Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Sermon: Wednesday after Pentecost

3 June 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 14:23-31 (Gen 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Words are powerful things.

God spoke, using the power of His Word, to bring all things into being out of nothingness. “In the beginning was the Word” St. John tells us, explaining that the Word, Jesus, was both Himself God, and He was with God. And as we affirm in the Creed that which Scripture teaches, Jesus is the One “by whom all things were made.”

God not only spoke all things into being with His Word, but He created us in His own image, giving us inquisitive, creative minds, giving us an identity and a will, and empowering us with an entire system of speech.

He also endowed us with the ability to read and write, so that our speech would not simply dissipate into the air, but our words can be chiseled into stone and inscribed into books.

And He gave us His own Word in written form, inscribed, inscripturated, so that we might repeat the Word of God again and again, thousands of years after He caused them to be written.

But like every great power, the power of words has been perverted and distorted by the devil. “Did God really say...?” the serpent spoke to Eve – using his puny words to raise doubt in the almighty and powerful Word of God.

Our own words likewise often reflect their abuse. Again and again, Scripture condemns sins committed with the tongue – lying, gossiping, conniving, grumbling, drawing others into sin – all of these are a perversion of the power of words that the Lord built into us as creatures made in His image.

At the tower of Babel, our ancestors used their words for evil. “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.” They were filled with hubris and self-adulation. They were also rebelling against God’s Word that told them to spread out over the earth.

They used the power of speech to direct workmen to give this symbolic gesture of disrespect to God. They used their words to pat themselves on the back instead of praising the true God. They used language to further science and technology – not for good, but for evil.

And so God removed the power of their words by making their words useless. If two people speak different languages, their words only sound like gibberish. In fact, the English word “babble,” meaning to talk nonsense, comes from this very tower from the Book of Genesis – the tower of Babel.

Thus, the rebellious tower project was scrapped, people spread out over the globe, and spoke different tongues.

But in the fullness of time, God wanted to bring all men together, not to build a tower in rebellion against God, but to build a kingdom under the direction of God. Rather than use puny human words to defy God’s will, the Father sent His Word, His Son, into human flesh to fulfill God’s will. Rather than be a source of conflict between God and man, this Man would be the Prince of Peace bring God and man into eternal communion.

This He accomplished on a certain Pentecost Sunday, 50 days after a certain Passover – the last Passover, in fact. The Passover that was fulfilled by the Word of God Himself as He breathed His Word over bread and wine, and declaring those elements to be His body and blood. His body and blood were offered on the cross the next day, as the Good Shepherd became the sacrificial lamb. And after appearing for 40 days, the Lord ascended to His Father. Ten days later, He sent the Holy Spirit to His Church, and empowered them to overcome the curse of Babel.

Then and there, the Holy Spirit spoke through the disciples, who preached to Jews from every dispersed part of the known world. Miraculously, the diversity of language was no longer a hindrance to communication. Each heard God’s Word in his own language, “in [their] own tongues the mighty works of God.”

This fulfilled the ancient promise of the prophet Joel, that the Holy Spirit would be revealed and “poured out” upon the world in the “last days.” And, best of all: “it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

And just as this “calling upon” God is not impeded by language (indeed, God speaks and comprehends all tongues), no longer are these languages, as remnants of the sin of Babel, impediments to the preaching of the Gospel.

Indeed, today, the Gospel is preached far and wide, in every land, through every tongue, among every tribe. The name of Jesus is known throughout the entire world, as the Helper, the Holy Spirit guides the Church in her confessions and preaching.

The Church has the promise of the Word of God, spoken by the Word made flesh: “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name… will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

This promise is not only for the apostles, not only for preachers, but for all Christians. And, dear brothers and sisters, hear the mighty and powerful Word of God, spoken by the Son, caused to be written by the Spirit, and according to the will of the Father: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

May this Word of the Word resonate mightily in your ears, mouths, and hearts now and unto eternity. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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