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Pentecost: Humanized — Living by Faith!

June 9, 2019

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Pentecost                                                 Trinity Lutheran Church

9 June 2019                                             Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

Genesis 11:1-9

One language! Everyone speaks the same language. However, they still suffer from the Genesis 3 malignancy. And what’s that? Not content to be human! Acting like little divinities! They even speak like God. “Let us!” Not: let us pray. Not: let us depend on the Lord. Not: let us seek God’s will in His Word. Instead, apart from and totally independent of the Lord they categorically preach what they consider to be an infallible and divine sermon: “Let us build a city and a tower that reaches up to the heavens. We’ll be like gods! And we have the technology and know how to do it: bricks and asphalt for mortar. With the right team of bureaucratic experts and organization, we’ll make a name for ourselves.”

 

It’s all about them! Making a name for themselves! God? Trust in Him! Depend on Him? Not even on their radar screen. “The sky’s the limit!” is how pretend divinities talk. And it is how they act when they don’t want to be human anymore – which is to say – living by faith.

We fall into that hellacious trap too. After all, of all the creatures that roam the earth, we are the only ones that have the power to rearrange things to suit our liking. Animals, of course, have to adapt or die. When it gets too cold or warm, animals either migrate to suitable climates or they become extinct. We adapt to the environment. When it is too cold we make heat. When it is too hot, we condition the air. We can damn up rivers, move earth, drill through mountains, and rearrange the landscape to suit our needs. We are uniquely inventive creatures. We invent tools to accomplish tasks and we invent many things. Bricks and asphalt in this story represent our inventiveness, our ability to alter the landscape to our specifications. We’re not limited to the stones and rocks we can find lying around. We can bake bricks. We’re not limited to mud for mortar. We can produce tar and other adhesives.

Think of all our inventions and discoveries, everything from the great advances of medical science and technology. God didn’t do that stuff. We did. We invented it. We made it. A big city and a tall tower seem like nothing to us. We build those all the time.

The cities and towers we build are impressive, no doubt about it. Impressive in their architecture, their design, and their building! Watch one of those tall buildings go up in downtown Omaha and you will be impressed with our engineering and our ability to harness and move material.

We can do that because we are the upper crust of creation, the ones made in the image and likeness of God, the ones having dominion over all the earth. And how we love to exercise our dominion! Or abuse it as we believe and act like we’re little divinities who have better words than the Lord.

The Lord, however, wasn’t so impressed when He looked down to see the city and tower that Genesis 11 Man intended to build. Like a Divine Building Inspector, the Lord looked over the plans for man’s city, with its impressive sky scraping tower, and said, “This isn’t good. This is only the beginning of what they will do, and they’re capable of just about anything.”

You sometimes hear people say, “If we only could get everyone together and get everyone on the same page, we can do almost anything.” And that’s true. Brought together as one, humanity could literally do almost anything. But here is the problem. Humanity is corrupted by sin. We are a collection of sinners. Each of us turned inward on himself.

We may be capable of almost anything if we just get together. However, being sinful means that we are also capable of great evil. Remember Nazi Germany? Stalinist Russia? Roe vs. Wade? Governors and state legislatures that legalize infanticide and criminalize the harming of a butterfly? This is why our cities and capitals are so full of crime, terrorism and anarchy. It’s not that living in the city is “bad”, while living the country is “good”; it’s that there are more sinners per square inch in the city than in the country. And when sinners get together on a project, especially when they act as pretend divinities that say, “Let us … in order to make a name for ourselves” it’s not necessarily going to be a good thing.

God knows this. He comes down to the plain to cause confusion. He scrambles their language and their words so that they cannot understand each other. When you can’t understand one another, you scatter. The name of the place where God did this was called Babel, short for Babylon, man’s city, the city man builds with his brick and bitumen and pretend divinity arrogance. It’s the city where man tries to be god and reach up into heaven by his own works. But as we heard during the Easter season from the Book of Revelation, the city that God builds comes down from heaven. We don’t build this city; we are given to live in it, now by faith in Christ, and soon by resurrection and sight.

At Babel, God confuses man’s language to limit his ambitions and scatter him. And it works. Language separates people. It’s a barrier. Look at our country and cities. If we can’t communicate, we tend to separate, if for no other reasons than “practical concerns.”

You hear the talk of a “one world” this and a “one world” that. All the experts and big wigs in politics, church and universities push this. God, however, doesn’t think this is a terribly good idea. That’s why he leaves countries in place. That is why He even puts up with divisions in the church. “One world” won’t amount to anything good if we all “get together.” All we sinners will do is make a great name for ourselves, profane God’s holy name and hurt people by the thousands or millions.

So, at Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, the confusion of Babel gets reversed. Sort of! The confusion of languages remains, but now, by the Holy Spirit, the good news of Jesus is preached and heard in all the languages and dialects of the world. God leaves the confusion of different languages in place because we are still sinners, but He brings the nations, tribes, peoples, and languages of the world together in one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one salvation, one Good Friday death and Easter Morning resurrection. It is not just that the apostles spoke in all these languages, but everyone heard them preach in his own native language and dialect in his own ears, and nothing says “for you” quite like hearing the Gospel of Jesus in your own native tongue.

Pentecost is the beginning of the last days or of the end of time. Pentecost is the beginning of Christ’s mission to disciple the world by baptizing and teaching. Peter says it in his Pentecost sermon. These are the last days when God pours out the Spirit upon all flesh. It was prophesied by Joel. Pentecost was a harvest festival of the winter wheat. Fifty days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread came the harvest of the first fruits. Fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus comes the harvest of the first fruits of His conquering sin, death, hell, and the law on our behalf in the 3000 who were baptized that day.

John the Baptizer had said, “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to His disciples to lead and guide them into all truth. And here at Pentecost, on a Sunday, fifty days after the fateful Sunday when Jesus appeared risen from the dead, ten days after His ascension to the right hand of the Father, Jesus breathes the fiery breath of His Spirit into His church.

In order to speak words, you need to have breath. You may not think about it, but before you speak a sentence, you pause to inhale. No breath — no words. Pentecost is about the breath. It’s the breath of the Spirit that raised dry, dusty bones to life in the vision of Ezekiel. It’s the breath that breathed life into Adam’s clay and made him a living being. It’s the breath that Jesus breathed on His apostles in the upper room when He sent them to proclaim His forgiveness and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is the breath and fire of the Church.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. Jesus said, “I am going away, and I will come to you.” In His going away, He comes to us in the most profound of ways. In going away to the Father, He comes to us by the Spirit. In going away, He can no longer be seen, but now He can be heard. He comes to us by the Spirit-mediated Word who drums the good news of forgiveness, life, and salvation into your ears in your own language. It’s FOR YOU! The Spirit is not some independent free agent, not the closing pitcher brought in for the late innings to close out the game. He is not the replacement for Jesus, but the agent who brings the words of Jesus to our ears that we may hear Him and trust Him and cling to Him by faith. Living by faith! To be human! Not divine!

Unless the Spirit gathers us, we will be scattered. The confusion remains over humanity to guard us against our own hubris. We may build cities and scrape the sky with our towers, we may marvel at the wonders of our own bricks and bitumen and how clever we are at exercising the gift of dominion over the created world, but this present age and man’s city have an expiration date. This old order of things is passing away. But the wind of Pentecost tells us that the new has already come in Jesus. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

Lutherans usually do not think of ourselves as “Pentecostals.” That term is usually claimed by those who babble in tongues and believe that the Holy Spirit works directly, without means, to create ecstatic speech and eccentric behavior. But that’s about as far from Pentecost as it gets. In the book of Acts, Pentecost ends in the water of Baptism and in the daily and weekly gathering around the apostolic word, the holy communion that is, the Breaking of the Bread, and the prayers. Pentecost begins in Baptism and ends in the liturgy, in the gathering of baptized believers around the Lord’s Table who is among us as one who serves.

We will all be one again, one day soon. We will all have one language and the same words again, just as we now have one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all. It will not be by our doing and ingenuity, but when the Spirit of Christ raises us from the dead and we are gathered, as we already are gathered in Christ, to be one holy communion in the city of our God.

For this we long, for this we hope, for this we pray.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.

In the name of Jesus. Amen

 

 

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