Pentecost 2009

Pentecost-revised from a sermon written by Rev. Heath Curtis
Acts 3:1-21

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

The crowds at Pentecost thought the apostles were drunk. It wasn’t only because they couldn’t understand all the languages being spoken. Jerusalem at Pentecost was always like that. But these apostles were enjoying themselves, having true communion through words with one another. They was a lot of laughter and a lot of goofy smiles. Wine makes glad the hearts of men. The Holy Spirit had come upon them. He gladdened their hearths, and, no doubt, they were, drunk with it. For there is no joy like unto that which comes from the removal of the curse.

It is Pentecost. The Spirit moves. The Apostles have new wine and joy. So also do those who hear them speak the Good News of Jesus Christ made a sacrifice for sin and raised from the dead for them and for all humanity. It is the new Pentecost, the new feast of weeks, the new harvest festival. The Lord Jesus Christ was planted in the earth 50 days ago. He has come forth out of the grave, alive, and now He buds and blooms with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is harvest time. The Lord is sending out his messengers to begin the harvest of humanity, his hundred-fold crop of grace, the spoils of His war with Hell.

All are to be gathered in: gluttonous Cretans, bullying Romans, proud and belligerent Parthians, the backwoods hicks of Phrygia in their silly hats, the rich and vain dark-skinned Arabians with swords and knives, the law-loving Jews and half-hearted proselytes, even the stiff-necked Krauts, the pagan Barbarians, the cynical Gauls, the stuck up English, even, the prideful Americans too lazy to learn any language but their own. All are to be gathered back in. All are given new wine and a new song. All are given the language of Holy Trinity, of faith, of sinners declared righteous. All now know the way to God’s heart: repentance and faith, and all are now brothers.

All those sinners of Babel, spread out and at odds with one another, and within themselves, because of sin. They are to be brought back together as one, as saints. Once God scattered them. He confused their languages because they would not obey. He divided them, to keep them humble, to interfere with their plans to interfere with Him, and the many nations were born. They came forth in rebellion and enmity. Thus have we been afflicted, by their sin and by our own, with war, bloodshed, greed, and racism. The division of mankind by languages has magnified our essential problem: pride and the seeking of advantage over one another. The devil has thrived in our confusion and our lust.

But now, at Pentecost, the curse is undone. Jesus is risen and lives. The Father’s wrath is placated. He has ascended to heaven to send the Spirit. All nations are gathered. All are one in Christ, of one tongue. All Christians now speak the same language: one faith, one Lord, one Baptism. This is not just words and sounds, syntax and grammar. It is deeper. The language of the Church, no matter the tongue in which it is spoken, always is the same. Here is its universal, catholic vocabulary: “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and your children. And you will be devoted to the apostles teaching, to fellowship, to the Lord’s Table, and to the prayers. “. Repent. Leave the vices of your nation and all nations. Stop being separate, cut off, insisting on your own way. Come, Gentiles, to the King of the Jews, King David’s Son alive out of death, and beg for mercy. For you are not your own, and you are not alone. You are bought with the blood of Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, the son of Adam. Your citizenship is in heaven. Your passport is your baptismal certificate. It is stamped in the blood of the Supper. God loves you in Christ. You are the forgiven and adopted children of the Father. Your sin has been removed. The promise of the Kingdom of God is yours.

Still, wars and rumors of wars, infidelity, sorrow, sins, and the like, they are still with us. The Church itself is divided into more denominations and factions than there are nations on the earth. Now, you live by faith, not by sight. You know the promise. You know your Shepherd. The Spirit Himself has come to you in the promise-filled waters of Holy Baptism. The Church is one. You wait for when your eyes will see the Pentecost union of all men that you know confess by faith. You wait for the the time when no one will call you “American” or “Lutheran,” but simply “brother.”

And while you wait, you are most certainly an American and a Lutheran, for good or for ill, cut off from the rest of Adam’s race and from the rest of Christendom by oceans, language, and confession. Thus, here on earth, you know now something of Hell. For in Hell, as on earth, the nations are a curse to each other, stereotypes are true, and every man stands against his neighbor. Hell is where men are must fully their fallen selfs. As the joke goes, in Hell, the English cook, the Germans run the police, and the French are the mechanics. We might add, in Hell, the Lutherans make the coffee and conduct constant, painstaking doctrinal review.

But Pentecost has come. What you know on earth is the worst you will ever know. This life with its joys and family, this Church with its liturgy, hymns, doctrine, and community, are the worst you will ever know. It only gets better from here. You know something of heaven even now, on earth. The Holy Spirit invades the present with the future. He gives you a foretaste. What you love here you will love even more in heaven. And even now, in the midst of tribulation and sorrow, you have joy and you have hope. For you are Baptized. You belong to God. You are forgiven. You feast with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven on the very Body of your God, the Man Jesus Christ. You live your life from this future, by this Holy Meal, and await the time when what you know now in the Holy Communion by faith, you will also see with your eyes. There will be no divisions, no nations, no denominations, only one flock, under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ, clean and free and holy.

And then the divisions between the nations will no longer be a curse. They will no longer lead to war and bloodshed. The divisions first caused by sin will be transformed into blessings, as surely as the Roman’s torturous and unjust cross has been turned into the salvation of the world and the glorification of the One they meant to not only to kill but also to humiliate. The differences between the many nations will be transformed by the wine of the Spirit into the laughing, wonderful joys of the one eternal Kingdom of God.

In God’s kingdom, in heaven, all curses are washed clean in Christ’s blood. All those who repent and receive entrance into the Kingdom of God through baptism will receive not only the forgiveness of their sins, but also their proper callings. Personalities and individual strengths will be amplified and glorified. You will finally be what you were always meant to be, unique as a snowflake, hand-crafted by your Father. So the joke goes, in heaven, the French cook, the English police the golden streets, and the Germans are the mechanics. And what, then, will the Lutherans do? In heaven, the Lutherans will sing.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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