“Dad, who do you love the most?” Toddlers have curious minds. They ask questions, and lots of them! Some are silly. Others show the depths of their growing minds. “Dad, who’s your favorite? Who do you love the most?” As my family grows, so does the number of times that question is asked. They want to know if mom and dad have enough love to go around.
To be sure, Becca and I assure our kids we love each of them deeply and intensely—but we do let them know we’re open to bribes for the title of “favorite child.” (Kidding!) The colors and sounds of our love may vary from child to child, but it remains equally deep for each one.
Whom do you love the most? Let me pose that question to you. Who do you love the most—the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit? Who do you like the best? Or even more challenging: Who is the most important person (of the Trinity)—the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit? Some of you have heard me ask that question before. It’s a curious thought experiment.
Of course, there is no one more important person of the Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are miraculously and mysteriously three distinct and coequal persons of the one true God. However, if it were possible, which it is not, but if it were possible, whom would you think it would be?
Would it be God the Father? After all He created us and loved us so much that He sent Jesus to be our Savior. But what about Jesus? He was the one who suffered in your place, died for your sins, and rose to give you the hope of eternal life. Or how about the little known, and little remembered, Holy Spirit? Just what exactly does He do anyway?
Today is Pentecost, the celebration of the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples. So you might guess where I’m going with this. I contend that if it were possible, which it is not, but if it were possible, the Holy Spirit is the most important. Why? Without the Holy Spirit you and I would never be able to believe in Jesus Christ. We’d never trust that God the Father loves us so much that He sent Jesus to be our Savior.
Jesus Himself testifies to the work of the Holy Spirit: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26). This verse is packed with precision and saturated with salvation.
The Holy Spirit is identified as the Helper. You and I both love helpers. Good help is tough to find. [Graduates you’ve had ample help along the way from teachers, parents, and friends.] But do you know who likes to help? Toddlers! They love to “help” with things like baking, the dishes, or even the laundry.
It’s really more of a mixture of all three of them at once, and usually when you’re not looking. After all, surprise “help” is always the best kind. Perhaps you know this “help?”
Your toddler diligently pushes her chair up to the counter. Then carefully stirs all the ingredients together in the mixing bowl, adding an extra cup of flour and extra egg (shell and all) for good measure. Then she proceeds to masterfully pour all those ingredients into the cake pan, onto the counter, her pants, the silverware drawer, and the floor. Of course, wanting to be thoughtful, she proceeds to use your best dishtowels, along with her shirt and socks, to wipe up where she “accidently” spilled. And voila! Your toddler has “helped” you with the baking, the dishes, and the laundry all in one fell swoop.
Perhaps that’s not quite the helper Jesus meant. The Holy Spirit is called the “Helper” because He helps you throughout the mess we call life. He’s the one who works faith in you. He’s no ordinary being, after all. He’s God the Holy Spirit. He proceeds from the Father from all eternity, is sent into time, into this world, into words and into Water, and then into your heart.
Jesus is clear about the Holy Spirit. He’s the “Spirit of truth” who “testifies” to Jesus. His job is simple. He shows you Jesus. He gives you Jesus, and wraps you in His love. And like a parent who deeply loves each of his children with varying colors and sounds, the Holy Spirit lavishes you with the specific care and affection He knows you desperately need.
When temptation afflicts you, He exposes the darkness of Satan’s lies. When uncertainty confronts you, He encourages you with the Father’s Word of promise. When shame haunts you, His holiness covers you. And when hearts stop beating and lungs stop breathing, He comforts you with the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
And just to be clear, toddlers aren’t the only ones who make messes in life. They aren’t the only ones who worry about being loved. Teenagers bear up under the constant anxiety of approval. You try to navigate the chaos of raging hormones, the pressure to fit in, and parents who you feel, “just don’t get it.” Relationship messes, the length of girls’ dresses, and all the peer pressured “yeses,” make life as a teenager chaotic and neurotic.
Adults also certainly know the messes of life and long for love just the same. We know the cruelty of this fallen creation and all too often experience the frailty of our flesh. But then there are the bad decisions and betrayals, lost tempers and lonely times, behavior that’s selfish and life that feels hellish—they ail and afflict child and adult alike.
So Jesus sends the Helper—God the Holy Spirit—full of grace and truth, He comes among you, not by the blowing of the wind, the swelling of your emotions, or the power of your intellect, but through the very Word of God.
Where this world looks to blockbuster super heroes, with X-men super powers and Hulk smashing strength, the Holy Spirit comes among you through the still small voice of the Gospel. He grabs your imagination and captivates your inclination with the power of God’s Word. Through that very Word He creates faith, shapes beauty, and forms truth.
Through parables and propositions, through Psalms and through sacraments, the Holy Spirit rushes among you to bring you Jesus. He comforts your heart, He heals your hurts, and He delivers life-giving hope. That’s the power of the Gospel!
When you hear God’s Word, the Holy Spirit is there. He’s eternally fixed to the Word of truth so that you can know right from wrong, good from evil, and blessing from curse.
He’s sent into this world, baptized into your life, to “help” you, to love you, and to guard you from the Evil one. Every time you pray the Lord’s Prayer or the Creed, the Holy Spirit is there, bringing you the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
He is God the Holy Spirit and He points you to Jesus. He gives you Jesus. He sanctifies the mess you call life and loves you like no other. And just in case you wanted to compare messes, let your imagination explore the almighty mess that Jesus endured for you.
Betrayed by His friend, abused by the church, branded a liar, abandoned by His disciples, His flesh was torn open while His mouth He kept shut. The cup of God’s wrath was poured out on Him while his friends ran out on Him. Crucified, dead, and buried, this was a bloody mess.
Then, three days later the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon His body, breathed life into his lungs, put a pulse back into His heart, and He walked out of the tomb! The mess of sin and death was cleansed and cleaned once, for all—by the Father, in the Son, through the Holy Spirit.
There is no mess too ugly and no sin too big to stop Him from loving you fully and completely. Whether graduate, grandparent, or grieving, God the Holy Spirit calls you into the Holy Christian Church. He brings you into the communion of saints. Here He forgives your sins, brings the resurrection of the body, and gives you life everlasting. Here is where He keeps you.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.