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Worship Theme: Come, Holy Spirit
Sermon Theme: The Pentecost ABCs
Today we look at a beginning. In Acts 2:1-21, God’s Word records for us the beginning of his Church. As we study how the Christian Church began, it’s appropriate to consider “The Pentecost ABC’s.” June 5, 2022.
One of the first things that a child learns is their ABC’s. Even before preschool, most kids can get at least that far. Long before they learn how to speak, children can recite ABCDEFG. Parents make their kids recite the ABCs, mostly to help them learn them better, but maybe a little bit to show off how smart their youngster really is! The ABCs are often associated with beginnings. The ABCs are the beginning of learning. The simple first steps of a project are sometimes said to be “as easy as ABC.” Being positioned at the beginning of the alphabet makes these three letters synonymous with beginnings.
Today we look at a beginning. God’s Word records for us the beginning of his Church. As we study how the Christian Church began, it’s appropriate to consider The Pentecost ABC’s. Today we’ll look at ABC gifts that God gave his Apostles and we’ll see how he continues to give his Church those gifts as well. We’ll see God’s grace in how he gives us abilities, boldness, and clarity.
“A” is for Abilities
One of the most recognizable of the events of Pentecost are the signs that God designed to appear that day. They are definitely the most tangible. God used some signs carried out near, on, and through the disciples. Like a teacher that blows her whistle on the playground, to get her children to stop moving, close their mouths, and listen, God sent these signs for a similar reason. He wanted those who were there to know that something special was happening. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. And the whistle worked! They took note of what was happening! And what did they see when they looked up? They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And as if all this weren’t enough to take in, when the disciples opened their mouths, it was foreign languages that came out. God gave them the ability to speak a language they had never studied. I studied German for 5 years in school and no offense to my teachers, I barely know enough to find “Die Toilette” but these men were able to speak clearly and fluently in not just one, but many foreign languages. What a special ability that God gave to the Apostles that day!!!
So, what about us? Does the Holy Spirit come to us today? Though it may not be in the same extraordinary ways that he came on Pentecost – the Holy Spirit certainly comes to us, and it’s just as miraculous when he does! He doesn’t rattle our church walls with the sound of a violent and powerful wind, but he comes to us through the whisper of his Word. And God’s Word miraculously does what nothing else can – it creates and strengthens faith. I don’t believe the Holy Spirit has plans to arrive today in flames of fire, but he arrives in the waters of Baptism. Every time a baby or an adult comes to the font, there the Holy Spirit miraculously appears to grant forgiveness and life. Your pastor may only be able to speak one language well, but you hear from him the special language of forgiveness as the Spirit comes through Jesus’ body and blood– “given and shed for you” for in his Holy Supper.
And what about abilities? Does God give us any Pentecost abilities? He surely does. The gifts that he gave the Apostles he gave to them for a very important task – to grow his church and to spread the gospel of Jesus. He gives us our gifts for the same reason. He wants us to use the gifts that he has given us so that the kingdom can grow. Paul reminds us of that in Romans chapter 12: We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully (Romans 12:6-8). Maybe you are a comforter! God has certainly put people in your life who are hurting, who are desperate, who are uncertain! Use your gift and comfort them. Maybe you are a teacher. You can use that gift to help others to understand and appreciate God’s love. Sign-up to teach Sunday School, attend Bible Class and ask questions so that you and others can learn, become a facilitator in the Small Group ministry that we are beginning soon here at Grace. There are places for you to use your gifts. Do you have the gift of hospitality? Welcome people into your home so that you can be loving to your neighbors, plan an event here at church, be an Usher or a Greeter.
But what if we ignore these gifts? What if we sit on them and refuse to use them? That is the temptation that is placed before us and that is a sin that we often fall into. Not even discussing the greatest of consequences for not using of our gifts, for the sin of saying “no thank you” to God for the gifts he’s given and the tasks that he’s placed before us. Clearly those are sins against God and make us worthy of punishment and separation from God. But even setting that aside – on a vastly less significant level, what happens practically speaking – to our church if we decide to be selfish with our gifts. What if, instead of beginning this sermon the way that I did, what if I said, “So hey, here’s the thing…I’ve been preaching to my family all week, and I don’t have any energy left to preach the gospel to you today?” What if the whole congregation says on the same week, “I’ve been paying bills all week, and I don’t want to give any more toward God? What if our Council said “I’m tired of leading, I’m taking the month off? We are all in trouble if we don’t use our gifts in service. We will all hurt if we are selfish with the gifts that God gives us.
But we can be thankful that Jesus wasn’t selfish with his gifts and in his mission. He lived that perfect life so that he could give us the best gift of all! His perfect life, gift wrapped and presented to us as a gift of his grace. His death on the cross, tucked into a card with your name on it that says “Me in your place! Now life is yours! Jesus loved us enough to die and now he can love him enough to live – for him and for one another. We can give our lives in service to the one who gave his life for us! What a gracious and giving God we have!!
But the gifts don’t stop at Jesus, they don’t stop with just abilities. The Pentecost “B” is for boldness.
“B” is for Boldness
Pentecost really marks a turnaround for the disciples. After Easter, when they should have been dancing in the streets and rejoicing in the victory, where do we find them? They were locked in the Upper Room because they were afraid of the Jews. They were afraid that they might be arrested, tortured or killed because of their association with Jesus. But after Pentecost, we don’t see that timidity and fear any longer. On Pentecost we see them out in the open proclaiming the news of Jesus’s death and resurrection. If you read the rest of Acts chapter 2, you’ll read Peter’s sermon where he tells the group of Jewish listeners: This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him… God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:23-24, 36). That’s pretty bold. A few chapters later, Peter and John are performing miracles and are arrested for it. They tell the Jewish court “We must obey God rather than human beings.” A few chapters after that a man named Stephen was stoned to death, yet he faced the stones unafraid. A few chapters after that Paul put his life on the line to proclaim the gospel of Jesus and dedicated his life to being a missionary. God gave his church boldness to proclaim the gospel.
What gave them that boldness? Why the sudden and dramatic change? The Holy Spirit was poured out on them on Pentecost! The same Holy Spirit is poured out us, in Word and Sacrament. That Holy Spirit is the one that gives you boldness.
Do you get scared when it comes to sharing your faith? What do you do about it? The devil wants us to use that as an excuse to remain silent. The devil wants our fears to overcome us, but that doesn’t have to happen. We can pray for the Spirit’s boldness. We can spend more time in his Word, where he will equip us to boldly serve him and boldly proclaim his love. That’s a prayer that our Lord loves to answer. Paul wrote to Timothy, “For the Spirit that God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7.) That, dear Christian friends, is the same Spirit that belongs to each one of you. Use the power that he promises to give you - the power of the Word that he reveals to you, and use it boldly in the Lord’s name.
God gives us abilities and he gives boldness, but the Pentecost gifts continue to flow. The Spirit gives us clarity.
“C” is for Clarity
The disciples are notorious for not really understanding. Sometimes they were close but not quite there. Sometimes they were way off! Peter, James and John argued about who was the greatest; they tried to keep Jesus from going to the cross! They just didn’t quite get it! They never seemed to fully grasp why Jesus was really on this earth. They were hung up on that political freedom from Rome thing. Even on the day that Jesus ascended they asked him if he was going to restore the kingdom to Israel, if he was going to set them free from Rome. How could they not understand? Their picture of God’s plan of salvation was fuzzy at best, but not after Pentecost. Now it was clear.
This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy…And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Peter showed the clarity that the Spirit gave the disciples. Just days before, they really didn’t get it, but now they understood. Their whole ministry with Jesus was a process of growth. They were fuzzy on the main reason for Jesus being with them. But after Pentecost, we don’t see that fuzziness anymore. We don’t see anything but total clarity and acute trust in Christ as Lord. They may not have seen it clearly before, but now they do – Jesus brings peace between God and man. Now they understood that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The Holy Spirit gave Peter that clarity. And he gives the same to us.
The Spirit grants us that clarity. He gives us God’s Holy Word and through it reveals to us God’s love. We’d never figure it out on our own, but God gives us eyes of faith to see. We’d never understand it by ourselves, but God clears our minds of the obstacles and allows us to clearly see our Savior.
And we can turn that clarity into proclamation! We can tell others of Jesus’ love, so that they can have a clear view of Jesus like we have. Listen to the inclusive language of the prophesy of Joel. It’s not just pastors or missionaries who proclaim. We all can. Joel tells us… “your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit…”
Let that always be your prayer. “God continue to share your Spirit with me. God continue to make your love clear and continue to use me to advance your gospel and your love.”
Pentecost marked the beginning of the Christian Church and today marks a beginning for you, the beginning of the rest of your life with Jesus. Mark that beginning with the ABCs. Use the abilities, boldness and clarity that Sprit gives you to serve the Lord and grow his church. Witness boldly as you preach the law and the gospel that have been made clear to you. Tell others of the gift that Jesus is and the life that we have in his name. Proclaim the incredible heights of the love of Jesus. Tell of God’s grace… that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Amen.
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