"Speaking the other language" / Sermon / Pr. Lucas Albrecht / Pentecost Day / May 20th 2018 - / Acts 2:1-12
Text: Acts 2:1-12
Theme: “Speaking the other language”
Intr – What language other than English do you feel able to speak? You might say “I can only speak English, Pastor. That’s it.” I would guess though, that you can speak at least one more language besides your mother tongue.
Today we celebrate Pentecost, when we remember the miracle of the tongues of fire in Jerusalem. The disciples spoke in different languages to reach different people and nations with the Gospel.
Do you think this gift can be manifested still today? Well, God is God and He surely can do it whenever and if it pleases Him. Reality is though, that we don’t see it very often, I mean, as a event where you see someone, or you yourself starting to speak a language that is completely unknown to them. But I am sure we all can speak to this day, and almost every day, another language. The language that our neighbour understands.
1 – Speaking the nations’ language – Pentecost
Speaking of that Pentecost in Jerusalem, could we have a guess on why that special gift was poured out on the disciples?
I would say that this may be read as a “Divine push” on the disciples to start doing what Jesus commanded them, that is, sharing the Gospel with all the world. But it also shows that God is always the One doing the job. We will try to do our best, but our best is never sufficient, Our sufficiency comes from God, from the Holy Spirit. He goes ahead of us opening the doors for the Gospel.
Now, in that specific day, there was a communication issue: different languages were involved, not only Greek or Hebrew/Aramaic, as people from different areas were present. Then the Holy Spirit came to change the stituation. At the very outset of the missionary endeavour of the Christian Church, God gives two powerful tips to them:
_It is God the Holy Spirit who is The Missionary. The apostles, and all Christians by extension, are the instruments of His work.
_When we speak the language that our neighbour is able to understand, they receive through ears and eyes, in their hearts, the message of the Messiah.
Let’s take a break here to speak specifically about the gift of speaking in tongues. First thing, they spoke actual tongues, not new ones. No “tongue of the angels” type of thing. Now, would it still be possible today for a person, out of the blue, to start speaking a language they never learned? There has been some extensive debate on that. I would sum up the way we Lutherans look at it:
_Of course it may happen still today, since God is Almighty, and He may grant this gift when and if it pleases Him. Mark this well: HIM. Not me, not you, not any “anointed” pastor or minister, not in a specific day and time in my Church. If that happens, it is all HIS action.
-Now, if it comes to happen somewhere, it will have a clear purpose. St Paul instructs us: It is better for the Church that you would speak one word that everybody will understand than a thousand unintelligible words. Because it would be meant to build the Church up, and not as a talent show off.
What we can never admit, under no excuse or circumstance, is something I have heard sometimes, that Baptism with water is not sufficient. You need to be “Baptized in the Holy Spirit”, being the gift of speaking in tongues the main proof of it. If that didn’t happen to you yet, maybe it’s because you are a “second line” Christian. This is not only wrong, this is antibiblical. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is one and the same. There is only one Baptism. It doesn’t depend on how you feel, but is grounded solely in the Word of God.
Back from intermission. Back to the Pentecost feast as a whole. It is the feast of the Christian Church where we remember:
-God created a special event to make the Gospel be shared to the heart of thousands of people.
-God still creates special opportunities for us to speak another tongue.
“To speak another tongue? Which one?”
2 – Speaking another language - today
Yes, I am Sure God the Holy Spirit has enabled you to speak more than one language. I would guess that you had at least one opportunity during the past week to do so. Think about it:
_Someone you had a fight with and you have not reconciled yet;
_Someone you really admire but never expressed it to them – which would be of great help for them;
_Someone you love and have not for a long time said so. “I love you”;
_Some relationship that could be fosterd to grow into an opportunity to share your faith;
_Someone needing someone to listen to them, to lend a hand or a shoulder;
_Someone you have some problems with, and you keep saying to yourself: “I’m not taking the first step. He or she might as well do it and...”
_Someone in need that you would understand them, resulting in you being also able to speak the language they can understand.
_Above all, as Christians: there are many people around us, sometimes even inside our family, our our inner circle in need to hear the Gospel of hope, who need to be encouraged in their faith, who need to be drawn near to Jesus again. Someone in need of someone like you, who by the action and power of the Holy Spirit was given the precious gift of the marvelous, redeeming, freeing and consoling Word of God. The Word that provides strength, help, happiness and balance to life. Just like the disciples did. And 3,000 were baptized in that very day. You might be not leading as many to Christ; or leading them back to Him. It may be just one. That would cause the Heavens to throw a big party, as Jesus tells us in the parable of the lost sheep.
God gave this gift of speaking another person’s language to each Christian - because it is not a matter of speaking only; it is also a matter of looking, smiling, being close, crying with the mourners and being happy with the overjoyed, bringing a hug, showing love - not only in words, but in also deeds we speak the language our neighbour understands.
How can I draw a conclusion like this? One of the passages that underscores this understanding is Matthew 25, when Jesus depicts the Day of Judgment. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” We know we are not saved by works, it’s faith alone. But works follow faith. Works are the way God acts through us to show his Love and mercy to all. In a way then, Jesus said: For I was in such and such situation, and you came and spoke by faith the language I could understand.
CFW Walther writes: “We cannot think that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is something that happened to the apostles only. The same thing repeats itself every year. Because we along with the people at all times and in all places, can share in the main gift the apostles received: the gift of the Holy Ghost himself”.
God the Holy Ghost lit the fire of faith in our hearts at our Baptism, or at our conversion. He still outpours His gifts so that we can go and share the Gospel of Christ. Maybe it is not by chance that in the Holy Supper we receive Christ’s body and blood literally in our tongue, so that forgiven and strenghtened by Him we go and use our tongue to proclaim His Love to many. It may be in a different language other than our mother tongue, even out of our comfort zone tongue. We still are sent by Him to speak another language – the one that our neighbour will understand.
Cc – Pentecost is a day and a Feast of the Church where we can thank our God for giving us His gifts – especially the gift of being able to communicate with our neighbour, bringing them the reason of the hope that is in our hearts. The language we all know how to speak because He has enabled us to: faith in action through love.
 Another aspect to be considered: the feast of Pentecost was a special date to thousands of Jews who would come from different nations to celebrate it in Jerusalem. The city would double its size as it accomodated everybody. All those Jews were a great target for the preaching of the Gospel, since they were very familiar with the promise of the coming Messiah.
 But let’s say speaking in tongues is something that really happens as long as you have faith enough. We might as well test it right now. Do you all place faith in Jesus? I am sure you do. So follow me in prayer right now: “Dear Lord, we are all believers. So I ask you in Jesus’ name that you manifest the gift of speaking in tongues right now, here at this time and place! Amen!” (looks out). Hum... let me see....anyone? No existing language; no language of angels? Yeah, I sort of had it coming.
What does this mean? Again, God is in control, not us. Also, the fact that no one started to speak in languages here rather than showing lack of faith, proves the other way around! It shows that we place unconditonal faith in God that He manifests His Will when and where it pleases Him.
 WALTHER, CFW. God Grant it. Daily Devotions. p.454.