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Sermon for Pentecost

June 10, 2014 2 comments

Note:  The text for this sermon is Acts 2:1-41.  The sermon can be heard by clicking the embedded player below

or by clicking the link and downloading the mp3 file to your computer for listening or perhaps even burning to a CD.

Sermon for Pentecost.mp3

 

pentecost

Today is the festival of Pentecost.  After Easter it is the second most important day in the Church Year.  A statement like that might stop and make you think.  More important than Christmas?  I’d have to say, yes, Pentecost is more important than Christmas because there was never a time when the Church did not celebrate the day Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on the Church.  And there was a good long time, some 400 years or so, when the Church did not celebrate Christmas.  And if Jesus was raised on the eighth day of the week, then Pentecost, the eighth Sunday of Easter, makes perfect sense.  Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard Jesus promise to send His Spirit and what that would mean.  Jesus said when the Spirit came He would make the truth of Jesus known to us.  In John 16, Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  (Jn 16:13-14)  All of that teaching is now come to fulfillment in the wind, fire and preaching of the resurrected Christ of God.  And in our readings today, the Holy Spirit came and that’s exactly what He did, just as Jesus said He would, just as the prophets had prophesied He would.  Jesus has ascended, yes; and now we have His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Yahweh.

I have to admit that growing up in the church, the full weight of Pentecost was lost on me.  I remember hearing that the significance of Pentecost had to do with great rushing wind, the tongues of fire on the apostles’ heads, and their speaking in different foreign languages.  But as I learned more, that I began to realize that while those are all amazing wonders, they are not the Good News of the Gospel.  Oh, they are amazing and they are well within the realm of God’s previous activity.  We know it was a powerful wind that drove back the waters of the Red Sea that allowed Israel to pass through on dry ground.  And we know that fire and the real presence of God are often synonymous in the OT, whether it’s in a burning bush, atop Mt. Sinai or column of fire and smoke that led Israel through the wilderness and came to reside enthroned between the outstretched wings of the cherubim atop the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle and later in the temple.  And we also know it was God Himself who confused the languages of humankind at Babel so it should be a powerful sign that God Himself should speak to all people so that they can hear the Good News about Jesus.  But still, these signs and wonders are not the Good News about Jesus.  Maybe, my pastors were trying to make the same point I am today but I was too fixated on the wind, fire, and tongues.  Probably.  No the whole point of the wondrous signs is that they accompany Peter’s preaching.

Peter preaches a fine sermon.  Peter, who just moments prior to the outpouring of the Spirit was still gathered with the disciples in the upper room, presumably with the door still locked for fear of the Jews.  Peter preaches a sermon about these wonders based on Joel chapter 2.  These men are not babbling drunk, they are speaking in the languages of the Parthians, Medes, and Elamites and the residents of Mesopotamia and all the others present there in Jerusalem for Jewish harvest festival.  This is a great day, the day of the Lord bestowing the Holy Spirit on all who believe.  But even here, we aren’t truly at the Good News about Jesus because the Gospel is not that the Lord’s gives the Holy Spirit.  No!  Why does Jesus say He’ll send His Spirit?  Jesus says the Spirit will come not to glorify Himself but to glorify Him.  The Holy Spirit comes and guides us to Jesus, the truth.  The Holy Spirit comes to point us to Jesus.  Remember, Jesus said, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  You might be wondering where all this is in Peter’s sermon today.  And you know what the problem is?  The problem is we don’t have the whole sermon today in our reading.  We divide it up, and read the second half next week on the festival of the Holy Trinity.  If we had the whole thing today, we would hear Peter preach to all those people in the temple courtyards that Jesus of Nazareth, the one that everyone knew did mighty wonders and signs, was betrayed, crucified and killed by many of the very same people who were listening to Peter preach.  But that this very same Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and ascended to His rightful place of authority in heaven.  That’s the Gospel.   That’s the Good News of God for a world smothered by death, and enslaved to the power of rebellion against God Himself.  And that’s why when the men heard the Gospel preached by Peter and the other apostles in their own languages, they repented of their sin and sought the forgiveness of sins that comes only through the working of the Holy Spirit.

There are a great number of problems in the Christian Church throughout the world today.  Look around and in almost every place you’ll see something other than Christ preached.  Oh they preach fine sermons on the strengths of Christianity.  Or they’ll preach strong Christians and the Christian is preached.  Or they preach fine sermons that lift up the organization and the Church is preached.  But Peter and the apostles did not preach the Church or the Christian; they preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified and raised from the death for the forgiveness of sins.  Just as Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do when He was sent.

Peter’s sermon is a fine corrective for any church or for any pastor who would forget about the centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  A church can feed the hungry and house the homeless and, without Christ at the center, not be the church.  Our school could be the best educational institution in the county, even the state, and yet without Christ at the center of what we do, not be the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst.  We should keep the true purpose of our school foremost in our minds today as we meet to ratify the school’s budget.  We don’t have a school so that we can be better or more loving than other schools.  We have a school because we believe children need to learn about the world with the full knowledge of who created it and who redeemed it by dying for it on the cross.  That’s it.  Our congregation can put thousands of dollars any areas of work we call ministry, but if it is apart from centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, it is something other than the work of the Holy Spirit.

We sometimes hear that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, the beginning of the Christian Church.  But that’s not right.  Pentecost is most certainly not so much the start of something completely new and different, but the Lord’s own confirmation on all that has taken place over the past 50 days.  Think of it that way.    When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, what happened?  His baptism was confirmed by the great voice from heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove onto Jesus.  Now in the wake of Jesus’ suffering, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, we have a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the whole Church, and that Spirit points us to Jesus Christ and His suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins.  That’s the purpose of Pentecost.  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit, to point you to what Jesus did for you.  Amen.

 

 

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Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

April 28, 2013 Leave a comment

C-58 Easter 5 (Jn 13.31-35)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note:  Okay, so apparently WordPress is handling links to media files differently now.  Instead of a link, there’s an audio player widget here that you click on.  Sorry about that.  

https://revsmith.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/34-sermon-for-easter-5.mp3

Augustana 2013

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!

The text for the sermon today is the Gospel reading for today from John 16.

So, just a few words towards the broader context then for this passage.  This is chapter 16 in John.  These are Jesus last words, if you will, to the disciples the night He is arrested.  He’s washed their feet and reclined at table with them.  Presumably the Last Supper has already been had.  And Jesus is speaking.  Chapter 14, I am going to prepare a place for you.  Jesus promises the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will come and teach all things (14:26)  At the end of 14, Jesus says, let’s get up and go.  So maybe what Jesus is saying here is on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane or maybe it’s one of those conversations you have on the way out the door when you’re not yet ready to leave the person you’re talking to but you have to start heading that way.  Chapter 15, I am the vine, you are the branches.  Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. (15:13)  Oh, by the way, the world is going to hate you, because the world hated me so get ready but don’t worry because the Spirit will come, proceeding from the Father and when he comes he will bear witness about me, Jesus says which is similar to what He says in our reading today.  And all of this is said to keep them strong.  Jesus says at the beginning of chapter 16, ““I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” (16:1-4)

This is the context then.  Jesus knows that He is about to be betrayed by one of His own, arrested, and brutally murdered.  “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”  It’s all about to go down.  These are things that Jesus has to tell them.  They are things that the disciples may not want to hear but nonetheless they are things that need to be said even if they can’t be fully understood without knowing what happens on Good Friday and Easter morning.  He is saying these things because He’s about to not be with them for a while.  But He will have more to say to them once He is resurrected.  These words are “last words” or at least “last words” for a while anyway.

Now, granted, even though we are now well into the Easter season, our Gospel reading comes from what Jesus spoke the night of Maundy Thursday.  I know that can be little confusing.  We’ve had some post-resurrection appearances of Jesus already and now we’re back to before He’s arrested but there is a logic to it and this is it.  Just as the disciples heard these things before Jesus was arrested and raised and didn’t really make sense of them until afterward, so we too, can now hear these words from our Lord and make sense of them in the light of Jesus’ work on the cross for us, what John calls Jesus’ glorification (how about that? huh?), and Jesus’ glorious resurrection on Easter morning.

How long will it take for these things to begin to truly make sense to the disciples?  A little while.  One of the things I do that I’m sure annoys my dear wife, is any answer of mine that includes “a little while.”  When are you going to be ready for dinner?  “A little while?”  When are you going to finish painting the cabinets?  “A little while.”  I may have a far more specific time frame in mind, but for her, it’s just frustrating.  Jesus certainly has a time frame in mind.  After the next several hours when He is arrested and murdered, rested in the grave and raised.  Then, with the Spirit’s help, they will understand all these things.

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”  On the third day, Jesus was raised and the disciples saw him again.  And yet it was a different kind of seeing wasn’t it?  Easter morning, Mary thinks she’s taking to the gardener.  “Tell me where they’ve laid him,” she says.  And Jesus calls her by name, “Mary.”  And Mary sees that’s it’s the Lord.  “Rabboni!” she says.  Mary sees Jesus on Easter morning with her ears.  The evening of the resurrection, two disciples are walking to Emmaus speaking with this strange traveler about the recent events in Jerusalem and then noticing their hearts burn within them as this stranger opened the Scriptures to them and taught them about the Lord’s Christ and then recognized the stranger as the Lord, only after they sat down to supper and He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them.  They recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread.  Sometimes, I think we fall into the trap of thinking it’s far easier for the disciples to believe everything they saw because they saw it firsthand.  After all they walked with Jesus for three years, watched Him heal, and heard Him teach.  Thomas actually put his hand in Jesus’ side.  And yet, Jesus says, blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.  Dear friends, we are to see the Lord with our ears, we are to see him in the Word read, studied and preached for us.  And we sin when we fail to listen, shun any opportunity to understand the Word of God better than we do.  We let our fear of being found out keep us from the very Word that brings us life.  Our foolish pride will kill us.  It’s like we won’t come to dinner because somebody might think we we’re hungry.  And do I have time to list how we sin against the preached Word?  Being inattentive to it just scratches the surface.  Too often we expect to be entertained rather than challenged and fed and judge the preacher accordingly.  We’d much rather hear about other peoples’ sins rather than be called to account for our own.  “Chief of sinners, though I be; I’m pretty sure that other guy’s worse than me.”  And yet, the clear model of the Lord Himself was to call all His disciples to account when they erred, not just the other guy.  But here it is.  We are to see the Lord with the eyes of faith, we are to see Him with our ears.

Jesus has promised to be with his disciples in His Word.  And it’s the same for us.  The eye of faith hears the Word.  He called you each by name in Holy Baptism.  He speaks to you here today through the words of His servant, His called man, “I forgive you all your sins.”  Thus says the Lord.  He speaks to you today through His Word and proclaims to you all that He did for you, His suffering and death for your sins, even if you’re bored of hearing about it.  He speaks to you at His own table.  “This is My body, given for you.  This is my blood, shed for You.”  Even when you despise it, even when you think you might not need it, even when you’re not convinced it’s really special this time.  Here He is.  The Lord is here.  Do you see Him?  Rejoice.  He has turned your sorrow over sin into great joy.  He is here for you.  Amen.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!

Amen.