+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Genesis 11:9
Theme: Prelude to Pentecost
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
God speaks! In His speaking He brings order out of chaos, faith out of unbelief, and life out of death. The event of Pentecost enhances our understanding of a God who wishes to make the gifting of His Son ‘intelligible’ to the world. Fifty days after his resurrection from the dead Jesus sent the promised Holy Spirit to His disciples. Manifested as tongues of fire the Spirit enabled the disciples to speak the gospel in different languages. Christianity was destined to be a truly global religion. Translation of the Scriptures continues in many parts of the world today including Aboriginal languages. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”1 It is our privilege to support the articulation of the gospel in every tongue in every place.
God speaks. And in so doing He forms the witness of the believer. God who created the tongue also trains it for speech. The ability to articulate and understand the sounds the human voice is capable of producing are among the most complex realities of human existence. The combination of sounds possible to communicate human thoughts is essentially limitless. The fact that these become organized into coherent systems identifiable as languages, dialects or language-groups is surely a reflection of the truth that humanity was created in the image of God.
It was an image quickly lost in the rebellion of sin. Mutiny against God continues to be manifest in every possible way in private and public life. One of the most notable examples in the history of humanity is the building of the Tower of Babel. How high was the Tower of Babel before construction was divinely arrested? Spiritually it was high enough that the egos that built it had a mighty fall. The foolish man built his house on the sand “and it fell with a great crash.”2
Babel and Pentecost are contrasting events. As such they illustrate God’s mode of operating in the world. Babel involved God’s judgment on the conspiracy of sinful humanity. A common speech had facilitated their idolatrous efforts. They were unified in their efforts and communications to stand in insubordination and rebellion against the Almighty. He confused their language and scattered them. Pentecost involved the Spirit’s blessing of redeemed humanity. Extraordinary gifts facilitated their efforts to articulate the Gospel. They became unified in their efforts to communicate in the native languages of those assembled there. He illuminated their speech to gather them.
God speaks. Of course nothing can be said so clearly that those with evil intent cannot misinterpret or dismiss it. We often hear what we want to hear. This is a continual liability of our sinful nature for which we are called to repentance. Respect for the authority in question greatly influences the response. President Calvin Coolidge once invited friends from his hometown to dine with him at the White House. Unsure of their table manners, the guests decided to imitate the president. They watched closely to see which utensils he used, what foods he ate and when. Their strategy seemed to succeed until coffee was served. Coolidge poured some coffee into his saucer. They did the same. He added sugar and cream. His guests did, too. Then the president bent over and put his saucer on the floor for the cat!
If we are not careful whose example we follow we may find ourselves feeding the cat instead of honoring the proper authority. Is our allegiance to the world more influential than our reverence for God? We may imitate the world, even subconsciously, out of fear or the desire to fit in. To do so uncritically makes us vulnerable to mindless mimicking. Pressing issues in society demand our attention. If an expectant mother was murdered would the perpetrator be charged with only one murder if evidence is given that the mother was planning to have an abortion? Who will determine when value is placed on life and on what basis? Should the birth certificate of a child raised by lesbians have both their names listed at the expense of the biological father? Who will determine the rights of the most defenseless and on what basis?
God speaks. The Apostle Paul says, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”3
We speak with our tongues. We can speak with our hands. We most certainly speak with our actions. We even “speak” with our silence. The question is: What are we saying? God speaks for the vulnerable and He calls on those who bear His name to do the same.
Why? Because we seek to be true to that which we are part of: “the one holy, Christian and apostolic Church.”4 Not mindlessly following or giving hollow allegiance, but in the manner Paul encourages Timothy, “Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of…and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”5
We can’t expect to be well-received by the world. It is natural that we have doubts. Today Philip is bold enough to ask Jesus the question that is on the minds of many, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”6 In other words, “Prove Yourself to us, Lord! Make your divinity more obvious! Show us a sign! Give us a glimpse of heaven! Then, we’ll believe without any doubt.” Jesus’ reply? “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.”7
Satan knows how to play upon uncertainty. Yet he has no answers to the message of the Messiah who came not in pomp and circumstance, but in humility. God does not wish to be found except on a cross. How does the Crucified One come to us now? The word of the cross comes to you in forgives proclaimed in all its fullness; in baptismal water poured for our cleansing; and in the body and blood given and shed for our salvation. These are His means of grace. The living Christ doesn’t expect sinners reach Him, appease Him, impress Him, or satisfy the debt of sin. He is the all-atoning sacrifice that has opened the way to the Father. The task of faith is to receive Him as He is.
Pentecost bolstered the fledgling Christian Church with fervor and focus. The Holy Spirit attends His people. The Spirit speaks the word of truth about Christ and apart from that He has nothing else to say. He has at His disposal every word of every age in every language- utterances and expressions that surpass the tongues of angels. He is never mute. He cannot be tongue-tied. He does not stammer. His speech is never muddled or chaotic. He is never a Maverick. A person cannot become or remain a believer apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit was not at work the Christian Church would not exist.
God speaks. The Scripture says, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.”8 This is the promise and power of Pentecost. In the Spirit’s time the confusion of Babel will be reversed to an expression of complete unity in Christ. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
The Day of Pentecost
19 May 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Romans 10:17
2 Matthew 7:27
3 Philippians 4:9
4 The Nicene Creed
5 2 Timothy 3:14-15
6 John 14:8
7 John 14:9
8 Hebrews 1:1-2