The Danger of Taking the Holy Spirit for Granted and Neglecting the Means of Grace — A Pastoral Letter of Pastor Rolf Preus

May, 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

During my first year as a pastor I was shocked to learn from my catechumens that they had never heard of Pentecost. How could anyone grow up in the church and be unfamiliar with this holiday? Why, it’s the birthday of the church! Without Pentecost, we would all be dead in our sins, without any knowledge of God, not trusting in Jesus, not having the forgiveness of sins, without any hope in this world or for the next. Unless the Holy Spirit came upon the church – as Jesus promised he would – the church would not exist. And yet, the children I had been appointed to teach were not familiar with Pentecost.

It has occurred to me over the years that Pentecost often falls on Memorial Day weekend during which people who ordinarily attend church might miss. So it is possible that children can grow up without attending church on Pentecost Sunday. (This year it falls on May l5 – two weeks before the Memorial Day weekend.)

It has also occurred to me that we tend to take the Holy Spirit for granted. Perhaps that’s why this particular holy day is not considered as important as Christmas or Easter. But taking the Holy Spirit for granted would be a big mistake.

Just because you are a Christian does not mean you will remain one. There’s nothing we can do to keep the Father from creating and sustaining this world and providing us with everything we need. He is going to govern this world so that we can derive our daily bread from it. We can misuse what he gives us, true. But we cannot shut out the work and influence of God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

There’s nothing we can do to keep Jesus from dying for us and rising from the dead. It’s done. He did it. You can’t take him off of the cross. He stayed there until he had fully paid for your sins. His suffering was not cut short by the merciful breaking of his legs. As the Bible said, not one bone was broken. And you can’t keep him in the grave, either. He rose from the dead, having destroyed death and opening heaven.

But there is something we can do to keep the Holy Spirit out of our lives. We can stop listening. We can set our Bibles aside. We can stop hearing the gospel. We can stop receiving the Lord’s Supper. We can stop going to church. The means of grace – the gospel and the sacraments – are the means that the Holy Spirit uses to call us to faith. They are where we find the Holy Spirit throughout our lives. Pentecost is an ongoing event.

Every Sunday is Easter. We come to receive him who rose from the dead, bringing life and immortality to light through the gospel. Every Sunday is Pentecost. We come to be filled with the Spirit of truth who persuades our hearts of the truth of the gospel. The Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life, and not just on Pentecost. The Holy Spirit keeps us in the faith to which God called us when we were baptized. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter. He always comforts you. He takes the treasures Jesus won for you and gives them to you. Pentecost isn’t about speaking in tongues and miraculous signs. It’s about faith, the faith that the Holy Spirit works in us by the gospel.

Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Preus

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