Can You Hear Him Calling? (John 7:37-39a)
Rev. David French

As you might imagine I’ve been thinking about this sermon for a while. How should I approach it? What do I focus on? Not in the sense of me or Jesus, that’s an obvious and easy choice. I won’t deny myself the privilege of being able to say that I preached one thing: Christ and Him crucified. And, not in some sort of walk down memory lane. That seems like a wasteful way to use this time. And, certainly not in a boastful way. Anything good you’ve seen in me comes from Christ. I am but a sinful man. In the end, I decided to just be me.

“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive” John 7:37-39a.

The Spirit they would receive is the Spirit we have received. It’s because the working of that Spirit, who calls and gathers us around God’s Word and sacrament, that we are enlightened by the truth we confess, that is: we are forgiven children of God. Forgiven not because of anything good in us, but because the blood of Christ was shed for us on the cross of Calvary. 

It’s the outpouring of that Spirit that we remember today. But if the only thing we do is remember that He came, and ignore why He came, we’re no better off than if He had never come at all. Jesus is very clear about the work of the Holy Spirit in both the Christian Church and the individual believer. We read in John 14:26, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” In other words, the Holy Spirit has been sent to open our hearts to the words and the work of Christ, from His virgin birth and sinless life to His cross and empty tomb, where we see the price and proof that our sins have been paid for.

It’s in Christ that we find not always what we think we need, but the one thing needful. The problem is, we’ve convinced ourselves we know more than God when it comes to our needs. We hear the words of Christ and then pick and choose which ones apply to us.

It would be nice if whenever someone spoke to me about a struggle in his or her life - whether it’s financial, physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, or whatever - I could just say, “Why are you worried? Jesus loves you” and they would leave satisfied, knowing the power and peace that comes by the working of the Spirit through those simple words. 

Those words say it all. What do any of us need beyond the love of God in Christ? The love shown to us by Christ is greater than any trouble the world can throw at us. As Paul writes in Romans, “I consider that our present suffering are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” God's love, freely offered to all through the forgiveness earned by Christ, sets us free from all our worries and fears. That’s not just good news, that’s the best news you and I will ever hear. We are free from all our worries and fears. I mean, Jesus did say, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if that’s how things worked in real life in a sinful world? But it’s never been that simple for me nor for you, I would guess. There’s always sin looming over us like a dark cloud that we live with, as an ever-present companion. God in His wisdom has given us a free will; and so, we have always had the ability to reject His wisdom or any of His gifts, including the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

We see this earlier in chapter 7 where is Jesus speaking words of compassion and forgiveness at the temple where some believed and some doubted. The Pharisees who were there began to voice their opposition, agitating the unbelievers in the crowd when Christ says in verse 24, “Stop judging by mere appearances ...” and finally, as the crowds persist to the point of trying to seize Him to throw Him out of the temple, in verse 30 we come to our lesson where “Jesus said out in a loud voice. If anyone is thirsty let him come to Me and drink.”

Why a loud voice? Perhaps the doubters were beginning to drown out His message of forgiveness. They certainly didn’t want to hear, let alone believe, the Good News that Jesus brought. But how can that be? How can anyone not want to know God not only loves them, but offered the life of His Son to pay for their sins so that they could be forgiven and spend eternity with Him? 

I don’t know the answer to that question, but clearly there are those, to this day, who don’t want to hear the Gospel. They didn’t then and still don’t today. They don’t want to hear that God’s plan was never that they save themselves, but that they should repent and be saved by the One who they are rejecting. They don’t want to hear they need to be saved at all.

And so, today, we do give thanks to God because it is only by the working of His Holy Spirit that we can hear those words and rejoice and know in our hearts that on the cross, Christ finished His saving work and 50 days later, the Holy Spirit began His work of calling sinners to Christ and has been at it ever since. Can you hear Him calling? Does His voice rise above the noise and distractions of your daily life? Are you thirsty for the unconditional love of God? Do you know and believe that Christ died for you so that through His blood you would be forgiven and by grace through the gift of faith He offers you can live with Him in heaven for all eternity? Do you know that when your head is filled with temptations or the noise of this world that you are still invited to drink in His forgiveness? Do you hear Him calling?

It’s the working of the Holy Spirit who comes to us through God’s Word and sacraments that enables us to know in our hearts that despite all our shortcomings, God has chosen to call and to use us in His kingdom. Since the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has been about the business of bringing sinners like us to Christ. I mean, what is the Bible, what are the confessions of the church, the hymns, the prayers, the sermons, and sacraments, if not rivers of salvation that flow from the lips and veins of Christ to you?

My friends, Pentecost is about the power of God given to each believer to share with the world the forgiveness that has come to us through Christ. That means Pentecost is not a day we remember, it’s the way we live. Today we celebrate God fulfilling His promise to send the Holy Spirit. May it also be this day that His Spirit satisfies your thirst with the living water that flows like a river from Him to you and from you to others, that they also may know and believe that in Christ we are forgiven.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.