Pentecost (2016)


May 15, 2016 AD

Old Testament: Genesis 11:1-9

Epistle: Acts 2:1-21

Gospel: John 14:23-31

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Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father, and from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The text for my sermon this Pentecost is from the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians, the third verse:

“I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says, ‘Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

On this fiftieth day following our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, we Christians throughout the world celebrate with great joy the coming of God the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts the miracle of faith.

On Good Friday the work of our salvation was accomplished, and that is clear from Jesus’ cry of victory from the cross: “It is finished!” What was finished? The victory of love. For when all His enemies, visible and invisible, attacked Jesus, love remained love: “Father, forgive,” Jesus prays and goes on loving to the end. And because He did, all our lack of love— for God and for others— our sin is atoned for and so the sins of the world are forgiven.

On Good Friday that wonderful victory was accomplished. On Easter Day the victory was revealed in the Jesus’ glorious resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is God the Father’s declaration that the sins of the world are forgiven and death itself is dead. And now on this fiftieth day after Easter, this Day of Pentecost— Pentecost means fiftieth— Christ’s victory was openly proclaimed. On Good Friday the victory was accomplished, on Easter the victory was revealed, now on Pentecost the victory was proclaimed, and no less than three thousand souls were brought to faith through Peter’s and the other disciples’ proclamation of our Jesus’ saving death and resurrection. And so it will continue until the end of time, when the risen and ascended Lord at last appears in glory and brings to completion that work of redeeming love begun in the manger, fulfilled on the cross, revealed at the open tomb. You and I are Christians today, believers, because the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and continues to come through the preaching of Jesus, through the holy Sacraments, always pointing to Jesus, Our Savior.

In his First Letter to the Church at Corinth, Saint Paul writes: “I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says, ‘Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord!’ except by the Holy Spirit.” To say “Jesus is Lord” is to confess that I myself am not Lord: I am not my own Maker and most certainly not my own Savior, but rather an utterly dependent creature, and therefore not myself the judge of good and evil, truth and error, right and wrong; I am but a mortal sinner. But that is not the whole story, and if it were, how sad a story it would be. But when I say, “Jesus is Lord,” I am saying that the Father who created me out of love sent His Son to redeem me out of love and so has become my Lord through love. No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit, and that is the miracle of faith.

How beautifully Dr. Luther expresses that in his explanation to the Third Article of Creed:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Ghost has called me through the Gospel…

…the Gospel which is the good news of Jesus. The Holy Spirit points not to Himself but always to Jesus, just as Jesus said in the upper room on the night before He died for us: “When the Comforter comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth…He will bear witness to me…”

“I believe that I cannot…believe…but the Holy Spirit has called me.” And this is the miracle of faith. It was John Wesley who once said: “The change accomplished by the Holy Spirit in the heart is no less than all outward miracles as showing the same power which gave sight to the blind, feet to the lame, and life to the dead.” That is the miracle of faith! And our whole faith as Christians is miracle from beginning to end. It is all miracle— the miracle of our Savior’s birth from one both virgin and mother, the miracle of His atoning death, the miracle of His resurrection and ascension, and the still-awaited miracle of His coming again in glory. It is all miracle, the miracle of God, and the greatest of all miracles is this: that I a poor sinner can say, “Jesus loved me and gave himself for me.”

And so if you are able to say “Jesus is Lord,” this is the work of the Holy Spirit in you, the miracle of faith, wrought by the Holy Spirit in every penitent heart.

And that is why beginning on the first Pentecost and continuing to the end of the world, the Church which was born on this day, has continued to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to the whole world. Saint Peter did that very thing on the first Pentecost when he convicted of sin that whole crowd gathered in Jerusalem, so that hearing his word, they could only cry out, “Brothers what shall we do?” And what was Peter’s answer? “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In your baptism you received the gift of the Spirit who continues to create and sustain faith in your heart by the simple word of preaching, through the word of Pardon, and through the gift of the Savior’s mysteriously yet truly present body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.

And so it will continue until the end which is not end but the beginning of new and eternal life. The Holy Spirit who came this day as wind and flame continues to work the miracle of faith in the hearts of sinners like you and me so that like the first disciples and the 3000 converted on this day, we may with eyes of faith see our glorious risen Lord, hear His word of perfect peace, and be glad. And to Him be glory and honor now and forever. Amen.

And the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. +Amen.