Pentecost 2012 - May 27th, 2012 - Genesis 11, Acts 2, John 14
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit +
One of the great, great flaws that American culture has, in general, is the idea that God is a really big and powerful being – who does absolutely nothing with His power anymore. That’s the way it’s been as long as there’s been an America. The folks who wrote the Constitution – most of them were Deists – they believed that some god made everything, but then he just sat back and let things take their course. Even today, how often will we hear that some problem is surely too small for God, as though God doesn’t care or wouldn’t act? Or that God merely watches us from distance, watching us play like a grandfather watching His grandkids? Nonsense – all of it. Our God is a Living, active God – and we actually see this in each of our lessons today. . . so what we will do this morning is look briefly at our Old Testament, our Epistle, and our Gospel, and observe the action of God.
To begin, our Old Testament Lesson. The Tower of Babel. This probably is one of the most familiar stories of the Old Testament. You have the people gathering together, and in pride and in arrogance, they decide that if they all work together they can do anything they set their mind to – including building such a wonderful city and tower that they will never be disbursed over the face of the earth and their city will never die. What pride, what arrogance. As though anything that sinful man does really lasts. As though our accomplishments really shake the heavens. We can have such an overblown idea of self-importance – we today can be far too worried about making a name for ourselves. The desire for fame and renown overwhelm the desire for service – we would rather be recognized as someone great than someone who simply loved the neighbors God has placed into our lives. Let’s make a name for ourselves and wait for everyone to pat us on the back and tell us how great we are. And of course, in the people of Babel, we see that common human attempt to escape death – well, if I can’t live forever, at least people will always remember me. No. Things fade. We don’t have the name of the guy who was in charge at Babel, or who the architect was. But we can do the same thing – we want to live beyond the grave – people to remember us and the things we did. But that shouldn’t be our concern in life. Our concern shouldn’t be if people will remember me and cheer my memory, my concern should be for caring for my neighbor, for doing my duties faithfully.
These are the sins that are floating around Babel, around their tower. And we all know what happens – God says, “Oh, you’re going to make a name for yourself – well let’s see.” And then we have the confusion of languages. God intervenes, and in a most ironic way. You wanted a name - well, now there will be countless languages, and many of them will forget you and your folly. One thing to remember is that God doesn’t like sin, and He will step in to frustrate it, to spoil it. All these peoples’ wicked, selfish hopes and dreams were brought to naught. What does this warn us? Don’t tempt God with your sinful thoughts and plans, because God may choose to take you down a peg. Just because your neighbor gets away with something doesn’t mean you will. Now, granted, I highly doubt that God is going to confuse the languages in Lahoma, but God can and will frustrate your plans that are self-serving rather than ones that are of love. Check what you do, what you plan. See if your motives are right, if they are to serve and love your neighbor, and then ask God’s blessing for what you do. That is the safe way.
And then we see God active in our Epistle, the familiar account of the Disciples at Pentecost, where they receive the Holy Spirit and start speaking in tongues. Now, Pentecost was an old testament feast, 50 days after Passover. It was a big deal, and there would be visitors from all over in Jerusalem to celebrate and worship and pray – and suddenly, the Disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit, and they speak. And they [the people] were amazed and astonished, saying “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native tongue.” Now, at the moment, I simply want to look at the fact of speaking in tongues. Do you see what it shows? God has established the different languages as a consequence, an effect of sin. We saw that at Babel. But what does God do here? He counters that effect. Out of His great mercy, God lessens the impact of Babel. You wouldn’t be able to understand this preaching normally people, alright, here’s what I will do. Go Spirit, gift My Disciples and let them speak to each one there. Rather than let the people there in Jerusalem flounder, God acts and brings to them the Gospel – God doesn’t let the full weight of sin come crashing down on them, but is gentle and seeks not man’s destruction, but rather repentance and mercy.
One thing we need to remember is that God will lessen or counter the effects of sin on a small scale. This happens so often in our lives, and most of the times we don’t see it. Now, grant it, I don’t think any of you have had a foreigner suddenly start speaking your language, or gotten a warning from your donkey like Balaam did. . . but think on this. How many times has God sent someone or something into your life that helped you out, that kept you safe, that prevented you from doing something that you shouldn’t have, something that would be harmful? God is active, and He does things for our benefit. How many disasters has God saved us from that we don’t even know about?
But then of course, the great disaster that God saves us from is the disaster of unbelief. God comes into our lives by the Gospel – God doesn’t just let us wallow in our sin. Remember that we have no ability to win for ourselves salvation in any way, shape, or form. As Paul says we were dead in sin – and God sends His Spirit, and by the Word the Spirit breathes into us faith. There should be no bigger reminder that God is active for us than the fact that we believe, the fact that God calls us to this place that He might announce His Grace and Mercy to us. That’s the same thing that’s done on Pentecost. These people didn’t know, and then God acts and then they know. God draws them to faith. 3000 Baptized, that’s what we hear at the end of the Chapter. That’s the same thing that God has done in our lives, whether God came to us through a friend who spoke the Gospel to us, faithful parents who brought us as squirming infants to the font to be Baptized. God works in our lives to bring us to faith, which is the great wonder – that’s what should be amazing about Pentecost – not that a bunch of fishermen were talking in languages they hadn’t know – but that God Almighty brought His Word to people who in no way, shape, or form deserved it.
Now let’s move to the Gospel lesson. Again, Jesus is letting the Disciples know that He will be ascending, that He will send the Spirit. But did you catch this. Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give to you. Peace. The result, the end of all the things that God does is the creation, the restoration of Peace. What does the Son leave us. . . Peace. By His death on the Cross, Christ Jesus destroyed sin, destroyed the barrier that separated us from God. It is finished, hear Him cry. By His resurrection, Christ Jesus gives us Life Everlasting, He triumphs over the grave, and we see our future, eternity with God. As Job says so too we say I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the Earth, and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. This is the peace that Christ wins for us. And it is not a matter of some hard, laborous search for peace. Hear what Christ has said. 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. When we cling to the Word of God, when we place ourselves under it, when we hear it, God comes to us, and He gives us peace. This is the Peace we receive when we hear HisWord. This is the Peace we depart in after the supper. When God acts, we are changed. We are no longer enemies of God, but sons and heirs of the kingdom who rejoice and delight in all of God’s riches.
And now we are people who are led by the Spirit to share that Word of Peace with others. That is the point of Pentecost. Christ Jesus our Lord does not wish His peace to remain a secret, some hidden knowledge only meant for the worthy few. No, He sends His Spirit to guide and lead His Church on earth, to call more and ever more people into that Church, to give them the Spirit through the waters of Baptism. What we see on Pentecost is the same thing that has run through generation after generation – God speaking His Word and so to be among His people, God sending His Spirit upon His people so that more and ever more might be brought to know this Peace that Christ has won. We are sharers of God’s peace – that which God gives us we do not horde but freely share, freely proclaim to any and all, for any and all desperately need it. This is how God is active in and through us. . . He causes us to be spreaders of His peace – we are indeed the peacemakers who are blessed, we are called God’s sons, we pray our Father. This is the life that God has called us to. This is the path for the Church that God created on Pentecost – that led by the Spirit the Church would continually speak forth the Gosepl even to the ends of the Earth. God grant us strength by His Spirit that we might be spreaders of His Word in all that we do. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen