The Feast of Pentecost; Year B (5/24/2015)

Lessons:Acts 2:1-21 or Ezekiel 37:1-14 Psalm 104:24-34, 35b Romans 8:22-27 or Acts 2:1-21 St. 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. 18Even 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.’ ”

paragraph-line

 

The Acts of the Apostles 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.

Led By The Spirit

Many years ago I witnessed a conversation between my Pastor and another member of our church. The member was going on at length about what the church was doing wrong, and what it needed to do, in order to put things right again. The Pastor asked him how he had come to that conclusion. The member responded that the Spirit had led him to it. The Pastor (somewhat uncharacteristically) asked him, “What spirit?”

I didn’t realize it at the time — I thought the Pastor was just being a smart aleck — but he was asking the classic Pentecost question: “How does God the Holy Spirit inspire human beings?” Put more bluntly: “How can we tell if we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit, or some other spirit, or simply our own personal agenda?”

I am reminded of the story I once heard about a Pastor and his wife who were struggling in their marriage. She thought he was ignoring her needs; he thought she was being too demanding. At one point she said, “How come the Holy Spirit often calls him to go hunting with his friends, but never calls him to spend a weekend with me?”

When we talk about God the Holy Spirit, it is easy to deceive ourselves. Our strong sense of purpose might be a gift of the Holy Spirit; it might also be our own broken nature, rebelling against God. Our insight into a situation might come from the Holy Spirit; it might also come from our personal biases, affecting how we see things. Our inspired new idea might be a gift from the Holy Spirit; it might also be a product of our own life experiences. There is no small amount of mystery involved when the Spirit is at work, and we do well to remember that.

In this week’s first lesson, we read of the day when the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples, and empowered them to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the international cast of characters who were gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish Festival of Pentecost. Some wondered, at first, if it actually was the Holy Spirit (or was it, as they suspected, the result of drinking too much?). Eventually, Christians concluded that it was the Holy Spirit, for one reason: the Holy Spirit of God was seen to be accomplishing God’s stated purpose. In his farewell address to the disciples, Jesus says to them very simply, “You will be my witnesses…” On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to overcome the barriers of language that existed, and they did just that. They witnessed to what they had experienced in Christ, and some 3,000 people became Christians.

In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther described the work of the Holy Spirit in this way: “… the Holy Spirit called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith.” Accomplishing God’s stated purpose, indeed!

When we find ourselves wanting to claim that the Holy Spirit has spoken to us, we might do well to consider our own convictions with a hermeneutic of suspicion. But when we find ourselves strengthened and enthused to do those things which God has already called us to do, then we can declare, with much more conviction, that the Holy Spirit is at work.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What signs were present that the Holy Spirit was at work on that first Pentecost Day?
  2. What were the results of the disciples’ actions?
  3. What did the Holy Spirit do in order to make it possible?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What is God calling me to accomplish with my life?
  2. What would be signs that I am focused on that calling in a faithful way?
  3. When have I perceived the Holy Spirit at work in my own life?