Acts 2:1-21 Over the last two years of catechesis, you young men have memorized Luther’s Small Catechism, including what he says in the explanation to the Third Article of the Creed that deals with the person and work of the Holy Spirit:
“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christians church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church he daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.”
If you wanted to make it even simpler you could say that we are called and equipped by the Spirit to know Jesus and make him known to others. Young men, that is the gift you have been given and the claim of God upon your life.
On this Pentecost festival, we will see that Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior and so that we can take our place in making him known to the world. The Bible says that:
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were…filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance…And at this sound the multitude came together…And they were amazed and astonished, saying…how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?
When we think about the day of Pentecost, we think about the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out by Jesus upon the church-- and of course that it true. But it was a Jewish harvest festival long before it was a Christian holy day.
In fact, that is why the disciples and Jews from all over the world were there in Jerusalem in the first place—to celebrate the harvest and give thanks to God for the fruits of the earth. And so then…
It was no accident that the gift of God’s Spirit came upon the church on the Jewish harvest feast of Pentecost so that something much more valuable than crops could be harvested—human souls.
It was no accident that Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims so that at just the right time the Gospel of forgiveness could be proclaimed to as many people as possible.
It was no accident that people from all over the world were there so that the message of Christ’s peace could be taken to every place as they returned home.
The God of creation doesn’t do accidents—then or now. Jesus promised his disciples that believing in him, their hearts would be filled with the Living Water of the Holy Spirit. And so it has been down to this day and the disciples sitting in this place.
We exist at this place and time and with the gifts and abilities that we have been given so that by the power of that same Holy Spirit WE can join in this Pentecost harvest miracle of sharing Christ with the world for the salvation of souls.
Much too often, we have a tendency to look at what we don’t have when it comes to the mission of Christ-- instead of believing that the same Spirit is still present among us--equipping us perfectly for our part in his mission.
We are where we are- and we know what we know- and we have what we have- so that we too can proclaim Jesus as Savior and Lord to our part of the world —a message that is for all people.
Assembled there in Jerusalem on that Pentecost festival there were people from all over the world who heard about Jesus in their own language. The Bible says that: All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?"
As you have learned from the Small Catechism, that is a very Lutheran question. What does this mean? That is a question that people are still asking about Christians—maybe not the meaning of rushing winds and tongues of fire—but the meaning of our Christian lives and our faith and our message.
What does it mean that Christians teach there is only one way to God when the world believes that there are many? What does it mean that Christians will lay down their lives in martyrdom rather than deny Christ? What does it mean that Christians think very differently about moral issues than the rest of the world? What does it mean that Christians care for and love their enemies when there is so much hatred in the world?
These questions that the world has about the meaning of our lives and our faith and our message are our God-given opportunities—our Pentecost moments-- to bear witness to Jesus Christ to those around us. That has been one of the reasons for your catechetical instruction: to equip you to give answer for the hope you have in Jesus.
On Pentecost, the apostles had an opportunity to proclaim him to the people of the surrounding nations—but not to folks from west Texas—that’s our job for this time—and the gift of God’s Spirit is given to us for that very purpose—to proclaim Jesus Christ with clarity and courage where we are even-- though people will ridicule our faith just like that day. The Bible says that:
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…these men are not drunk…But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
“This isn’t from God—they’re just drunk”. Scorn and ridicule and conflict. It is always going to be when we call people to turn from their sins and trust in Jesus. You should understand that up front because in a few moments you are going to promise to suffer all, even death rather than fall away from Christ and the church.
The Bible says that the message of Christ is ridiculous to the unbelieving world. It’s the height of foolishness to those who are perishing in their sins to believe that their salvation is found in a humble man who lived two thousands years ago.
Only God can change hearts like that! That is why God’s gift of the Spirit is so important—both to those who speak and to those who hear!
The Holy Spirit who gave life to dry bones empowers those who speak the Gospel and fills their proclamation with the power of God himself so that hearts that are dead in sin and trespasses are made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit-- and what they once regarded as the height of foolishness (Jesus) becomes instead their life—and those believers who once shrunk back in fear-- step forward to boldly bear witness to Christ.
The Good News for us is that the power and presence of the Holy Spirit was not just for the twelve disciples-- but is promised to all of God’s people—including you young men being confirmed today. God promised through the prophet Joel:
In the last days…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.
The gift of the Spirit is for young and old. It is for men and women. It is for people in every station in life no matter how humble-a promise that the power and presence of God himself dwells in our lives regardless of age, or gender, or status.
That promise was fulfilled on Pentecost and the privilege to speak about Jesus on behalf of God—to prophesy—is given to all Christians—including you young men.
All Christians need to be about the Lord’s work because the events of our Lord’s death and resurrection—his ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit-- ushered in the Last Days—this time of grace in which the church has lived for the last two thousand years, calling the world to come to Christ and be saved while there is still time.
The saving mission of Jesus Christ is why we exist as individuals and as a congregation at this moment—it is why all of God’s people are gifted with the Holy Spirit—so that we might be the Noah’s of our day, warning people of the wrath of God’s judgment to come, but also, and especially, inviting them to trust in Jesus and be saved before it is too late. St. Luke writes of that day when the time of grace will come to an end—a time when there will be:
wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below…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.'
God wants everyone be saved-- but for that to happen people must call upon Jesus in faith. That is why you were brought to the waters of Holy Baptism by your parents. That is why God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit—so that the saving Name of Jesus would be proclaimed to the ends of the earth-- so that people can know him and believe in him and call upon him and be saved.
For thousands of years, it was sufficient for salvation to believe in the Messiah to come. But when Jesus took on flesh it became necessary to believe in a particular person who was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth and preached in Galilee and died and rose again in Jerusalem.
To be saved it is necessary for people to call upon the name of Jesus in faith-- and the Holy Spirit was given on Pentecost so that Jesus could be proclaimed for the salvation of the world. The same is still true today--salvation comes only by faith in Jesus—a faith that you are about to publicly confess.
As the day of our Lord’s return in glory grows ever closer and the day of grace draws to an end--we thank God for his gift of the Holy Spirit—a gift that is given to all believers so that Jesus can be proclaimed for the salvation of the world and a rich, abundant harvest of souls be gathered in. God grant that we would all do our part in his mission. Amen.