ST. STEPHEN’S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Striving to speak God’s saving truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School | Beaver Dam, WI | 920.885.3309
A sermon on Acts 2:1-21 for Pentecost, May 28/29/31, 2020.
Recently, we found a surprise outside our window. We knew something was up before making the discovery. Birds kept flying to this one spot by our house. We did not think anything of it. We have feeders outside. Birds fly from tree to tree around the house. My son yelled out one day for us to come and look. Outside our window, in a basket hanging by the window, a birds nest. However, the surprise did not end there. A little baby bird stuck its head up. It waited for their mother to bring back a meal. We told the kids to leave the blinds closed so as not to scare the mother bird away. We checked periodically to see the progress of the young one. All of a sudden one day we looked and nothing. The bird had spread its wings and flew out into the world.
I picture the disciples like that baby bird in the days leading up to Pentecost. They stay nice and safe in the nest until the Holy Spirit gives them gifts, which lead those disciples to spread their wings and fly out into the world on their mission.
The disciples’ heads still spun from all the events they had been through. Ten days ago they watched as Jesus ascended on high to heave. Their necks strained as they watched Jesus until the clouds hid him from their sight. They had no idea what to do. God sent angels to comfort the disciples. They would see Jesus again. He would come again on the Last Day in the very same way they had seen him leave the earth.
Before Jesus ascended, he gave the disciples a command. They had to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit would come upon them. After a little bit, they remembered those commands. They walked from the place where Jesus ascended back to Jerusalem. Some might have talked about all the things that had taken place. Others might have been silent trying to wrap their minds around all the things which had taken place.
They entered into the house. They waited. The disciples had no idea how long it would be until the Holy Spirit would come. Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem, so they did exactly that. Then on the day of Pentecost the disciples’ life would change forever. The sound of a violent wind came from heaven. Tongues of fire rested upon the heads of the disciples. Then they started to speak in other languages.
The disciples did not have this ability before. Many of them had not traveled outside of Judah and Galilee. They made their living as modest fishermen. All of a sudden they speak foreign languages as if they had studied it for a lifetime.
For those who have studied a foreign language, you know how hard it is. You need to study all the rules. You conjugate verbs and decline nouns. It takes years of practice to become proficient in a foreign language. Even then certain nuances will not be known unless the person is a native speaker.
The disciples spoke these languages instantaneously. The Holy Spirit showered his gifts upon the disciples on this Pentecost. When the Spirit gives gifts, he gave them to be used. Jews from all over the world congregated in Jerusalem. They came to celebrate the festival of Pentecost. They spoke every language under the sun. God enabled the disciples to go out among these people to speak to them the wonders of God’s love and forgiveness in their own language.
The disciples left their timidity inside the house. They went out among the people to proclaim to them the eternal plans of God. The disciples saw the big picture of what had recently taken place in their life. They understood why Jesus had to suffer and die. More importantly they knew the comfort of Jesus’ resurrection. The disciples could not wait to go out and tell the people this good news. They wanted all those gathered in Jerusalem to know Jesus as their personal Savior. The Spirit delivered results. Three thousand people came to faith.
Many people often say how the Holy Spirit is the forgotten person of the Trinity. We credit the Father with creation. We stand in awe at the opening chapters of Genesis to see God finish his creation in six twenty-four hour days. We know the Son as the one who saves us. We follow his life on the earth, we hear of his miracles, and we appreciate his death and resurrection for us. The Holy Spirit, although just as important as he cooperates in all those works, seems to be on the back burner. However, we see that when the Holy Spirit gives his good gifts, he goes all out.
We look at our life and maybe we wonder where our gifts are. We do not have the ability to speak in various languages making us able to communicate with any culture anywhere. We compare ourselves to others only wishing we had those gifts of leadership, sharing, caring, singing, or whatever else it might be. Has the Holy Spirit passed over us? Did he forget to give his good gifts to me?
Nothing could be further from the truth. To each person the Holy Spirit had given all their gifts and abilities. He gathers all those gifts into the body of the Church, so that the work of the gospel might go on. He gives some people the gifts to be pastors and teachers. He gives others the gifts to carry out the administration of the church. He gives others the ability to work with numbers. To others he has given the ability to work with their hands or produce art or hymns or prayers. Each of those gifts serve this purpose: to build up the body of Christ.
The main work of the Spirit is to bring people to faith. He does that through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. He uses me. He uses you! He uses all of us. We simply proclaim the Word handed down to us from our parents to tell them about Jesus love. We speak the simple news of Jesus’ forgiveness.
The Holy Spirit gives his gifts to the Church so that we might proclaim the truth of God’s work to all. When he gives the gifts, he wants us to use those gifts in his service. May the Lord give us strength to carry out his work with the Spirit’s help. Amen.