Friday after the Seventh Sunday of the Resurrection of Our Lord
May 17, 2013
He is Risen!
This coming Sunday is Pentecost. Pentecost (also called the Feast of Weeks, First Fruits, or Booths [Exodus 23:16, Leviticus 23:15-21, Deuteronomy 16:13]) was one of the major Old Testament festivals and so Jerusalem always had many visitors. If was 50 days after the Passover was celebrated (7 weeks), so it was also 50 days after the resurrection of our Lord. The name “Pentecost,” taken from Latin, refers to that 50 day time period. Sometimes Pentecost is also called “Whitsunday” (as it was in The Lutheran Hymnal). This is an Old English word meaning “White Sunday.” It comes from the tradition of baptizing people on Pentecost and those people wore white robes.
I should point out that those baptisms were adult baptisms, which followed an extended period of instruction. Infants were baptized right away, as there was no guarantee that an infant would live a year, and many didn’t. Therefore Pentecost has become a traditional day to receive confirmans into communicant membership.
The story of Pentecost is well known to Christians. The believers were gathered in an upper-room when the Holy Spirit manifested himself in a miraculous and powerful way. The disciples began sharing the mighty works of God. Peter gave a sermon. 3,000 people were baptized and believed in Jesus. The account takes up most of Acts 2. The reading from Acts is spread over two Sundays, Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday (the Sunday following Pentecost Sunday). Pentecost has often been called the “birthday of the Church.” It seems that the Church had no problem in recognizing how special Pentecost was and began to celebrate it right away (Acts 20:16). I might add that there are several references to Pentecost as a major festival among the writings of the generation that followed the Apostles. Therefore Pentecost was the second festival celebrated annually by Christians, Easter being the first.
At Lamb of God we will celebrate Pentecost several ways. First, in harmony with the tradition of the Church, we will bring two young men into communicant membership. They are Gregory and Joshua, who have completed two years of study and are ready to confess their faith publicly in our worship service. This is no simple “I believe in Jesus,” but a confession that encompasses and understanding of who Jesus is, an understanding of the Trinity, an understanding of baptism, an understanding of the Lord’s Supper, an understanding of God’s Law and the Gospel of our Lord. Second, we will have a specially designed liturgy. Third, we will have a picnic, following the service. Members are asked to bring a side-dish (beans, salad, desert, etc.). It should be a fun day for all.
Our readings from our lectionary for Sunday are: Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:23-31.The text for the sermon is Acts 2:4 and the sermon is titled “I Believe in the Holy Spirit.” This will be a Communion service. The Confirmans, along with their families, will comprise the first “table.” Following that, the rest of the congregation will commune. You may prepare to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood by reading again the section on “The Sacrament of the Altar” from Luther’s Small Catechism.
As already mentioned, we will have a special liturgy for Sunday. Many of our regular liturgical pieces will be replaced with hymns. Those “liturgical” hymns will be “Create in Me” (LSB 956), “Holy, Holy, Holy” (LSB 507, verses 1 and 2), and “Lamb of God, Pure and Holy” (LSB 434). The Confirmation hymn will be “Thine Forever, God of Love” (LSB 687). The Distribution hymns will be “O Day Full of Grace” (LSB 503), “Draw Near and Take the Body of the Lord” (LSB 6374), and “Creator Spirit, by Whose Aid” (LSB 500). Our opening hymn will be “Holy Spirit, Light Devine” (LSB 496). Our sermon hymn will be “Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord” (LSB 497). Our closing hymn will be “Go, My Children, with My Blessing” (LSB 922). We will also be blessed with two special pieces, “The Gift of Love” and “The Shepherd Psalm.”
Below is a video of our sermon hymn, “Come Holy Ghost, God and Lord.” The words are provided. The congregation singing is St. Lorenz Lutheran, a fellow LC-MS congregation.
Our Sunday morning Bible study has finished the CTCR document concerning our place in the overall creation. This coming Sunday we will turn our attention to the study put together by the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services titled “Resolved: A Bible Study on Ending Human Trafficking.” This study was developed at the request of the last LC-MS convention, which passed a resolution opposing the modern slave trade. It is estimated that the study will take one hour. As our actual time in Bible study is probably closer to 45 minutes, we will probably take two Sundays for the study.
Preview of Lessons
Genesis begins with a global view, works its way down to focus on Abraham and his descendants, and then to that One Descendant, Jesus. Through Jesus, the Bible returns to a global view. This portion of Genesis is at the tail-end of the beginning global view and contains the story of the Tower of Babel. We see the very thing that tempted Adam and Eve (to be god-like) continues to tempt humanity (as it does to this very day). Their defiance of God is seen in one of the purposes of the tower and city they are building, to keep from dispersing over the face of the whole earth. Yet God had commanded humanity to spread out and do exactly what these people wanted to prevent. At any rate, God mercifully prevented their return to rebellion by confusing their language. Language is, of course, constantly changing. These people didn’t speak Spanish, English, Swahili, etc. Such languages would not develop for a long, long time.
This is the first half of the Pentecost story. The second half will be one of next weeks readings. The sermon is based on this lesson, so I’ll only mention things that have already been cut from the sermon. Our English text says “when the day of Pentecost arrived,” but the festival of Pentecost was seven days long. The Greek actually says, when Pentecost had “fully arrived,” indicating the last day of the festival. The nations that are referred to in verses 9-11 can be thought of in two groups. Parthians through Judea are Old Testament lands while Judea through Arabia are New Testament lands. (Okay, Arabia is in both Testaments.) The fact that everyone heard the Gospel in their own language is often seen as a reversal of Babel. Notice that it takes God’s word to understand the events. Without the guiding of God’s Word, people will always draw faulty deductions because their foundation for their deductions is corrupted human reasoning. I am, of course, speaking of spiritual matters. One should note, however, that the physical and spiritual are not divorced for each other, as the incarnation clearly proves. The very physical Jesus made a very spiritual difference. Also the resurrection on the Last Day screams the connection between the physical and the spiritual. Also note that Peter claims that the Joel prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus. That is because Jesus marks the beginning of the Last Days. Those who don’t recognize this often waist a great deal of time trying to figure out when the Last Days are to begin.
This passage is so theologically rich, one hardly knows where to begin. Jesus explains that our faith is a living and active thing. However that activity is not self-chosen. It is directed by God’s Word. He promises to dwell with us. He also promises that, because the Father is in Him and He is in the Father, therefore the Father also dwells with us. He then moves to His Ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit, who is one with the Father and Jesus. Therefore we have the Trinity revealed here. The Holy Spirit teaches us all things. This is not a reference to new doctrines, but understanding “all that I (Jesus) have said to you.” In other words, the Holy Spirit is essential to a correct understanding of the Scriptures. Jesus says, “If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father …” The mark of a mature faith is rejoicing in the will of God. Those who oppose the will of God (Babel) do not love God, even if they say they do. At best, they love an idol. “The Father is greater than I (Jesus)” refers to the incarnate Son. It is as the Athanasian Creed puts it, “equal to the Father with respect to His divinity, less than the Father with respect to His humanity.” Jesus alludes to his atoning death with the words “the ruler of this world is coming.” This is not a loss of control, for Jesus is only obeying his Father. So much more could be said, but this will have to do.
The Holy Spirit Gives Peace
(Summary from LC-MS)
Following the flood, Noah’s descendants failed to spread out and fill the earth as God had spoken. Rather, they exalted themselves; with “one language and the same words” (Gen. 11:1) they spoke proudly and arrogantly. The Lord humbled them by confusing “the language of all the earth,” dividing and dispersing the people (Gen. 11:9). That dispersal was reversed on Pentecost Day (the fiftieth day of Easter), when God caused the one Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to be preached in a multitude of languages. “At this sound the multitude came together” (Acts 2:6), for the preaching of Christ is the primary work of the Holy Spirit, whereby He gathers people from all nations into one Church. The Holy Spirit teaches and brings to our remembrance the words of Jesus, which are the words of the Father who sent Him. These words bestow forgiveness and peace to those who keep and hold on to them in love for Jesus. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27).
- Don’t forget the picnic, Sunday.
Well, I pray we will see you Sunday.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert