May 15, 2016: Pentecost


TEXT: Acts 2: 1-21

Dearly Beloved By Christ and the Holy Spirit:

Does it really matter where you get electricity, power, from? Put aside the religion of global warming for a moment. A lot of sources can create power, can’t they? There are the “hard” power ones such as: burning coal, oil or gas; along with nuclear power or even geothermal which they tap from volcanic activity in Iceland. Likewise, there are “soft” power sources such as: solar, water and wind. But in the end, they all work. They all generate a reaction of some sort which is turned into electric power.

Today we turn to the Christian Church’s power source. That being: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost is also called the Paraclete in Scripture. That has shades of meaning from: an advocate who appears on another’s behalf, a helper, an advisor, or a counselor. The Holy Spirit is all of that and more! Let me explain.

Just as power can be: “hard” or “soft” so, too, the Spirit. His proper work is to bring hurting souls to saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is to apply to lost sinners the forgiveness for all sins that Jesus earned on the cross, to implant faith into their hearts, and to make them children of God. The Spirit did exactly that earlier this morning when little Lucas Cordes was “quickened” or reborn by the Spirit through baptism. And it was the same for most of you. God’s soft power avenues of grace are comforting and uplifting. They are simple, elegant, and sublime. We all know that the Spirit comes to us with God’s love in the simplicity of human language, the word, which conveys to us the message of Christ crucified and now risen—for us! He comes through humble bread and wine in holy communion, wherein He joins Himself to those elements through simple words and infuses them with almighty power—His body and blood. And He also comes to us in the humble water of baptism when it is done in the name of the Triune God; thereby washing away our sins. These all are examples of the Spirit’s soft power.

However, there is another venue of the Spirit’s power. This venue of power is alien to His comforting nature and we can call it: hard power. In our old Testament lesson from Genesis 11, the hubris of humans had gotten so great that they thought they could build a tower to heaven, unseat God from His throne and take over! It’s silly, I know, but such is the condition of the hard human heart. Well, the Trinity talked about this and the Spirit was sent with hard power to confuse all language so that chaos would ensue—and it did. The tower languished and eventually crumbled to dust. Another example of such hard power is seen in the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. If you carefully examine the text you’ll discover that first Pharoah hardened his own heart against Moses’ miracles and eventually because of this, God sent the Spirit to harden Pharaoh’s heart and confirm him in his unbelief. The result was the angel of death in the final plague.—Hard power, indeed!

The point of Pentecost is that God prefers to deal with lost, bewildered sinners with His soft power.—Good thing for us! Yes, I know that the Spirit came with tongues of fire and a mighty wind into the upper room that day. The whole neighborhood was roused.—He always possesses hard power. But the wind did not kill anyone and the tongues of fire did not burn anyone. And the disciples there were then given the amazing ability to speak foreign languages fluently, and did just that as they preached salvation in Christ to the many pilgrims from throughout the empire who were in Jerusalem for a large festival. The crowds were amazed.

As always, since sinful people who hate God will always be with us, some mocked the disciples and accused them of being drunk—even though it only 9 a.m. That’s when Peter got up and preached his great Pentecost sermon. He tells them how God was pouring out the Spirit upon all people; how God had caused the darkness 53 days before when they crucified His Son; how God had caused the earthquake that ruptured the temple curtain and later on Easter ruptured the gates of hell when angels rolled away the stone from Christ’s tomb. By reminding them of Christ’s power over all enemies of humans—including death—Peter was using hard words to pulverize their hard hearts. And then come the soft words: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How can anyone call on God and be saved if they don’t have Christ’s love in their hearts since their own self-love has taken over? Human pride always displaces God since the fall into sin. Well, that’s where the soft power of the Spirit comes into play. He is our Comforter from on high who displaces our “me-firstism” with God’s grace. He changes our hearts around, reorders our priorities so that God is #1, and gives us the faith to believe, confess, cling to, and obey God rather than merely ourselves. In doing so, the Spirit makes us far bigger than ourselves because He links us to and embraces us with God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. That’s what happened on the first Pentecost when over 3000 souls were saved and many baptized. That’s what is happening today as you are being saved and little Lucas was baptized.

The world thinks that God is irrelevant. Many don’t even believe He exists. They look at the soft power of the Christian Church and conclude: What, me worry? As to the Holy Spirit, they conclude that their own spirit is far superior and much more important. But, the Spirit is still the Spirit, and woe to them when He comes with the hard power of: blood, fire, and billows of smoke” to get their attention. Folks, stick with, cling to God’s soft power of His Godly gospel and His sacraments. They may not be flashy, but they are comforting and they alone bring Godly peace to troubled souls. Their fire burns where it counts the most—not in the atmosphere we breathe, but in our hearts where we’re saved. Amen