Sermon for The Feast of Pentecost - Luther Memorial Chapel, Shorewood, Wisconsin Pastor Michael Larson 5/24/2020
Readings: Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:23-31
This is a Pentecost unlike any other for us. The words that particularly strike me from our reading this morning comes from the Book of Acts: “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."
God caused the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to be preached in a simple way to folks in different languages. And at this Spirit filled preaching of the Gospel “the multitude came together.” Now those particularly are the words that really ought to stick with us this morning, “the multitude came together.” All sorts of folks who had been separated and spread out. The Parthians and Medes, and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, folks from Rome, Cretans and Arabians. Think about all of the Jewish people, the ones dispersed from the Assyrians and the fall of Israel in 722. Consider all those exiles who were carried off and dispersed during the Babylonian Captivity. In a very small way here cannot we not relate!?
But now here they are being led in a procession up to the Temple Mount. They are coming together. And at the center of it all Peter stands up and begins to preach: “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, was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, He was crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it....This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses...Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
The Holy Spirit was busy at work in those who heard Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Those who heard this preaching were “cut to the heart.” They recognized that their rebellion and sinfulness had brought about the death of God’s own Son. “What shall we do?” they cried out. “How can we be saved?” Peter told 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.” This is the goal of all Spirit filled preaching! To lay before the people their sins, their great need for salvation, and to drive them to Christ, who is our refuge and strength! This preaching of Peter brought about repentance and faith in the Gospel that Pentecost. That Christ was crucified for their sins and raised for their justification. The folks that day received the message and 3,000 men, women, and little children took the plunge and were baptized, 3,000 souls in all, joined to Jesus death and resurrection and added to God’s holy family, His church.
At the Spirit-filled sound of the preaching of the Gospel the multitude came together. They worshiped the crucified and Risen Lord. Let this be so also among us!
In our first reading this morning we heard about rebel man, drunk on pride and evil, building the Tower of Babel, obsessed with his own achievements. So the Holy Trinity came right on down, frustrated their communication with one another, causing them to disperse. But it was ultimately for this this very moment, for which they were being prepared. The Lord was preparing to gather all mankind, and to bless all nations in the birth of the living Word, Jesus, from the line of Shem.
Today as we come together, what have you learned from your exile? This dispersion (diaspora). Let us first know that COVID-19 is just one more example of the curse of the fall. That’s God’s action of subjecting the creation to decay as a consequence of man’s sin. In this action, God gave over the world to the dominion of Satan and the depravity of the sinful flesh, all to remind us that we are fallen creatures in need of Christ’s salvation.
What have you learned during your time of exile? Perhaps you were reminded that this world which is passing away is more unstable than what you thought. And that’s good! Maybe those institutions, scientists, and leaders we place so much trust don’t measure up to all our expectations? And that’s ok too. Maybe individualism and just being left alone isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, either? God alone is our refuge and strength! Our very present help in comfort! Whatever poverty or pain we’ve experienced, it reminds us that our hearts are truly restless until they find their rest in God. And so we come to His church, gathered by the Spirit of God, for comfort and consolation.
This morning Jesus comforts His disciples with the promise of the Holy Spirit. And we’re not talking about tongues of fire and a rushing of wind. That was great on the day of Pentecost but let’s not get carried out with the wrapping paper. Because the real gift of Pentecost is the preaching of the Gospel. Jesus says He will send the Holy Spirit to teach you and bring to your remembrance all that He has spoken and continues to speak, namely, that your sins are forgiven, atoned for by the blood of Him who sets you free. And now He who has risen from the grave and ascended to the right hand of the Father, He rules with power and dominion – everything now at His feet.
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.”
Folks, the Spirit poured out upon the chosen apostles on this day landed on you too! Don’t forget that! Happened right in your baptism just as it did for the 3,000 on the day of Pentecost. The Lord wants nothing more than to keep pouring the Spirit into you. Not just through your Baptism, but through your hearing of the Word, where He is always at work to strengthen your faith, and through the Supper, where by the Spirit’s power Christ feeds you with His body and blood, constantly renewing the forgiveness of sins.
On the Feast of Pentecost the multitude came together to receive the Holy Spirit and bask in the love of God. Let us all this morning rejoice and resolve to let the Spirit again take up residence in our hearts, who with the Father and the Son, is one God now and forever. Amen. In the name of Jesus. Amen.