Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sermon -- Pentecost (June 8, 2014)

ACTS 2:1-21

In the name + of Jesus.

     The Lord saw all that he had made, and it was very good.  And then God had good words to say to the people he had created.  God commanded the man and the woman, “Fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28)  And subdue it, they did.  But in their sinfulness, mankind abused what God had made.  They perverted the gifts God had given.  It had gotten so bad that God determined to destroy the earth with a flood, and to start over with Noah and his family and the animals on the ark.
     When Noah and his family left the ark, the Lord repeated the command and the blessing, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1)  The family of Noah did, indeed, multiply as the Lord had blessed them to do so.  Though the world was new, the hearts of man were not.  They were still corrupted by sin, and that sin dominated the hearts and minds of mankind again.  Though they multiplied, they would not obey the Lord.  They would not fill the earth.  They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4)  It was not to honor God, but themselves.  They crafted their own religion.  They obeyed their own desires.  They took God’s good words and cast them down in defiance.
     But God will not be mocked.  So God acted.  He confused the languages of the peoples at Babel.  The words of one group sounded like drunken gibberish to the next group.  They looked upon one another with confusion, and then with suspicion, and then with hatred.  And so it continues to this day.
     Though God gives good words to you, you, too, cast them down in defiance.  We should fear and love God that we lead a pure and decent live in words and actions. (Explanation of the 6th Commandment, Luther’s Small Catechism)  But we blend our speech in with the world.  It becomes vulgar and obscene.  There is nothing pure and decent about it.  God’s good words about how we use our words are despised and defied.  We should fear and love God that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, or give him a bad name, but defend him, speak well of him, and take his words and actions in the kindest possible way. (Explanation of the 8th Commandment, Luther’s Small Catechism)  But we use our words to betray secrets, to slander, and to impugn the actions of others with unfounded theories and salacious gossip.  We should fear and love God, but we do not; for we do not follow his commandments.  Our words serve us, and God’s good words are cast aside.  Repent.
     If you want to utter a word that is actually true and good, then confess with the crowds at Pentecost who were cut to the heart and cried out to Peter and the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) 
     The Lord Jesus Christ does not leave you without an answer.  Jesus sent his Holy Spirit so that the apostles would preach God’s good words, the Gospel, the words of salvation.  The Holy Spirit bestowed these apostles with gifts that were unparalleled with any miracle recorded in the Old Testament or in Jesus’ day.  The apostles were suddenly gifted to speak the mighty works of God in unlearned languages.  In doing this, the Lord did the opposite of the curse at Babel.  Rather than causing the nations to scatter, the Lord would bring them in.  Rather than creating suspicion and hatred among the nations with his words, God’s good words of love and reconciliation were proclaimed.  And rather than undo Babel’s curse and rally all the world together under one language, the Lord multiplied the languages of his apostles so that each could hear God’s love in his own native tongue.  The Lord does not undo language and culture.  He sanctifies them so that each culture and language may be brought into God’s kingdom and used to honor Jesus.  For God does not care if you are American, Indian, Chinese, or Nigerian, but he does care that you are redeemed.
     Jesus sent his Holy Spirit so that God’s good words would be heard.  The crowds who were there had acknowledged, “We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:11)  What are those mighty works?  They are the works of Jesus.  They are the works of a God who became part of his own creation to redeem the good creation he had made.  They are the works of a Savior who used his mouth to speak the truth in love, and to stick to that truth even when it hurt those who heard it.  Jesus was no flatterer.  Jesus had told his apostles, “The word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.” (John 14:24)  And Jesus was true to that word.
     God’s good words show you that the Father in heaven still loves his creation.  Though we have earned the curse, God still seeks to comfort.  Jesus followed God’s good words to the cross.  That is where the Father sent him so that he would receive the curse you’ve earned and so that he would not send you off to hell.  At the cross Jesus spoke the good words that God wants all sinners to hear.  Jesus declared his, “It is finished,” (John 19:30) from the cross so that you know God’s love for you.  The God who became a creature and took up residence in this world has redeemed you, his most precious creation.  He has paid the price for every careless word that you have uttered, and he gives you a better word to speak—a confession of your sins and an “Amen” to the good words of absolution, “I forgive you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” 
     Jesus sent his Holy Spirit so that God’s good words would be heard.  Now to some, it seemed like drunken gibberish.  Words of forgiveness are drunken nonsense to someone who believes he doesn’t need them.  In fact, words of forgiveness are insulting to people who believe they are right.  If you do not think that you need to be forgiven for anything or saved from anything, God’s good words will continue to be despised and defied.  But when such a person is condemned, it is not because God is cruel.  It is because sinners despise the very love that would save them.
     Jesus sent his Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and it was evident from the miraculous signs that accompanied his coming.  But there was another miracle that took place on the day of Pentecost.  It is not just that apostles spoke in unlearned languages.  It is that 3,000 people believe the word of the Lord, repented of their sins, and were baptized.  They were terrified by their words which had boasted of their own goodness and mocked God’s good commandments.  They were especially terrified by their own callous words which fifty days earlier had demanded the death of God.  They knew they deserved God’s curse.  Instead, the apostles proclaimed God’s good words.  And to many who were there, God’s good words took hold of them.  The Spirit of God was poured upon them first in words, and then in holy baptism. 
     Jesus sent his Holy Spirit so that God’s good words would be heard.  And you have heard them as well.  Like the thousands at Pentecost, God has also worked repentance in you and brought you into his kingdom through baptism.  He has attached his good words to you, and he has given his Spirit to you, too.  Now, rather than scattering you or casting you off, God has come to you and has made his home with you.  No matter what language you speak, you have God’s good words to comfort and sustain you.  You are beloved.  You are forgiven.  You are saved.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.