Sunday, June 04, 2017

Sermon: Pentecost – 2017

4 June 2017

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

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The people of God have places to go and things to do.

At the end of our Lord’s teaching, He says, “Rise, let us go from here.”

Not long after this, our Lord will indeed “go from here,” from life in this fallen world to death.  And He will also “rise.”  He will destroy death.

And after He has risen, He will again say, “Go… Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”  He tells them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The people of God have places to go and things to do.

And “when the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.”  They didn’t stay huddled together in one place for very long.  For the Holy Spirit came to them, and dispersed them, spreading out over the known world, making disciples by baptism and teaching, by Word and Sacrament, establishing churches and spreading the Gospel.  

And not even the language barrier from the curse of Babel got in the way, because the Holy Spirit gave them the gift to speak in foreign languages – and this jump-started proclamation enabled the Gospel and its preachers to disperse themselves all over Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and all over the known world of their time.  And their successors would board ships and bring the Gospel to the New World, to Asia, to Australia, to Africa, and into great cities and tiny villages around the world.  Places to go, indeed!

Just before the events of the Tower of Babel, Noah’s family left the ark.  The Lord told them to “fill the earth” with new life.  But the flood did not eradicate all sin from the earth, and the people found a great location, a “plain in the land of Shinar,” and instead of dispersing and filling the earth, they “settled there.”  Rather than establishing villages around the world, they concentrated in one place, and even set about building a skyline with their new technology of brick and mortar.  They began to dream of divine power.  Their technology made them think they were godlike: “Come, let us build ourselves a city with a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

They had places to go, but didn’t want to go.  They had things to do, but didn’t want to do them.  They had become arrogant and disobedient, full of themselves and forgetful of their own history.  The “children of man” began to regard their tower to the heavens more highly than the Creator of the heavens.  

And in spite of their desire to remain and not do as God instructed them, God Himself would let them know that they indeed had places to go and things to do.  He confused their tongues along tribal lines.  They could no longer engage in a massive building project. The tower came to naught, and was abandoned.  They could no longer cooperate and live together in one place as a multilingual multiculturalism split their once unified city into rival factions.  “And from there, the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.”

This was a renewal of the Lord’s command to Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” and to exercise dominion over the world.  The “children of man” indeed had places to go and things to do.  For God has a plan and a will, and it is His will that human beings multiply and rule the earth.

It was God’s will that one of those tribes, the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the people of Judah, who had been dispersed to the fertile land between Egypt and Syria, in their fruitfulness and multiplication, would bring forth the Messiah, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice would redeem man from the curse of sin, including the curse of Babel.  For the Lord’s coming to forgive our sins and give us eternal life as a free gift is good news indeed.  And good news is meant to be told, not hoarded.  It is meant to be spread abroad, not kept bottled up in a single place.  The disciples were to be witnesses – those who see and testify, and their testimony is to spread abroad like a fire raging out of control, a proclamation that does not respect border or tribe, but which subsumes every race and ethnicity that it encounters, like a flame that cannot be controlled.

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” – independent of language or location or parentage.  Baptism transcends language; the Lord’s Supper transcends location; the Fatherhood of God transcends all earthly parentage.  

And though we may not see the unique signs and wonders of that first Pentecost today, we nevertheless still experience the Holy Spirit’s work as He “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”  We still experience the power of the Word of God to transform individuals and build up the church in faraway nations – bringing entire tribes of people into the ark of salvation, and calling men to preach and teach and evangelize in even more languages and tongues.

And while most of us are not called to serve in foreign mission fiends, dear friends, our own country has become a mission field.  We are getting closer to that time when African missionaries may need to be dispersed to our Babylonian cities: technological wonders lined with skyscrapers, in order that we hear the word of the Lord, the Law and the Gospel, the call to repent, and the good news that Jesus has come to redeem us from death and hell itself, to bring us out of Babel into the City of God, a glorious metropolis of the saints that extends from earth into the heavens for all eternity.

And there is a world that needs to hear this good news.  Yes, indeed, dear brothers and sisters, the people of God have places to go and things to do.

“Rise, let us go from here.”  Amen.

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

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