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1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
It’s June 4, 2017. Here you are at church, and everything is much the same as it was last week. Some Scripture readings, confession of sins, absolution, little prayers here and there. Just another normal, predictable Sunday morning at Christ the King.
Well not, entirely ‘normal.’ Today is Pentecost. So, you hear about the giving of the Holy Spirit, and it is impressive, full of fireworks. A mighty rushing wind. People are filled with the Holy Spirit. Tongues of fire rest on those gathered together. Those 120 believers go out and preach the Gospel in the various languages of the world. Then, after this text, 3,000 new believers are added to the number of Jesus’ disciples.
All of this certainly is impressive, and we look at our little congregation gathered in the flatlands of northern Minnesota and wonder, “Where are all those signs today? Why aren’t we seeing the fireworks? Why aren’t thousands being added to our numbers?”
Remember when Elijah hid from Queen Jezebel after defeating the priests of Baal? Elijah fled to Mount Horeb and sat in a cave. A strong wind comes that tears the mountains and breaks the rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind. Then, there is an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then, there is a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. Finally there is a low whisper, and that is where the Lord is. From that thin sound, God speaks to Elijah (1 Kgs. 19:9-13).
The day of Pentecost is similar. All the fireworks of Pentecost are impressive, but those outward things confuse the people. Some even mock those who were preaching saying that they are crazy drunkards.
But it is when Peter preaches that things happen. Peter, who had been the Jesus-denying coward, is now preaching boldly. He tells the people how the prophecy from Joel – the signs in the sky and on the earth – is all fulfilled in Jesus. And Peter hammers the Law. This Jesus, the Son of God in the flesh, you crucified, but God has raised Him from the dead (Act 2:36).
And the people who had been mocking and ridiculing the disciples are cut to the heart and will ask when Peter’s sermon is done, “What shall we do?”
And Peter says, “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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself” (Act. 2:38-39).
The fireworks of Pentecost are impressive, but Pentecost isn’t impressive because of them. Earthquakes, winds, and fires happen even when the Holy Spirit isn’t there.
What really makes Pentecost impressive is what cannot happen without the Holy Spirit working through the Word proclaimed – repentance and faith.
Only by the Holy Spirit can you be called by the Gospel. Only the Holy Spirit can enlighten the darkness of your hearts through His gifts of Word and Sacrament. Only by the Holy Spirit working through these means are you kept in the true faith day after day.
It doesn’t matter if the Holy Spirit adds 3,000 people to the number of Christians in one day or if people are added one by one. The Spirit creating faith is always a miracle more impressive than strong, rushing wind or tongues of fire.
Even if the Word and Sacraments seem boring, they are the Gospel and the power of God unto salvation. Wherever believers are gathered together to receive these gifts and to confess their faith in Christ, there the Holy Spirit is working because no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” apart from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3).
The fireworks don’t prove that the Holy Spirit is at work. So what sign should look for if we want to gauge if the Holy Spirit is at work? Listen to Jesus, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me” (Jn. 15:26).
Whenever you hear about Jesus’ finished work for you, when you hear about Christ crucified, risen, and ascended for you, there the Holy Spirit is working to bring you to repentance and faith. May God grant this to us and kindle in our hearts the fire of His love. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 I am thankful for a sermon by Rev. Timothy Winterstein as inspiration for portions of this sermon.