Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sermon -- Pentecost (June 4, 2017)

ACTS 2:1-21


In the name + of Jesus.

     Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, the Jews had gathered again in Jerusalem for Pentecost.  Pentecost was a harvest festival.  It was also one of the feasts for which the Lord had commanded his people to come to his temple.  Just as Jerusalem had swelled with pilgrims at the Passover, so it swelled again with crowds for Pentecost.
     The crowds who came to Jerusalem were Jews from all corners of the Roman Empire.  Throughout the course of time, many Jews had settled in new lands.  They adopted their country's language and settled into their society, but they remained faithful to the word of the Lord.  For this reason, the nations were represented at Jerusalem for Pentecost.
     The disciples of Jesus were also in Jerusalem.  They were waiting for the gift that Jesus had promised to send them—the Holy Spirit.  Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4)  
     The sound of the rushing wind had gotten the crowd's attention, but the words of the disciples is what made the people marvel.  The Holy Spirit had given the disciples words to speak.  The crowd testified to that too.  They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?  ...We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:7-8,11)  
     St. Peter explained that this is exactly what the Lord had foretold through the prophet Joel: “Even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:18)  The role of a prophet is not fortune-telling.  Nor does it mean that whatever we think and say about God is automatically true.  The prophet does not have any right to spout off and expect that God will honor what he says.  We do not get to decide our own truths to preach or to believe.  A prophet is one who speaks for God, and the prophet speaks only what God gives him to say.  The Holy Spirit gives us words to speak.
     In these Last Days until our Lord returns, we all get to prophesy God's word.  In other words, we all confess what God has given us in his word.  The Holy Spirit has inspired the prophets and the apostles to record the words that God wants us to know, believe, and live by.  God's truth is revealed in God's word.  He does not ask us how we feel about his word.  God knows that sinners do not like his word.  We do not like the guilt we feel when we are exposed as sinners.  Our sinful nature is not interested in hearing or honoring God's “Thou shalt not.”  In order to preserve our feelings, we feel we can ignore the portions of God's word which we do not like or alter them so that they do not condemn us.  Even life-long Christians get upset with God's word when he tells us that our good works have earned us nothing special from him.  We do not feel that God's grace is fair.  While unbelievers do not think they should have to repent for anything because they are not so bad, we do not feel like our repentance is that important because we are so good.  The Holy Spirit reveals our sinfulness.  He moves us to repent of trusting our feelings and to subject our feelings to God's word.
     The Holy Spirit gives us words to speak.  He teaches us to confess.  To confess means to say the same thing.  The Holy Spirit gives us words to speak about our sins.  We confess what God says about them.  We do not try to explain why our sins aren't really sins.  We recognize them as God shows them to us, and we acknowledge our guilt.  But the Holy Spirit continues to give us words to speak.  He teaches us to confess what God says.  He reveals the Savior who has come for us and for all.
     That is the Savior whom Peter and the apostles proclaimed on the day of Pentecost.  The crowds heard it, too.  “We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:11)  The mighty works of God are what he has done to save mankind from their sin.  The mighty works of God are revealed in the weakness of Jesus Christ.  Jesus emptied himself of his divine majesty.  He bore the guilt of sins he did not commit.  He gave himself over to the accusations of the devil, to the mocking words and brutality of men, and to the damning wrath of God.  He willingly went to Mt. Calvary where he was crucified in shame and humility.  And he finally gave up his life.  It could be viewed as the most pathetic and unjust moment in history.  Instead, the Holy Spirit gives us words to speak about it.  We confess—we say the same thing—as our Lord reveals to us: These are the mighty works of God.  These are the acts of God which were done to pay for all of our sins.  These are the mercies of God, that he does not punish us this way as we deserve.  These mighty works are the grace of God, that by Jesus' sufferings, death, and resurrection, righteousness is given to sinners, life is bestowed on the dying, pardon is issued to the guilty, and heaven is opened to us.
     The Holy Spirit gives us words to speak.  He gave the disciples of Jesus the words to proclaim the mighty works of God to the crowds who assembled in Jerusalem on Pentecost.  “We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:11)  The grace and mercy of God was no longer to be limited to the temple in Jerusalem where worship was done in Hebrew.  The Savior of the Nations had come for all the nations, and they were to hear God's salvation proclaimed in their own native language and dialects.  It is the same today.  We do not convert people into Americans.  Rather, the Holy Spirit has sanctified all languages and proclaims salvation to every nation, culture, and race.  The Holy Spirit gives us words to speak so that God's salvation can be known to all the world.
     The Holy Spirit converts the hearts of men so that we learn to despise and reject in our culture all that is opposed to God's word.  He sanctifies us and makes the Church its own culture with its own language and confession.  The Holy Spirit separates us from this sinful world and sets us apart for godly living.  Of course, the world takes notice of this and mocks us for it.  Even as the disciples were proclaiming the mighty works of God to the nations in Jerusalem, they did not escape the mockery of men.  Some regarded the word of the Lord as drunken gibberish.  And no doubt, you will have people tell you that the works the Holy Spirit gives you to speak are nonsense, or fairy tales, or hateful, or evil.  Who knows?  The day may come when we will have to face blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke (Acts 2:19) as the hatred for Jesus and his Church grows.
     Throughout all of this, the Holy Spirit will continue to work and will continue to draw people from all nations to himself through the preaching and confessing of God's word.  He will continue to give you words to confess, to cherish, and to cling to.  Those will not be overthrown no matter what—not by mockery, persecution, war, or death.  The Holy Spirit gives us words which will stand for every person of every nation of every age: It shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Acts 2:21)  The Holy Spirit called you into God's kingdom by his word.  He teaches us to confess what God has proclaimed.  He works in us so that we believe those words and live according to them.  The Holy Spirit gives us the words that save.  The Holy Spirit gives us his word, and by that word—whether preached or added to elements—will strengthen and keep you in the one true faith now and forever.

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

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