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The Promised Baptism of the Holy Spirit, The Day of Pentecost May 19th 2013

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The Day of Pentecost May 19th 2013

Acts 2:1-21 Psalm 104:24-34 Romans 8:14-17 John 14:8-17 (25-27)

Pentecost

Pentecost is one of the three major Christian festivals. In German there is a one song that has verses for all three. Le4t me sing it for you:

Festival Song

Oh you blessed and life-giving Pentecost

light our lives with holy fire

Take away confusion

Give us new communion

Holy Spirit, Holy God,

              Our hearts inspire.

Oh you blessed, gentle, gracious Pentecost

earthquake, wind, and holy fire

              Shake our old foundations

With joyful new elations

Holy Spirit, Holy God,

              our lives inspire.

O Du fröhliche, O Du selige

gnaden bringende Pfingsten Zeit.

Christus unser Meister

Heiligt die Geister

Freue Dich, O freue Dich, O Christenheid.[1]

 

Today is the day of Pentecost. Since Easter we have had a full week of weeks in which we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ; that means 7 times 7 or 49 days, so today is the fiftieth day. Pentecost means fifty in Greek. On this day the promised Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostles in the house in which they were staying. Perhaps it was the temple, because 120 people were present from many different countries. Many others then must have gathered around the disciples.

Let’s also pray for the Holy Spirit today. In Aramaic, Christians prayed, “Maranatha Come Holy Spirit!” Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to come; that the Spirit of truth come like the sound of the rush of a mighty wind, that divided tongues appear amongst us, as if made of fire, so that they alight upon our heads and give us the power to preach the Gospel in other tongues and languages.

But considering Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, does the church calendar have to jive with the actual experience? Is Christ born in our hearts only on Christmas? Not really. Christ is born in our hearts when we believe and are baptized, while we celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas. We celebrate the resurrection on Easter. Are we ourselves raised on Easter? Not really. We are raised up after we die. It is also possible that we are spiritually dead and we can become raised up into the newness of life, which is much like having Christ be born in us. God works with each one of us in a unique way so that God’s acts happen to us in God’s good time at certain points in the journey of our lives. Our being raised does not have to jive with Easter on our calendar. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter.

That the Holy Spirit filled the apostles back there on that Day of Pentecost is what we celebrate today and it may not happen to us today, but we pray that we too experience what those first apostles did, experience the sound of that rushing and mighty wind, the fiery tongues, and speaking different languages. Languages are now no barrier because Christ has drawn all the different people of the world into one family, who hear and are overcome by the Good News of God’s love for us; of God’s willingness to be our Father so that we are brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, children of God and fellow heirs of all the wonderful promises.

But what good is the old story if it does not become our story? Luther said, “What good is it if Christ was born 1,000 times way back in Bethlehem, if he has not been born in your heart or mine? What good is the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ to us, if we do not suffer and are not raised up with him? What good is the Day of Pentecost, if we do not receive the Comforter, Counselor, the Advocate and Helper ourselves to teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus said through his disciples to us and throughout our lives?

Just because Jesus ascended back into heaven to be at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, does not mean we are left like orphans. With the Holy Spirit Christ is still really present with us. Christ promised that the Holy Spirit will continue to be with us, abiding in us and in us witnessing to Jesus in our hearts. In them God’s heavenly tongue brings about the birth of Christ in us, raises us up from the dead places in our lives, nurtures and brings us up to grow and mature into the full stature of Christ, and guides and directs our church to bring about the renewal of our society, lifts up this fallen world into the world enveloped in God’s love; with the Holy Spirit renewing the face of the earth.

It is striking that the world does not know what to do with Pentecost, the way it has done its number on Christmas and Easter. There’s no Santa Clause, no Easter bunny. Jesus explains why: for Pentecost we have “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. [But] you know him, because the [Holy Spirit] abides with you and will be in and among you.” (14:17) We cannot see the Holy Spirit, who is like the air. Wave your hands through it. You cannot see the air, but you feel it. The Holy Spirit is the breath of God. Πνευμα the word for spirit in Greek means both breath and wind, but spirit as well. So it was the Spirit of God, the Ruach Elohim in Hebrew, who hovered above the waters in creation. We usually take feeble breaths. God’s breath is the mighty wind. Take a deep breath and pray for it to be the breath of Christ, the Spirit that we breathe. Breathe in the Spirit to bring life into our blood, life into our body so that we become the body and blood of Christ.

God breathed the same breath into Adam and Eve and they became living beings. But they fell down. Jesus lifts us up with the breath of life, allowing us to eat from the fruit of the tree of life, because the old Adam and Eve have died in our baptisms, and now the Holy Spirit has enlivened, enlightened, and raised us up with Christ to be part of God’ new creation, God’s continuous creation, making all things new.

In his Small Catechism, Luther says: “[Baptism] means that our old sinful self, with all its evil deeds and desires, should be drowned through daily repentance; and that day after day a new self should arise to live with God in righteousness and purity forever.” And further, “We were buried with him by Baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father we too might walk in the newness of life.” The breath of God, the Holy Spirit makes us into a new species, for the old Adam and Eve have passed away, and we have become the children of God, who worship God in spirit and truth.

The world does not know how to co-opt Pentecost and the Holy Spirit. We can see trees moving in the wind, but we cannot see the wind. We can only know the Spirit of truth by believing, by participating, and becoming involved in the cause of Christ. It’s not possible by unbelief and detachment; by refusing commitment, by indifference to the Father’s plan of salvation; nor by being unwilling to believe in the Father, who sent Jesus to show us the way of life.

When we receive the Holy Spirit, like trees in the wind, the breath of God becomes the wind in our sails. This little ship, called Our Redeemer’s with its new Pastor John Kuehner, will sail into the wonderful promises of God. One of those promises is also the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we have to go even further than speaking about the wind in our sails. We have to be that leaf blowing in the wind of the Holy Spirit. Our whole being needs to surrender to wherever the Holy Spirit takes us. Remember that the Holy Spirit contains the intelligence of God and as high as the heavens are above the earth, so much higher are God’s thoughts over our own. That is where the metaphor of the wind breaks down, because it will blow you right into something. The Holy Spirit will guide and direct you doing God’s will on the way of life.

With the coming of the Holy Spirit, we also celebrate the birth of the Church. When Peter in the temple raised his voice to preach, moved by the Holy Spirit, 3,000 people were added to the number of believers. The Holy Spirit brings about the birth, but also the growth of the Church.

Pentecost was the Old Testament Festival of the Booths, the joyous Harvest festival of Israel. The people were out in the harvest living in booths made of green branches and they were bringing in the sheaves, the bundles of wheat. Thus Jesus looked out over the crowds and saw them to be ready to harvest and prayed that God send laborers into the harvest to gather the people in. Israel also began to see this festival as God’s gathering in the nations into the reign of God. What an ingathering happened on that first Day of Pentecost, when the promised Holy Spirit rushed in upon the apostles!

Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit. John baptized with water, while he prophesied that Jesus would baptize believers with fire and the spirit. Thus the disciples were staying in Jerusalem because Christ commanded them not to leave until they had received the promise of the Father, which was their baptism in the Holy Spirit, their Comforter, Counselor, Advocate, and Helper.

When we receive the Holy Spirit, our whole selves are moved. We are not divided into body, mind, and spirit. The Holy Spirit reorients our whole selves, our whole person, our whole being toward God rather than away from God. The spirit orients our body, mind, and soul toward God and what’s more, it does the same with this whole world. It orients this whole world toward God bringing it back from its rebellion against God.

So the birthday of the Church is completely for the sake of turning around this world and the people in it. It makes us one with the purposes of God once more and makes all the people of the world have one heart and soul together again. So that no language separates us, indeed, nothing separates us from the love of God.

But we have to pray for God’s Spirit. We are far away yet. When we are led by the spirit of God we become children of God, according to St. Paul. We did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but have received the spirit of adoption. No longer only the Jews, but we Gentiles have also become the family of God sitting around the table of the Lord and there is nothing higher nor more noble to be attained here on earth. And so we cry “Abba! Father! It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, children and heirs with Christ standing to receive all the heavenly promises and the gifts of the Spirit.

But we have to pray. In Acts, it says when the disciples returned to Jerusalem, they were constantly devoting themselves to prayer. (Acts 1:14) In Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oakland, there was an emphasis on prayer. Sometimes they prayed starting on Saturday morning, through the whole night, and until the Sunday morning worship, so that the service would ride on all those prayers and be lifted up on the wings of the Holy Spirit.

Remember that the heavenly promises are not for us, in the sense of making us privileged. We receive them for the sake of the lost, all those whom the Lord loves and wants to enfold and gather into this renewal of creation. “Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth!” So we pray for the Holy Spirit, whose sighs are too deep for words, and who will bring us home together on the wings of the Comforter, Advocate, Counselor, Helper, lifting us, bearing us up and carrying us on eagles’ wings. Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus! Come Holy Spirit and save your lost creation! Amen.

 


[1] Composed for Pentecost at St. John’s Lutheran Church of Oakland, CA May 18, 1997 by Peter Krey.

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Written by peterkrey

May 20, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Selected Sermons

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