Devotional Message: The Feast of Pentecost; Year B (5/20/2018)

Revised Common Lectionary Texts

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. 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 Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: Why is Pastor Dave a Lutheran?

Sometimes I wonder what course my life would have taken had I grown up under different circumstances. What if I had been born in a small village in India? Or raised by parents who rejected all notions of God and faith? Would I have followed the lead of those who raised me? Or would God somehow have broken through to me, and drawn me to a faith similar to the one I have now? That said, I am so grateful to have grown up in the Lutheran Church. I wonder, sometimes, had I grown up in a faith tradition that understands Jesus in a very different way than we do, if I would still be in the fold. But here I am. And as I reflect on the Day of Pentecost, I am cognizant of two aspects of our faith that have helped me to continue in my faith journey.

The first is the movement of the Holy Spirit in my life. Martin Luther had a strong belief in the power of the Spirit, and I suspect much of it was grounded in this week’s first lesson. Luther once wrote, “I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intelligence or power. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with its gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith…” Like the disciples on Pentecost, Luther found himself incapable of being the believer — much less the church leader — that God wanted him to be. But through the Holy Spirit, God continued to empower him to be a believer — even a leader — in the church. I too am aware that if it was entirely up to me, I’m afraid I wouldn’t make the grade. But the Holy Spirit, as it empowered the believers of the early church, and as it sustained the faith of Martin Luther, continues to draw me into the promise of our faith, and strengthen me to live as a child of God. I’ve come to understand this as the heart of grace: faith as a gift from the God who loves me just as I am; who loves me too much to leave me just as I am.

The second is our Lutheran church’s role in breaking down barriers that exist between Christian communities. There are religious organizations which are committed to creating firewalls between themselves and anyone who disagrees with them in any way. Ours is not one of them. In fact, the ELCA has working relationships with many Christian communities, from the Roman Catholic Church to the United Church of Christ. In a sharply divided time, our practice has been to discover what we have in common with other Christian bodies, and explore how we might do ministry together. On the Day of Pentecost, “there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem…” Different languages. Different cultures. Different traditions. Yet the Spirit moved through the followers of Jesus and gave to them the ability to share faith and create unity in situations where they shared almost nothing else with their listeners.

As a Lutheran, I’m glad for our emphasis on the faith-creating work of the Holy Spirit, and the unity-creating focus of the church. What is it that makes you glad to be a Lutheran?

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What divided people who found themselves in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost Day?
  2. How did the Holy Spirit move through Jesus’ followers to reach out to them?
  3. What was the result of the witness these Jesus followers made to the people of Jerusalem?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When has the Holy Spirit helped me through a time when it was hard to believe?
  2. To what new faithfulness is God calling me today, that will require the help of the Holy Spirit?
  3. When have I “called on the name of the Lord,” and what was God’s response?