Yes, okay. It is Trinity Sunday, not Pentecost II, The Sequel. But the assigned Acts reading blithely carries on with Peter’s Pentecost oration as if we had all just come back from intermission. And the work of the Spirit has a distinctly Trinitarian flavor to it. See also John 14:16-20, for example, where Jesus asks the Father to send the Spirit so the Spirit can dwell with believers, and cause them to be in Jesus, and enable Jesus to be in them, just as the Father is in Jesus. Those verses have just the right amount of confusing reciprocity to be thoroughly Trinitarian.
So, preach the Trinity, but maybe this year preach the Trinity through the lens of the work of the Holy Spirit. Or preach the work of the Holy Spirit through the lens of the Trinity. Either way, you have a chance to build on the conversation from Acts 2 last Sunday and explore the work of the Spirit from a new perspective.
In last week’s article, we looked at how Sculptor Spirit: Models of Sanctification from Spirit Christology, by Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., gave us some new tools for unpacking the familiar Acts 2 story. We saw The Devotional Model at work in the disciples gathering for worship on Pentecost and, at the end of the chapter, in establishing regular patterns of fellowship and prayer. We saw how the gathering of scattered people from around the known world fit with The Hospitality Model, but also how the negative response to the marginal Galileans and their funny accents fits with how Jesus extends His mission not only to, but through the marginal and marginalized.
The Sacrificial (or Pouring) Model bridges the gap between last week’s Acts reading and the continuation in this week’s pericope. The filling of the house and the disciples resulted in an outpouring of speaking in Acts 2:2-4, just as the Joel passage quoted by Peter in 2:17-18 promised: God pours out the Spirit and God’s people overflow. A great summary of that Pouring Model also comes in the middle of this week’s reading. Peter says Jesus “has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (verse 33). Jesus receives the Spirit and pours out the Spirit. We receive the Spirit and overflow into the lives of the people around us.
Jesus receives the Spirit and pours out the Spirit. We receive the Spirit and overflow into the lives of the people around us.
The last two Models of Sanctification from the Sculptor Spirit book are highlighted in this week’s section of the Acts text. The “Dramatic Model” deals with struggle, spiritual warfare, conflict, and temptation. In that way of talking, the Spirit conforms us to Jesus and His testing in the Wilderness and Garden. You can see battle language (and therefore the Dramatic Model) in Peter’s references to King David. “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet,” (verses 34-35) describes the end of a victorious battle. To the victor goes the spoils, and the throne, just as God promised (verse 30).
As the appellation “Messiah” or “Anointed One” in verse 36 evokes the Pouring Model (Jesus is the Anointed-with-the-Spirit One who receives, bears, and pours out the Spirit) so the title “Lord” in verse 36 belongs to the Dramatic, warfare frame. God has made this battle-tested Jesus both the victorious and reigning Lord as well as the filled-to-overflowing Christ.
In Jesus, we see the victorious end of the struggle, and the Spirit conforms us both to His victory and to His struggle. The Spirit shapes in us Jesus’ conflict with Satan and with everything which opposes God’s Kingdom and rule. Language of the Lord being “at my right hand that I may not be shaken” (verse 25) or “the great and glorious day of the Lord” (verse 20), or the warning, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (verse 40) all fit within the experience of spiritual conflict and struggle in the life of the believer.
I have saved The Renewal Model for last both because it is likely the most familiar to you and because it is the least obvious in the assigned text. According to Sánchez, the Renewal Model notices how the Spirit conforms us to the death and resurrection of Jesus in the daily dying and rising of baptism. This model of sanctification addresses key aspects of the Christian life, including our identity in Christ and our need for forgiveness. Daily walking in repentance and reconciliation in the power of the Spirit belongs to this cyclical model of sanctification.
Daily walking in repentance and reconciliation in the power of the Spirit belongs to this cyclical model of sanctification.
The clearest expression of this model in Acts 2 comes in verse 38, just outside of our assigned reading: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Repentance, baptism, forgiveness, Jesus, and the Spirit are all wrapped up in this one verse.
Since we know the Renewal Model images our repentance and baptism as the Spirit shaping the death and resurrection of Jesus in us, the language of Jesus’ death and resurrection in the rest of Acts 2 also belongs to this model (verses 23-24, 27-28, and 31-32). Although Paul says it more explicitly (Romans 6, for example), it is important to remember even here in Acts 2 that the Spirit is neither conforming us to some random death and resurrection, nor is the Spirit shaping our own death and resurrection in us. Rather, the Spirit conforms us to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Our daily remembrance of baptism, our daily dying and rising, is a daily joining to Jesus and His death and resurrection for us.
So, this Pentecost, er... Trinity Sunday, you have the opportunity to preach the work of the Spirit (and the work of the Trinity) from a specific perspective. Choose a single model and ruthlessly stick to it, or clearly distinguish between two different models of sanctification. This clarity and specificity could help broaden your preaching and expand your hearers’ general assumptions about the work of the Spirit.
You could preach The Dramatic Model, how the Father sent the Son in the power of the Spirit to enter into conflict and warfare with the Devil and with the spiritual forces of evil. How the victorious Lord Jesus now sits victorious at the right hand of the Father and sends the Spirit who conforms us to Jesus and His enmity with the Devil. You can picture the Christian life as a kind of battle fought in the power of the Spirit, for the glory of the Father, from the victory of our Lord Jesus, who stands by your side so you will not be shaken.
Or you could preach The Renewal Model, unpacking how those who are baptized into the Triune name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are now joined by that same Spirit to the cross and the New Creation life of the risen Christ. Invite your hearers into a daily dying and rising which rejects a kind of perfectionism which refuses to admit our faults, while at the same time rejecting a kind of fatalism that refuses to engage the Christian life because sin is inevitable. Preach the work of the Trinity through the lens of the ongoing renewal we experience as those who are baptized.
Or maybe preach Trinity Sunday from one of the other assigned readings but keep these models of sanctification in your homiletical bag for the future. The more different lenses we have for understanding the way the Scriptures present the work of the Spirit, the more options we will have for evoking a vibrant life of faith for the sake of our hearers.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in Acts 2:14a, 22–36.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Acts 2:14a, 22–36.