SERMON FOR THE DAY OF PENTECOST, 6-9-2019
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev Michael C. Larson
Introit: Psalm 68
Old Testament Reading: Genesis 11:1-9
Epistle Reading: Acts 2:1-21
Gospel Reading: John 14:23-31
Before we get into this feast of Pentecost I want you to remember what you heard read to you last week, on the day of Our Lord’s Ascension. Because there you saw that the book of Acts actually begins with a question from the disciples. The disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answers them: “It’s not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority…But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of earth.” In other words, the kingdom of God comes when the Holy Spirit comes. And the Kingdom comes when those disciples, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will preach the Word of God.
This is precisely what we learn in our Small Catechism, when the Christian prays, “Thy Kingdom Come.” What does this mean? The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also. And how does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.
Now you have a word for God’s kingdom. You say, church, and it may not always look like much to you – but our eyes can be deceiving. In truth, it is a glorious kingdom – filled with baptized and believing Christians – hearing preaching and believing the Word of the Cross – it is a kingdom where there is repentance and faith in the Gospel – a kingdom where is uninterrupted forgiveness of sins – and then in turn good works of mercy and sacrificial love to the neighbor. It’s a kingdom where there is also the sign of the holy cross – suffering and affliction – being conformed to the image of Him who has loved us and gave Himself sacrificially in death for us. And in this great kingdom there is also great comfort and consolation of eternal life with God and the eating and drinking of His Supper. The great joy and comfort also of His final deliverance and rescue when He comes again in great glory.
It’s the church. It may not always look like much to you, but just open your eyes and see things as God sees them. A glorious church, without spot or wrinkle. A holy city, a holy people, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. It is a kingdom with twelve gates, with angels welcoming those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. There is a King in this Kingdom. There are royal subjects and crowns to wear. There are thrones to sit on. What’s more, there is plenty of eating and drinking, laughing and singing, dancing and play, blessed communion with God in the fellowship of heaven. A Kingdom unlike any other.
Ten days ago on the Feast of the Ascension the disciples asked, “Lord, when will you restore the kingdom? When will the kingdom come?” And now today, fifty days after Easter – the outpost, the settlement of this coming kingdom, truly begins in wonderful ways. For down from heaven comes a sound like a mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire coming to rest upon the twelve apostles. Being surrounded by people of many nations and different languages, the apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in tongues.
Now don’t you let this speaking in tongues business confuse you! Upon hearing the preaching of the apostles, who were speaking in tongues, all those folks from different countries and tribes said this: “We hear, we understand, in our own tongue, in our own language, the mighty works of God” – that is, they heard the Gospel! The proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus for the life of the world.
In other words, the apostles are not getting worked up and speaking gibberish, with the tongues thing – don’t let is throw you! No way! The apostles are preaching Jesus in a clear and convincing way – proclaiming His cross and resurrection victory over the grave for the forgiveness of sins. Not convinced? Just read Peter’s Pentecost sermon which follows. He preached from the prophet Joel and from the Psalms of David, showing that the Scriptures all testified of Christ.
Peter preaches the law: You, you people, you crucified and killed this Jesus! Your sins killed Jesus. Your rebellion necessitated the death of God’s only begotten Son. Those who heard this preaching were cut to the heart. That’s the preaching of the law, and they cried, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit! Now, that’s the Gospel!
And baptized they were, 3000, that day. And they devoted themselves to the outpost, to the beachhead, of God’s new creation and kingdom breaking in among them. There, in Christ’s church, those Christians devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. They participated in one another’s lives, in sacrificial love, they ate and drank with one another. They thanked God.
Today on Pentecost as you reflect on the readings, just go ahead and marvel at this miraculous event – a mighty rushing wind from heaven! Divided tongues as of fire! Marvel at those apostles filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in languages that every nation in the world can understand. Simply amazing!
But I also don’t want you to miss the ordinariness of it all! On the day of Pentecost, in Acts, it’s a congregation gathered from many different walks of life, just like us! And there they are at 9am on the Lord Day, a Sunday morning, just like us. And there Peter, a pastor, stands up and preaches a sermon from the Scriptures with Christ at the center, just like us. The congregation acknowledges their sin, and their need for a Savior. Again, just like us! They repent. They are baptized. Even the little children, the child saints confess Jesus, and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully, just like us. They pray, they give sacrificially. They grow in faith toward God. They live in love toward one another.
I hope you see it! Sure, the signs on that first Pentecost Sunday are dazzling, but consider the Spirit’s work among you. Just look at all of you hear today, different races and faces and languages from very different backgrounds. The Word of God, again calling you to repentance, faith, and a holy life through the blood of Christ. The joy of Pentecost continues this day. Children are baptized and confess Jesus. Marriages are strengthened and saved. Sinners are comforted by the word of the Gospel. Even this very morning, a child saint will stand before this congregation, and by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, will confess her faith. Oh, what a miracle of the Holy Spirit. A miracle of Pentecost!
For were is not for the gift of the Holy Spirit, none of us would know anything of Christ and His Gospel. Were it not for Pentecost, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, each and every one of us would be thorough atheists by the end of the day!
But you, dear Christians, are also children of the miracle of Pentecost, a celebration and feast which goes on. Where we celebrate the miracle of faith created and sustained by the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit who hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation, who descended upon you in your baptism, remains and abides with you. Marvel also at the Spirit’s work among us.
Above all, Pentecost is a miracle of Words. Words that reverse the curse of the tower of Babel – words that unite us in the bonds of Christian fellowship and love. Words that unite us with God, and each in love, toward one another. Marvel at the miracle of Words the Holy Spirit brings from the mouth of Jesus: words like, “your sins are forgiven.” Words like “drink of it, all of you, this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Words like “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” Words like “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Words like “Behold, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
The disciples asked the Lord about when and how He would bring about His Kingdom. Today, on Pentecost, we receive the answer as we see how that kingdom comes. By the giving of the Holy Spirit, through faith created in the hearts of all believers, and by the means of grace, in preaching, baptism, and the Holy Supper.
Today we celebrate the inbreaking of the kingdom of God which has truly come and is coming. We plant our feet on the beachhead of that glorious kingdom of God, and we have a foretaste of the feast to come.
Our Lord, Jesus, gives us here such a great mystery! And simply says to his disciples, “Behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” May God grant us hearts to believe this! In the name of Jesus. Amen.