Friday, June 15, 2012

Sermon for 5/27/12--The Feast of Pentecost

Gotta get caught up here. Sorry for the delay, y'all.

Babel and Pentecost

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The people of Babel lived just a few generations after the flood. Noah and his descendants had been given the same command by God that was given to Adam and Eve: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth." But the people of Babel didn't want to fill the earth. They said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." These people sought their identity and security not in God's Word and command but in their own achievements. They rejected the Lord as their God, and instead they made an idol of themselves.  They began to build a tower that would be so great, the generations to come would revere their name forever. This tower under construction stood there as a corrupt monument to their rebellion against God.

You are descendants of the people of Babel, and you, too, practice self-idolatry. Your sinful flesh doesn't seek to find its identity and security in God's Word, but in your own strength. The Old Adam in you wants to achieve a certain degree of immortality because of your attributes and accomplishments, so that your name might be remembered for generations to come. These things are monuments to a human race which trusts not in God but in itself. God does not let such rebellion go unpunished. Concerning the people of Babel, He said, "Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." Their words and speech were changed so that communication with one another was broken down. They could no longer carry out their plans. Their unity led to wickedness and evil, and so the Lord scattered them.

Babel is still real today—not only in the many languages that are still spoken throughout the world, but also in the lack of communication that can occur even between people of the same language. It's not only that fallen people can't understand one another; they don't even want to listen to one another. They assume the worst about something that was said or left unsaid. Words and language are used destructively and selfishly, to hurt or to gain power and control over others. Words and language are used as a cover for sin: abortion is called “the termination of a pregnancy” or “choice”; living together is called “testing the waters”; assisted suicide is called “death with dignity”. Babel lives on in a world divided by words and speech and language.

But into this fallen world of discord and division comes the blessed gift of Pentecost. At Babel God said in judgment, “Come, let us go down and confuse their language.” At Pentecost God poured out the Holy Spirit on the apostles. There were people of many different languages in Jerusalem for a Jewish holiday, and the Spirit enabled the apostles to clearly proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the people in Jerusalem in the languages of their hearers. For those who heard the apostles, their ears were opened so that they would understand and receive the forgiveness and salvation which Jesus won for them on the cross. Some didn't recognize God's gift and thought the apostles were drunk. But Peter proclaimed, “These men are not drunk; for it is still the middle of the morning. No, this is the fulfillment of prophecy; for God promised, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all peoples.’

God poured out His Spirit through words and language. The primary working of the Spirit that day was that the Word of God was preached: both Law and Gospel. By the Spirit's power, the apostles condemned the people for their unbelief in Christ and their wickedness in putting Him to death. Yet the apostles also proclaimed how God accomplished His saving purposes through Christ's death, and how He raised Jesus from the dead as Lord and Savior of all.

In contrast to Babel, the Spirit took the scattered peoples and brought them together and unified them through the Word of Christ. These new believers devoted themselves to the apostles' words and teaching, to the breaking of bread in the Lord's Supper, and to the prayers. At Pentecost, people were made one in Christ for the glory of God and the good of one another. Though the different languages remain, though forgiven sinners continue to speak and listen with the lips and ears of the Old Adam, the Spirit unites peoples of various places in the one body of Christ through His holy Word.

Pentecost continues still today in the church. The Holy Spirit continues to do among you the very things He did on the fiftieth day after Jesus' resurrection. The Spirit continues to call you to repentance and faith in Christ through the preaching of the Word. He convicts you of your guilt—even your abuse of God's gift of words and language. And He proclaims words of mercy and pardon to you in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Word made flesh. As you hear and believe this preaching of the Spirit, you are absolved and set free from guilt. You are forgiven, set right with God.

The Spirit continues to gather you who were once scattered in your sin and draws you together through the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion. As you are united with Christ in His Supper, you are also united with one another. You are made one by the Spirit in the body of Christ, the Communion of Saints. In the end, the ongoing reality of Pentecost continues to be the undoing of Babel in the church. Though you come from various places and different backgrounds, the Spirit unifies you in Jesus Christ. In the waters of Holy Baptism, Babel has been overcome for you.  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.  

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