And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and marveled, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs – we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God." And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" But others were mocking and saying, "They are full of sweet wine."
But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says, 'THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT UPON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; EVEN UPON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy. AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE, AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BENEATH, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. THE SUN SHALL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS, AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. AND IT SHALL BE, THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.'
Sermon for Pentecost 6/05/22
Full to Overflowing
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The account of Pentecost is a delightful story. Now, by "story" I do not mean that it is not absolutely true. It is. I mean the whole account paints such a beautiful and exciting picture. The disciples of Jesus have gathered together. It could have been the twelve, including Matthias, the newly chosen one, or it could have been all of the disciples - numbering upwards of five hundred, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, or just the 120 mentioned in Acts, chapter 1. I personally picture the twelve, but the Bible is not very precise on that issue.
Anyhow, the disciples are gathered together, and there comes this sound of a violent rushing wind. It doesn't say that there was a wind, just the sound of it - and it sounds as though it may have sounded like a tornado or a hurricane - like that wind a few weeks ago! While this sound is happening there appear tongues, as of fire. All the paintings I have seen picture a flame larger than a candle-flame, sort of short and squatty, burning just above the heads of all the disciples. The flames distributed themselves – appearing somewhere, and then spreading out to each of the disciples gathered in this place. Then they all start to preach.
It doesn't actually say what they were saying, except that they were telling of the mighty deeds of God. Each one appears to have been speaking in another language, one which they had never learned before. A crowd of people, in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festival of Pentecost, hear the noise, but see and feel no wind, and they are drawn to the place that the noise seems to them to be coming from. It must have been a large place, because over three thousand are brought to the faith that day by the power of the Holy Spirit. That takes a big building, or place with a large yard.
This went on for a time, because people were gathering and marveling that they could hear their home-town native language being spoken, to their amazement and apparent delight. Some, of course, heard all the noise, and all they heard was babbling, and announced their judgment that the disciples were drunk. It must have been something like a carnival atmosphere for a time. Then Peter stands up and begins to preach. It doesn't tell us what language he spoke, or if the others were interpreting Peter as he spoke. I suspect that Peter spoke the one language they would all surely understand — Greek. That fact, however, is a guess, and not important to the account. What is important, is that Peter tells these Jews gathered together that what they are witnessing is what was prophesied by Joel about the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in the Last Days. In short, in the words of our theme, they were full to overflowing with the Holy Spirit.
Full to overflowing. That is what Pentecost began. The Apostles found themselves filled with the Holy Spirit so much that they could not help but preach, even though it was in another language! What a remarkable thing that must have been, preaching but hearing your own voice come out in another language! The message was the one God gave them, and the words were supplied by God, and the powerful effect was by God's work too.
I said that this was what Pentecost began, and not what Pentecost was, because our lives in the church and in the faith are also the work of God, powered by the same Holy Spirit. Sometimes we think it would be nice to see and feel the Holy Spirit as He works in us and through us. That is the source of the drive that lies behind the Pentecostal denominations. They want to see it and feel it, and they want to have the same sense of wonder that the Disciples must have felt as they experienced their Pentecost. But that is not the plan of God.
Pentecost was something unique. God was doing something in a remarkable way so that it would be clear what He was doing and that He had done it. He provided His Church with His on-going presence, and did so with a visible and audible illustration of the gift. He even duplicated the gift to some small extent with what is called the Pentecost of the Gentiles, in the home of Cornelius the Centurion, also as Peter preached to them. He did it then to make it unmistakably clear to the Disciples that we Gentiles were also welcome to the Holy Spirit and the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Pentecost was about beginning the Church in earnest, and confirming His presence and activity in it by these signs. Having made His point, God has expected us to walk by faith and not by sight ever since.
God has not left Himself without a sign, mind you. Callie, here this morning is one of those signs – as she confirms what the Holy Spirit worked in here through her baptism and confessed for her by her sponsors all those years ago. God simply is not going about doing those flashy Pentecost things all of the time. Too much proving Himself like that all of the time, and it is no longer faith, it is sight. Besides, if every Sunday were like Pentecost, then rushing wind and flames and foreign languages would become ordinary, every day, and people would be hankering for something really remarkable to prove God's work and presence among them.
If you are inclined to doubt that, just think about the Exodus. They had the pillar of cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night, and the miraculous daily gift of Manna. They still wandered into sin and idolatry. They still grumbled about God and His treatment of them - even complained about having to eat that stinking Manna - which initially they thought of as delightful! It didn't seem to strike them that they were eating a miracle, and it was free, and they didn't have to one whit of work for it. It was very quickly just every-day, ordinary.
God has given us the signs of His presence: Word and Sacrament. Instead of preachers who speak in new tongues, God has provided everything to be translated into our tongue - and then provided us preachers who speak our language. He has given us Bibles, and, in our day and age, education so that we can confirm the truth preached to us as Callie is going to do this morning, and not depend on the will of undependable "educated" men to teach us the truth. He has given us Baptism so that we, too, can witness the Holy Spirit being poured out on each one of us individually. We don't see the Spirit, but we see His work - and confess it as we go. And today, Callie Greenwaldt is going to confirm what you all witnessed on May 18, 2008 at her baptism.
The Lord has also given us the Lord's Supper in which we receive the true body and blood of Jesus Christ, and with it forgiveness, life and salvation. We can see it happen. We have a visible sign that God has each of us, individually, in mind, as He has arranged for the precious gifts of the Supper to be placed into our mouths individually – and speaks each of our names in Baptism, calling us His own. Callie will participate in that Holy Supper for the first time for herself today, taking her place as communicant member of Immanuel and of the body of Christ – the Church.
So what if some doubt or do not see it or believe it? There were those who stood in the crowd on that first Pentecost and grumbled. They accused the disciples of being drunk. They paid no mind to the enormous sound of the rushing wind. They ignored those flames on the heads of the disciples. They were unimpressed by the fact that the speech of the disciples was making sense to others in their home-town language. They took it all in and called it bogus, and said they didn't see or hear anything but a bunch of drunks. Is it any wonder that men do not believe God's Word about Baptism, and refuse to believe that the Lord's Supper is a Sacramental miracle? They could pick up Manna every morning and complain that it was tiresome and dull and nothing special.
What is amazing is that any of God's people even listen to those so slow of heart and dull of wit and unbelieving.
Pentecost started the Church. Nothing has changed, really, since then. It is still the message which God has given us to speak. He still pushes us out there and makes us speak it, even when it gets us into trouble. Every little bit of the good that is accomplished by the Church is by the Word preached, and the power of the Holy Spirit, who is still doing what Acts 2:47 says, "And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." Today we mark Callie. She was added thirteen years ago, but she will confirm that she is one of us - she is confirming, not being confirmed!
What was the message with all of that power? Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and also true man, bore our guilt and sins to the cross, and there died personally innocent but wearing our guilt and shame to redeem us. He nailed our sins to His cross, and paid the justice of God the price due for sin – death. He paid that price for each and every one of us, and has given to us His righteousness and holds out eternal life to all who will simply trust Him, take Him at His Word and believe. Callie, your sins are forgiven, and God has given you the gift of everlasting life. He will even raise your body from its grave, one day, and outfit you for life with no more death, no more sickness, and no sorrow or pain. It is the gift of God, for the sake and on account of Jesus Christ. Such is the love of God for you.
You will confess that for yourself today, to the joy of the entire congregation. It is a present reality. It is, however, a reality we do not witness with our senses. God tells us, and invites us to believe Him, and learning of His good will and love for us, to trust Him the way Adam and Eve should have.
We, like the Disciples, have been filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit. He is the reason we believe - or can believe. His is the message we proclaim, and He is the power behind our preaching and teaching, and your confessing of Christ. He pushes us out to speak and to do. The signs are here, and the wonders -- and today, you are one of them for us. The really amazing thing about Pentecost was not the show. It was the gift of the Holy Spirit: the Comforter and the Earnest of salvation in each of us that believes. He was given then, and remains with us right up to the present moment, as you will confirm before us today!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
Sunday, June 05, 2022
Full to Overflowing