Ascension Day and Pentecost are coming up. The church Jesus is looking forward to these Christian high feasts as central mysteries of the faith. The church receives testimony of this through the continuous activity of the Holy Spirit.

You have to believe it. There is no such thing as proof, either in the conventional or scientific sense. Except, of course, the eyewitness accounts, which many people swear by today. Actually, it should be no problem to believe in Christ’s ascension and in Pentecost. But wait: if you want to believe in Christ’s ascension, you must also believe in Jesus’ death on the cross and in His resurrection. And this is where opinions begin to differ sharply again.

The message of the cross
The sermons in the month of May will occupy themselves with the core statements of the gospel: the death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus Christ. These events are too important not to be explored in the sermons. The focus on the first Sunday in May is Paul’s statement: “But we preach Christ crucified.” The sermon will show that only a few years after Jesus’ death already, Paul had to come up with convincing arguments so that people could believe in the seemingly impossible. At the beginning of his first epistle, Paul deals with critics of the gospel in a targeted and eloquent manner. For most people at that time, the message of the cross was incomprehensible. They asked for proof, demanded signs or a philosophically sound argument. Corinth, as an important city in Greece at the time and a hub of commerce, was a melting pot of various cultures. The gods of nature or those of Greek mythology created a colourful religious community. The small Christian church had to struggle against divisions and different philosophies. Paul, however, demanded a clear confession: the cross is an inexplicable mystery that can only be accepted and understood in faith. It is the sign for God’s salvation and power!

Hope in God
The article for the sermon on the second Sunday is different: “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defence; I shall not be moved” (Psalm 62: 5–6). The psalmist is talking to himself in this psalm. He is admonishing himself to accept the will of God. Help and hope can only be expected from God. The core message: those who expect help from God must be prepared to trust in Him. Through God, the believer has a secure future despite all the uncertainty and fear.

The Holy Spirit bears witness to Christ
On the third Sunday of the month a new topic series bearing the title “Anticipation of the Spirit” begins, foreshadowing the feast of Pentecost. Here too there is a mystery of faith: the Holy Spirit—the third person of the godhead in the Trinitarian image of God—keeps the message of salvation alive for all people to hear. Depending on the situation He appears as a person, as the one who acts, and as guide. And sometimes also as a helper or comforter. This is how Martin Luther translated the Greek word paráklētos. Other Bibles, such as the New King James Version, render it as “Helper”. The underlying important thought behind this is: the Holy Spirit is the builder of Christ’s church and reminds the Christian community of the Lord’s return to this day.

Pentecost: allowing the Spirit to lead us
Pentecost shines its bright light of peace and wisdom into a world that is often dark. This image shows why this Christian high feast takes such an important place in the liturgical calendar. Fifty days after Easter, the church of Jesus Christ emerged on the scene for the very first time when the Holy Spirit of God was poured out on the earth. Without the presence of the Holy Spirit neither Christian faith nor a Christian life is possible.

The Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
On the fifth Sunday of the month (Trinity Sunday) we commemorate the feast of the Trinity. It is observed in most churches and reminds Christians that the self­revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was completed on Pentecost. In this divine service the following thought is central: those who describe God as their Lord demonstrate that they regard Him as the supreme authority, and that they want to let Him guide their lives.

 

Photo: Monster Ztudio - stock.adobe.com

Author: Peter Johanning