Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pentecost Sermon

Pentecost Day 2008, May 11th, 2008

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
I wish, dear friends, that they had decided to put Mother’s Day on a day other than Sunday. If it were on Saturday I would gladly have a special service every year in celebration – there would be plenty of texts from Scripture to chose from. But here is what happens instead. Every year Mother’s day rolls around, and I sit in my office the Monday morning before, and I look at the Gospel text for the upcoming week, and I think to myself – Mothers are wonderful and important, but look at this text – I just have to preach about this. And this is especially true this year as today is Pentecost – a High Holy Day. So ladies, do know that I respect Mothers, I give thanks for all that my mother went through to get me here today – but today, this morning, it’s Pentecost, and so we need to spend some time pondering the Holy Spirit. I know that on occasion when I was misbehaving as a child my mother would say, “I brought you into this world and I can take you out” – but today we need to look at the true LORD and Giver of Life – the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is an interesting day – although we tend to take something different from it today than the folks at the first Pentecost did. When we think of Pentecost, we think of the rush of the Holy Spirit, of tongues of fire atop the heads of the Apostles, the mighty gift of speaking in tongues. I remember myself, one Pentecost when I was in kindergarten or 1st grade, we had children’s sermons and I had answered some questions, and after the service one dear old lady said to me, “Why, I could almost see a tongue of fire on your head while you were answering those questions.” OoooOOooo, neat! That’s the kind of thing we like to focus on. But it wasn’t the focus of that first Pentecost day. It wasn’t the focus when the temple was full of Jews from all over the Empire returning to celebrate the old Jewish Holy-day of Pentecost, 50 days after Passover. It wasn’t the focus when all these Jewish folks, most of whom no longer spoke Hebrew, but rather the languages of the various nations they called home. Listen to their response – “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” How is it we hear? The miracle, the wonder, isn’t the tongues of fire, isn’t even speaking in tongues. It is that the Word is heard. Even Peter, in His mighty sermon on Pentecost which takes up the rest of Chapter 2, he only mentions all that is going on in passing to start off. No, we aren’t drunk – this is what Joel told you was going to happen – the Holy Spirit would be poured out. And why? – And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved. And then Peter proceeds to preach Christ and Him Crucified – and by the power of the Holy Spirit 3000 believe and are baptized that day.

The beauty of Pentecost isn’t tongues of fire or speaking in tongues – it’s not some chaotic frenzy one might expect at a rock concert – the beauty of Pentecost is this. The Holy Spirit gets to work. The Holy Spirit accompanies the Word that Peter and the other Apostles speak so that all who are there can hear it. The Holy Spirit brings about and creates faith – and how? By the proclamation of Christ the Crucified. And this is for all people – as Peter will say the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off which even includes you English speakers here, which even included the German speakers whom the Holy Spirit brought the Word auf Deutsch 100 years ago. So many languages, so many people – yet the same thing. The Holy Spirit calling people by the Gospel, creating faith in Christ Jesus, and bringing the forgiveness of sins.

This is what Christ tells us in today’s Gospel lesson. These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. The Holy Spirit will come, and by the Word of God, in the Name of Christ Jesus He will teach you, He will bring to remembrance all that Christ has said. Fantastic stuff. The Holy Spirit is a Teacher – He teaches, He brings understanding. We are not left on our own, dear friends, to puzzle out the Mysteries of God – because if we were, we’d be in trouble. But no, the Holy Spirit comes and by the Word of God teaches us the truth of what God has done for us through Christ Jesus. It is because of this teaching of the Holy Spirit that we my say that Jesus is Lord, that we may call upon the Holy Spirit, and it is only because of His teaching that we can do so. The Holy Spirit teaches all that we need for faith and life here and now even unto eternity.

But also, the Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance all that Christ has preached. Today, we English speakers don’t get the full impact of this. We don’t realize what a great blessing Christ Jesus is promising us. See, when we think of the Word remember, we think of going back into the past and looking wistfully back at the good old days. That’s not the main usage in Scripture – that’s not what “remembrance” refers to. Rather this – often the call is raised up for God to “remember” His covenant, to remember the promises He made to His servant Abraham. That isn’t a call for God to be wistful, but rather to make real now, to make good on now that promise. To remember isn’t to simply look to the past but rather to make something a present reality. To remember has a present impact. If you remember to take out trash it means you take out the trash right now. It becomes a present reality.

And we hear that the Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance all that I have said to you. The Spirit will make them a present reality for you. The Holy Spirit will take all that Christ has done, all the love that He has shown, all the forgiveness He has won – and the Spirit will, by the power of the Word, make that a present reality in your life. The Christian faith, dear friends, is not just a wistful nostalgia of what Christ did a long, long time ago in a country far, far away – but rather it is a participation in Christ’s Life and Death and resurrection by the power of the Holy Spirit who brings to us all that Christ Jesus is, all that He has done. We aren’t left simply to ponder a cross long ago – rather Christ and Him Crucified is preached to us today. We aren’t left to just contemplate the abstract idea of forgiveness – rather we are Baptized, we are joined to God, we are buried with Christ and raised to New life with Him. We don’t simply think about the days when Jesus ran around on Earth – but Christ Jesus comes to us Bodily in His Supper – and all by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word for us this day. That is how He is our helper.

And this, dear friends, is why Christ Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; My Peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” We know how the world gives. The world gives only what it can take back. The world is full of wretched, wicked folk. How perverse is the world? We need to be reminded by a holiday to show love to our mothers – and if it weren’t for the fact that Hallmark cards could make money off of it, there probably wouldn’t be a Mother’s Day. That’s how the world gives – what’s in it for me. That’s how we can be tempted to give, when our sinful flesh gets in the way. What will I get out of it? You scratch my back and then and only then will I scratch yours.

But that’s not how Christ gives. When Christ Jesus gives us His peace – that is, when He gives us forgiveness, when He establishes peace, when He puts a stop to the rebellion of our sin, not by destroying us sinful rebels, but rather by destroying sin itself by going to the Cross – this is given freely. Christ gives simply to have us receive, to have the Holy Spirit bring this gift to us so that we can rejoice in His salvation for all eternity. And this is a free gift, it is a free peace. There will be no reparations that Christ Jesus demands, rather He simply has His Spirit give to us all the love and forgiveness that we could ever need. Nor does He need a yearly reminder to do this – but it is offered all the time. He says to us, Come – gather, 2 or 3 of you in My Name, and there I will be with you – there I will be to have forgiveness proclaimed to you, there My Spirit will be active creating and restoring and building up your faith. This is His love for you – and the Holy Spirit will see that Christ’s love and salvation and forgiveness is always proclaimed, in every land, in every tongue.

This dear friends, is the joy of this Pentecost day. We know that God is active – that the Holy Spirit is active, using God’s Word to bring to us that peace that the world cannot give – peace with God, peace with each other as fellow forgiven sinners who are justified by Christ Jesus. We know that God is active here, giving us life in Christ Jesus, so that we might face the trials and struggles of this life secure in Him. Pentecost is the proof, the sign, the evidence that the Holy Spirit has gone out and is working. Dear friends, know that He continues to work the same gifts He did then in you here and now, so that by His power you might call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved. Amen.

No comments: