Pentecost May 27, 2012
229, 37, 231, 739 [TLH alt. 235:6-8]
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’”
In the name of Jesus, who wonderfully fulfilled His Pentecost promise both then and now, dear fellow Christians:
I have noticed something disturbing lately. Every time I get in the car to go somewhere, it’s out of gas. Even when it seems as though I just spent $50 yesterday to fill the tank, the needle on the gauge is always hovering near “E” and the prices just keep going up.
Does it seem that there is too little money to buy the things you need or want? Do you have too little time to fit in all you want to accomplish during a week? Is your energy reserve near the “E” mark? You may be running on fumes and become exhausted just thinking about all that lies ahead in the next months.
Shortages are a way of life in this world. Our spiritual state by nature is not any better. We are empty, dead in sin, hostile to God, with no energy or strength to do anything about it.
Now imagine what it would be like to have more than enough—an endless supply—so that you would never run out. Picture energy flowing in faster than you could ever spend it, so that it would fill you up and overflow to every part of your life. It might sound pretty far-fetched, but it is not. That never-ending, overflowing power is there for us in the Pentecost gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, of course, was present before Pentecost. He is the one true eternal God, along with the Father and Son. He was there at Creation. “The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters,” we read in Genesis 1:2. The name “spirit” means “breath” or “wind.” Think of the Spirit hovering over the waters and causing them to ripple with His “breath.”
In the Old Testament period the Spirit worked through the sacrifices and other worship forms forgiving sin and strengthening faith. He came in dreams and visions to the prophets. But Moses longed for greater things. On one occasion when the Spirit moved the elders of Israel to prophesy, Joshua was upset and thought that Moses should stop them. But Moses answered: “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:29 NIV).
God announced through the prophet Joel that the time would come when the Spirit would grant revelation and understanding to all God’s people. He would be poured out on boys and girls, men and women. John the Baptist spoke of it when he said that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.
The fulfillment came on Pentecost. With a mighty tornado-like sound and what looked like flames of fire, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostles. It signaled the start of a brand new era of history, the “last days” before the Lord’s return in judgment. From this point forward the Spirit would work in ways unheard of before. His gifts would no longer be limited to the Jews. He would reach out to all the world.
The Spirit came with the sound, the tongues of fire, and the ability to speak in different languages, but by far His most important gifts were placed in the disciples’ hearts and minds. Jesus had promised that the Spirit would teach them “all things” about Him. They needed the instruction, because even after the resurrection they were lacking in understanding and mistakenly looking for Jesus to establish an earthly rule. But now the Spirit filled-in their understanding to see that Jesus’ kingdom is a spiritual rule in the heart. Before, their faith was weak and timid, often it was down near “E.” But now we see a new joy and confidence. The Spirit’s power filled them to overflowing.
It must have been thrilling to be present at Pentecost. The energy and power of the Spirit overflowed and brought 3,000 souls into the Church that day alone. But was it only a brief downpour, like a thunderstorm which quickly builds and dumps three inches of rain, but then just as quickly disappears? Where is the overflowing power today? Some search for it in outward signs such as speaking in tongues, miraculous healing, or mass conversions. But the Lord doesn’t promise those as ongoing gifts of the Spirit.
However, He is still being poured out. He still fills up hearts today. The holy “breath” of the Spirit is present in the sights and sounds of the water and Word of Baptism bringing even the youngest of babies into fellowship with Christ by faith. The breath of the Spirit is in Jesus’ Word in Holy Communion assuring us that we are receiving His body and blood for our forgiveness and eternal life. Whenever and wherever the Word of Scripture is heard, the Spirit is poured out into hearts. The Bible says, “All Scripture is God-breathed….Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit….No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit….Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV, 2 Peter 1:21, 1 Corinthians 12:3, Romans 10:17). Outwardly, it appears quiet and unimpressive, but the Means of Grace—the Gospel message in Word and Sacrament—is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
So when you feel empty and are running on fumes, look to the Holy Spirit for renewed energy. When you are unsure of what to believe, and it’s hard to see much joy or purpose in your days, connect to the Spirit’s power and let Him fill your life to overflowing. Remember, the Spirit does it through the Word. When you spend time in personal reading and meditation on the Word, and when you gather the family for devotions, the Spirit is going to be there to fill your hearts with His gifts. In Bible class and worship services, the Spirit works to increase your faith and understanding, and with that your joy and energy level.
The Spirit’s power is as accessible to all of us as our Bibles. It is an amazing power right at our fingertips, and yet we take it for granted, and so often fail to use it. Old Testament heroes such as Moses, Elijah, and Jacob would have gladly canceled, postponed, or forgotten everything else to sit on the little chairs in the preschool Sunday school room and hear the Spirit’s breath in Scripture telling of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, His miracles confirming Him as the promised Messiah, His agonizing death on the cross, His triumphant cry, “It is finished!,” and His glorious resurrection and ascension. The Spirit did not reveal the details of the fulfillment to them as He has to even the littlest lambs of Jesus’ flock today. King David with all his honors and privileges would have hiked up his royal robes and run to the temple for an opportunity to commune personally with His Savior as we do every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. But that blessing was out of reach until the Pentecost outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost was not an isolated one-day gift. The Spirit continues to be poured out today in our lives and hearts through the Word. He is always as near as His Word ready to be our source of unending, overflowing power. Don’t miss out on it! May the Word be a vital part of our lives everyday!
The Spirit was poured out on the apostles for a specific reason. Jesus told them they were to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. They had no power of their own to carry that out. To send them without equipping them would have been like sending troops to Baghdad without giving them training, body armor, and weapons. So Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem for the Spirit to come and give them His power, and to fill them to overflowing with all they needed.
The Spirit gave them a clear understanding of Jesus’ work as the Savior of the world. The Spirit filled them with a courage which must have surprised even themselves. With the Spirit’s power Peter, who had quivered and caved-in at the words of a slave girl, boldly stood up before the huge crowd on Pentecost and answered the hecklers who accused the disciples of being drunk. He told the people they were guilty of crucifying God’s own Son, and when they asked what could be done, he didn’t hesitate. He responded: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 NIV). The Spirit gave them the endurance to fight the good fight of faith to the very end. Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). They preached Christ crucified until the Lord called them home to Himself.
It was not only for the apostles. The Spirit fills us with His power for the same purpose. We are included among those of whom Joel spoke: “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams” (Joel 2:28). Dreams and visions were means by which God revealed Himself to people, so that they could then take the message to others. The Spirit reveals God to us in the written Word so that all of us, young and old, can proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (cf. 1 Peter 2:9).
So why are we so sluggish in getting out and doing it? The golden opportunity comes to bring the Word to a sick friend or a new neighbor, and our motivation is stuck on “E.” The Elders ask for input on outreach ideas and propose ways we can work together as a congregation in mission work, and we find ourselves sputtering and running out of gas. The problem is not the Spirit. He is still just as powerful and active as ever.
The energy we need is not going to be found in us, but in the overflowing supply of the Spirit. But if we cut ourselves off from the means the Spirit uses then we will miss out. We need to ask ourselves, “Have I been too busy or too tired lately to read Scripture and pray for the Spirit’s power? Have I missed opportunities to receive the Word and Sacrament in church? Could I benefit from the informal dialogue and study of the Word in Bible class?
Then immerse yourself in the Word. Soak it up like a dry sponge absorbs water, until it saturates every part of you. Let it satisfy the thirst of your soul. Let it recharge your spiritual batteries. We need that because temptations and the daily stress of life can wear us down. By Saturday aren’t you in need of spiritual strengthening and looking forward to a big dose of the Word on Sunday? Don’t you notice the difference afterward in a more positive outlook, a deep-down joy and peace rooted in forgiveness, and in greater patience and love toward others? I pray that is always the case!
Filled up, saturated, and recharged by the Spirit, we are equipped with all we need to reach out to others with the saving Word. It might be at school or on the ball field, at work or in the backyard. Whether we are young or old in years, new or mature in faith, individuals, a congregation, or a church body, we are to be Jesus’ witnesses. We don’t have to worry about the results. The Spirit will take care of that: “My word…will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 NIV).
It is an overwhelming assignment to take the Word to the world, especially in light of how empty and helpless we are by nature. The Lord knows that. That is why He has graciously given us the Spirit and His overflowing power and blessing. May we daily find new strength, joy, and purpose in Him. Amen.
Shine in our hearts, O most precious Light,
That we Jesus Christ may know aright,
Clinging to our Savior,
whose blood hath bought us,
Who again to our homeland hath bro’t us.
Lord, have mercy!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.