Sunday, May 15, 2005
Sermon - Pentecost - Joel 2:28-29
Pentecost Sunday (Youth Confirmation)
May 15th, 2005
I. Introduction –
It is the day of Pentecost. Perhaps the third most important Sunday in the Church Year. Though Christmas and Easter both have quite a secular following, I doubt anyone outside of Christendom will wish you a happy Pentecost – if they even know it is today. If they’ve even heard of it!
But Pentecost is important. It’s right up there behind Easter and Christmas. Some have even argued that these three Christian Holy Days correlate with the three persons of the Trinity. God the Father showed his love by sending his Son - Christmas. God the Son showed his love by dying on Good Friday and rising on Easter. And on the Day of Pentecost, God the Holy Spirit showed his love by empowering the saints in a special way.
Today is also a special occasion for you 12 confirmands. As you have completed your instruction in the faith, and here before God and this congregation you will speak your vows. You are, in a sense, taking a step forward in your life in the Church. It’s the end of sermon reports and attitude points. But it’s not the end! It’s not the end of your learning or your involvement here, It’s a new beginning for you.
Pentecost has been called the “birthday of the Christian church”. It certainly marks a new chapter in God’s plan for his people. For on that day, the promised Holy Spirit was “poured out” on the disciples. Flames of fire marked the occasion. Miraculous speaking ensued. The Gospel was shared with many pilgrims. And the church of Jesus Christ grew.
The Holy Spirit usually gets a little more of our attention on Pentecost. The work of the Spirit is clearer. But that work always leads us back to Jesus Christ and his cross.
“I will pour out my Spirit” is the promise twice repeated in today’s reading from the prophet Joel. Peter goes on to quote this passage in his Pentecost Day sermon, found in Acts chapter 2. Well if it’s good enough for Peter, it’s good enough for us. Let’s approach our Pentecost reading with this key idea: “It’s Pouring!”
II. When life feels like a rainy day.
As I drove to church on Wednesday morning, it was pouring. Amidst the rain, the radio DJ sarcastically played a song, “I’m gonna soak up the sun”. It seems like we’ve had a lot of rain lately. I always thought the saying was “April showers bring May flowers”, but maybe they should change that to “May showers” – at least in Wisconsin.
Not that rain is all bad. In fact it is a blessing. We need it. I don’t have to explain why. But that doesn’t change the fact that rainy days often make us feel dreary and depressed. They seem to darken people’s mood. So much so that rain has become a common metaphor for the problems of life. There’s that other song, “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone… It’s gonna be a bright, sun-shiny day”.
Each life has its share of this kind of rain. The problems, the worries, the woes. Each person, even the Christian, has his share of suffering. We live in a world broken by sin and polluted by our own sin. Whether problems of our own making or not, each of us has our rainy day. It might even be longer than a day. Loss of a loved one. Struggling with a terminal illness. Stressing out over work or school. Trying to raise our children right – and everything seems to go wrong. Trying just to get along with family members, and live in peace. It’s this kind of rain that makes us want to say, “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.” Or better yet, don’t come at all.
III. Showered with blessings
But not all that pours upon us is so bad. God knows our sorry state, our dreary days deluged with sin and its consequences. And he pours out blessings on us. He showers us, drenches us with his good gifts.
If you ever watch a football game, especially an important one – a certain tradition has become popular lately. The winning team finds one of those big orange Gatorade coolers. And two of the teammates on the sidelines take it and sneak up on an unsuspecting coach. As a victory celebration, they drench the poor guy by pouring the entire thing over his head. Makes me glad I’m not a football coach.
But God showers us with blessings all the more. God the Father provides us with our earthly life and everything to support it – food, clothing, work, family, friends – all I need from day to day.
God the Son, Jesus Christ, showers us with even greater blessings. He, after all, is our Savior. His perfect life, his death on the cross, his resurrection, ascension, and his promised return – all he does for us – to save us, redeem us, forgive us, renew us, cleanse us, justify us and reconcile us with God. Jesus is the greatest blessing ever given. Without him, nothing else matters.
But we are not without him. Even though he has now ascended to his rightful heavenly throne. Even though we do not see him as his disciples once did. What he promised them he promises us – we are not alone. He sends his Spirit. The Counselor. The Comforter. And the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God and of Jesus Christ, The Lord and Giver of Life who spoke by the prophets – he brings us countless blessings the same, though never apart from Christ.
Take the day of Pentecost. When the Spirit was “poured out” in such a spectacular way. It wasn’t the first time anyone ever had the Spirit, mind you. For Jesus told his disciples, “You know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” In the Old Testament, the prophets often claimed, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon me…” It’s not like the Holy Spirit was a genie in a bottle, waiting thousands of years to finally be let loose on the day of Pentecost. He, God, with the Father and Son, was active even since Creation, when “The Spirit of God moved across the face of the deep”.
But here on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit is poured out in a special way, for a particular purpose. And that purpose is to bring people to Christ, the Savior. To shower them with the blessings of Christ’s Gospel!
It was a golden opportunity, you might say, to have so many pilgrims gathered there in Jerusalem. Believers from all over the known world had come to worship in the Holy City. And as the spirit was poured out on the disciples, the same Spirit overflowed onto them. By the preaching of the word, “declaring the wonders of God”, the Spirit brought some 3000 to faith in Christ that day alone. And they would carry that faith, that Gospel message, and that Spirit living in them – they would carry it back to their homelands, and sow even more seeds for the kingdom.
Those “wonders of God” could only be the life, the death, the rising again and the entire message and person of Jesus Christ. For the Spirit does not appear to draw attention to himself, but to the Savior. He creates faith in Christ. He points to the redemption offered in Christ. He blesses us, by making us Christ-ians.
Christ is what the Spirit is all about: He comforts us, with Christ! He counsels us, in Christ! He guides us, to Christ!
IV. The Baptismal “pouring out”
And how can we talk about the Spirit, and “pouring out” without mentioning Baptism? For it is there, as the waters of baptism are poured out upon us, that the Spirit too, is poured out upon us.
When Peter preached his Pentecost sermon, it ended like this, (Acts 2:37-38) “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “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.”
The point of the Spirit’s work on that day of Pentecost – the point of the pouring out – was that baptismal water, and the forgiveness of Christ would be poured out in rich measure. That’s always the point when, in Christ, by His Spirit, it’s “ pouring”. We too share the blessings of that baptism. We too are daily cleansed by it, as God pours his forgiveness out continually.
You confirmands. God has poured out his blessings on you too. We remember today, especially, your baptism. You come here today to give thanks for and to respond to the blessings God has poured on you. Today you confirm, the church confirms, God himself confirms what was poured out years ago – His grace, forgiveness, His Spirit.
As you now also come to the Lord’s Table to receive his Supper, he pours out new blessings for you. And he’ll keep pouring out his blessings for you all your life. So remain strong in your faith. Stand firm on God’s word. And remember what you have learned from me and so many others. God will keep pouring his blessings. May you receive them always with a thankful heart.
In each life, the rain will come. After all, we’re sinners in a sinful world, and frankly, we deserve it. But God pours out blessings on us, in Christ, by His Spirit. As we have been washed in baptism, and as we live in His word, and receive His supper, God continues to shower us with his love. In his church, it’s ALWAYS “Pouring”. In Jesus Christ, Amen.
Sometimes it feels like the rain never stops, and life dumps everything on you. But remember God has poured His Spirit out on us – to guide and comfort, to counsel and encourage, and to point to Christ, our Savior. Baptized into Christ, by the Spirit, we are saved!