If there was any doubt of the fallen nature of humanity, I think these days that façade is finally falling. Though we want to look to the best side of people, and we want to believe that everyone is basically good, we are bombarded with reminders that this isn’t the case. Sin is on display everywhere we look. Good intentions turn bad as mankind continues to tear itself apart. We always have moments when we think that perhaps it isn’t that bad. When pandemic first really hit we rallied together, doing what we could to flatten the curve and save lives. But then came the distrust, the finger pointing, the lies to save face and ensure a political future. We have seen men heroically take up a vocation that seeks to protect and serve their neighbors and then this past week we watch a horrific video of an officer showing utter disregard for human life. We watch and even applaud as protesters rise up to call for justice, to make things right again. But then we see it turn violent, looting and the destruction of businesses mark the night. Whether we are the victims or the victimizers, sin is woven throughout it all.
What a perfect time for us to hear again the story of Pentecost. What a perfect time for us to gather together and listen to the events that unfolded in Jerusalem all those years ago, events that are dominated by the action of God in the midst of humanity’s sin. See, Pentecost is a day of movement, a day where God pours out the Holy Spirit, and so it is a day that gives us hope and assurance as we struggle in the midst of sin and hardship. When the mask of humanity’s goodness begins to slip, when we are forced to come face to face with what we would rather deny, we need to recall this day. This is the moment when God did not abandon his people but came to dwell right in their midst. For Pentecost has something to say to us today. It has something to give you as you see the terrors that fill the news cycle.
Pentecost is about hope, about life, about the promises of God. It is a day that opens our eyes to the fact that we live in the midst of a dying world, that there is a timeline which is counting down to the end and we are getting closer to the edge of it. But that end is not a day of dismay and fear and chaos. No, not for you. For the people of God it is a day of joy and blessing and everlasting glory. So, as we lift up our heads in the midst of this crazy world and turn to the things of God, we find that there is much to give us hope. Pentecost is the triumphal shout of victory that echoes from the empty tomb of Easter morning.
Pentecost was a great festival for the ancient people of God. It was an agricultural or harvest festival, where the first fruits of the harvest were presented as an offering to the Lord. It is called Pentecost because it fell on the fiftieth day after Passover. “Pentecost” means “fiftieth.” Over time this was the festival in which the people of God celebrated the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai. You remember the story, where Moses goes up the mountain to meet with God. In Exodus we read that “Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire.” (Exodus 19:17-18) There was fire and smoke and loud trumpet blasts as the whole place shook. God met his people there and he met them to give them his Word. He gives to his people the decalogue, his commandments, that separate them out from all other people, that declares them to be the children of God.
And so, it is fitting that on the celebration of this moment, the remembrance of the giving of the Word of God, that fire descends again from above. This time it isn’t on top of a mountain but on the individual disciples of Jesus Christ. We are told that “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.” (Acts 2:2-4) The Word of God moves through these men. They speak as he speaks, they proclaim as he directs them. And the Word of God breaks forth in a glorious display.
All those gathered in the city for the festival, men from all over the known world, began to hear the Word of God, and they hear it in the language of their homelands. Their mother tongues the language that they were taught with from birth, the language that they thought in and described the world in. The language that shaped their hopes and dreams and expressed their desires to others. That language is now captivated and used by God to speak his Word. They hear in their own tongues the mighty works of God. Works that lead to the death of his Son, works that provide a sacrifice for your sins, works that set you free from the bondage of sin, death and the grave.
God comes down and his Word goes forth. No more tablets of stone, no more temple in Jerusalem, this is a living Word that moves through the people of God. It seeks them out and will not abandon them in this world of sin and decay. As Peter rises up to address the questions and disbelief of the crowds gathered there, he sets this event in the grand scheme of the salvation history of mankind. This moment he says is a fulfillment of that the prophet Joel said, it is a manifestation of what the last days will be like.
“In those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above…” (Acts 2:18-19)
These are the last days, these very days that you and I live in. As we watch the struggles of our society, the collapse of our economy, the injustice in our land, the battle for the good the right and the beautiful in the midst of the shame and brokenness of it all, we find strength and encouragement in the mighty working of God. For that Word poured out on Pentecost day continues to go forth even now. We are reminded this day that in the midst of everything, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)
And so, the Word goes forth. It is found right here in our assembly; it is found as the proclamation of Christ reaches your ears. God has sent you a preacher to give you the life-giving Word of the Spirit so that you might endure. I declare to you today that Christ has come for you, he suffered for you, died and rose for you, he loves you and he forgives you all of your sins. But this Word doesn’t stop there. It comes in your own mother language, it comes throughout your life, in the good times and the bad. It comes on the lips of a mother speaking reassurance to a child awakened by a nightmare. It comes in the cry of warning a father speaks to a wandering child. It is found in the guidance and comfort and correction and forgiveness that you speak to one another. It is found then in our marriages and in our friendships, it is heart of the assembly of the people of God. The gifts of Pentecost continue on to this very moment.
You and I, we live in the last days. Time is short my friends, so let us celebrate with all earnestness the promise of God, that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. All glory be to God.