As we look at opening our churches to meet again in person, the question of many is why we think this is so important. Pentecost affords us the opportunity to discuss this with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
In accordance with the Promise of the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and they spoke of the wonderful deeds of God.
By the power of the Holy Spirit the Apostles preached the Good News of Jesus Christ, God in the Flesh, sacrificed and raised back to life for the salvation of the world. This was preached in foreign languages they had not known before; languages that take years of patient study to learn. They understood them and so did the foreigners in the city that day.
Several miraculous things were involved. First, there was the visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not have a body. He is a Spirit. Nonetheless, He was seen that day as tongues of fire upon the heads of the Apostles.
Secondly, they spoke in real languages, not incoherent babbling, that they had not learned. It was an undoing of the curse of Babel. Men were divided by languages. Now, men are reunited by the working of the Holy Spirit. We have one common language, the language of Faith.
And finally, the greatest miracle, is that the Holy Spirit inspired them with a message, with the Gospel. And by that preaching many were saved.
Our fallen flesh has the selfish tendency to look at the visible, outward, unusual things and think they are the significant things. And then to try and procure them for ourselves.
There is no promise in the Holy Scriptures that you are going to miraculously learn Spanish, or German, or Russian without hard work and effort. It happened to the Apostles, but there is no promise for you. Our missionaries work hard to speak the Gospel in the languages of the people they serve.
There is also no promise in the Holy Scriptures that God will inspire you to speak a made-up language that no one else speaks. There isn’t a single example of that kind of phenomenon ever happening.
We could speculate all day about what God could do. But we need to address what God has promised to do. He has promised to work through His Word. He still works through the Holy Spirit-inspired, Apostolic Word and by it men are made wise unto salvation. That is the inheritance of Pentecost.
However, it is a constant complaint against the Holy Spirit that He is boring. People accuse Him of it all the time. They go to church where the Holy Spirit works, and then they have the arrogance to say, I didn’t get anything out of it. In other words, the Holy Spirit isn’t smart enough to speak to me, to meet me where I am.
But was the Bible read? Were your prayers gathered with the prayers of other believers and prayed in Jesus’ name? Was the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ under bread and wine given to you? God put a lot into that Service. Why didn’t you get anything out of it? Because what He gives you, you don’t want! Because His gifts - the gift of life, the gift of love, the gift of peace - bore us.
The fight we have with ourselves is that our flesh desires the devil’s gifts - the gift of selfish, fleshly pleasure. We long for something novel and new. It has been good to be able to use technology these past weeks, but as many pastors had feared, we are inundated with comments about how nice it is to sit at home and have coffee while we watch on TV. It takes effort to come and be served by God. It is too easy to consider the forgiveness of sins to be ho-hum. Our flesh would like as little effort as possible.
Thus, we are called to repent; to again remember that this place is not just some house but rather is God’s House. God is here to serve you, but He serves in His own way - in the best way.
He still speaks by way of the inspired Apostles. The miracle of Pentecost is that we still hear the Apostolic Word in our own language! We learn of the wonderful deeds of God in - of all things - English, a language not yet even born at the time the Holy Spirit lit upon the Apostles! The Holy Spirit enables us to pray through the Son to the Father. He is the Spirit of Truth, leads us into all Truth, teaches us all things.
He is not some shallow spirit of nostalgia and contentment, of warm, simple happiness. Nor is He a spirit of erotic, fleshly pleasure. He does not come and whisper in your ear, “Nothing matters. We are all good, we all believe the same thing. Enjoy yourself. Do what feels good.” That is an altogether different spirit.
The Holy Spirit comes in Jesus’ Name. He bears witness to the wonderful deeds done for us through Jesus. In this way He comforts us, gives us the peace of Jesus Christ which passes all understanding. He calms our fearful, selfish hearts. He takes away our cares and puts our future into His own hands so that we do need not worry about ourselves. And this Holy Spirit unites us with Him and the Father and the Son and each other in the Holy Communion where we feast upon the risen and ascended Flesh of Christ.
It is this real sacramental union that makes our gathering here so different and important in the life of faith. This is what the world does not understand and why our churches come to the point of defying a governor’s order.
This is what Pentecost is all about. This Holy Spirit speaks the Truth and teaches us all things. He calls us into faith and hope. He cleanses and forgives us. He sanctifies us. And He gives us this deep joy at the proclamation of the wonderful deeds of God in Jesus Christ, Our Savior.
What a joy when we again can go to the house of the Lord.