Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pentecost Sermon

Pentecost Sunday – May 23rd, 2010 – Acts 2 and John 14

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
The day of Pentecost is here – the day which we remember the Apostles sitting there in Jerusalem, and then the mighty rush of wind, and then the tongues of fire, and then the speaking in tongues so that all who are present can hear. . . hear what? Our reading today from Acts cuts off Peter’s sermon – he basically had begun to preach – said we aren’t drunk but this is just what Joel told you would come – and then we don’t hear any more. So, what does Peter preach that day – when the Holy Spirit comes upon him, what does Peter proclaim? Listen to his first two sentences – “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know – this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” And then the last sentence – “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you have crucified.” The Holy Spirit comes – and what happens? Peter preaches that Jesus is True Man and True God – He is the LORD – and He has died and He has risen – and what is the response to this when people ask what do we do? “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the LORD our God calls to Himself.”

And so here we are – here we are – we who are far off, who are the children’s children’s children many times over – this is the promise we have received, that we have been made part of. We have been called to repentance, we have been baptized – many of us at this very font – we have received the Holy Spirit, and we have been called by God to come to this place and hear His Word and worship Him. You are part of Acts 2 – you are part of the events of Pentecost. What started then with the establishment of the New Testament Church extends to right now, right here. We are part of that very same Church – we have the same LORD and Christ, we have the same baptism and forgiveness, we have received the same Holy Spirit.

So then, what does this mean? What now does life as one who repents and receives forgiveness from Christ look like? What does life look like for one who has received the Holy Spirit? Is it a life of power and might – where we can put our hands on people’s heads and shake a bit and then knock them to the ground and say, “Be healed”? While it could be fun, at least for me, to go around smacking people upside their head – that’s not the point. Or does receiving the Holy Spirit mean that we get to go and speak in tongues and talk in strange languages? Well, I suppose it could, but on Pentecost day there were people from all over gathered into the Temple – Parthians and Medes and Elamites and folks from all over. What do we have here. . . English speakers of mostly Germanic descent. There’s not really a need for that, and the Holy Spirit didn’t have the Apostles speak in tongues just so that they could be cool and have people ooo and ahhh at them. And I could go on – there are those who thought receiving the Holy Spirit meant you rolled around on the ground – you know, holy rollers – or that you barked like a dog, or that you got to play with snakes – on and on and on. I would rather suggest that we listen to the Words of our Lord Jesus Christ and what He describes in our Gospel lesson.

“Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word, and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’” This is a fantastically dense verse. We are the people who love Jesus – so what shapes our lives – keeping His Word. Now, this doesn’t just mean “obeying the commandments”. This isn’t just law here, this isn’t just a command to be nice. This word “keep” really has that sense of hold fast to, cling to – to hold onto God’s Word in faith. We are to hold fast to and cling to God’s Word – all of it. Commandments – yes indeed. We are to strive and to struggle to do good. But also we are to cling by faith to the Word of God which tells us that we have forgiveness in Christ Jesus because of His death and resurrection for our sake. We are to cling to that very truth that Peter proclaimed on Pentecost – to keep what the Scriptures say and teach – all of it – Law and Gospel. This is what it is to keep the Word, to see that we know it, that we learn it, that we live in it. Our very lives are shaped and defined by the truth that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That’s what we hold on to, that’s where we live. We struggle against sin and delight in Christ’s forgiveness. And what happens at the very same time as we live in that Word? The Father and the Son come to us and make their home with us, live with us, be with us.

And of course, this keeping our focus on the Scriptures, this being in the Word isn’t simply our own action, it isn’t something that simply comes about by our own strength. Rather our Lord says, “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, the same Spirit that came upon the Apostles on Pentecost, the same Spirit that Peter promised to those who heard and believed and were baptized, the same Spirit that we ourselves have received by the gift of baptism – He has come to us and He teaches. The Spirit brings to remembrance – He makes us remember the things that Jesus has said to us. Or to put it another way – the Spirit makes us to keep Christ’s Word – to make it so that the Word of God is up front in our life. The Holy Spirit makes us to remember God’s commands, so that during the week when we live our lives we know the difference between right and wrong, so that we know what is good and God pleasing and can strive to do that. Without the Spirit, you cannot try to please God, because without the Spirit a person doesn’t really know God and can’t know what God wants – and you end up with all the various false religions of the world where people make up their own things and the Lord says, “In vain do they worship Me, following the commandments of men.” The Holy Spirit focuses us upon the Word so we don’t careen off into that. The Holy Spirit also makes us to remember God’s love for us, makes us to remember that the Father sent the Son to be our Savior from Sin, so that when we are burdened, when we understand and see the weight of our sin, we repent and with joy and gladness receive forgiveness. The Holy Spirit draws us closer to Christ, He makes us to trust in the forgiveness that Christ won even while Satan and the world mock us and try to condemn us. That’s what the Spirit does. Do you wish to know if you have received the Holy Spirit – it is as simple as this. Have you been baptized? If so, the Holy Spirit has laid His claim upon you. Do you confess that Jesus is LORD – that He is God Almighty? No man may say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. Do you repent of your sin and receive Christ’s forgiveness – that is worked by the Word of God through the Holy Spirit. This is where we live, this is our lives as Christians – those who by the Spirit are brought to the Word of God and live in that Word of God and keep that Word of God.

And so what does this all mean? Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” The gift of the Holy Spirit is this – the Spirit focuses us upon the Word of God, and thus we are always focused upon Christ Jesus and thus we always know His Peace. We are at peace with God. God is not angry with you, God is not out to punish you – all that has been taken up by Christ. There upon the cross was your punishment, and now there is no more punishment left for you. The Triune God – Father, Son, and Spirit – is at peace with you, and dwells with you, makes His home with you – for you are forgiven because of Christ Jesus. This is the peace Christ has given you, the peace that the Spirit continually points you to. And this is not given as the world gives. In the world that which is given can be taken away. In the world, that which is given often has strings attached and hidden fees and fine print. In the world there’s always a catch, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But not as the world gives does Christ give His peace to you – for it is truly free. It is truly a gift. Nothing of yours is required, but rather God delights in giving you salvation – indeed, God loves you and maintains you and cares for you even as you wander. He calls you to repentance, calls you to return to your baptismal life, and showers forgiveness upon you. And thus, there is no need for your hearts to be troubled – no need for them to be afraid. Christ has won everything for you, enjoy His peace.

This, dear friends, is your heritage as a Christian. This is what the Father sent the Holy Spirit through His Son for – so that you might always be secure and confident in His love, that you might always cherish God’s Word in its truth and purity, and that you might always know and be sure of the forgiveness Christ has won you. What was revealed on the day of Pentecost continues here today, and it shall continue until our Lord returns – come quickly Lord Jesus. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.

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