GRACE EV. LUTHERAN CHURCH Milwaukee, WI 5/20/18
Sermon by Pastor James R. Huebner based on Ac 2:1-21
Intro - “I’ll trade you a dozen tilapia for that bushel of grain.” “That’s sounds about right. You bartered the same deal for the Firstfruits Festival seven weeks ago, and I see no reason to change it for your trip to Jerusalem for the big harvest festival coming up.” Peter replied, “You’re certainly in a cheery mood. Usually, as a farmer at this time of year, you’re wringing your hands, hoping to break even after the grain harvest. What’s with all the smiles?” “You want to know why I’m smiling? It’s the wind. The spring rains ripened the grain, but the key was the wind, right on target to dry out the grain and make sure we weren’t slogging through mud. My fields aren’t rice patties, you know. I have barley and wheat. So, when you as a fisherman and I as a farmer take our families to Jerusalem for the annual end-of-harvest festival, we’ll be praising God and smiling ear to ear because of the harvest wind.”
Here’s a fascinating tidbit from the original languages of the Bible. The word for Spirit can also be translated “wind.” On that harvest festival in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, there was more than a spring breeze blowing. The Holy Spirit, the Wind of God, was blowing to harvest souls. So today we return to that account from Acts chapter two and rejoice because
The Harvest Wind is Still Blowing
1. In an unexpected way (1-4)
2. To unexpecting people (5-13)
3. With unexpected results (14-21)
- Ten days earlier, the disciples trudged along the winding, dusty, switch-back path that ran down the Mount of Olives, wondering, “What exactly did Jesus mean when he said, ‘The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you’? How will we know when the Holy Spirit has arrived?” Two days went by after Jesus made himself invisible. Three days went by. Then four days. “So what do you think, Peter? Is Jesus going to keep his promise? Maybe if we stay in hiding for another week or so, nothing will happen, and we all can go back to fishing.” But on the tenth day after Jesus’ ascension, on the day of the big harvest festival, the Holy Spirit came blowing in in an unexpected way. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other [tongues] languages as the Spirit enabled them (1-4). Their hair was not blowing around like riding on a Harley without a helmet. The drapery wasn’t whipping in the wind. This was only a sound like the blowing of a violent wind, an audible sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence. And their hair didn’t start on fire. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire. Flames are a symbol of zeal and energy, a visible sign of the Spirit’s work. Then an even more unexpected miracle occurred. The disciples started speaking other tongues, not gibberish, not emotional, ecstatic, blabbering and blubbering, but known foreign languages. With this ability they began proclaiming. Do you see how the Holy Spirit, the Harvest Wind, showed up at that harvest festival in Jerusalem in an unexpected way?
- When the Holy Spirit goes to work in your life, don’t expect him to give you the ability to speak a foreign language without going to school to learn it. He distributed that gift in the first century to get the good news about Jesus out to places where it had never been before because the good news was not yet in print in the New Testament books. There is nothing in this account to indicate that this miraculous gift would continue in the church for all time. But the Holy Spirit, the Harvest Wind, is still blowing in unexpected ways. He goes to work through a couple sprinkles of water and a few syllables of Scripture to change a baby from heathen status to heavenly status. He goes to work through a paper-thin wafer and a little sip of wine to hug us with his forgiving love. He goes to work through black letters printed on pages of a book, through sound waves from a church speaker system to our ears, and in our memory banks whenever we recall a passage of Scripture. The Harvest Wind is blowing when Mom or Dad sits on the edge of the bed and reads a Bible story to their child at bedtime, when you read devotional material based on the truths of Scripture, in our Sunday School classrooms, in Bible information classes, in Bible classes. The words of Scripture are the Holy Spirit’s tool to create and strengthen faith. Where the word of God is, there the Holy Spirit is working. There the Harvest Wind is blowing, harvesting souls.
- Some of you here today never expected it to turn out this way. You were simply going to check out this church business or go with a friend to a Bible class. But the Holy Spirit went to work on your heart using the words of Scripture. Even though you didn’t feel anything, the Harvest Wind is still blowing in an unexpected way, and here you are, members of this Lutheran congregation.
- On that harvest fest in Jerusalem Jesus’ disciples were not the only ones affected by the Spirit’s work. There were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. [They were] utterly amazed (5-7a). People who were used to rules and regulations, laws and legalities as the way of worship came to Jerusalem and usually heard, “Eat this kind of food but not that! Bow down here but not there! Bring this kind of sacrifice but not that! Pray in this way but not that!” Suddenly these devout worshipers heard the disciples of Jesus declaring the wonders of God in [their] own languages! (11).
- And it wasn’t just the fact that the unschooled disciples of Jesus were speaking in the languages of the nations represented in Jerusalem at this harvest festival. It was the message they spoke that was utterly amazing. They heard about the wonders of God – not “Here’s what you have to do” but “Here’s what God did for you,” the wonder that God loves sinners so much that he sacrificed his own dear Son to pave the road to heaven. The people in Jerusalem had to ask, “Do you mean that if we try to follow rules, we’ll always come up short? Do you mean that we can do absolutely nothing to get in with God? Do you mean that God credits all the good Jesus has done to our account? Do you mean people back in our home countries who are not Jewish – Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome ...; Cretans and Arabs – are also loved by God?” (9-11). The disciples declared, “Yes! That’s exactly what we mean by ‘the wonders of God’!” Through that good news the Holy Spirit, the Harvest Wind, was blowing to unexpecting people.
- Too often we don’t appreciate something until we lose it. We don’t appreciate healthy lungs until the x-rays show a spot. We don’t appreciate the consistent pumping of our heart until the doctor says there’s some blockage. We don’t appreciate the miracle of clear sight until we have to hassle with glasses or contacts. I think that’s the problem with some lifelong Christians. We don’t know what it’s like to be without the assurance of God’s love in Christ, and that’s why there are times we fail to appreciate what we’ve got. But stop and think of the last time you lied to make yourself look good, the last time you scowled in anger at someone for no reason other than that your precious ego had been poked, the last time you covered your bigotry with, “Those people should look and act like me,” the last time you allowed greed to trump generosity, the last time you did something in the dark of night that you wouldn’t want anyone to see in the light of day. How dare any of us take God’s forgiveness for granted? We are the ones who ought to be blown away in a tornado of his anger. But instead he sends the Harvest Wind of his Spirit to whisk our sins from his sight. What a shocking reversal of what we deserve! The Harvest Wind is still blowing to unexpecting people like me and like you.
- Do you remember how this harvest festival in Jerusalem ended? Those who accepted [the] message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day (2:41). The Wind of God, the Holy Spirit, was harvesting souls! But it wasn’t just the sheer numbers that were amazing. The apostle Peter pointed to even more important results. “Fellow Jews and all of you who are in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you” (14). Then he proceeded to quote from the Old Testament prophet Joel to explain the link between what was happening that day and what was going to happen on Judgment Day. The Holy Spirit was doing two things, sweeping away their confusion about Jesus and his work and swooshing in courage to testify that as far as God is concerned, once the Holy Spirit goes to work and creates faith in a person’s heart, for that person Judgment Day is as good as done.
- The Holy Spirit makes all of what Jesus did ours. He gives us Jesus’ perfect life. He gives us Jesus’ payment for sin. On top of all that, he gives us the faith to believe it’s all true, and the moment he does that, whenever it happened, although imperceptibly and unnoticed, that’s the moment he opened heaven’s doors for you and turned Judgment Day from a threat to a treat. Trust in Jesus as your sure and only hope for heaven. Then Judgment Day will be the happiest day of all because the Holy Spirit is still working, the Harvest Wind is still blowing, with unexpected results.
Concl - Some of you may have arrived at worship today looking forward to a celebration of the Festival of Pentecost. Others may have glanced at the worship folder and thought, “How about that? It’s Pentecost!” But whether you knew all about the Spirit’s work or are just now getting a little more familiar with it, I encourage you to dig into the Scriptures. Ponder the message in book after book, chapter after chapter, paragraph after paragraph, and the Holy Spirit will use that message of God’s love for sinners to do what he did for the first disciples. He will put a smile on your face by sweeping away confusion and swooshing in courage, lighting a flame of zeal and energy to proclaim Jesus’ love so that the Harvest Wind may blow into the hearts of others. Come, Holy Spirit! Fill the hearts of your faithful people and kindle in us the fire of your love!