O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Words remembered and proclaimed
Words remembered and proclaimed
Based on Gen. 11, Acts 2 and John 14
Preached on May 19, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints and temples of the Spirit of Jesus, happy Birthday! That's right. It is the Day of Pentecost, what is also called the birthday of the Church. Today is the day we celebrate that Jesus sent us His Spirit, the day the Church was publicly born, when by His Spirit, Jesus began to publicly preach His Word and administer His Sacraments. It is a day of great clarity and understanding. A day of unity and glory, for the Spirit of Jesus has come to His people as He promised.
But is clarity what you really take out of our readings? When you think of the Day of Pentecost, is the word that describes it "understanding"? I highly doubt it. It seems complicated. It tends to generate more questions than it answers. Perhaps I better just leave it alone. But haven't you ever wondered what is really going on at Pentecost? Wouldn't you like to know how Jesus continues to work by His Spirit today?
The path to understanding Pentecost begins in our Old Testament reading at the tower of Babel. There God's people, fresh off the ark, wasted no time creating false gods and false teachings and false worship. Having only one language, they worked well together, and built a tall temple with its top in the heavens to make a name for themselves. So God came down, confused their language and dispersed them over the face of all the earth. False teaching and false worship resulted in God confusing speech and scattering people.
Then the path leads through the Gospel reading into the upper room, to Jesus' last night with His disciples before His death. Jesus had much to teach them, too much for them to remember, but He told them not to worry for the Holy Spirit would be sent to them. He said, "The Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." In other words, "My Spirit will remind you about my Word. He will help you remember the truth I have taught you."
Then the path continues into another room where the disciples had gathered for the day of Pentecost. Our text says, Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it [this sound] 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 filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them utterance.
What's more, this sound was so loud that a large multitude of Jews came together to investigate. Now these devout men were from every nation under heaven, but they happened to be in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost. They didn't live in Jerusalem, so they had time to kill. When they heard this sound, they had to check it out, only to find the disciples preaching Christ crucified in their languages from home.
What is going on here? What does it all mean? Where has this path led us?
The first thing to notice is that Christ has reversed the confusion He created at Babel. Where He caused false teaching and false worship to become nothing but babble, here He causes true teaching and true worship to be understandable, intelligible and clear to the hearer. Where He dispersed people over the face of all the earth, now He draws them back together in the Spirit and Word of Christ. God wants people to understand the Word of Christ being proclaimed and to be made one by it. As Paul writes, there is one body and one Spirit - one Lord, one faith, one baptism. The Spirit of Christ speaks the Word of Christ. He makes the Word of Christ clear.
The second thing to notice is what happens when true teaching and true worship are born. Peter begins preaching. His first sermon. We might say he suddenly remembers things that Jesus had said. He gives the entire account of Jesus' life, death and resurrection and finishes it all off saying, "Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." Those who hear this are cut to the heart and ask "brothers, what shall we do?" "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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off." Immediately they are baptized and devote themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. What happens? Preaching. Baptism. The Breaking of the Bread. The Spirit of Jesus comes down upon His disciples bringing true teaching and true worship to unite His people, and what do we see? Preaching. Baptism and the Lord's Supper. We see Jesus in His preached Word and Sacrament. The holy means of grace. The special means Christ established to deliver His forgiveness to His people. To give them faith. To bring His kingdom. To save them. The Holy Spirit comes and we see exactly how He creates faith in the hearts of ungodly sinners - with Word and Sacrament. Preaching. Baptism and the Lord's Supper. This is what Pentecost is all about - the birth of Christ's Church with Christ's Spirit in worship.
But what about the speaking in tongues and the tongues of fire? What was all that for? It was important. Christ told His apostles He was sending them into all the world to preach, but He did this in a closed room. Pentecost was the day He publicly marked them as His chosen apostles. He gave them instant credibility in the whole world. For all those Jews visiting Jerusalem would return home, ready to welcome the apostles into their cities and synagogues. You heard the list of places which I could barely pronounce, and I will not be saying again. They were from everywhere, and the apostles were given a welcome home in every place. So don't expect to see preachers suddenly speak in other languages today, and don't expect to see tongues as of fire appear and rest on anyone, this was a public marking of Christ's chosen apostles. This was Christ's way of getting His Preaching Baptism and Supper out into the whole world.
So what can you expect? What is Pentecost for you? Does Jesus continue to work by His Spirit today? All the time. The Holy Spirit comes every time the Word is preached. He comes in every baptism. He comes every time a pastor speaks the Word of our Lord over bread and wine as Christ's people hope to feast on His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. These are all Pentecosts. They are still the only way the Holy Spirit delivers forgiveness. The only way He creates and strengthens faith. The only way He brings His kingdom and saves His people. They are the Word of Christ remembered, and the Word of Christ proclaimed. As Jesus said, "The Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."
This is what makes confirmation so special today. For today confirmands, you are publicly remembering what happened in your baptism. You are publicly proclaiming that the Spirit of Jesus who came to you in the waters of holy baptism, who united you to Christ and gave you new birth has kept you in the true faith, the true teaching, the true worship of Almighty God. And today you will partake of His Holy Supper.
Today confirmands, you are reminding all of us of our baptism, you are proclaiming to us this saving truth - that the Spirit of Jesus who has come to us in the waters of holy baptism, who has united us to Christ given us new birth will keep us all in the true faith, the true teaching, the true worship of God in His preached Word and Sacrament. This was the first Pentecost, it has been every Pentecost since, even today, even right now in this Word, and it will be every Pentecost until the end of time. Fellow baptized saints and temples of the Spirit of Jesus, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words, this Jesus whom you crucified still comes lovingly comes to you in His Word and Sacrament, delivering you forgiveness, life and salvation by the power of His Holy Spirit. God has made Him both Lord and Christ, but He is Lord and Christ for you. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr