Sermon 6.5.17 Pentecost

Joel 2:28-29    6/4/17

Pentecost    Pastor Kenneth Frey

Joel 2:28-29 After this, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.  Your sons and your daughters will prophesy.  Your old men will dream dreams.  Your young men will see visions.  29Even on the male servants and the female servants, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

“What a bizarre morning in Jerusalem!  It had been 50 days since Jesus’ resurrection and 10 days since his ascension.  Pilgrims from all over the Roman Empire had come to celebrate the spring harvest and offer the firt fruits of their crops.

“At 9:00 am the sound of a mighty wind grabbed their attention and beckoned them outdoors.  What they heard in the streets was amazing and, for thousands, life changing.  They witnessed 120 Christians proclaiming God’s wonderful works in their own native languages.  Who could have suspected this – especially from uneducated Galileans who themselves were visiting Jerusalem!” (Meditations, Volume 51, #2, p. 73)  Joel, that’s who.  Joel prophesied 500 years earlier the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

When you think of Pentecost, the first thing that probably comes to your minds is speaking in tongues.  Certainly, the modern Pentecostal and Charismatic movements have made “tongues” the touchstone of spiritual life.  But the sign of the Spirit’s presence on Pentecost was not speaking in tongues.  It was the sound of wind and tongues that looked like fire.  

The word for Spirit and wind are the same word, which explains the sound of a powerful wind at Pentecost.  Fire has been a sign of God’s presence going all the way back to Moses and the burning bush.  God assured the Israelites in the wilderness of his presence by the Shekinah, the pillar of fire that settled over the tabernacle.  So, for these disciples who grew up in the Old Testament, the signs of wind and fire were signs that God’s Spirit was present.  

The wind, the fire and the speaking in tongues was a way to catch people’s attention.  Like the three loud annoying beeps before a severe weather bulletin on TV.  The wind and the fire must not have lasted very long because when the crowd came together they make no mention of these signs.  But what they heard was the Apostles proclaiming the gospel.

And that’s what Joel prophesied.  After this, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.  Your sons and your daughters will prophesy.   “Pour out” signifies showering in abundance.  Talk about your downpours!  The outpouring of the Holy Spirit would be a drenching deluge on all flesh.  Sadly, not all flesh will accept it.  In fact, most live in the desert of unbelief and will not accept the outpouring of the Spirit.  

That’s why the greatest miracle of Pentecost was not the wind and fire but faith worked in the hearts of more than three thousand people.  How did the Holy Spirit perform such a great miracle?  He did it through the proclamation of God’s powerful Word.   Word and sacrament.  Those are the means the Holy Spirit uses.  That’s where he continues to blow today.

Some who identify themselves with this day think that if they get excited and can reach a highly emotional state, they can cause the Spirit to blow their way.  But you can’t cause the Spirit to blow your way any more than you can cause the wind to blow your way.  

There are others who think that they can control the Spirit with music.  Used in a certain formula, it’s believed by some to actually cause the Spirit to blow where they want.  One writer went so far as to say, “Face it, the new sacrament is music.”  But you can’t control the Holy Spirit with music any more than you can control the wind with music.  Getting the Spirit is not something we can cause; we can only receive.  Luke said, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the rushing of a violent wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:1-2)  They didn’t cause the Spirit; they simply received it.  The Holy Spirit is not born in us out of some inward psychological process.  He is a gift.  

That’s what Pentecost is all about.  Could Jesus have left his disciples without visibly ascending into heaven?  Yes, but the ascension made it clear that he would no longer be physically present in this world.  Could the disciples have received the Holy Spirit without the visible signs of wind and fire?  Yes, but this made it clear that they were receiving the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost is the assurance of the presence of the Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.  

That’s what we say in the Nicene Creed.  We confess “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.”  And that ought to blow us away!  To think that God sends his Spirit to us filthy, defiled, disgusting spiritual corpses!  And yet, that’s what he does.  The Spirit comes to us and gives us life by bringing us to faith in Jesus our Savior.  And this happens not because we did something to earn the Spirit or cause the Spirit to blow our way.  Jesus said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)  Faith is a gift of the Spirit.  Salvation is by grace.  

Joel talked about other gifts of the Spirit.  Your sons and your daughters will prophesy.  Your old men will dream dreams.  Your young men will see visions.  Dreams, visions and speaking in tongues – stuff we don’t see anymore.  Why not?  

God wanted his church to grow quickly so he wanted the gospel proclaimed to all the various people who had come to Jerusalem for the festival.  So he gave them the gift of speaking in other languages.  The New Testament wasn’t completed yet so at times he gave them visions and dreams.  

We don’t see speaking in tongues repeated again until Peter brought the gospel to the home of a Gentile. Remember also that the first Christians were all Jews.  Jewish religion had always been for Jews.  Peter and other Jewish Christians weren’t yet certain that they gospel was meant for Gentiles, too.  The speaking in tongues of the Gentiles confirmed to the Jewish Christians that the gospel was meant for Gentiles also.  

When the New Testament was completed, there was no need for speaking in tongues and other gifts that were meant to confirm the message of the gospel.  “For this reason it is not surprising to learn from historical records that these gifts ceased after the death of the apostles.  The church fathers, Chrysostom and Augustine, wrote about A. D. 400, and both referred to speaking in tongues as a thing of the distant past.” (Meditations Vol. 30, no. 3, p. 11)  

We don’t need this gift anymore so the Holy Spirit doesn’t give it.  What we need today are pastors, teachers, missionaries, evangelists and gospel witnesses.  What we need are more Christians willing to share what they believe with others.  What we need are more people willing to invite friends and relatives to church.  

Prophesying is simply proclaiming the message.  And it is something every Christian can and should do.  The church doesn’t need speaking in tongues.  The church needs you to tell the good news to others.

So if we all have the Spirit to prophesy, why don’t we all take turns preaching on Sunday?  That’s because you have not been called to fill this pulpit.  That’s what God called me to do.  But you all have pulpits of your own.  Your pulpit might be out on the playground or it might be the coffee room at work.  Your pulpit is wherever God has placed you.  Don’t despise the pulpit and think that it’s not as glamorous as the one I occupy on Sunday morning.  In a sense, you have the opportunity to reach more people than I do.  

Pentecost isn’t over.  Pentecost continues with us.  Pentecost is a call to share our faith, a commission to evangelize.  Wherever the Lord has put us, whether it be as a mother in the home, a worker in the shop or office, a student on campus – wherever we come upon hearts troubled by sin and aching for forgiveness, we have the mission and the message, the gifts and the power, for we have the gospel of salvation in Jesus.  “Joel has prophesied that in these ‘last days’ we will be sharing that saving message.  Let’s not prove him false.” (Armin Panning The Northwestern Lutheran, June 1, 1982, p. 164)