Red: The Color Of Fire, Fervor, And Blood

Text: Matthew 14:23-31 and Acts 2:1-21

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Annika, Anna, Allie, and Howie, today is Pentecost Sunday. You can tell because of all the red at the front of the church.  It is one of those few days in the church we get to see red on the altar, the pulpit, the lectern, and the pastor.    

Now, Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Easter, which is where the ‘pente’ of Pentecost comes from.  You see, ‘pente’ means 50.  And 50 days after Easter is the day that the Crucified, Risen, and Ascended Lord Jesus poured out His promised Holy Spirit on the church.  You heard about this pouring out of the Holy Spirit in today’s Gospel reading from Acts. 

Indeed, in the book of Acts, we heard about a mighty rushing wind that must have sounded like a tornado.  We heard about tongues of fire resting on each one of the Apostles. 

And so, that is where the red of Pentecost comes from, the color of fire and fervor.  We use the color of red 50 days from Easter to show how the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church. 

Now, keep in mind that when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Apostles, everything changed.  Yes, everything changed because, before that Pentecost day, these same men trembled in fear.  They were silent.  They were afraid; often hiding.  But everything changed and they were no longer able to keep silent since the Holy Spirit led them to do what they feared to do.  That is to say; after the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them, they stood up among the crowd in the temple and began to preach in languages they had never learned with confidence and boldness. 

They were not just babbling nonsense, but they preached in the languages of the people who had come to Jerusalem.  People from all over the world were there and these people heard the Apostles speak of the mighty acts of God.  These formerly fearful Apostles now spoke boldly about Jesus who is the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the whole world, and who rose again from the dead.  They spoke of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus name.  The Apostles had no fear but proclaimed Jesus. 

Now, none of this would have ever happened if it were not for the wind and the fire of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  And so today we have red as a reminder of how the Holy Spirit came down upon Christ’s church.  We have red that reminds us of the fearful Apostles being turned to boldness to preach God’s holy Word of forgiveness, to a world bound by sin. 

You see, the Lord has this pattern of using weak, fearful, and unqualified people to proclaim His Word.  The Lord used fearful and weak disciples to speak His Word, and through that Word brought sinners to Jesus that they might be saved.  And here is the catch, the Lord still uses fearful and weak disciples, disciples like me and like you confirmands. 

Annika, Anna, Allie, and Howie, it is like this, your confirmation today is like a Pentecost.  Maybe we could say, your second Pentecost.  Your first Pentecost was on the day you were baptized.  That is when the Holy Spirit was first given to you, along with the gift of faith and forgiveness in Jesus’ death and resurrection.  But today is sort of another Pentecost, because today through receiving the Lord’s Body and Blood in communion for the first time, you will be strengthened in faith and love – kept steadfast in the Christian faith.  Today, you will make a vow and be prayed over to suffer all - even death - than fall away from the Christian faith. 

Yes, Annika, Anna, Allie, and Howie, today you are reminded by way of God’s blessing that you have received His Spirit and so you will be used to give a witness to your faith in Jesus Christ, to speak of the mighty acts of God that He has done by giving His Son to die for you and the world. 

But it won’t be easy, people do not like to hear about their sin or their need for a Savior. They are much more content with empty religious clich├ęs or foolish television preachers who babble nonsense.  

This brings us to the other reason we have red today.  Red is the color of blood, of suffering, and affliction.

You see, before that Pentecost day, the disciples were paralyzed with fear, their mouths were stitched shut with trembling because they knew if they spoke about Jesus that they would be killed as He was.  They knew that giving a witness to Jesus would not lead to partying and dancing but would lead to suffering and blood.  And so we have red. 

In fact, the word ‘witness’ in the original Greek is actually the word ‘martyr.’  A martyr is someone who suffers and dies because they cannot be silent about the joy and eternal life that they have by faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

And as it was on the first Pentecost day when the Holy Spirit led the Apostles to speak of the mighty acts of God to the people, so it is today for you.  The Holy Spirit will lead you to do what you alone are too fearful to do: to give a bold witness to your Lord Jesus Christ, in what you think, say, and do. 
And the way things are going for the Church in the world today, you may well find what it is like to be a martyr, just like the Apostles did. 

You see, right after Jesus promised to send His Holy Spirit to His church, He also said:

“The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers a service to God.” 

That time did come for the Apostles. 

Bartholomew: skinned alive and beheaded.

Thomas: burned alive.

Matthew: nailed to the ground
and beheaded.

Peter: crucified upside down.

Paul: beheaded by the emperor of Rome.

Others were stoned to death or killed in terrible ways too graphic to mention this day.  And so we have red, the color of the martyrs on Pentecost, the color of blood.

As we hear this today, we may think that it would be wise to be silent about Jesus – to not rock the boat.  But the Holy Spirit will not let your fear keep you silent.  He will use you in life, and perhaps even in death to be a witness to the joy that you have by faith in Jesus Christ.

Annika, Anna, Allie, and Howie frankly stated, it is difficult to give witness to a world that hates to hear of sin and forgiveness.  It is difficult to give a witness in your own house, to your family, and to your friends and neighbors.  And you all will fail at times, in fear you will be silent though the Spirit would urge otherwise.  In trembling, you will deny your Lord Jesus when you ought to speak and give a clear witness to Him and His Word of Truth. 

The world will accuse you and at times want to kill you.  The devil will accuse you and show you how awful your sins are to try and lead you to despair and condemnation so that you might be silent.  Even your own conscience will accuse you, telling you that you aren’t worthy to witness to Jesus Christ.

But always remember that the Holy Spirit is with you.  You are baptized.  The Holy Spirit will continually bring you to Jesus and to this altar to fill you with forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Yes, when you sin, when you fail. When you deny your Lord in fear instead of confessing Him and giving a witness to Him in what you say and think and do, listen to the Holy Spirit as He calls you to repentance and brings you back to Jesus.  Cling to the promise of 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.”

Know that the promise of peace from your Lord is yours even unto the end of time through the power of His Holy Spirit who brings you to Jesus, and fills you with Jesus and all that is His.

Annika, Anna, Allie, and Howie, today, for your very first time you will receive the Body and Blood of your Lord Jesus Christ to eat and drink for the forgiveness of all your sins, for the strengthening of your faith, for your spiritual refueling.  As you receive, pay special attention as the Cup is raised up before your eyes and the Holy Spirit reminds you that Jesus has given His Body and Blood that “the peace of the Lord be with you always.”  Pay special attention that you are drinking peace – Jesus who our peace. 

That peace is real peace, peace with God, peace in turmoil and persecution, peace from all your fears, peace that passes all understanding.  A peace that will strengthen and preserve you steadfast in the true faith unto life everlasting.

So though you have every reason to fear and to tremble.  There need not be fear any longer.  You can take heart and courage and remain steadfast in this confession and faith even unto death.  Not because of what you have done or will do but because of the Holy Spirit who is given to you, on this your Pentecost Day. 

And so today Annika, Anna, Allie, and Howie, we have red, the color of fire and fervor, and faith and even the blood of the martyrs.  The color of the Holy Spirit who is with you always.

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Note: This sermon is borrowed in large parts from Rev. Joshua Reimche's Pentecost Sermon at Our Savior Lutheran Church of Bottineau, ND. 

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