Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost

"The Spirit of Fire and Truth"

Acts 2:1-4

June 4, 2017

Today is Pentecost. It is the third major festival of the church year. It is the celebration of God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is often called the quiet member of the Holy Trinity. Although unseen, His work is vital to us and for our salvation. We confess the words of the catechism, "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith."

Acts 2:1-4. When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

It is only through the work of the Holy Spirit that we are gathered here this morning. How did it happen that we are connected to the church? Most of you would say that it's a family connection. The generations that have preceded you passed on the faith. Missionaries like St. Ansgar took the Gospel to the German and Viking tribes of northern Europe. Your ancestors received the Gospel. One generation told the next. It's like a strawberry plant that sends out its runners. New roots develop and new plants are formed from the old.

Let's ask the Lutheran question: what does this mean? What's the importance of Pentecost to and for us? Pentecost is the fulfillment what was begun with the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan River. The Holy Spirit anointed Jesus at His baptism "to bring glad tidings to the poor . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives . . . and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." [Luke 4:18-19]. Now, the Holy Spirit who anointed Jesus is being given by our risen Lord to the church. Through the Holy Spirit, repentance for the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to all nations.

Do you see the connection here? In His baptism at the Jordan River, Jesus is anointed with the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost Our Lord now bestows the Holy Spirit on His people. Without the Holy Spirit, there would be no faith in the world. The activity of the Holy Spirit is now directed towards the preaching of the Word. That proclamation of the Word will lead to baptism and faith in Jesus Christ. Beginning from Jerusalem, the Gospel has been preached to every generation. The Good News has spread from Jerusalem to the very ends of the earth.

On the day of Pentecost faithful Jews were gathered from all over the world. Like Jews today, they spoke the language of the nations where they lived. Not all of them could speak or understand the language of the apostles. Enter the Holy Spirit. Not only did He anoint the apostles with power from on high with the tongues of fire but He gave them the ability to speak a language foreign to them. They spoke fluently a language they had never studied or spoken before. They spoke that language for the benefit of others who did know and understand.

The languages of Pentecost were all different but the message was the same: repent and believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Nothing has changed some 2000 years later. Many different languages fill the world but the message of the Gospel remains unchanged.

In the gift of the many languages we see the purpose of the church. It is to preach the Gospel to the whole world. From the very beginning, the gift of language shows us the intended universality of the outreach of the church. When the disciples received the gift to speak in many different languages, they were enabled to address the many people gathered in Jerusalem.

From the day of Pentecost onward, the Holy Spirit will come only through the witness of the Word. The church is gathered only where the Gospel is proclaimed. Today the words of St. Paul echo to and among us: "But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says: "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us? So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." [Romans 10:14-17]

The promise and gift of the Holy Spirit will cut through and break down ethnic, cultural and linguistic barriers. The Holy Spirit makes us all one in Christ. The call of the Holy Spirit to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness are for all people without distinction. Like a wild fire, the fire of Pentecost has spread into the world. Wherever the Word is preached, the Holy Spirit is active. Since the Spirit works through means, the Word and Sacraments, it is our task to bring the Word into the world.

This morning the message of Pentecost is the same as it was to the people gathered in Jerusalem with the apostles. It's two pronged. First, we tell the next generation and those among us of the love of Christ. Secondly, we tell others beginning here in St. Ansgar to the ends of the earth. In order proclaim the Gospel where we are unable to go, we support our seminaries and send money to missions. This is the reason for our very existence. When we no longer teach the faith to our children, when no longer proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth, we have no purpose to exist.

The Holy Spirit is the messenger of the Gospel truth. In this age of relativity where we are told there are no absolute truths, the Holy Spirit will give us boldness to believe and proclaim the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is truth and there are lies. There is right and there is wrong. There is sin but there is also forgiveness. There may be times of despair but there is also hope. As His witnesses, you will receive a spirit of boldness and confidence as you share the truth of the Gospel in the witness of your life.

By God's grace, the Gospel is proclaimed to and through us today. The Holy Spirit comes to strengthen and encourage us in our witness. He assures us of the love and forgiveness we have in Jesus Christ in the sacrament. Like the people on the day of Pentecost, we are empowered to go into the world sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. The peace of the Lord be with you today and forever. Amen.


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