Your Very Own Personal Pentecost

Text:  Genesis 11:1-7 & Acts 2:1-21

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

There was something like fire and wind and a loud noise that day.  It was a mighty rushing wind, not a nice gentle breeze.  Think of a tornado or gale force winds.  And then there was the fire - flames that divided and rested on each of the Apostles!

What am I talking about?  I am talking about that day of Pentecost long ago.  I am talking about 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead, the day that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Apostle who had come together, just as Jesus had promised. 

It is a day that the Holy Spirit rushed into human history like never before, with a startling suddenness that was impossible to miss. 

The crowds who heard and felt the roar of the wind came rushing together, utterly confused about what was happening.  And what did they find?  They found the Tower of Babel reversed!  Yes, the confusion of Babel had been reversed. 

In our Old Testament lesson from this morning we read about mankind coming together at the place called Babel.  Mankind had gathered together to build a city for themselves and to make a name for themselves.  The people who had gathered were prideful and egotistical.  God had called mankind to multiple and fill the whole earth, but not these people.  Nope, not them.  They were going to stay put and make their own buildings and their own city, not to glorify God but to glorify themselves.  It was about glory to man in the highest.   

As a result, it should not surprise us that God intervened in judgment.  He cursed them by twisting their tongues and giving them a bunch of different languages.  Yes, He foiled their egotistical and prideful plans by confusing their language. He actually applied a divine judgment that led to confusion, suspicion, and even hatred among the people. There is no doubt about it, since the Tower of Babel, we have had the confusion of language, which has led to mankind being humbled ever since.  The confusion of language has broken and driven mankind into disorder and weakness. 

I mention all of this because God cursed the people at the Tower of Babel because they were coming together in the name of mankind.  However, in today’s reading from the book of Acts, we hear about a reversal of Babel, where the Apostles were given the ability to proclaim about Jesus in languages they had never learned.   Instead of language dividing people - this person from that  person – the people from all the nations, heard each of the Apostles speaking and testifying to the great works of God – and each person heard them preaching in their own language.  Just like native speakers.  The confusion of language was undone for the sake of salvation and for unifying mankind in the name of Jesus. 

When some in the crowd tried to explain away this mighty miracle of the Spirit by saying they were babbling because they had drank too much, well… Peter took to the pulpit and began to preach and set things right.

There was no doubt that day that the Spirit was present in Peter's preaching as he charged the Jews with guilt in Christ's suffering and death and yet showed how by the Father's eternal plan the death of Christ was overturned and He was raised and exalted to the Father's right hand, as the one who pours out the Spirit.

By the time Peter was through, the crowds were in a panic.  The Spirit's witness had convicted them.  You heard part of Peter’s sermon in our reading from Acts.  But a little further on we hear the result of Peter’s preaching:

“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?'"

Peter's answer is one of the most comforting words of all Scripture.  He doesn't give them a list of to-dos they need to perform before God will forgive them.  No.


"Then Peter said to them, 'Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and YOU will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:38-39)

That's it.  Turn, he says, toward the Lord and receive what He wants to give you in the waters of baptism: forgiveness and the Holy Spirit.  Peter lets them know that this gift isn't just for some of them, but for all.  "Let everyone of you be baptized" he says. "The promise is for you and for your children" he says.

And no less than 3,000 took him up on the invitation on Pentecost Day.  They ended up in the water, where their sins were washed away and the Spirit of God was given to them.

So even though on Pentecost morning the Holy Spirit arrived with a mighty rushing wind and what seemed to be fireworks, by the afternoon He was entering people’s lives in a far less spectacular way, in fact in what became the ordinary way: through Holy Baptism.  In other words, only some of the people got the pyrotechnic display of the wind and fire; but 3,000 received the exact same Spirit with the splash of water and the power of the Word.  Just like you received the Holy Spirit; just like I received the Holy Spirit.

Now, do you realize what that means?  It means the day you were baptized was your personal Pentecost.  It was the day that your life was turned around.  It was the day that the forgiveness which Christ won on His cross for the whole world was given to you as your very own.  It was the day that the Holy Spirit Himself was poured into your life by the Risen and Ascended Lord.  The Holy Spirit has been given to you.  He is a complete and total gift!

That's why we are filled with joy on this day.  To us who could never believe on our own, never come to faith in Jesus by all our struggling and striving, to us our Risen and Ascended Lord has sent a Helper!

He has sent the One who not only gives faith, but keeps us in faith, and strengthens that faith until our last hour comes.  And then our Helper will not leave us.  No way.  He will sustain us through death and bring us with Christ into the life that never ends. 

He will be the one who raises our bodies from the dead and transfigures them – “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come!”  That's the Holy Spirit's work!

Dear friends, what all of this means is this: the Spirit poured out upon the chosen Apostles on this day landed on YOU too.  It happened in your Baptism (just as it did for the 3,000)!  Your Baptism is your personal Pentecost.  But there is even more.

Jesus Christ doesn’t just pour out His Spirit once and that’s it.  Not at all.  A couple chapters after our second reading today, Luke records that the house where they were gathered was shaken and the Spirit descended afresh on the same apostles.

You receive the Holy Spirit and all of Him and yet there is always more.  Your Lord wants to keep pouring the Spirit into you.  Not just through your Baptism, but through your hearing of the Word (where He is always at work to strengthen your faith) and through the Supper, where by the Spirit’s power Christ feeds you with His body and blood, constantly renewing the forgiveness of sins.

Because the Spirit is the gift Christ keeps on giving us, the holy Church rejoices this day to cry out over and over again – in hymns and prayers to the Blessed Third Person of the Trinity.

In the name of Jesus: Amen.  

The sermon is indebted to Rev. Joshua Reimche from Our Savior Lutheran Church of Bottineau, ND.

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