DAY OF PENTECOST
MAY 20, 2018
ACTS 2 & JOHN 14
The New Testament and His Pentecost
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Pentecost was one of three major pilgrim festivals in the Old Testament. It was a thanksgiving harvest festival and required the Israelites to worship in Jerusalem at the Temple. That is why there were visitors from so many places when they heard the loud noise coming from the church that Sunday morning.
The Old Testament is not simply the first 39 books of the Bible. It is first and foremost the promise of God to be the God of the children of Abraham. His promise was to keep them separate from the unbelieving world. He would be their God and they would be His people. He would hear their prayers and give His Spirit to them. He would not forsake or forget them and they would never be the subjects of the devil again.
When Abraham's children—the ancient nation of Israel—gathered at Sinai to receive the Old Testament, the Law of God for His people, they received laws to keep them different and apart from the rest of the world. One of these Old Testament laws was the harvest festival of Pentecost when faithful children of Abraham would offer sacrifices to their God.
But the most interesting thing about the Old Testament is that it is not as old than the New Testament. In fact it served to carry out God's New Testament promise.
The New Testament is Christ Himself, promised to the world, because He promised Himself to Adam and Eve, the father and mother of the world, as their salvation from themselves and their sin.
The way of the Old Testament, the way of love, is holy, eternal, and good; but the love it demands no human since Adam can accomplish. And so it cannot save us. None of us loves God and others with holy perfect love. Our lack of love is on display when we react with apathy and sometimes anger to the truth.
When confronted with the truth that we are sinning against God and against other people, we get defense quickly. A father rebuking a child for rudeness often results in denials or even doubling down with the bad behavior. A wife points out that her husbands needs to ignore his smart phone and listen to his children; a wise reaction would be to repent, apologize to his family, and turn off the phone. But Dad is a sinner who like all sinners will defend his behavior with gusto if he feels that his happiness is under attack.
As an exception to the rule, today we see most of the congregation of Pentecost didn't turn away after Peter speaks the hard truth about Christ and His death and resurrection. By the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God that went into their ears, they were made alive and accepted the New Testament: Christ!
The New Testament today is surrounded by less spectacular events than those of Pentecost. There is nothing like the rushing wind, there is nothing like the tongues of fire. I can't suddenly speak Mandarin or Urdu or French.
But, thought on the surface ordinary-looking, we have the Eucharist, the thanksgiving. Just as the Old Testament Pentecost festival was thanksgiving for the gifts of God, so now the Eucharist, that is, the Lord's Supper, is the thanksgiving feast of the New Testament, sacrificed once and offered often to us.
This promise of living food for us means that He is our God and we are His children. He hears our prayers and gives us His Spirit. He and His Father come and live with us. He lives with us as we picnic on sunny days and watch children frolic. He lives with us when our parents aren't listening to us. He lives with us even as we lay dying with terminal illness. Because of His Word, He never forsakes or forgets us; instead He forgives us for our apathy and indifference and even our anger against the truth.
The power of Pentecost is not in the splendid noise or the glorious fire; it is in the still small promise of God's love for lonely pitiful sinners.
After Elijah serves as God's instrument in demonstrating with fire from heaven that our God is the true God, Elijah flees for his life from the wicked queen Jezebel. He runs for forty days and nights to Mt. Sinai, strengthened with food from God. But he is afraid and lonely. He sleeps in a cave and there God asks him what He is doing, and Elijah pours out his troubles.
1 KINGS 19:11–12 Then [the Lord] said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.” At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper. CHRISTIAN STANDARD BIBLE 2017
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful people and kindle in us the fire of Your love!
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Thanks be to God!