Sermon for the Day of Pentecost
May 20, 2018
Blessed with the Spirit
(this sermon was not preached even though prepared)
It must have been quite a sight; you know, being there in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit descended upon those gathered together. Imagine the sound of a mighty wind and the tongues of fire. And then the speaking in other tongues or languages as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. Spontaneously and involuntarily it seems that they were led to proclaim the glories of God in Christ Jesus. Yes, it must have been quite a sight.
It was a surprise to the many visitors that had gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks celebrated on the fiftieth day after the Passover. Here they were, Jews gathered from the ends of the earth, with different mother tongues, hearing the gospel for the first time and in their own languages.
It must have made them feel special; both the Apostles granted this miraculous ability to speak in other languages and the gathered people to hear the gospel proclaimed in their own native language. The Apostles because they were selected to receive a special anointing by the Holy Spirit to speak these languages and the foreigners because God was including them in salvation and sharing His message in their languages.
There is something special about this event because as it was among the seventy elders in the reading from Numbers 11, the prophesying or the preaching in other tongues did not continue. This was not to be a continual everyday event. It was special because God had made the event, that day special. He had made the Apostles special, because He had chosen them for a special ministry and it was now being confirmed in the presence of all the people through this special manifestation by the Spirit.
The events written in Acts 2 are a public confirmation of the ministry that would be fulfilled through the Apostles. It was in a way their public ordination, just as those in Numbers 11 were confirmed by God in their role as elders before the people.
There are those that are jealous for that special calling and ordination of the Apostles seeking an identical or similar manifestation of the Spirit. We have examples in Scripture of others trying to falsely acquire the special powers given to the early disciples and receiving instead condemnation. As the elders in Numbers ceased to prophesy, so also the special way in which the Spirit enabled the Apostles to preach did not continue beyond their generation.
Yet today, we see so many trying so hard to receive this special anointing with the Spirit. In an effort to achieve the status of being someone special before God and men, so many are led or misled as the case may be to seek after glory and an internal confirmation of their salvation instead of relying upon God’s declaration in Word and Sacrament.
Classes are taught in some places to help people learn how to speak in tongues. It becomes for many their evidence of salvation. And sorrowfully it leaves the many that are not gifted in such a way wondering if they truly are chosen by God to be special – chosen for salvation.
It would be wonderful to receive the same Apostolic manifestations of the Spirit, but even more, it would have been wonderful to see Jesus face to face and travel with Him in His ministry. But how many of us would want to face the cross with the Apostles or the martyrs life and death that they endured. To those whom much is given, much is expected.
The Apostles were special, but they were special not for themselves, but for the sake of those present that day in Jerusalem. The Spirit was manifested in that special way that all may recognize the authority of the Apostolic ministry as being from God, just as the healings did during the ministry of Jesus and would during the ministry of the Apostles. This speaking in tongues was to confirm that all the peoples gathered in Jerusalem for the feast were just as special to God as the ones speaking, because the Spirit was making the Gospel heard in their own languages so that they would hear, understand, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, calling upon His name for salvation from their sins.
It is the same special ministry of disciple and Spirit that we are carrying out as we teach our children the Small Catechism, because those words are for them just as much as they are for us and were for the Apostles in their day. These children are special because they have been chosen to receive the same Holy Spirit that is working and active in creating faith and forgiving sins today just as much as He was on the original New Testament Day of Pentecost.
The fact is that each of you is special as God has chosen you through water and the Word. God has already put His seal of approval on each of you in Baptism when He poured out His Spirit into your hearts that rivers of living water would gush forth from your heart even as the words of the Gospel gushed forth from the mouths of the Apostles.
Your special status before God is determined by the faith you have in His Son. Being special is accomplished for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Being special is a gift given to us by grace through faith. We are made special by the active work of the Spirit in God’s justifying Word and Sacraments.
The manifestations of the Spirit, no matter how grand or spectacular, are not as much for us as for the benefit of our neighbor. The Spirit blesses each of us with faith but also with gifts that we might give of ourselves all for the sake of our neighbor; that we might contribute toward the success of congregation and for the benefit of the entire Church. The Holy Spirit always is pointing to Jesus and our election unto salvation in Him and so the work of the Spirit in us always leads us to direct others towards Jesus and their election in Him.
It is much more than feeling special. Having the Spirit and the gifts He brings is a rock solid declaration of God’s grace and of being special both now and when we shall attain our place in heaven. It is being special as a son or daughter of the God who has adopted us in Holy Baptism. It is being special as a brother or sister and coheir of glory with the Lord Jesus Christ. Being special is something you are because you have called upon the name of the Lord and have been saved. Let me close with the words written by St. Paul to the church in Corinth, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed, Therefore I want you to understand…that no can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:1, 3-7).
The God who has confirmed you in faith unto salvation by the giving of His Spirit, also shall prepare you by the working of His Spirit in you for the good works that lie before you, that in love you may serve your neighbor that he or she may also be led to the knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.