The importance of Pentecost is demonstrated profoundly in the original medieval tales of King Arthur: For on the Feast of Pentecost, the Round Table was begun. Also on this Feast, the Knights would tell stories to the court of their adventures and service, in the name of Christ, in order to edify and inspire. To be made a Knight was a sober duty, full of danger against great evils in service to their neighbors; this vocation required humility, vigilance, wisdom, regular attendance of the Divine Service, and penitent faith. Through Jesus, you have been elected before the creation of the world and given the quest of the cross: the Christian faith. At your Baptism, you received, by the Holy Spirit in the Word, the Name of the Triune God upon you, justification by faith, forgiveness of your sins, and the ability to discern Scripture and rely upon it alone: these are your holy Armor and Shield and blessed Sword for the perilous adventure to the Celestial City.
In St. Luke’s Gospel account, Jesus says to strive to enter by the narrow gate, which is Himself. St. Paul is clear that none can do this because we are by nature blind, enemies of God and children of wrath, dead in our sins. Only by the Holy Spirit, through the hearing of the Gospel, are we given knowledge of our sins, brought to trust in Christ for mercy, made alive as new creations, and able to confess, “Jesus is LORD.” The Greek word used for ‘strive’ is agonizomai. Notice the word “agonize”? The Christian faith is one of contention and struggling-with the devil, with our sin-corrupted flesh, with the world. Our endurance, by faith, against these enemies to serve our neighbor and finish the quest, is from the Holy Spirit too through His work of sanctification.
The devil desires to take Christ from us every day, to devour us like a terrible beast – and not just you but also your family and friends and neighbors. Thus we are drawn by the Holy Spirit to be trained in the Word and the catechism by our pastor and parents; we are filled with the Holy Spirit in order to build up believers and non-believers in our lives with prayers and hymns and works of faith that benefit them.
In the face of suffering, we do not often feel brave. But the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to endure all things, even persecution and death, rather than fall away from the Word, or our Confessions of the Word. Moreover, God gives us that sacred Provision – the Lord’s Supper in the Divine Service – by which He sustains us in His love and mercy as we travel the difficult, narrow road of our faith. While we remain in this world, we hold dear the Holy Spirit by whom we are brought to Christ, and thus able to approach the Father with our prayers. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us also in this, bringing our deepest longings and petitions for which we cannot find the words to the throne of God (Rom. 8:26-27).
During this season of the Church after Pentecost, which reflects on the work of the Trinity as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death in the light of the Word, take comfort: by the grace of God, He who began a good work in you at the Baptismal waters of your salvation, and daily contends for your soul, shall bring His work to completion on the Day of our LORD (Php. 1:6). On that Day, assured by the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, you shall be given all the treasures of the heavenly kingdom upon which we are heirs right now through faith (John 6:47, Rom. 8:12-25): the crown of eternal life (Rev. 2:10-11), glorified bodies like Christ’s (Rom. 6:5), and the inheritance that remains undefiled that shall be revealed with the new creation (I Ptr. 1:3-5). Upon that eternal Day, you and all the saints shall dwell in perfect fellowship, righteousness, and blessedness, with the Triune God in His glory forever (II Ptr. 3:12, Rev. 21).
Josh Radke is deacon at Hope Lutheran Church in Bangor ME. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.