Having been Installed as their pastor this past Sunday, this will be the first sermon I deliver to the saints at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois. As I say in the sermon, Pentecost is the perfect day to step into a new pulpit for the first time. May God bless us together as we share in the work of the Kingdom!
All Things that I Said to You
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, commemorating the day on which the promised Holy Spirit descended upon the Twelve, giving them the ability to speak in other languages, allowing them to declare the wonderful works of God to the world. Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Church, for in the pouring out of the Spirit upon the Apostles, the confession of Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” was made before the people of the world, and three-thousand people on that day made that confession their own. What a wonderful day to step into this pulpit for the first time!
No matter what Jesus says or does, it seems as though the disciples miss the point of His lesson. For example, if Jesus is talking about His suffering, death and resurrection, all they can see is that Jesus is going to die. In our Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that He is going to the Father and that He will send the Holy Spirit to them, but all they hear is that Jesus is leaving them. How on earth can they keep the Word which Jesus spoke to them when they have no idea what Jesus was saying?
Of course, the disciples weren’t stupid. In hindsight, we know that these men became brilliant preachers and teachers of the Church, suffering everything, even death, rather than betraying the Gospel of Christ. We also know from Scripture that some things were deliberately hidden from their understanding, like when Jesus walked on the road to Emmaus with two of the faithful and explained to them why He had to suffer and die; but until Jesus broke bread with them, they didn’t realize that Jesus was the one speaking to them. And we are told near the end of Luke’s Gospel that, when Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection, He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
But in our Gospel, Jesus had not yet been arrested or convicted or put to death. He had not yet opened their minds to understand His Word. Jesus told the disciples that the Father will send the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit will do two things. First, He will teach them all things; and second, He will remind them of all that Jesus said. This is important, because Jesus also told the disciples, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.”
This is an explicit message for you, too. Jesus says to you, even as He said to the disciples, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” This is a heavy burden to bear. How do we know the Word of God? And what’s more, how can we know the Word of God so that we may keep it—and keep it fully, since there is so much to it?
This is your daily struggle as a Christian on this side of heaven. The prince of this world, Satan, seeks to lead you astray; and sinner that you are, it’s all too easy for you to follow where he would lead you. The Word of God includes the admonition to be faithful in marriage; but how easy it is to let your eyes and mind wander to someone other than your spouse. The Word of God includes the directive to honor and obey your parents and others in authority; but it’s all too easy to seek your own way, to ignore the authority of parents so that you may do what you want to do. The Word speaks clearly about the need for Christians to gather to be given the Word; but it’s so tempting to sleep in on Sunday, or to plan an early departure for one more day of fishing or whatever fun activity tempts you away from the place where you hear the Word preached in its truth and purity. The Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus and His death and resurrection for you; The Spirit does not testify about Himself. But how easy it would be on the Feast of Pentecost to focus on the work of the Holy Spirit instead of the work of Jesus.
How easy it is to hear what you want to hear in the Word of God. It would be so simple to dismiss those things in Holy Scripture that do not please you, the things that make you uncomfortable. The Old Adam in each of you is prepared to seek any way he can to please himself, to despise God and His gifts, to ignore and reject the Word. And in rejecting the Word and seeking after the things of this world, we reject the Father and His love.
But to you, also, the Father has sent the Holy Spirit, in the waters of Holy Baptism—what Luther’s Small Catechism calls “a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit”. It is no coincidence in the Apostles Creed that the Holy Spirit and “the Holy Christian Church” are so closely linked; for it is in Baptism that we receive the Holy Spirit, and it is also in Baptism that we become part of the Church. And we know that we are part of the Church because the Church is where those who believe the truth of the Word of God are gathered to hear that Word preached in its truth and purity and to receive the gifts of God, the Holy Sacraments.
We live in this world. This world cannot give us true peace; and even if it could, it does not desire us to have peace. Satan is the prince of this world, and as you have already heard, he seeks to lead you astray. But in His Word, Jesus gives us true and lasting peace. He gives us the forgiveness of sins, which gives peace to calm us when we are troubled by our sins. For we do sin. Our eyes stray. We are willful and disobedient. We fail to hold sacred the Word of God; we fail to gladly hear and learn it. But that, too, is answered by Christ in His Church. As John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote in his first epistle, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In cleansing us from all unrighteousness, Jesus gives us His own peace, spoken to us in the Word of Holy Absolution, spoken to us by the pastor as by Christ Himself.
On this Feast of Pentecost, you are invited to approach this altar boldly. You are a baptized child of God, baptized with water and the Spirit. You have heard the Word spoken to forgive your sins, drowning the Old Adam in the waters of Holy Baptism. You have heard the Word preached from the pulpit. Come now to receive the Word in the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it”. Come, you who love the Lord. Receive His body and blood; and then, go in the peace of the Lord. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.