Sermon from Sunday May 31th 2009 / Pentecost Sunday
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / May 31st, 2009, Pentecost Sunday
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And 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.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
(Acts 2:1-21 ESV)
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Telling others about Jesus can be difficult. Depending where you are it might even be dangerous. There is a temptation to keep quiet because we don’t want to look foolish; we don’t want to be accused of being “drunk” or stupid. But Jesus doesn’t call His disciples to be timid to shrink back and go with the flow. Could you imagine going to Mecca during the Hajj and standing up to talk about Jesus (not as a prophet but Jesus as God and Saviour).
Or maybe the temptation isn’t to keep quiet concerning Jesus: maybe the temptation is to be like the crowd who are initially resistant to the words of Peter and the apostles. Have you ever been tempted to mock God’s word? Have you remained silent in a situation where God’s word was being mocked? Or are you tired of hearing sermons about Jesus: Would you rather hear some how-to sermons: Maybe something on ‘jump starting’ your boring Christian life? Is there a little, or not so little, part of you that sees the preacher get into the pulpit and says, “oh, here we go again!?”
Jesus often used this little phrase when talking to people, when preaching God’s word to them, He would say, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Saint Paul says that hearing the word of God is essential – by hearing the word God, does miraculous things. In Romans Paul writes, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” In the Wilderness in front of the dry bones God commands Ezekiel to speak to them, even though they are dry bones and have no ear drums, or flesh of any kind, even though they have no brains or intellect because their skulls are empty and dry. The Holy Spirit is exceedingly powerful, all powerful, omnipotent and can use the poorest of preachers and driest of bones, the most obstinate of listeners and unresponsive listeners to produce saving faith.
On that day when the miracle of the Holy Spirit was beginning to happen in Jerusalem Peter is clear right off the bat that he and the others were not drunk. They had waited in Jerusalem, as Jesus asked them to do, for the Holy Spirit. And it was the Holy Spirit who came to them with tongues like burning flame, in the sound of a rushing wind from heaven. Today we are going to look at the day of Pentecost is a little different way. Hopefully we will hit a couple of details that aren’t often discussed.
Let’s start with the question of why were all these people, from all around the ancient world, all in Jerusalem? The day of Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks was and is a festival connected to the feast of Passover. The Jewish feast of Pentecost happens 50 days after the Passover feast. Why? Well because Passover celebrates the Exodus when God, using Moses, saved His people from slavery by releasing them from the captivity of Egypt: miraculously parting the Red Sea and leading His people safely to the other side on dry ground. Pentecost celebrates the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, when 50 days after the Exodus God gives the law to Moses. Over the years this day marked what we would recognize as a thanksgiving sort of holiday. The people present from all over the ancient world were there because they were Jewish and had come for these two feasts. Have you ever driven to your Mom and Dad’s house for thanksgiving dinner, to eat, to drink to visit; well this is what this feast of Pentecost is like in some ways. In the Church we have a thanksgiving themed service near the time that we harvest our wheat and the Jewish people also had worship services focused on this, with wheat offerings on Pentecost: So all these visitors in Jerusalem had been there for the remembrance of the Passover, the Exodus, and the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, to give thanks to the Almighty for all His gifts to them.
When Peter says to the crowd: "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” When Peter says these words, the crowd is not without knowledge of the events of which Peter speaks, they can’t plead ignorant or dumb; they know who Jesus is, they had heard of Him, maybe even seen Him with their own eyes, heard Him with their own ears.
Here is an example: have you heard about the recent financial difficulties of companies like General Motors? Or Dodge? Have you heard about the economic downturn? Sure you have: that is the news of the day. The people in Jerusalem had heard about what was going on, the news was on the street.
It’s tempting to think that these people just rolled into town and that 3,000 of them were baptized based on the power of Peters preaching that day, but that isn’t what happened: when you look at the whole story you see that the Holy Spirit is the one who creates faith in the person and the Holy Spirit uses the word of God to accomplish this, He uses the life and circumstances of the person to reach them with that word. That day He used Peter’s preaching and the hands of the Apostles to baptise those who came to saving faith by the Power of the Holy Spirit. The promise Jesus gave the disciples in John chapter 15 was coming true before their eyes on the feast of Pentecost. Jesus’ promise of a Comforter, a Helper: the very Holy Spirit comes true for us in this place and in our lives here and now. Live the life given to you by the Holy Spirit in your baptism, live the life won for you upon the cross by Jesus in His death and naturally the Holy Spirit will bear fruit through you like He does through all those who trust and believe in Jesus Christ and the forgiveness His Body and Blood brings to a world that is broken and destroyed by the mistakes and sins of mankind.
That year, at that time; the set of circumstance that the people listening to Peter’s sermon experienced that day were of celebration of these feasts (Passover and Pentecost): in Revelation 21:5 Jesus says “Behold, I am making all things new.” And in His Last Supper and His death upon the cross for your sins and mine Jesus made Passover new: and in the sending of the Holy Spirit, the Helper the Comforter Jesus makes the feast of Pentecost new.
Even though the people standing there that day, the ones who joked and thought the disciples might be drunk, knew who Jesus was: Even though they had been in town around the same time as the crucifixion, even though they may have heard rumours of Jesus’ resurrection this does not mean that they believed and put their faith and trust in Jesus. They stood there that day without saving faith. They were dead in their trespasses; they knew that the wages of sin are death and while they ate and drank and shopped and worked and slept and loved they were as dead as the dry bones in the wilderness that we heard about in the Old Testament reading in Ezekiel. Without faith in Jesus Christ we are all dead and we have no eternal life in us. Yet Jesus says “Behold, I am making all things new.” Jesus is not just making the feast of Pentecost new in the Lord’s Supper and He is not just making Baptism new in the feast of Pentecost: Jesus is making you new. Listen to what God promises in Ezekiel, listen to what He will do with the dry bones and imagine that He is doing it with you: Gods says, “Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord. … and I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live.” In Christ Jesus this is accomplished with the Holy Spirit.
For the Church the day of Pentecost is a celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit: for each of us it is a celebration of what Jesus has done for us; a celebration of the fact that Jesus makes us new. Saint Paul describes it in this way: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Forgiveness is in Christ Jesus alone and by the Holy Spirit we have faith in this truth; “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And remember that even if you don’t feel like an new creation, if you rather feel like dry bones, keep in mind that Paul doesn’t say “if anyone is in Christ, he will feel like an new creation” what Paul says is that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Praise be to Jesus. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Mark 4:23