May 31, 2020: Pentecost

Let us pray: O Holy Spirit from on high, today we recognize and celebrate Your outpouring of gifts upon Your Holy Church.  Without those gifts we would be powerless, despondent, and lacking any sense of joy in our lives.  But with them we are powerful, courageous and joyful.  Lord, today keep it up!  Make our joy complete as we use Your gifts wisely.  Amen


TEXT:  Acts 2: 1-21

Dearly Beloved By the Holy Spirit! 

          We’ve been pummeled by bad news for the last few months.  So today, as we come back to God’s house for worship, it’s time for good news!  And Pentecost provides it.  This good news Sunday isn’t a one-shot deal, either.  It lasts and will last until the world as we know it ceases to exist.  So, listen up and revel in God’s grace.


          The facts of Pentecost, the day we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Ghost upon the NT Church, the facts of it are well known to all.  Who doesn’t stand in awe of those miraculous tongues of holy fire resting on the disciples’ heads?  Who doesn’t marvel at the sound of the rushing wind filling the house where they resided?  Who doesn’t thrill over their new ability to preach fluently in foreign tongues?  And who doesn’t rejoice over Peter’s great sermon that converted over 5000 people in one day?  Humanly speaking, Pentecost was a once-in-all lifetimes event.  It will never be repeated.  And yet, the effects of Pentecost will live on forever, because the God-given gifts of the Spirit are unceasing, even today.


          People sometimes confuse the “fruits of the Spirit” with the “gifts of the Spirit.”  Both are outlined in the Bible.  To understand and bring forth the fruits of God’s grace in our lives, we need to better understand the Spirit’s gifts that make them happen.  So, here are the gifts: 1. Wisdom.  2. Understanding. 3. Knowledge. 4. Right Judgment. 5. Courage. 6. Reverence. 7. Wonder and Awe in God’s Presence. 

          Here’s a passage defining true wisdom: Christ says: “I am the Vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in me and I in him will bear much fruit.  For apart from me, you can do nothing.”  True wisdom is believing, trusting in, and clinging to Christ and the grace He won for us on the cross.  And by the Spirit’s power, you have it!  The next gift is understanding.  Here’s a passage about that one: “Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief.”  Yes, grasping your own sinfulness and limitations is the foundation of recognizing how much the Spirit has pulled you up out of the mire of personal evil and negativity. 

          3. Knowledge is vital, too.  God stuff is deep and profound, yet also simple and to-the-point.  We find knowledge, true knowledge that never varies or changes, in the entire Bible.  The Spirit is the One Who teaches and explains such truths to us. Truths such as: Who is God?  Why does He love us?  How did He save us?  What does He want me to do with my life? The meaning of life is encapsulated in the little hymn verse: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so!”  Yes it does, because the Spirit imparts such knowledge to us in every verse, in every truth the Bible contains. 

          Right judgment needs to be present in every child of God.  There is a right in life and many wrongs in life.  God is always right.  Righteousness, or rightness with God, comes from Him alone.  And in Christ He made us right with Him by taking on our personal evil and overcoming its outcome: death, by dying for our sins and then rising to life.  So, our gift of right judgement underscores, it’s foundational, to every judgement call we make in all aspects of living.

          Following God takes a courageous heart.  Some call it  having the courage of your convictions.  We don’t come by it naturally.  We are born with a fight of flight mentality.  We always try to take the easy way out of a difficult situation.  That’s why Peter’s Pentecost sermon is so amazing!  Until Pentecost, he and the others had often adopted that attitude.  But once the Spirit was poured out on them, they were fearless in the face of all enemies, even death.  So, when challenged on Pentecost, Peter spoke up, stood up, and wanted to be counted as a follower of Jesus Christ.  The passage: “Be strong and take heart and wait on the Lord” speaks of such Christian courage.  And the Spirit has implanted it within you.

          I love the next gift: reverence. Reverence is realizing that anything connected with God, including human life, is a Divine gift.  The world has no reverence.  Case in point: up until recently church wasn’t considered an “essential service” by the powers that be!  Reverence means we always do our best in every aspect of life because God gives all, is all, and expects the best from us because: “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us   from all sin.”  Reverence is a daily recognition that God is in charge of all things and His plans stand behind us always.

          And now comes the final gift the Spirit freely hands out to His Church: Wonder and Awe.  Because we humans see things by “faith and not by sight” this gift is a huge mystery to the world at large.  The world doesn’t stand in awe of God’s goodness nor His grace.  That’s because He works His salvation today in Word and Sacraments.  There He is hidden underneath water, bread, wine, and simple human words.  Who’s in awe of any of that?—Except Christians who believe?  But because of this gift—healing, miracles, and the wonderment of both creation and heaven shine and fill us with joy and gladness no matter the weather, pandemics, or the world turned topsy-turvy.  For only Christians are given the mindset: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!”


          I once read of a preacher who called these seven gifts of the Spirit “torpedo gifts.”  That is, they come upon us when we often least expect them and cause an explosion.  That explosion comes to us via the Spirit in the form of the “fruits of the Spirit.”  These 7 gifts bring forth: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” 

          One last thought: we’re all living through a singular event in our history right now.  And it’s not fun.  Pentecost was a one-shot event, too.  But, but, because of the gifts and fruits that they have elicited, well, the joy of Pentecost will live on forever and shape our history for the good, forever.  We need His gifts!  We have His gifts!  Now, use His gifts with a grace-gladdened heart.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox 

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