“The Presence of God is Heard!” Acts 2:1-11
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for our sermon meditation is the, the Chapter.
“1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
If I remember correctly, one of my children recently asked me a question about this passage. They asked me also if I had ever spoken in tongues. I responded, “Yes, French!” I could also add to that list a few other languages that I had learned to speak in some degree.
When we read this passage our attention is drawn to the spectacular event that takes place. The spectacular event for us is not the message that is spoken. Rather the spectacular event is the manner in which the message is spoken.
We look at this passage and our focus is on these words. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues ….” We call this event a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. This means that in some way the Holy Spirit made his presence known. Each of the disciples experienced this presence, and those looking on stood in awe of what took place before them.
Indeed, this is a spectacular event. God is making His presence known. There actually is a God whom we cannot see, but is there somewhere. He showed Himself. He has a message. He touches people. He seems to care. Why does He not do the same for us in our time?
Now, if you were listening earlier, how much of verse four did I read? I did not read the whole verse. I stopped where our thinking usually stops. I focused on what our sin-marred mind tends to focus. There is much more to this event that just the speaking in tongues. God does not give anything or do anything without having a purpose in mind. It is our work as Christians to discern that purpose and to work according to that purpose of God.
The rest of the verse reads “as the Spirit gave them utterance.” In these words we have the thought that God purposefully came to each of these disciples and gave them a certain gift, if you will. The gift given and received is the ability to speak the Gospel in many different languages. Each disciple was given an individual gift to serve the purpose of God. That purpose was to announce to the world that Salvation had come as long ago promised by God.
Furthermore, God was reuniting those whom He has separated. This separation took place during the time of Noah and his sons. After the flood, Noah and his family re-established life upon the earth. Ham, Shem and Japheth and their wives bore children and began to fill the earth. Yet, sin was not erased. The filling of the earth was done not according to God’s command a purpose. The people refused to leave the plain of Shinar. They even built a monument to their rebellion. We know it as the Tower of Babel.
Having one language, the people convinced each other to defy their God. They refused to move away from that plain. Addressing their refusal, God brought upon them the confusion of languages. Not being able to speak with one another, they were dispersed throughout the world. God forced their obedience to His will. Such is the discipline of God.
One thing we must remember is that these people did not leave that Tower without the promise of salvation. Each person left knowing to some extent the judgment of God which was exerted in the flood. Noah and his family were present for a good number of years, centuries even, after the flood waters had receded. They recounted this judgment and will of God. More than that they also recounted the promise of God to redeem the world from sin, death and the grave.
Rebellion against God’s will is not yet lost on us. Like the people of Noah’s time, and even before, we have not changed in attitude or desire. We still seek our own way. We still resist the wisdom of those who learned to live in accord with the will of the God of our creation and redemption.
This is evidenced in these past few days by the rioting and destruction that has spread to many cities in our nation. What was supposed to be peaceful, quickly turned to violence, destruction, loss and injury. The reason for gathering quickly turned to mob mentality and rebellion, and a departure from reason and restraint. In short, the sinful nature of all people was clearly revealed on the streets of those cities.
Consider why we begin each worship service with confession of sins. It is a reminder that we have sinned against God in thought word and deed. We humbly confess we are poor miserable sinners. We lack the humility to recognize God. We are miserable in our rebellion trying to fill our lives with things that do not satisfy nor give contentment. We drink from the cup of worldly treasure and feast upon the delusion of temporary satisfaction. Such offerings of this world are like drinking salt water. They leave you thirsty and destroy the things that support your life.
Jesus offers to us the very water of life. As he spoke in John’s Gospel account, so He gives through the Spirit of God. Jesus said, “Those who are thirsty come to me and drink.” Indeed, we are thirsty for what Jesus offers us. We need Him to reveal this thirst and draw us to him to quench that thirst. This Jesus does through the work of the Holy Spirit. We confess this in the Creeds of the Church.
We confess that the Spirt of God calls, gathers and enlightens the sinner with regard to sin, judgment and salvation. The full weight of God’s judgment is revealed to us through the preaching of God’s Law. This word of Law condemns us and weighs heavy upon us convicting our hearts that we have strayed from righteousness and wandered into the wide path of destruction. The word of Law breaks our will and cuts us to the quick that the Spirit of God may then heal our lives and make us whole.
By nature we turn from such work of God’s Spirit. However, the Spirit does not let us run. Rather, the Spirit of God holds out to us the healing power of the Gospel. Such healing power tunes our hearts and minds to receive by faith the gift of God given in the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross.
Listen to the words of the people who are gathered around the preaching of the Spirit endowed disciples.
7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? … we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”
Following this passage is the sermon which Peter preached, along with each disciple who spoke under the direction of the Holy Spirit. He speaks the words of God foretold by the prophet Joel. The Day of the Lord’s visitation has come to pass. The Spirit of God is poured out upon His servants. They tell of the salvation provided by God in the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They offer this word to those who have gathered before them. Moved by God’s Spirit and Word, three thousand were baptized and brought into the life of Jesus Christ.
Such is the fruit of the Spirit. By this we mean the evidence of God’s Spirit whom we confess in the Creed. Once the sinner is enlightened they are brought into the fellowship of believers in the water of Holy Baptism. Through this means of grace. God then prepares them to fulfill His purpose for their lives. They begin the journey of walking by faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Does such an awe-inspiring event need to take place today? Do we need to see such a miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit? Should a baby, youth or adult who is baptized immediately burst into languages they have not learned as proof the Holy Spirit is in them and has converted them? God has not decreed such things for us. His purpose was served at that time to give credence to the message spoken by the disciples. If such a manifestation is needed in our time, God will work such a thing. We are to be content with the gifts which Jesus gives as proof of His saving grace.
We gather around those gifts each week in this House of God. Before our eyes is the fount of God’s blessing. There at the fount, God pours out upon each baptized soul a full measure of His Holy Spirit. Once given, that Spirit works to create and build faith and lead the redeemed sinner to fulfill his or her upward calling in Jesus Christ. The tongue of flame does not avail us anything. The power of God’s Spirit working through the Word of God avails us much, even all that we need for eternal life.
Until that day, when we reach eternal life, God moves us to fulfill our calling as His people. He works in us and through us to bear the fruit of His Spirit. As St Paul writes in Galatians 5 such fruit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” In a word living our faith in Jesus Christ. These are the visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. Such living begins with daily return to your Baptismal grace. Seeking opportunities from God to proclaim His mighty works to those from every walk of life.
As it was at the time of the apostles of Jesus so it will be for us today. People will be drawn to the strange manner of living. This manner of living is contrary to the way of the world. For the world rejects such presence of God. The world is impatient and ruthless. The world seeks its own benefit. The world takes but does not give. It thirsts but is not satisfied.
The world needs what Jesus offers. The world needs the sacrifice of forgiveness, the water of eternal life, and the peace of salvation. Such gifts of God have been given us to be used for His purpose. May the Spirit of God dwell in us richly, that we bear witness to God’s grace, and serve His purpose.
The Lord of bring you to eternal life on the Day of Jesus Christ. Amen.