Let us pray: Dear Spirit from on high, as once You came to comfort and uplift God’s people in their loneliness and distress, come to us today. As You once so fired their hearts that they fearlessly spoke all of God’s truths in love, so fire our hearts, as well. But most of all, give us Your help, guidance, and assistance each and every day as we walk the pathway to glory. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST OUR LORD AND FROM THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM, UNDERSTANDING, AND COMFORT!
Acts 2: 1-21
Dearly Beloved in Christ, Uplifted By the Spirit’s Power:
Did you go to bed last night with your comforter? Did you wrap yourself in its warm embrace and sleep soundly under the comforter’s protection from the cold? Well, actually, no. It was a warm night and I didn’t need it. And yet, you did need it and did sleep under the Comforter’s over-arching shield. It’s the reason you woke up this morning, too. Of course, I’m not referring to a down-filled quilt here, but to the protective shield of the Holy Spirit, the unseen Comforter from on high.
Pentecost, the 50th day after Easter, is all about the coming of the Holy Spirit to God’s people. We all know the facts of it quite well. The disciples are in the Upper Room in John’s family home in Jerusalem. They are patiently waiting for the special gift Christ promised. Then suddenly, it arrived with the whoosh! The violent wind blew in with sound but not fury. The tongues of fire descended upon their heads and alighted there without burning them. They were given the miraculous power to speak in foreign languages that they had never studied or learned. They were now able to confess Christ in the native tongues of the many pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for the harvest festival that occurred at that same time. This outpouring of God’s grace and truth in Jesus Christ bore a huge crop of fruit that day, too, as over 5000 people were converted and became believers as a result. It is for this reason that Pentecost is given the title: “The birthday of the Christian Church.”
And yet, one simple fact is often overlooked at Pentecost and it is an important one. Pentecost was a totally sacramental day. It wasn’t sacrificial, at all. They didn’t pray the Holy Spirit into their hearts. They didn’t cause Him to come to them. They didn’t do anything to deserve receiving Him, either. No human sacrifice was involved in receiving this great blessing. Instead it was all sacramental. God gave the Spirit freely to them. It was His gift of grace to them. He came to them, alighted on them, and gave them the gift of tongues. None of this was the result of human efforts. No, it was all sacramental—God did everything because He loved them in Christ. This singular truth is often overlooked, but not today. In fact, today we again celebrate it under this theme:
PENTECOST: THE COMFORTER COMES TO YOU!
I hate being cold. I know, then why do you live in MA instead of Florida? However, I don’t hate living in a cold clime. In fact, I kind of enjoy the brisk mornings. By, “being cold” I mean the bone-chilling, teeth-rattling cold that sets in when it’s 30 below zero and like an icy serpent the cold seeps into the core of your body. At those times all you can do is walk faster and dream of a hot fire or a warm comforter while curled up in bed.
There’s another kind of cold that we all experience, too. It is the coldness of spirit, of heart, when the love of Christ either isn’t present at all, or is pushed aside for a time. Let’s face it, we live in a scary world. The world economy teeters on the brink of disaster just waiting for a “black swan” to alight and tip it over the edge. There’s a lot of bad people out there who do a lot of back things. Every time you get in the car and drive somewhere, you’re taking your life in your hands. Most people are a paycheck or two away from bankruptcy. I read recently that over half of the American people could not lay their hands on $5000 in cash if their life depended on it. People are uneasy. They are scared. And thus, they really need, we really need, a Comforter that will calm our fears.
Pentecost is all about God sending such a Comforter to us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. He was “poured out” upon them. He even used supernatural fire to inflame their hearts and warm their coldness of fear. Before Pentecost the disciples weren’t very outgoing—remember how they hid out in the Upper Room “with the doors locked for fear of Christ’s enemies.”? But after Pentecost all that changes. They fearlessly stand up and face the mockers and scoffers. Some of those scoffers accuse them of being drunk at 9 in the morning when they confess Christ in tongues to those visitors in Jerusalem who were attending the harvest festival at the temple. But now, unlike before, the disciples don’t back down! Peter speaks for all of them when he boldly announces this first Pentecost as the fulfillment of Joel’s ancient prophecy. He announces boldly, how they murdered the Lord’s Anointed, how Jesus paid for their sins with His death, and how God raised Christ from the grave to give to them the certain hope of eternal life. Everything Jesus did for them and us was sacramental in nature. God came and worked out our salvation. God hands it to us on a golden platter. And now, God even sends us, unbidden by us, the One Who would work faith and confidence in our hearts concerning these truths. Yes, on Pentecost, the Comforter from on High came to them, and He still comes to us. Why can I say that? “Because Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever.” Jesus is God. Likewise, the Spirit is God. So, His coming wasn’t a one-shot deal occurring 2000 years ago. No, His sacramental coming still goes on to this very day!
My friends, you’re not alone in this scary world. You have the Holy Spirit, and more importantly, He has you! He comes to you each Sunday in the worship service with His voice of comfort: the absolution. He comes through the readings to give you Divine instruction. He comes via each sermon to calm your souls. Today He comes in holy communion to provide you with food for immortality, the genuine resurrected body and blood of Christ. He comes each moment of each day in your baptism, whereby He sealed your soul to the day of ultimate redemption. Note well that in Christianity, alone, all good things in life, all true comfort, is never the byproduct of human achievement, but always a free gift from the Spirit—thus sacramental in nature.
This fact warms our souls and gives us ultimate comfort amidst the diversity of evil we all face every day. Sometimes you read of people who froze to death with matches in their pocket and kindling close at hand. They froze because they forgot they had it all handy and never used those life-saving gifts. Sometimes Christians are guilty of this when it comes to the Spirit. The scary world blocks out good judgment. Likewise, non-Christians are also guilty of this in that churches are usually handy, but they never go and thus deprive themselves of God’s comfort.
The Spirit has not only warmed you and given you a cheerful heart; He has also turned you and me into matches so as to light the fire of faith in these cold-hearted souls. So, strike your match! Dispel darkness! And stand back and watch as the Comforter creates souls on fire for God’s truth and love! Amen