Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone.

Sermon for Pentecost Sunday 2017

S. Pentecost Sunday.17 “It Gets Done” Acts 2:1-21

We’ve seen throughout the Easter season what a versatile book the Acts of the Apostles is. Acts has been our Old Testament reading for the last 7 weeks. Today, it is appointed as the Epistle reading. So, while I usually follow the ancient custom of preaching on the Gospel lection appointed by the church for the day, I don’t think it will really violate tradition, much, if I go ahead and use the reading from Acts as Gospel this morning. You don’t mind, right? It’s a much more generous reading than the three verses we’re allotted from John for our Gospel and fleshes out the work of the Spirit Christ promises us in that Gospel reading. Approached rightly (ritely?) all Scripture is Gospel, because, as Jesus says: it all points to Him…

Actually, I think the scholars who revised the common lectionary back in the 1970s missed an opportunity this morning. While the Day of Pentecost certainly fulfills what Jesus promised in our three verse Gospel reading from John 7, it fulfills more exactly and precisely another Gospel promise Jesus made, in Matthew 24:14. This is Jesus’ famous “End Times” discourse. He is sitting on the Mt. of Olives, right after the Palm Sunday processional, looking at the City. His disciples come and ask Him what He meant by saying all those lovely buildings and stones of Herod’s new temple at the center of Jerusalem would be destroyed, and when exactly this disaster might occur?

Jesus answers by saying we should not be led astray, because many will come and talk all kinds of nonsense about Him, and His Kingdom, in His Name—even claiming to be Christs themselves(!), but not to be fooled by such. Wars and rumors of war will arise, and nation against nation, and famines and earthquakes and all kinds of disasters will occur. These are not the end, but the beginning of the end…

Jesus says the disciples themselves will be delivered up to tribulation and trial, put to death, and hated by all nations, for Christ’s sake. And many will fall away and hate each other, and many false prophets will arise and adulterate the Gospel and the worship of Christ in all sorts of ways (bongos and praise bands aren’t mentioned by name, but I’ve always assumed they provide the background music for all this stuff, but maybe that’s just my bias showing). “Lawlessness will abound,” Jesus says, “and the love of many will grow cold, but the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

And then it comes, the promise that Pentecost richly fulfills, vs. 14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” The Gospel of the Lord!

And here is the fulfillment of that promise for us in our reading from that super-versatile book of Acts (like an ancient Swiss Army knife, that one, a tool for every purpose!). With the sound of a rushing, mighty wind, the Spirit blows into downtown Jerusalem, right to the house where the 120 disciples had gathered in the Name, and it is granted them to speak with all the different languages of the people gathered for the festival (probably over 100,000 festival goers, like an ancient, but devout, Lollapalooza). And Luke tell us in verse 5, so crucially (and yet so much skipped over!) that there were dwelling in Jerusalem that day Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven!!! The whole world had come to Zion, just like Isaiah said it would, way back when. Isaiah’s vision of the worldwide Gospel proclamation is interestingly different from the modern: where we think the Gospel goes to the nations, Isaiah sees the nations coming to Zion, and in this way, Christ’s Gospel takes over the world…

And it is crucial to see this, I think. In a world that for more than a century now has envisioned faith-creating Gospel proclamation as the work the members of the church must do, onerously, diligently, with great difficulty, this Gospel comes as sweet relief, and great, good news. As Luther re-discovered 500 years ago, in a world enslaved by legalism, the Gospel is a free and life-renewing gift of God, a divine miracle that is done to us graciously, without our works or efforts or labor. Jesus never said “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, because I’ve got a really huge task you have to help Me with!” No. He says “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden; and I will give you rest.” And He does…

Right here. Right now. On the Day of Pentecost, exactly 50 days after His crucifixion. Jesus doesn’t wait around (as so many imagine today!) to fulfill His promises. He is an eager and impatient Lord. He just can’t stand our sin and death. He just can’t wait to share His life and joy with us. So, 10 days after He ascends to fill the heavens as well as the earth, He sends His Spirit to proclaim salvation, to blow into our fetid old swamp of a world with the fresh, sea breeze of eternal life and peace.

Jesus doesn’t need us to take Him to the world. He draws the world to Himself by making it Church, thus making it new—with wind and fire, with the great, good news that sins are forgiven. The devil is defeated. Death and hell all vanquished lie. Life, and peace, and every good has come by One, for all…

See how the Day of Pentecost fulfills what Jesus promised in Matthew 24? Most do not see it; but the few who do find the greatest delight and consolation in this! The only thing that has to happen before the End, before Jesus comes among us openly, in glory, as our all-gracious and all-delightful King is for the Gospel to be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to the nations. And while nearly everyone today insists we are still waiting for this, Luke shows those who have eyes to see and ears to hear that the End has come—50 days after the crucifixion(!)—the final barrier to the Kingdom coming falls, and the world hears its Story anew for the first time since those happy days in Eden when we walked and talked with God in the cool of the evening breeze…

We are ever and always trying to turn the entirely free and all-freeing Gospel of Jesus into a task, a work, a chore we must perform to make it real. But it is real—all by Jesus’ say-so! His Word alone makes a new world that absorbs our old world of lies, sin, and death into His world of forgiveness, life, and peace. A disenchanted earth is re-enchanted by the Lord of heaven and earth, through His Spirit, by His Word and Sacrament.

This morning, we confirm 4 young people into this Holy Faith. Sidestepping the trap of diluting one iota the majesty, mystery, and splendor of this Word, we’re brought into the Kingdom with faithful hearts and no strings attached! Jesus doesn’t make us take the Mountain to Muhammad. He brings the world to the Mountain, Spirits us away, like Aslan with Eustace in “The Silver Chair”. Jill makes Eustace fall off a cliff, but the Lion is right there, blowing Eustace on His own breath to Narnia…

Just so, Jesus’ breath, His Spirit, bears us up again, today; by Gospel Word, by His Holy Supper, as He did at our Baptism. We don’t have to move the Mountain to the world. God moves us to His Mountain, by Word and Spirit, again, today. Here, we have come for real, to the Mountain that can’t be touched, that is splendid beyond imagination. Hearing the Word of IT in our own language moves us to where Peace surpassing understanding guards heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Services

22 October 2017

8:30 Divine Service with Communion

11:00 Matins

9:45 – Sunday School and Adult Bible class

Classes for ages 3 and up

Location

Our Savior Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran church in Raleigh, North Carolina, belonging to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We are located at: 1500 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608.

For directions, use 742 Nash Street, Raleigh.