The Day of Pentecost
The Day of Pentecost (A)
June 12, 2011
Text: Acts 2:1-21; John 7:37-39
Pentecost, an Old Testament harvest festival fulfilled in our Lord’s New Testament Church as the Holy Spirit is poured out on the disciples in Jerusalem, resulting in a great spiritual harvest by the preaching of the Gospel. The Spirit comes as a mighty rushing wind filling the entire house where the congregation is gathered, and tongues of fire rest on the disciples’ heads as they speak the Gospel in foreign languages they had previously never studied. Beloved, the Spirit still comes today and fills the house where the congregation is gathered. We don’t get to hear and see the spectacular display of power these disciples in the early Church were privileged to witness. We don’t get the mighty rushing wind. There are no tongues of fire over our heads. None of us miraculously begin to speak the Gospel in foreign languages we’ve never before studied. And yet, the Pentecost miracle continues even today. The wind, the fire, the speaking in tongues are not the main things that happen in our text. For after these things, the greater miracles take place, the lasting miracles, the miracles that continue to happen today, even though we don’t recognize them as such. Here is what I mean: Peter stands up and preaches a sermon, Law and Gospel. And he doesn’t just pull it out of thin air or out of his own imagination. He preaches on a text of Holy Scripture, from the Prophet Joel, chapter 2, verses 28-32. We get the first part of his sermon in our text this morning. But as the account continues beyond our text in Acts chapter 2, we learn that the Spirit comes to the hearers through the proclamation of the Word. They are cut to the heart and desperately inquire of Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37; ESV). The Law of God has brought them to a realization of their sin and their lost condition. And Peter responds with the precious words of the Gospel, “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, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (vv. 38-39). So they do. They repent of their sins and come to Baptism for the forgiveness of sins, men and women, adults and children, even infants, for Peter says explicitly here that the promise is for you and your children! And about three thousand souls are added to the Church that day (v. 41). And then they do what you do as members of the Church: “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (v. 42), which is just another way of saying they attended the Divine Service, listening to the Scripture readings and sermons, receiving the Lord’s Supper, and praying the liturgy.
So you see, the miracle of Pentecost continues right up to this very day, in this very place, among you. You may not witness the mighty rushing wind, the tongues of fire, or the speaking of tongues, but you have the greater miracles going on right now: The miracle of preaching, repentance, Baptism, the Communion of Saints, the Lord’s Supper, and the Prayers. It’s just the regular stuff that goes on in the Church. But in every case it is miraculous, because the Spirit is active in these things, bestowing faith in Jesus Christ and strengthening believers to remain steadfast unto the end.
And so finally the Pentecost event is what we celebrate in the rite of Confirmation. Today we rejoice in the Holy Spirit’s work in Curtis Ihle, Hannah Kelsey, Laura Scott, and Hannah Stark. For the Holy Spirit came upon them when they were baptized. They came to faith by water and the Word, and ever since they have lived the life of the Baptized, God’s own child, they gladly say it; gladly hearing and learning the Word; daily repenting of their sins and clinging to the Word of forgiveness in Jesus Christ; participating in the liturgy and the prayers of the Church, singing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; and finally, today, after much prayer and careful study of God’s Word, they join us at the Table of the Lord to receive His true body and blood for their forgiveness, life, and salvation. It is a concrete example of Acts chapter 2 happening right here before your very eyes. It’s a miracle!
It’s a miracle, because just like you and like every other son and daughter of Adam and Eve, the only exception being our Lord Jesus, these four dear children of our congregation were born in utter spiritual blindness, dead, enemies of God. This is called original sin. It means that you are not born a Christian, nor are you born with the ability to become a Christian or make a decision of your own free will to be a Christian. You have no natural inclination toward the one true God. You’re born dead, and you can do everything a dead man can do, which is to say, not a thing! If life is to enter you, if you are to live again and if there is to be spiritual light for you to see and believe, if you are to love God and live in fellowship with Him, this must come from outside of you. And it does. God does not leave you in death. He re-creates you and brings you to new life. What happens at the baptismal font is a re-run of the creation of the world. There you are, dead in your trespasses and sins, and your believing parents, by no choice of your own, bring you to the font, where God the Father speaks His creating Word, the Son, our Lord Jesus into the water. And the Spirit is hovering over the waters, just like at the creation of the world. And by His Word, God breathes His life-giving Spirit into you, just as He breathed the breath of life into Adam, so that now you are no longer dead, but living, no longer blind, but believing (because God has said, “Let there be light!”), no longer enemies of God, but lovers of God, dear children of God who love Him and trust in Him for all things needful. It is the creation miracle and the Pentecost miracle all wrapped into one, happing in real time to ordinary people at ordinary churches throughout the world. And it happened to you.
In just a few moments, these four baptized saints in Christ Jesus, will stand before God and this congregation to make their good confession, to solemnly vow that they would suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from this Christian faith which they have learned from the Scriptures and the Small Catechism. This is serious business, to say that you’d rather die than deny the Savior and His teaching. And it’s a miracle, because as St. Paul writes, “no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Your confession of Christ is the fruit of your Baptism and a testimony of the Spirit’s work in your heart and mind and soul. The Lord here opens your lips that your mouth may declare His praise and confess His holy Name. This is, in fact, the promise Jesus makes to us in the Gospel lesson this morning. “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive” (John 7:38-39). You see, faith and the Spirit always go together. The Spirit is the One who gives you faith in the first place, so that you believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. And the Spirit is always present in and with faith, so that out of your heart flow rivers of living water, which is to say that the water that flowed from our Lord’s pierced side into the font and over your head now flows through you in the confession of Christ and deeds of love done for the benefit of your neighbor. This is all the work of the Spirit in you. Your confession this morning, your vow to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from your Lord, this is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. This is Pentecost once again happening before our very eyes. You may not be speaking your confession in foreign languages previously unknown to you, but the tongue with which you speak is just as miraculous. For it is a Spirit-filled word that you speak, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, by His grace and His activity in you. Moses exclaimed in the Old Testament lesson this morning, “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (Num. 11:29). And Peter quoted the prophet Joel in our text from Acts (2:17), “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” Beloved in the Lord, don’t miss the miracle this morning. These Scriptures are fulfilled this day in your hearing.
Preaching, repentance, Baptism, the forgiveness of sins, the Communion of Saints, the breaking of the bread in the Lord’s Supper, the Prayers, all the common, routine stuff of the Church. And all of it, miraculous. In all of it, the Spirit imparts Himself, imparts faith, imparts Jesus, who by His holy, precious blood and innocent suffering and death, restores us to the Father as God’s own dear children. It’s a miracle! Through these means the Lord continues to gather in His Pentecost harvest. Behold, the fruits of the Spirit in these four young Christians who make their good confession this morning. And rejoice as they come with you for the first time to the altar of God, to receive the Lord’s true body and blood. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.