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Posts Tagged "Acts 2:1-21"

All Along

May 31, 2020
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this Pentecost weekend comes from our Gospel text, wherein Luke records the crowd’s amazement as they say, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? … we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends …

This had been the plan all along, and nobody had seen it coming. Of course, in hindsight, the plan was obvious, but before the events that occurred in our reading from Acts, no one had the slightest idea of what to expect. Then, on that fateful day of Pentecost, as the apostles were gathered and suddenly began speaking in languages they had never been schooled in, things started to click. They began to make sense, and as Peter got up to preach his infamous Pentecost sermon, things became very clear, indeed. This had been God’s plan all along.

And it wasn’t a new plan; even as the tower of Babel toppled, and the peoples were dispersed across the face of the earth in a haze of confusion and misunderstanding, God knew what He was going to do. Actually, the plan stretched back even further than that, all the way back to a garden, once free of corruption. Even before God spoke all of creation into existence, He knew what would happen. He knew how the Woman would be beguiled by the smooth-talking, fork-tongued serpent. He knew how the Man, like a dope, would stand by, not fulfilling his duty as a husband to protect his wife and, instead, went with the flow and ate the fruit his wife offered him. He knew how all of this would transpire, and He already knew how He would restore the creation that was, in that moment, broken by Man’s rebellion and sin. He pronounces His intention to the snake in the aftermath of mankind’s fall: “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.”

This plan included a people, descendants of a man and woman who, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t have had children, as they were well into their 70s. Nevertheless, God made a promise to the man Abram (later named Abraham) that he would become a “great nation” and that he would have offspring as numerous as the stars. True to His word, God opened the womb of Abraham’s wife Sarah, and she gave birth to a bouncing baby boy, the child of promise, Isaac, when she was nearly a century old.

Isaac and his descendants would become a great people, Israel by name, with twelve different tribes and millions of members, and it was from one of these tribes that the promised offspring of woman would come to crush the seed of the serpent. What’s more, the people knew this. They were the chosen people, elected by God to be the people from whom the Messiah would come, but throughout time, they would often forget that fact. They weren’t chosen because there was something inherently special about them, nor did their special designation make them any better than the peoples around them. They were chosen and special because God chose them, and for no other reason. They were part of His plan to redeem the entire world.

The promise had always been that, though the one special Son, the one seed of woman who would come from this people, God would bless all nations of the world! “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’” This had always been the plan! God’s plan to send One born from the tribe of Judah, descended from David and Abraham and Adam would be the reason all the nations of the world would come to the house of the Lord!

And by the time of our text, His work was accomplished. Jesus of Nazareth, who is rightly called the Christ, had done His earthly ministry, healing the sick and deformed, casting out demons, raising the dead, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God to the poor. He’d been welcomed into the city of Jerusalem as a conquering king, and by the end of that week, the same crowds who had lauded Him as the “son of David” would call for His execution by crucifixion. The religious and political authorities assented, and He was marched up to a hill outside the city walls. There, bleeding and weak, His hands and feet were nailed to a cross and He was lifted up, put on display for all to see. He died, uttering His final words, “It is finished.” Rocks split, the earth quaked, the temple curtain was torn asunder. Dead saints were raised from their graves, and a Roman centurion – not a descendent of Abraham – cried out, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” That was God’s plan all along – to send His only-begotten Son to die in our place … to pay for our sin with His own life … to put to death sin in His own body. This was the His plan.

But that wasn’t the end of the plan! That Sunday morning, He who is both fully God and fully man showed His lordship over all things, even death, by rising from the dead! Not merely surviving His crucifixion ordeal, but having once been dead, was now alive again! He appeared to His disciples numerous times over the subsequent 40 days, reminding them of His promise to send them a Helper who would help them recall all things He had told them and to give them power from on high. Now, in our text, that time has finally come. The Helper – the Holy Spirit – came, doing precisely what Jesus had said He would do. As the sound like a mighty rushing wind filled the house … as the tongues as of fire separated and rested on the disciples … as they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in foreign languages as He gave them utterance, proclaiming the mighty deeds of God … it had been the plan all along.

The plan was that the Gospel of Jesus would be told in every nation to every tribe in every tongue. The plan was to make the redemption found only in Christ Jesus known near and far, from Argentina to Zimbabwe. The apostles, the “sent ones,” proclaimed this Jesus, crucified and resurrected for our salvation, to all Jerusalem that day, and would go on from there to proclaim it to all of Judea and Samaria. Some would cross the seas and proclaim it in the Gentile strongholds of Greece and Rome and Hispania. Some would go east, making it through modern-day Iraq and Iran, all the way to India and perhaps beyond. Through the centuries, those who received this Word have likewise taken the message to further places like the New World and Oceania. It was all part of His plan, that various tribes and tongues would hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, and thanks be to God, many believed … and that includes us.

We’re part of this plan, too. God gave us the gift of faith in the waters of Holy Baptism! He has included us in His story, to bring His gospel message of Christ, the crucified and resurrected Lord, to those around us, and what better time to do so than on the heels of a pandemic that drove home our frail and mortal nature? Your friends, your neighbors, your loved ones … they need the Seed of Woman! They need the descendant of David and Abraham and Adam! They need to hear that, in Christ Jesus, their sins are forgiven, just as we need to hear that message every week, as well! God will use us to spread this Word, and He will rescue those who hear His voice, and nothing in all creation will be able to snatch them from His hand. After all … that was, and is, His plan!

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

Tags: Acts 2:1-21

Common Sense

June 09, 2019
By Rev. David French

“Common sense.” I don’t know why it’s called “common.” We all know there’s nothing common about it. I think we would agree that the simple, practical wisdom that we call “common sense” is getting harder and harder to find. In fact, if you spend any amount of time interacting with people, you’ll quickly learn that common sense is actually pretty rare. Lots of people claim to have it, and yet, very few people actually show it.

The reason I begin this way is because, believe it or not, common sense is foundational to our faith, our mission, and our ministry. It’s true. But, keep in mind I’m not referring to worldly common sense; the kind that says “don’t stick your finger in an electrical outlet.” I’m not even referring to the sensibilities that are truly common to all those borne of Adam, a sinful common sense that we’re all conceived with and born with. No one has ever had to be taught to lie. No one has ever had to be taught to be selfish. It’s common to all men. It’s the ugly side of common sense.

No, the common sense I’m talking about is the sense that’s only common to faithful Christians. So, what does it mean to be a Christian? In its most basic definition, to be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. Jesus is the leader, and we are His followers. He leads, we follow. Simple enough, certainly common sense would say so. And yet, how often is this “Christian common sense” ignored, even by the faithful?

Consider this morning’s lesson from Acts. But, before we do, I want to remind you of the words Jesus spoke to these same apostles as He stood in their midst on Easter Sunday and opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, saying to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations.” That’s it. Not a lot of need for clarification.

Now consider the words of Jesus spoken to His apostles just before He ascended: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” Again, not a lot of need for clarification. So, to make disciples and grow the Church, we baptize and let Christ do the teaching; that is, teach His Word. Let Him do the talking. We are not taught by Jesus to give our opinions or speculations. He doesn’t command that we talk about our feelings or try to fill the need du jour. None of that. Just make disciples by baptizing them and teaching all that Christ has taught and commanded. 

You see, at both Easter and His ascension, Jesus makes it very clear what the faith of the Christian is founded upon; that is, Himself. At both, Jesus makes it very clear what all faithful mission and evangelism and “church” is all about: His Word and sacraments. The account of Pentecost which Luke records for us in Acts shows so beautifully how His apostles practiced faithful, God-given common sense.

By and through the working of the Holy Spirit, they were emboldened to open their mouths and speak the profound yet simple truth of Christ crucified and resurrected for the sins of the world. They were able to stand before all kinds of strangers and speak the truth about sin, the need for repentance, and the blessed assurance of forgiveness by grace through faith, just as their Lord Christ had commanded them to do. Peter declares, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they [the huge crowd of strangers] heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.”

So, I ask again, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” Again, it’s just common sense that a Christian is a follower of Christ. Peter and the rest of the apostles showed this faith-filled common sense. They spoke the truth - the words God gave to them. They called sin “sin.” They called all who heard to repentance. They pointed all who were in need of salvation, forgiveness, and peace to Christ and to His grace freely given in the waters of holy baptism. “This promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off … everyone whom the Lord calls to Himself.” That is, to everyone who the Lord loved enough to die and rise again for. It’s all so simple. God’s Word rightly taught and His sacraments rightly administered.

And yet, this faithful common sense seems to be so very uncommon in the life of Christians. How often do we, with the best intentions, strive to make disciples and yet fail to do the one simple thing that Christ calls us to do, to let Him do the talking? This God-given miracle of “speaking in foreign tongues” was given to the apostles for one simple reason, so that they could proclaim the Word of God, both Law and Gospel in the language that the hearers could understand.

My friends, that’s what “Church” is all about. That’s what evangelism and mission and worship are all about. That’s what being a follower of Jesus is all about, sharing the love and forgiveness you have received in both word and deed each and every day the Lord grants to you. “For Jews demand miracles and Greeks seek wisdom….” Today, people seek entertainment, a self-serving sense of purpose, and a feeling that convinces them that they really are good. But, the truth is, like every other self-proclaimed good works we do, they, like chaff on the threshing floor, will be swept up and tossed into the fire because they cannot save you.

But, faithful followers of Christ are different. We followers of Christ the Lord are called to humbly, faithfully, and obediently follow His lead. We do that by taking up our crosses and following Him, trusting that He is working all things for our good and for the good of those who love Him. We let Him do the talking as we share His word and point to the one true source of grace, mercy, and peace -- that is, His cross.

We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews, foolishness to Gentiles, and not very wise or productive or flashy or fun to the masses today either. The truth rarely is. You know as well as I do that worldly common sense tells us that this message of Christ crucified is a terrible business model. It won’t bring in the masses that we are hoping for. But, to those who are called by God, Christ, the word incarnate, is the very power and wisdom of God. He alone is our hope and He is God’s gift to you.

May the simple yet powerful truth of God’s unconditional love and word of forgiveness be your confidence, your joy, and your peace until the day we are all together with Him, our Lord and Savior.

In His holy and precious name, Amen

Tags: Acts 2:1-21

The Day of Pentecost

May 20, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert

 

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation this Pentecost weekend is from the book of Acts, specifically where Luke writes, “And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? … we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends.

Where is the focus in this text? Where do your ears prick up? What point in this story catches your imagination? It’s a little unfair to ask this question because we are only, honestly, getting a snippet of the narrative. Our text is coming at the tail-end of a fifty-day period. During those 50 days, Jesus appeared to His disciples on several occasions; only thing is, He was dead. No question, He was dead, and yet He appeared to His disciples, on more than one occasion, very much alive. He did this for forty days, ten days prior to our second reading, and then He visibly, physically, ascended back to His rightful place at the right hand of the Father, but not before reminding His disciples of the promise He had given them, the promise for another Helper, the promise we read about in our Gospel text:

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” Jesus repeats this promise at His ascension, telling the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until it happens. And they do. They wait, for ten days, and now here we are. On the same day as the Festival of Weeks, Shavuot. This lesser-known feast (at least from a Gentiles perspective) celebrates several things at once. It marks 50 days from the Passover Sabbath, while also commemorating the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. Religious significance abounds in this festival, but also cultural: this is also a harvest celebration, specifically the early harvest celebration. With this, came the idea that if the early harvest is good, the later harvest will be even better! This is a HUGE celebration in Jerusalem, with Jews from all nations coming to the holy city to celebrate – Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Cappadocians, Pontics, Asians, Phrygians, Pamphylians, Egyptians, Libyans, Romans, Cretans, Arabians, and Judeans. Virtually from every corner of the known world, where the fear of the God of Israel had come to the people, the people had come to celebrate. And it just so happened that it was on THIS day, THIS Shavuot, that we have our reading from Luke’s pen.

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” This is incredible, make no mistake. It’s so incredible, that entire denominations have endeavored to recreate this day every day. It’s hard to blame them. But is that the focus? The sound like a mighty rushing wind, the tongues as of fire, the speaking in foreign languages? Is that what Luke is wanting to draw your attention to?

Well, let’s continue on, and we’ll likely reach the answer. These disciples, filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit, speaking in languages that they have never used and yet are talking with the ease of native speakers, they’re speaking in the languages of all of those gathered in Jerusalem, and as these disciples give testimony, “we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Miraculous? Yes. Absolutely. Not since before the fall of the Tower of Babel had human beings understood one another with such ease! Each of the hearers hears, listens, to the proclamations of these men, singing the praises of God in the languages their mothers had taught them. Is that where you get caught up? Is that what is so astounding? Is that where you, with all these Jews from all the world over ask in amazement and perplexity, “What does this mean?”

The entire narrative is so overwhelming, it’s easy to get caught up in the details. It’s easy to get caught up in the what and the who, the mystery and the fantastical. It’s easy to see these things and long for those golden days. But is that the purpose of this text?

No. The focus of this is not upon the bizarre and wild yet true story that we read here. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is an amazing fulfillment of Christ’s promises to His disciples, but it’s the message the Holy Spirit gives them to speak that should be the focus – after all, the work of the Holy Spirit is NOT to draw attention to Himself, but to point toward Christ, the Son of the Living God.

It’s not the amazing wonder that the disciples are using foreign tongues they’d never used before to proclaim the glories of God; it’s the message those tongues are speaking, the praise of God, the proclamation of His Law and His Gospel, to cut sinners to the heart, to kill them with the conviction of the law, and to make them alive again in Christ, which is precisely what Peter proclaims to all those who are within earshot, including those who think the disciples have gotten into the new wine. The focus here should not be the messenger, nor even the vehicle of the message. The focus is on the message – namely, the story of sin and redemption through Jesus of Nazareth, Who is called the Christ. Jesus said as much about the Holy Spirit Who gives utterance when He said, “… when [the Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

It’s easy to get caught up. It’s easy to get tangled in the signs of the times, with the wonders in the heavens above, and signs on the earth below. It’s easy to dwell upon numbers, and figures, how that church is losing members, yet how that one over there seems to be growing. It’s easy to decry and bemoan the state of our culture, the division, but that’s not where our focus must be. Acknowledgment of where we’re at is a good thing, but as Pastor French told the children last week, if we take our focus off of Jesus, it’s very easy to get lost.

The focus of our mission now is the same as it was on the Day of Pentecost, at that miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We are not called to miraculously speak in tongues, but we are called to proclaim Christ and Him crucified to all people, to translate His message of Law and Gospel into ways the people can understand. We are not called to prophesy to dry bones to come alive, but we are called to speak the truth in love, to call sinners out of darkness into the marvelous light of salvation found only in Christ, to call them from the death they love to find life in Jesus, whom they likely hate. We are called to faithfulness … in all that we are, trusting that the Holy Spirit is still doing today through us what He did in Jerusalem ten days after Jesus ascended, and trusting that the message that He brings to us and through us is true! It’s the message we bear that is our focus, keeping our eyes on Jesus, even in the miraculous found on Pentecost. It worked for the disciples, and it certainly works today, because the Holy Spirit works through His people today as He did then.

It’s fitting, then, that the Holy Spirit was poured out at the early harvest festival. If that early harvest was good, the later harvest would be GREAT. Yes, my friends, the Spirit is still working, still sowing seeds in the field, and if the early harvest at the first Pentecost was as great as we see it being, how INCREDIBLE will the Last Harvest be! He still works, still brings sinners to Jesus, through the utterances that He gives us, proclaiming in the tongues that we are given … the mighty works of God!

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Tags: Acts 2:1-21
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