Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Feast of Pentecost

John 14:23-31; Acts 2:1-21; Genesis 11:1-9

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.”
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
That prayer was answered on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after our Lord Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, ten days after His glorious ascension to the right hand of His Father in heaven that He might fill all things. On the Day of Pentecost our Lord Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit upon the faithful, His Apostles, His Church, fulfilling His promise to be with them always to the end of the age. How would He be with them? Jesus would be with them whenever they gathered together in His holy name, whether there are two or three, or two or three hundred, or two or three thousand, or more. Jesus would be with them in the preaching of Holy Scripture, whether it be the Old Testament or the New, the Books of Moses, the Prophets, the Evangelists, or the Epistles, for they all testify about Jesus, for He is the Word of the LORD made flesh. Jesus would be with them in Holy Baptism, in Confession and Absolution, and in His Holy Supper, which are nothing other than the Word of the LORD attached to material, physical elements through which He delivers to His people His gracious gifts, and they are nothing less than precisely what the Lord say that they are – a cleansing flood of forgiveness of sins bringing about new life and salvation, and His very body and blood of which a man may eat and live and never die.
That day they gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem, the same upper room where they had celebrated the last Passover meal with Jesus, the same upper room where Jesus appeared to them on Easter Sunday and proclaimed peace to them and showed them the wounds in His hands and side, the signs and proof of that peace in His death and resurrection, the same upper room where they gathered again the following Sunday, where Jesus appeared amongst them once again and beckoned Thomas to see and touch and to believe. On this day the Holy Spirit rushed through that room like a mighty wind as tongues like fire appeared above their heads, blessing them with the miracle of unlearned languages that the Holy Gospel could be proclaimed in all the languages of men and fill the world. And, after Pentecost they continued this pattern, “they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers,”“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.” The Lord answered that prayer on the Day of Pentecost, and He continues to answer that prayer, our prayer, today. We need the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and to kindle love – true love – in our hearts. “If anyone loves me,” Jesus says, “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.” To love Jesus is not mere knowledge of Him or belief in Him – even the devil knows of Jesus and believes in Him – but it is to love His words and to keep them. Jesus says that His disciples are not those who merely speak His name or even those who believe in Him, but Jesus’ disciples are “those who hear the word of God and do it.” Therefore, if you are truly Jesus’ disciple, if you are truly a Christian, you must love God’s word and desire to hear it regularly and abide by it in your daily lives. Indeed, this is how Luther explains the Third Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy”: “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” Those who despise God’s word and refuse to hear it and abide by it are no Christians, though they be present in the congregation. They are weeds planted among the wheat, who appear pious on the outside, but whose true nature is hidden and unseen. While we can only discern by the outward appearance, God, who looks upon the heart of a man, is not deceived or mocked. Truly, this would be the case with us all were it not for the gracious working of the Holy Spirit “who has called [us] by the Gospel, enlightened [us] with His gifts, sanctified and kept [us] in the true faith.”
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.” We need the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with true love – true love for Jesus, true love for God’s Word, and true love for others – and not just head knowledge. And, that is what this Divine Service is for. In this Divine Service the Lord answers our prayer, filling us with His Spirit, kindling in our hearts the fire of His love through the Apostolic teaching of God’s Word, the fellowship of the faithful, the breaking of the bread, and the prayers, the liturgy, all through which the Holy Spirit performs His faith-creating and sustaining work. We are vessels, jars of clay, in which the Holy Spirit dwells. We appear weak, foolish, ordinary on the outside, but here we are filled with the Holy Spirit through the means of grace that we may become His temple and a dispensary of His love to others.
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.” We need the Holy Spirit to change our hearts, to melt them, to fill them with a holy fear of every sin and impurity, and to fill our hearts with true and holy love for Jesus, His word and His commandments, and for all, to the glory of His holy name.
In a few moments, young Jacob will confess his faith before the LORD and before you, His people. This is a terrific opportunity for you to renew your own confession of faith. Jacob will renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways. He will confess his faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and in His word, pledging to keep it and uphold it even unto death. He will confess his faith in the LORD’s means of grace, the proclaimed word and the blessed sacraments, again pledging to make faithful and regular use of them and to live his life in accord to the LORD’s word and commandments and not fall away, even unto death. This confession is no light matter. It is not trivial or informal. It is no joke, but it is a deadly serious matter. You all made this same confession at one time or another. Pray that the Holy Spirit would come and fill your hearts anew and kindle in them the fire of His love that you may keep your confession in faith unto death. He has promised to answer your prayer.
Indeed, He is answering your prayer right now, in this place, through His means of grace, His word and blessed sacraments that you may have faith to endure and fervent love for the LORD, His word and commandments, and for your neighbor to the glory of His holy name.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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