May 23, 2010 — The Day of Pentecost
“Given the Spirit to Proclaim Jesus” — Pastor Lassman
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My Fellow Redeemed in Christ,
The church, ho-hum, how boring. Really, think about it: how often do people think about the church, even Christians? And if people do think about the church it isn’t seen as something special. People drive by churches all the time and hardly notice. At best, the church is just taken for granted and ignored; at worst, it is criticized and condemned. And, in many ways, the church is not very impressive: of course, the church isn’t a building; the church is people, people who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior from death and damnation. And the church, Christian people, you and I, are far from perfect. And yet the church is the most important group of people in the world. Really? Really. Who says? God says. Why? Because the Holy Spirit uses the church to bring the saving message of Jesus Christ to a world saturated in sin and death. Which brings us to Pentecost. We do not properly understand Pentecost unless we associate the giving of the Holy Spirit with telling others about Jesus Christ. Just fifty days before Pentecost, at that first Good Friday, Jesus had died on the cross and been forsaken of God to pay for the sins of the world, your sins and mine. And then three days after that he had been raised from the dead on that first Easter. And just seven days before Pentecost Jesus told his disciples to make disciples of the whole world by baptizing and teaching. The whole world?! The whole world. Now there’s an ambition assignment! But none of this would be possible with Pentecost. Because, the Christian church is “Given the Spirit to Proclaim Jesus.”
I. Ok...let’s get down to basics: the church brings the message of Jesus Christ to others because on the judgment day people without Jesus Christ will be damned forever. “Forever.” That’s a long time. Do we really believe this?
A. Let’s be honest...it’s really easy to forget about the judgment day. There are so many things to distract us...so many fun things to do. Yeah, yeah, we know about the judgment day..but it just doesn’t seem very real. It’s like people being warned about earthquakes. People are constantly told to do all they can to prepare for “The Big One.” Yeah, they know about it...but they don’t think about it very often...and probably many don’t take it very seriously...just like the judgment day. ”The Big One” just doesn’t seem very real...but of course, that will all change if “The Big One” ever comes. And that day will show who was prepared and who was not. And so it is with the judgment day. God doesn’t lie. He always tells the truth and he keeps his word. He does what he says. The judgment day will come. In our text it’s called “The Day of the Lord.” And those without Jesus Christ will not be prepared. And it will be terrifying--- as we read in our,
Lesson: I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.” This is how it is said in the book of Revelation: “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev. 6: 16,17, ESV) A disaster never seems real...until it happens.
B. And so just as there is “earthquake preparedness”, so there is “judgment day preparedness.” It's called faith in Jesus Christ...just as we read in our text: “Everyone who calls up the name of the Lord shall be saved, shall be saved.” If you were on a cruise and fell overboard you would be filled with relief and joy if someone threw you a life jacket...and you would gladly put it on as quickly as possible. And so it is with Jesus. He’s the life jacket that the church throws out to people so that they won’t be damned forever. It’s so simple: if we were in a building that was on fire we would desperately want to find the door that would lead us outside to fresh air and safety. And so it is with the door that leads to eternal life. Only Jesus Christ can save people from the judgment day and God’s wrath. Why? Because only Jesus Christ has dealt with the real problem between God and humanity: Sin. God cannot tolerate sin. Why not? Because he is absolutely pure and holy. We might think that we are good...but not when compared to God. That’s what people don’t understand. How many sins did it take for Adam and Eve to lose everything God gave them: one. That’s how holy God is. And how many sins do we have? Certainly more than one. But God is not only holy; he is also just....And that’s why God put Adam and Eve out of the garden. And that’s why there is a judgment day. But....We know the Gospel: that Jesus Christ has taken care of all of this by dying for the sins of the world, for your sins and mine. In him there is forgiveness. In him there is no condemnation from God...and that’s why “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But of course this means that people must hear about Jesus Christ as Paul says in Romans: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have not heard?” (10: 14, ESV)
II. And this is why Pentecost is so important. For it was on Pentecost that Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to empower his church to tell others about Jesus Christ, to empower you and me.
A. And how can we not tell other people about Jesus Christ? How can we not tell them what we know? How can we not tell them what we have? Good news is meant to be shared! And God sent Jesus Christ to be the Savior of all people. God loves all people. Jesus died for all people. And God wants all people to hear about Jesus and believe in him. Unlike human beings, God doesn’t have bias and prejudices and he certainly is not a racist. He sees all people the same way: sinners who need a Savior. Again Paul writes in his letter to the Romans: “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” (11:32, ESV) And so on that first Pentecost we hear of people from sixteen different regions of the world hearing the good news of Jesus Christ in their own language. And it was the Holy Spirit who empowered them to proclaim the Gospel as we read: “They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as they spirit gave them utterance.” A better translation than tongues would be “languages” as is made clear from verse eight of our text: “How is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” You and I live in one of least Christian parts of our country. Here is a quote from a Wikipedia article: “The Pacific Northwest has the lowest rate of church attendance in the United States and consistently reports the highest percentage of Atheism. This is most pronounced on the part of the region west of the Cascades. A recent study indicates that one quarter of those in Washington and Oregon believe in no religion.” (Ref 1.) There are so many people around us who do not believe in Jesus Christ. So many people around us who will not be ready for the judgment day.
B. And this is why the Christian church is so important. This is why Messiah Lutheran Church is so important. And this is why you and I are so important. God has given us his Holy Spirit to empower us to tell other people about Jesus and to make disciples. From a worldly standpoint Messiah Lutheran Church might not be very impressive or be important...but from God’s standpoint we are very important. We are God’s representatives...his ambassadors. All of us: men and women; adults and children. We have the same Holy Spirit that the Apostles had. And the Holy Spirit can use each one of us to tell others about God’s love; his forgiveness and life in Jesus Christ. And we don’t have to go anywhere to do this. Just like in our lesson, God will send people into our lives so that we can tell them about Jesus. And the Holy Spirit will give us the words we need as well as the wisdom how to say them. All we have to do is start talking.
Conclusion: I suppose that many people drive by our congregation and don’t think much about it. They see it as just one building among countless other buildings in a long a stretch of road called 35th Avenue Northeast. But God sees it differently. He sees Messiah Lutheran Church as a place where his people gather together to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to tell others about his son, Jesus Christ. You see, you and I are a lot more important than how the world sees us. By the power of the Holy Spirit we bring the life giving message of Jesus Christ to others so that they too might call on him and be saved. And when that day of judgment comes not only will they be saved...but it will be clear to all just how important the church was. And that’s the message and meaning of Pentecost. Amen.