Day of Pentecost Proper A1
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Acts 2:1-21 Sermon
June 4, 2017
Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal & The Service Book and Hymnal):
SBH 124 "Creator Spirit By Whose Aid"
TLH 226 "Come, Oh Come Thou Quickening Spirit"
SBH 129 "Spirit Of God, Descend Upon My Heart"
TLH 234 "Holy Ghost, With Light Divine"
A SIMPLE TESTIMONY OF FAITH
TEXT (vs. 14a; 16-17a; 21): "But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: ...this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh....And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'"
One of the more popular vocalists of the 21st century is a young man by the name of Josh Groban. And I must say that this man, now 36 years old, has one fabulous singing voice. It's well trained, it's clear, it's resonant, and he's always on pitch. And when you hear him, he will give you goose bumps!
He has an interesting background. He had a Jewish father, who became a Christian when he married Josh's mother, so he grew up in a Christian home.
He was in the seventh grade in school when his teacher took note of his musical talents. He was chosen to sing a solo of "S'wonderful" at his school's cabaret night. Even though his main interest was acting, he progressed into musical theatre, and began taking vocal lessons. Even though he enteredCarnegie-MellonUniversityto study drama, he was offered a recording contract after only four months, and decided to forego his university studies to pursue his singing career.
It was in late 1998 that a very nervous, 17 year-old Josh Groban was really noticed. He began as a rehearsal singer, most notably for the 1999 Grammy awards where he stood in for Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli. He sang the song entitled "The Prayer" in a duet with Celine Dion. This caught the attention of, believe it or not, Rosie O'Donnell, who had him appear on her show. And from there his career really took off.
Incidentally, the song entitled "The Prayer" has been one of his more popular numbers. He sang it at the closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics with Charlotte Church. He was amongst the performers at a command performance at theVatican. He sang "The Prayer" again with Syssel Kirkjebo at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert inOslo,Norway. And once again, he teamed up with Celine Dion, this time for real, as they performed the number together in 2003 at the World Children's Day concert.
One of his most popular single recordings is the song "You Raise Me Up." It was one of the songs on his album entitled "Closer," that was released in November of 2003. Two months after it was released, it went from number 11 to number 1 on the billboard charts.
Josh's idea with this album was to give his audience a better reflection of him and his personality. He says, "What most people know about me, they know through my music. This time, I've tried to open that door as wide as possible. These songs are a giant step closer to who I really am and what my music is all about. Hence the title."
Josh Groban's song "You Raise Me Up" was not actually written by him; but it is still a reflection of his faith. You see, Josh Groban is indeed a Christian. And when you have faith in your heart like he has, it can't help but overflow in what you do. For Josh, his faith is reflected in his music.
The words to the song aren't that complicated, or even that theologically deep. The first verse reads: "When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary; when troubles come and my heart burdened be; then, I am still and wait here in the silence, until you come and sit a while with me." And then the second verse: "There is no life - no life without its hunger; each restless heart beats so imperfectly; but when you come and I am filled with wonder, sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity." And finally the refrain: "You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains; you raise me up, to walk on stormy seas; I am strong, when I am on your shoulders; you raise me up, to more than I can be."
Personally, I think it is incredible when a man this young can take a very simple testimony of his faith, make a recording of it, and have it rise to the top of the billboard charts, almost overnight. Josh is a talented young man for sure, but the credit has to go to the subject in his song. The credit goes to God, the Holy Spirit.
This morning, I have used as the text for my sermon, the account of the first Pentecost and what had happened. It was an absolutely incredible event. But before I get into the text, I want to take just a brief look at our Gospel lesson for this morning, from John chapter 7. Jesus describes himself as the living water for thirsty souls. In a metaphorical sense, when we come to faith in Jesus as our Saviour, we drink from the river of life. But it goes further than that. In verse 38 Jesus says: "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"
Jesus is talking about the way the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and lives of Christians! When you think of the water metaphor, the Christian isn't a stagnant pond of mosquito breeding water someplace. No, it is a flowing river, something the likes that just cannot be contained!
One comparison I heard compares the Christian to a well. Almost every farmer knows about wells, and what it takes to get water. Someone gifted with the ability to do dousing will walk the property with dousing rods or even a forked stick. They're trying to find an underground aquifer. And when one is located, then a well is drilled or a bore is put into the ground to tap into it. That's the way people normally get underground water.
However, there's another kind of well too. That's the kind of well that, when a hole is drilled and water is hit, it shoots forth high in the air. We call that an artesian well; and there are a few people who are fortunate enough to have them. No pump is usually needed with such a well; the water just comes forth and feeds whatever pipeline there may be. Farmers who irrigate are especially happy if there's an artesian well feeding their center pivots.
When you look at what Jesus tells us in our Gospel lesson for today, the faith of a Christian is to flow from their heart like an artesian well! It's like something that cannot be hidden away, or concealed, or ignored. It's almost like a river that has gone beyond flood stage and spills over its banks; it just cannot be contained!
Now we carry this thought through into our Epistle lesson for this morning, where the Holy Spirit has come upon the Apostles at the first Pentecost. Let's consider exactly how powerful the Holy Spirit really is.
It wasn't even fifty days prior to this, where we find the disciples huddled away behind locked doors. They were afraid. They were terrified! The Jews had Jesus put to death for no crime he committed. What would they do to his disciples? Were they going to take after them as well? Their discipleship was no secret. Everybody knew that these men were followers of Jesus. So they wanted to make themselves just as scarce as they possibly could.
But something happened to them. And that "something" was none other than the Holy Spirit himself. Now, their faith was overflowing! Now they were on fire for the Lord!
So what did they do? They acted completely contrary to their "fraidy cat" nature. They not only left their safe and secure hideout, but they went right into the midst of things, right into the middle of the biggest bunch of adversaries they could imagine. They headed for the temple inJerusalem.
The speaking in different languages was incredible to say the least. The time of the year was known as "The Feast of Weeks," which was a celebration of the grain harvest. So there were people of all descriptions there, and lots of them too! The disciples were preaching the Gospel to them, and telling them about theKingdomofGod.
If we go to the verses following our Epistle reading for today, we find Peter talking to the Jews in a way that no normal person would ever think of doing. In effect, Peter is telling them, "You foolish bunch of sinners! Here you had Jesus, the promised Messiah, and the Saviour of the world in your midst. And what did you do to him? You rejected him! You illegally tried him! You crucified him! You put him to death! You tried to get rid of him! What do you have to say for yourselves now?"
Wow. Now that's a change! That's a change only God can make in a person. That's a change that the Holy Spirit can make in somebody's attitude. That's what happens when Jesus becomes the central focus in a person's life. That's the type of enthusiasm a person can have when they are set free from the bondage of sin.
Not only was the Holy Spirit responsible for what happened with the disciples, but the Holy Spirit was also responsible for converting a huge number of souls. The Bible tells us that as a result of what Peter and the disciples said and did, over 3,000 people were converted on that day. That type of thing didn't come from the stagnant pond of a dormant faith. That came from the mighty flood the Holy Spirit caused to erupt from them. That was faith in action!
As we look at ourselves, I think that the application is very obvious. The river of faith in the lives of some people seems to be such a carefully guarded secret. It is so deeply buried, that a dowser couldn't even get so much as a twitter from a divining rod, let alone having it be an artesian well.
I think we're all guilty of damming up the river of faith in our souls. Satan wants us to be afraid and cower like those first disciples did. He wants us to treat our faith like it's an embarrassment, almost with the hope that it will go away. And sadly, that will happen sometimes.
But the Holy Spirit continues to work within us and through us. Through Word and Sacrament, he is very active. And when we continue to feed on God's Word and drink of our Saviour through faith, then the water continues to be fresh. We won't have to worry about our well running dry when God the Holy Spirit keeps replenishing the supply.
When we know our sins and weaknesses, then God's law cuts us to our heart. What do we do? In our text for today, Peter reminds us in verse 21 of our text: "And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." God the Holy Spirit brings us to know Jesus as our personal Saviour from sin. We have been baptized, we have received the Holy Spirit, and we have now received our marching orders for our life of faith.
When Jesus our Saviour is the most important thing in our lives, our faith will indeed show it in everything we do. We have the message of the Gospel that has set us free from the bondage of sin. Faith in our Saviour gives us hope for this life as well as a certain hope for our future.
This morning, I used the story of a young man by the name of Josh Groban as an example of what can happen when somebody isn't afraid to testify about his faith. I can't imagine what it must have felt like for this young man, barely out of his teens, to be standing next to Celine Dion and sing a song entitled "The Prayer." And then, to go and sing a song called "You Raise Me Up" about what God has done in his life is very impressive. And to have that song reach number one on the charts after just a couple of months is nothing short of miraculous. It's like Paul writes in Philippians chapter 4 verse 13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Yes, I think that Josh Groban is one very incredible young man. And through his music, his faith springs forth from his soul like water gushing up out of an artesian well. And even though he is very successful, he still knows that what he has is a gift of God, and nothing he has done by himself on his own. When he sings "You Lift Me Up," he knows very good and well who is doing all of the lifting.
By ourselves, we are weak and lost and alone. We can do nothing on our own. But God the Holy Spirit raises us up. He gives us a faith that springs forth with such velocity that no dam could ever hold it back. He gives us faith to become what we by ourselves are not. He gives us faith great enough to move mountains. He gives us faith great enough to walk on water, just like Jesus demonstrated to Peter. He gives us faith that lifts us up out of the deepest darkest pit. And he gives us faith so that we might see a blessed hope in eternity.
This morning, I'd like you to keep in mind the meaning of the third article of the Apostles' Creed: "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church he daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day he will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
Just prior to his ascension into heaven Jesus speaks words of instruction not only to his Apostles, but to all of his disciples everywhere, especially to us here today. In Acts chapter 1 verse 8 Jesus makes this promise: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
That's the power that lifts us up. That's the power that assures us of our forgiveness. And that's the power that gives us constant assurance that the message of the Gospel is the most important thing in life.