Too Much of a Good Thing
Tuesday of Pentecost 17
13 September 2016
Some years ago, I remember seeing a comic strip in which a mother scolds her child, "Johnny, you haven't filled up your fish bowl with more water, like I asked you." Johnny replies, "But mom, the fish didn't drink what I gave him last week." Johnny thought he might be overdoing it by keeping the fish bowl full of water. Our heavenly Father is superabundantly gracious in His giving to us. He has first been so overflowingly generous with His own Son, Jesus.
 
According to His human nature, Jesus received the gift of the Holy Spirit in time. According to His divine nature, the fullness of the Spirit was always His possession. The Spirit is given where it is already fully received. Christ Himself did not receive the Holy Spirit by measure, but as an overflowing and abounding community of love between Himself and His heavenly Father. His overflowing possession foreshadowed His superabundant giving of the Spirit to us. He gives the Spirit not once, but many times for our sakes. When He again gives the Spirit, He is not given again to us because we have lost it. He gives it again because of His gracious generosity. The overflowing abundance of the Spirit to the Son overflows to us.
 
Why does God give us the Spirit and then encourage us to pray for the Spirit? Why does He seal our faith in the sacrament of baptism in the name of the Spirit and then give the Spirit again through the preached Word and the Supper of His body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins? Isn't He kind of overdoing it? If we think that, we don't understand our own spiritual situation.
 
We are weak and full of doubts and struggles (Mt 11:28-30). We think every trouble that comes our way is a withdrawal of God's grace and a loss of the Holy Spirit. Every breath-taking spiritual failure leads us to presume that God has abandoned us. This is our Fall-induced poverty of spirit. Second, and worst of all, we don't understand our God. God's grace is an overflowing, generous abundance (2Co 9:8). He recognizes our spiritual timidity and like a lover constantly assures the beloved with kind words and gifts, our heavenly Father showers the gift of His Holy Spirit upon Christ's body, the church. Too much of a good thing? Never.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo
 
"We ought not doubt that the Holy Spirit was given when Jesus breathed upon them, of whom He says, 'Go, baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit' (Mt 28:19) where this Trinity is especially commended to us. It is therefore He who was also given from heaven on the day of Pentecost ten days after the Lord ascended into heaven. How, therefore, is He not God, who gives the Holy Spirit? No, how great a God is He who gives God! For no one of His disciples gave the Holy Spirit, since they prayed that He might come upon those upon whom they laid their hands. They did not give Him themselves. And the Church preserves this custom even now in the case of her leaders....
 
"Therefore also the Lord Jesus Christ Himself not only gave the Holy Spirit as God, but also received it as man, and therefore He is said to be full of grace (Jn 1:14), and of the Holy Spirit (Lk 2:52; 4:1). And in the Acts of the Apostles it is more plainly written of Him, 'Because God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit' (Acts 10:38). Certainly He is not anointed with visible oil but with the gift of grace which is signified by the visible ointment wherewith the Church anoints the baptized. And Christ was certainly not then anointed with the Holy Spirit, when He, as a dove, descended upon Him at His baptism (Mt 3:16). For at that time He deigned to prefigure His body, which is His Church, in which especially the baptized receive the Holy Spirit. But He is to be understood to have been then anointed with that mystical and invisible unction, when the Word of God was made flesh (Jn 1:14), that is when human nature, without any preceding merit of good works, was joined to God the Word in the womb of the Virgin, so that with it He became one person. Therefore it is that we confess Him to have been born of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary. For it is most absurd to believe Him to have received the Holy Spirit when He was near thirty years old: for at that age He was baptized by John (Lk 3:21-31). He came to baptism as without any sin at all, so not without the Holy Spirit.
 
"For if it was written of His servant and forerunner John himself, 'He shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb' (Lk 1:15) because, although generated by his father, yet he received the Holy Spirit when formed in the womb; what must be understood and believed of the man Christ, of whose flesh the very conception was not carnal, but spiritual? Both natures, too, as well the human as the divine, are shown in that also that is written of Him, that He received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, and shed forth the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33). He received as man, and shed forth as God. And we indeed can receive that gift according to our small measure, but assuredly we cannot shed it forth upon others; but, that this may be done, we invoke over them God, by whom this is accomplished."

Augustine, On the Trinity, 15.26
Acts 10:34-48

So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
 
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. (ESV)
Prayer
Come Holy Ghost, Creator blest, and make our hearts Your place of rest; Come with Your grace and heavenly aid, and fill the hearts which You have made. Amen. (LSB 498:1)
 
For Pastor Matthew Habermas, who is preaching the Word of God, that his hearers would receive the Holy Spirit's abundance
 
For all the Bible classes of Memorial Lutheran Church, that the overflowing Spirit would give glory to God
 
For all those who are nearing the end of life, that the holy angels would come to take them to the bosom of their heavenly Father
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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