The Day of Pentecost (5/31/2009)
The Gift of the Holy Spirit
Lessons: Acts 2:1-21 or Ezekiel 37:1-14 Psalm 104:24-34, 35b Romans 8:22-27 or Acts 2:1-21 John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Prayer of the Day Mighty God, you breathe life into our bones, and your Spirit brings truth to the world. Send us this Spirit, transform us by your truth, and give us language to proclaim your gospel, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs-in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" 13 But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine." 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 'In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' "
Acts 2:1-21 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
The Day of Pentecost is all about the Holy Spirit. On the fiftieth day after the resurrection of our Lord, the Holy Spirit showed up in visible form, blew through the room where the disciples were gathered, and pushed them out into the street, where their inspired testimony led to the conversion of some 3,000 people.
As was the case on that Pentecost Day, the church has long believed that the Holy Spirit is the power of God which is able to create faith in the hearts of those who hear the good news about Jesus Christ. In the Sixteenth Century, Dr. Martin Luther wrote about the work of the Holy Spirit, using these words:
"I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith. In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith."
Martin Luther was a doubter at heart. He had no doubt about the reality of God, but he often doubted whether or not he could trust that God actually loved him. Luther was a doubter, though, whose heart had been grasped by the Holy Spirit.
Luther believed that the Holy Spirit called him through the Gospel. He knew that there was a power in God's word, and he was convinced that he was a believer not because of his own ability to believe, but because of the Holy Spirit's ability to stir faith in his heart. As he read and studied the Bible, as he worshipped with God's people, as he meditated on his understanding of God, the Holy Spirit moved through those experiences to create faith in Luther's heart.
Luther believed that the Holy Spirit enlightened him with its gifts. As Christians, we understand that each of us has been anointed, in baptism, to play a role in proclaiming the good news of Christ. Not many Biblical characters are models of strength and wisdom. Most are dramatically flawed. Yet, despite their weakness, the Holy Spirit empowered their service in a way that helped them to make great things happen. So too, the Spirit inspires our service, and makes use of our gifts to touch and inspire others.
Luther believed that the Holy Spirit made him holy. The Sixteenth Century reformers were fond of describing Christians as Simil Justis et Peccator: "at the same time saint and sinner." Luther was realistic about human nature. He understood that no matter how deeply touched we have been by faith, we will still be flawed human beings. (Hence the bumper sticker: "Christians are not perfect; just forgiven") Yet he knew that through the Holy Spirit, believers receive the gift of Christ's righteousness - so that when God sees us, God sees the perfection of Christ.
Luther believed that the Holy Spirit kept him in the one true faith. Martin Luther was a brilliant scholar and theologian. If anyone had the right to brag a bit about his understanding of sacred matters, it was Luther. But even in this area, Luther was realistic about his own ability to misunderstand. It was the Holy Spirit's influence on him, he believed, that kept him from straying - that kept him in the one, true faith.
A careful reading of Reformation theology reveals that the founders of our Lutheran movement had a deep trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. A careful reading o the book of Acts reveals that the founders of the Christian church had a deep trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. This Sunday is a time when we affirm that the Holy Spirit continues to move among us. And as we learn to trust it, God works through us to empower our faith and our faithfulness. For this we give God thanks and praise!
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week's Gospel:
- How was the Holy Spirit evident on the Day of Pentecost?
- How did the Spirit move through Peter and the others to create faith in those who were listening to them?
- What did Luther learn about the Holy Spirit through his own relationship with God?
Connecting with This Week's Gospel:
- What would it mean for the Holy Spirit to blow through me?
- What can God help me accomplish, through the Holy Spirit?
- How can my testimony (and the witness of my congregation) help others to "call upon the name of the Lord" - as was the case on that first Pentecost Day?