and our ancestors abandoned their dumb gods made of wood and silly myths and they followed Christ. The Holy Spirit convicted them of their sin of unbelief and they repented and believed in Jesus. And the same Holy Spirit comes to convict you and me and all the poor souls of our communities, who do not know Christ.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world of righteousness, because Jesus ascended to his Father. Now wait a minute! How does the Holy Spirit convict the world of righteousness? I thought the Holy Spirit convicted the world of sin! Because Jesus fulfilled all righteousness, for everyone. Jesus bore our sins on the cross and not our sins only, but the sins of the whole world. There is no transgression for which Jesus did not pay its price in full with his precious blood. That is why the only damnable sin that remains is unbelief. That Jesus goes to his Father by way of the cross and grave wins for us righteousness and salvation; real, not phony righteousness and salvation for the whole world. There is no human being for whom Jesus did not win righteousness and salvation. So the Holy Spirit convicts the world of righteousness. Yet, as long as the world does not believe in Christ, the world remains in its sin. The only way for anyone to escape sin, and death through sin, is through faith in Jesus Christ.
Of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. Satan is an interesting creature. He's the author of sin and yet he poses as a judge. He accuses you of sin; sins for which you have long repented; sins, which were washed away in the blood of Christ in your Baptism; sins that were cleansed from your flesh when you partook of Christ's holy body and blood in the Sacrament. Satan completely disregards the Gospel and he pronounces judgment for sin on you and all Christians. And he does it to God's face! But the Holy Spirit confronts Satan and judges him.
St. John records, "And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the world- he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, 'Now salvation and the power of the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ has come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accused them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death." (Revelation 12:9-11)
And so the Holy Spirit confronts Satan and judges him every time one of you dear Christians receives Jesus in faith. When you believe the Gospel you conquer Satan with the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God.
And this is how the Holy Spirit guides you today. His words give you Christ's blood, that conquering balm. And it is through his Word that the Holy Spirit helps you, comforts you, and guides you.
The Holy Spirit, who hovered over the waters at the creation of the world, bringing order to chaos is the same Spirit who intercedes for your unintelligible prayers and gives them meaning. He puts Jesus' words on your tongue, "Our Father" and "Thy will be done." And so the Holy Spirit teaches you to pray with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, King David, and the Apostles.
The Holy Spirit gives you righteous anger. "For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." (James 1:20) Being passionate is only a virtue if it is brought forth by the word of truth. The Holy Spirit gives you passion to defend the truth of God's Word, to reject what is evil, to cling to what is good, to confess Christ, and to do all this by listening diligently to God's Word, speaking slowly, and being slow to anger, even as our Father in heaven is patient with us.
The Holy Spirit prepares praise from your lips; praise that can only come from a faithful heart washed clean in Jesus' blood. And so you sing to the Lord a new song, because his Holy Spirit has revealed to you the righteousness Christ won for you.
Today is Mothers' Day. It's not a church holiday, but it's certainly a Christian thing to show honor to our mothers and our wives, who bore our children. Mothers are God's gift to children. Their bodies are the first sanctuary for their children and at the pain of death they bring forth new life. They nurture their children physically and emotionally in a way no other human being can. And yet, it is of the utmost importance for each mother to remember her children's spiritual nutrition. Just as a father must lead his children to know their Heavenly Father, so must each mother bring her children to their heavenly Mother. Your heavenly Mother is the holy Christian Church, as St. Paul writes, "But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother." (Galatians 4:26)
And so a Christian mother brings her children up in the church where the Holy Spirit is hard at work, giving new spiritual birth to her children, nursing them with spiritual milk that wells up into eternal life, disciplining, instructing, and protecting, just as a true mother does.
The greatest mother ever to live was the Virgin Mary, the mother of our dear Lord. Yet, when a pious woman declared to Jesus, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!" Jesus replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" (Luke 11:27-28) And every Christian mother knows this. And so that is how we should honor our Christian mothers today and everyday. Keep the word of God. Let the Holy Spirit work in you to comfort and help you. Demonstrate that the Holy Spirit worked through your Christian mother when she told you the Gospel, read you Bible stories, prayed with you, sang hymns with you, and brought you to church, and you will honor her before God.
And finally the Holy Spirit glorifies our Lord Jesus Christ by how he comforts you. He takes what belongs to Christ and he gives it to you. What belongs to Christ? The kingdom. Sonship. Eternal life. A right standing before God. All that belongs to Christ, which he has received from his Father the Holy Spirit gives to you through faith. You receive it by believing his Word. And this glorifies Christ and it glorifies the Father and it comforts you with the peace that surpasses all understanding. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us in the way of truth and may we continue to hear and believe him until we join Christ with the Father in his glory.