Pentecost Sunday 2023 Faith Comes by Hearing Sermon
On the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after the resurrection, the Disciples were all gathered in one place, and something special happened. The special event was so dramatic, that Luke (the Author of Acts) had to use similes to describe the event.
Our text informs us that from heaven there came a rush of violent wind, and the wind filled the whole house. And divided tongues, as of fire, appeared and rested on top of each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in languages that were not their native tongue.
Some would say that the event was a miracle. Others have described it as an out of this world experience. Think about it. Amid all the smoke and brights lights, the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to reach out to folks of every nation in a new and exciting way.
It was like they all had instantly completed a Rosetta Stone language program, and they could speak in languages that they could not speak just a few hours earlier.
Full of the Holy Spirit, the disciples spoke of God’s great deeds of power, and the people in the crowd could understand what they were saying.
These Galileans, many of them fishermen, whose linguistic talents probably did not go much further than maybe a few curse words in other languages, were now fluent in the mother tongues of people from every nation under heaven.
It was truly a miracle. The disciples that day proclaimed God’s deeds of power in a language that people could understand. The Gospel was being proclaimed in the mother tongue of every people.
And why was it necessary for the disciples to speak in other languages? St. Paul put it this way. “Faith comes by hearing.” The Day of Pentecost was necessary because it fulfilled the promise that God made to Abraham, that through his line all nations of the earth would be blessed. God’s Spirit was introduced to all people and all nations through Abraham’s descendants.
The Prophet Joel had foretold this. Through Joel, God had promised that a day would come when His Spirit would be poured out on all people.
On the Day of Pentecost, God’s Word was spoken so it could be heard, so that everyone who called upon the name of the Lord could be saved. And as the people heard God’s Word, the church was born, and God’s Redeeming Activity was spread throughout the whole world.
I can just picture the event in my mind. How exciting it must have been to witness the birth of the Holy Christian Church. And to see people from every tribe and nation hear the Word of God for the first time.
The message would have been like no message that they had ever heard before. Instead of the daily message of doom and gloom that the world was/is so fond of proclaiming, the people heard words of love, peace, forgiveness, hope, and acceptance.
And the people were exposed to God’s Amazing Grace for the first time. And they all were given a glimpse of what the world could be like under God’s direction.
Can you imagine how fresh and new this message must have been? Sometimes, I think we Lutherans in North America take for granted all the good things that God gives to us. And we no longer get too excited about God’s Redeeming Activity.
This might explain why we have been called by some as God’s Chosen Frozen. But it was not always like this in North America. And it is not in our DNA to not share God’s Word. Martin Luther himself made it a top priority that the Bible was translated into the language of the people.
And He insisted that the liturgy be spoken in the language of the folks in the pews so that the liturgy could truly be the work of the people.
And for centuries, Lutherans have been at the forefront of the Spirits Work of proclaiming the Word of God in a language people could understand.
Did you know that some of the fasted growing Lutheran communities are in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Madagascar, and India.
I was surprised to learn this week that today there are over one million Lutherans in Papua New Guinea.
And guess where one would find the most Lutherans in church on any given Sunday? The answer is Ethiopia and Tanzania.
These two nations, with a combined number of nearly 14.5 million Lutherans are the second and third largest Lutheran communities in the world.
During the twentieth century, Lutherans from North America and Europe established schools, health clinics, and financial support in these communities.
And the people welcomed Lutherans into their villages. As one Lutheran Pastor in Tanzania explained “When life is hard, you turn to God.” And when people turn to God, God pours His Holy Spirit upon them.
One lesson that we need to learn is that in every place where the Lutheran Church is growing, it is growing because the local folks are active in evangelism.
And the Word that they are proclaiming is fresh, new, and so full of life that the residents are eager to hear it.
So where do we begin? Bishop Mark Hanson, a former Presiding Bishop of the ELCA put it this way. There are many doors through which one enters the community of the church. The front door is one, but there are side doors.
For example, Bishop Hanson lists day care, support groups for divorced people, AA meetings, parenting classes, preschools, and advocacy groups as several possible side doors.
But no matter the activity, the one common thread that all these activities have is that they bestow upon the participants the means of grace through which people are brought to faith.
My friends, people are hungry for community, people in North America long for a place to belong. But it must be a place where they sense that something worthwhile is going on, where they can both receive and give. (Faithful Yet Changing-The Church in Challenging Times. Bishop Mark Hanson)
On the Day pf Pentecost, something worthwhile did occur. Amid the violent wind and tongues of fire, God’s Holy Spirit was poured upon the disciples, and the disciples were empowered to preach and teach like they never had before.
And the Holy Christian Church was born. And throughout the centuries now, folks have heard the Good News, and those who called upon the name of the Lord experienced the forgiveness of sins and a glimpse of what life is like in God’s Kingdom.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, it is your will that all people might come to you through your Son Jesus Christ. Bestow upon us your Holy Spirit, that we may be inspired in our witness, and all may know the power of Christ’s forgiveness and the hope of His resurrection. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.