Sunday, May 15, 2016
Homily for The Feast of Pentecost
John 14:23-31; Acts 2:1-21; Genesis 11:1-9
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost is a Feast of the Word – the Word of God. Of course, Pentecost is also a Feast of the Holy Spirit – you’ve already heard, and sung, and prayed about, and to, and for the sending of the Holy Spirit more this morning than all of this year to date! However, the Holy Spirit is all about the Word of God, and about the revelation of the Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word, and My Father will love Him, and We will come to Him and make Our home with Him. Whoever does not love Me does not keep My Words.”
It all began with words: “Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.” The problem then was that those words were man’s words and not the Word of the LORD. After the flood, the LORD had commanded His people to “multiply and fill the earth” once again. Instead, the people gathered together in one place. And, there they sought to establish themselves independent of God, to build a city and a dwelling in which to reside permanently that they might make a name for themselves. They conspired to build a tower reaching into the heavens that they might be as gods unto themselves. Therefoe, the LORD looked upon His rebellious creation and saw, once again, that every inclination of their hearts was but evil all the time, just as before the flood, and, in an act of mercy, not judgment, the LORD confused the language of the people and dispersed them over the face of the whole earth. This was an act of mercy on behalf of the LORD just as His banishment of our First Parents from the Garden and from the Tree of Life. The LORD did not will that His people should be hardened and be cut off from His presence eternally. Therefore, the LORD in His providence had already a plan to reunite and to unify His people and to restore them to paradise, to the Tree of Life, and to communion with Him once again in His holy presence through His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Indeed, the LORD made known His plan in many and various ways through His prophets of old – men like Jeremiah, and Isaiah, and the Prophet Joel whom St. Peter quoted in his Pentecost sermon: “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; even on My male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out My Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” It’s all about the Word. The promised Spirit will drive people into the LORD’s Word. The Holy Spirit brings to remembrance what the LORD has promised in His Word made flesh, Jesus. The Spirit does not, and will not, bring a new word, a new revelation of the word, for the Word has gone out from the Father’s mouth, and it has not returned to Him void, but it has accomplished the purpose for which He was sent. In Jesus’ incarnation, virgin birth, obedient life, innocent suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension, it is finished. And, on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, ten days after His ascension, the Father and His Son together sent forth His Spirit in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy and many others that He might unify His people once again and give them one voice, one language, one Word, and one God.
On the day of His ascension, Jesus had commanded them “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, He said, ‘You heard from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’.” The disciples obeyed the Word of their Lord and they remained in Jerusalem. “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place,” much as the people were gathered together in one place in the plains of Shinar when they conspired against the Word of the LORD to remain there and to build a tower and to make a name for themselves. However, this time the disciples were hearkening to the Word of the LORD. Then the Holy Spirit came upon them and gave them the gift of the Word. Though there were many people present from many different lands and tongues, they were all able to hear the Apostles proclaiming the Word of the LORD in their own languages. Although they spoke many different languages, the Holy Spirit united them with one spiritual language, the Word of the LORD, that everyone who calls upon the Name of the LORD shall be saved.
By His Holy Spirit, through His Word, the LORD “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” In this way, the LORD undoes the curse of Babel. The Holy Spirit joins all who love Jesus and keep His Word into a new family in communion with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This new family, the body of Christ, the Church shares “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Indeed, the purpose of the tongues, which were the natural languages of men, was that all could hear and understand the same message, the Word of the LORD, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The tongues were meant to draw together and to unify, not to isolate and divide. Those who claim a special gift of spiritual revelation seek, not the unity of Christ’s body the Church, but, like those rebels on the plains of Shinar, to make a name for themselves. It is the LORD who joins together; it is man who divides and separates.
Still, men like to go their own way, to chart their own course, to determine truth for themselves, and to hearken to their own word and wisdom and will. We see this today in the so-called worship wars where there is a desire to throw off the liturgical rites and ceremonies that have been handed down to us by generations of believers before us. Men refuse to submit themselves and to be constrained by a Word that is not of their own making. However, the liturgy consists of the LORD’s Word – check it for yourself and see that each portion of the liturgy has a scriptural reference from whence it was quoted or paraphrased. The LORD would unify us together in speaking with one voice with the Church of Jesus Christ of all times and of all places, with “angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.” But, today there is a desire to speak a different word each and every Sunday, often in words that are so loosely connected to the Word of the LORD that one is not confident that they are receiving the LORD’s gifts or praising and thanking Him at all, but merely babbling self-gratifying words into the ether. In the liturgy of the Church we all sacrifice our selfish wants and desires to that which serves to unite all as one – the Holy Spirit through the Word of the LORD, which calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps the body of Christ.
And so, Pentecost is rightly considered the birthday of the Church, for on that day the Holy Spirit was poured out to unite all together as one in the body of Christ. The LORD had promised that day in the first Gospel He proclaimed after our First Parents fell into sin and death: “I will put enmity between you and the Woman, and between your offspring and Her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” The Woman is the Church, of which the Blessed Virgin Mary was a type, born of the Holy Spirit, and Her Seed is Jesus who, in His death upon the cross has crushed Satan’s head. The day of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, Good Friday, was the day of which Joel prophesied saying, “And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.”
Yes, the day of signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth has already come, but for that “great and magnificent day” of the Lord the Church still awaits in constant vigil and faith. Today begins the Pentecost Season, known also as The Time of the Church, Ordinary Time, and the Last Days. They began with the incarnation of Jesus, and they will end at His Parousia, the “great and magnificent day” of His return when the dead will be raised and Christ’s Bride, the Church will be ushered into the glorious presence of the LORD forevermore. Through the time of our pilgrimage and vigil, the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” “In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.” To this, the Church says “Amen! This is most certainly true!” And so the Spirit and the Bride together cry out, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly! Come!”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.