Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sermon for 5/24/15: The Feast of Pentecost

Still down one computer. No audio. Sorry! 

Love and Peace

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

It's no coincidence that the first thing Peter does after receiving the Holy Spirit is that he begins preaching about Jesus. After all, the gift that day, the Holy Spirit, delivered to the Apostles the Word of God. That's what the Holy Spirit does: He delivers to us the work of Christ, and He does so through the Word. The Spirit does not tell us what He Himself looks like or how He does what He does. The Holy Spirit tells us about Jesus. And our Lord makes that very plain. "The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." It's not His job to whisper into your ears new and exciting revelations about the Will of God. It's not His job to bring about faith healings. It's not His job to promise you prosperity. It is His job to deliver Jesus to you. And that's exactly what He does.
This is a dangerous way of thinking today in the Church—dangerous because many who call themselves pastors, even within our own Missouri Synod, teach that it's the Holy Spirit's work to whisper sweet nothings into your ear, to make you wealthy, to make you popular with the world. And such teachings certainly make those who preach them popular and wealthy, but these rich and popular preachers do not deliver to you the forgiveness of sins which Jesus won for you. They deliver to you what they call love, but this is not truly love. What they call love is actually a poisonous mixture of self-affirmation, permissiveness, and even willful disobedience to the will and Word of God. The so-called love they give doesn't condemn sin; it celebrates sin. It wallows in sin. It twists everything so that evil is considered good and good is considered the highest form of evil.
I've told you this before, but Jesus has a different way of looking at love. Hear again the Word of the Lord: "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." These false preachers and teachers, along with their willing hearers, have chosen their homes. Their homes may be rich mansions, and their church buildings may be enormous structures, but these palaces do not have room in them for Jesus Christ. They do not make a place for the preaching of His Word; they feel no need for His gifts as He gives them. They have no need for the Holy Spirit, for they have given themselves up to the spirit of this world. They have their reward.
On that first Pentecost, the Apostles spoke in tongues they did not know by the power of the Holy Spirit. The tongues of fire upon their heads were not the miracle. The Spirit at work through his Word, burning in the hearts of men, so that they asked, "What shall we do?"—that was the miracle. That was the intervention of the Almighty in the course of human affairs. Luther said it: "I cannot, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him." But the Holy Spirit does what man cannot do. He converts and gives new birth from above. He changes the hearts of men.  
This isn't some far away, long ago act. This is who He is and what He still does today. He calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with his gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith. All of this He does through the Word. Men seek signs and get none but the sign of Jonah, Jesus said, that word of His resurrection from the tomb. If you will not believe that Word and live by faith, then no moving of mountains, however spectacular, will ever change your heart.
What, then, shall we do? Later in the Second Chapter of Acts, after Peter has preached his Pentecost sermon, the people asked the same question.  And this is what Peter told them: "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."
This is the God of the Holy Scriptures, the God of Jonah who brought even the pagan Ninevites to repentance and faith. He forgives. He justifies. He renews. He restores. He encourages. He feeds. He nurtures. He heals. He loves. And He does these things, not in some abstract or philosophical way, but in the real, solid things He has given—in His Word; in those cleansing waters of rebirth infused with His Triune Name; in the body and blood of Jesus Christ, given and shed for you. All of this is by grace, all by the death and resurrection of Jesus, sent by the Father, proclaimed by the Spirit.
Religious fads come and go, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. Here is your hope, your present and your future wrapped up into one: the God of all grace and mercy makes His home with you. This is the gift called Pentecost. This is the love and the peace that come to rest and remain in Christian hearts this day. Rejoice, and live in that peace. 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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