The Feast of Pentecost (June 8, 2014)

Lessons:Acts 2:1-21 Psalm 104:24-34, 35b 1st Corinthians 12:3b-13 St. John 20: 19-23

Prayer of the Day: God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as you sent upon the disciples the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, look upon your Church and open our hearts to the power of the Spirit. Kindle in us the fire of your love, and strengthen our lives for service in your kingdom; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

2.1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ”

Acts 2:1-21, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Holy Spirit Has Called Me

I am a Lutheran. I don’t worship Martin Luther. He was a sinner, and a fallible human being. There were a number of things he said and did that I don’t like – and some that he himself probably regretted. But I do appreciate the insights he had into this faith that we share. And I am convinced that God was working through him to renew the church in his day – and in ours too.

In my office, there is a fifty-six volume set of his writings. I pull one of them out occasionally to read one of Luther’s sermons or lectures or letters or treatises. I enjoy reading these, and from time to time am inspired by his writing. But the work of his that I most cherish is a small, thirty-two page pamphlet called “Luther’s Small Catechism.” It is an instructional tool, intended to help parents teach their children about the faith.

There is one portion of that pamphlet that I have committed to memory. Luther is explaining the Apostles’ Creed, and he writes about the third section of that creed (which deals with the Holy Spirit):

I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy, and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith.

Listen to what Luther defines as the work of the Spirit: calling to us through the gospel, enlightening us with spiritual gifts, making us holy, keeping us in true faith. It is through the Spirit that God creates faith in us, and shapes faithfulness among us.

Luther would teach us that the Holy Spirit is not primarily in the business of making a display of supernatural phenomena. But instead, through the Spirit, God grafts us into this family of faith, strengthens our faith in the face of all that opposes it, and encourages us towards lives that share grace and love with those who surround us.

The Day of Pentecost is a time when the church traditionally concentrates on the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the ways in which it strengthens the church. It is a time to consider how the Spirit has created and sustained faith in our own lives. It is a time to explore how the Spirit would empower our witness, so others might have faith.

I look forward to celebrating Pentecost with you, as we celebrate the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and in our congregation. Remember to wear red to worship!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How did the Spirit empower the disciples’ witness on that first Pentecost day?
  2. How did Luther understand the Spirit’s work in the church, and in the lives of believers?
  3. How might the witness of Acts and the Small Catechism encourage faith today?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Through whom or through what has God’s Spirit moved to create faith in me?
  2. When has the Spirit been a resource for me in a time of difficulty?
  3. How has the Spirit moved through me to help me share my faith with others in a gentle and genuine way?
  4. What work does the Spirit have left to do in my life?