May 27, 2007
Topic: Biblical Verse: Acts 2:1–2:21
"Bob, I've gotta tell you about this! I don't know if you'd heard, but there's this Shakespeare Festival going on in D.C. over this six-month period. I know that you're not the biggest fan of tragedies acted out in iambic pentameter, but you've got to check this out. Next month, Tiny Ninja Theater is going to be putting on Hamlet and Shakespeare's Sonnets! Imagine it: tiny plastic ninjas and their little plastic buddies as characters in one of Shakespeare's most famous plays! What's not to love?"
You might not care about Shakespeare, ninjas, or Washington, D.C., but the preceding "conversation" probably got your attention. Given, it was probably a bit out of your ordinary sphere of experience, but you can tell that there's some excitement here. Do you have a favorite hobby, sport, or TV show that you'd want to share with a friend? When you tell someone about this favorite thing, it's normal for the passion that you feel for it to start spilling over into your telling: you want to let your friend know about this great thing you've discovered!
Our text from Acts reports the events of the first Pentecost after Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension. If you've been in church on Pentecost weekend before, you likely remember some of those details that Luke reports: Jesus' apostles gathered in a house; the Holy Spirit coming upon them in power; tongues of flame resting on each of them; speaking in the native languages of all the people who heard them in Jerusalem. When we think about Pentecost, that's probably what comes to mind: the "Wow!" We put up our red banners in the church and celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But there's a danger here, in that we get distracted by the "Wow!" The main point of what happened at Pentecost isn't in the sound of the wind, the tongues of flame, or even in the apostles' miraculous linguistic gift. The main point is found in the telling - in Simon Peter's sermon. Even our assigned text for today, though twenty-one verses long, just starts to reveal the point in its last verse: "And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." If you continue reading, you'll see that Peter tells the people that Jesus of Nazareth is this Lord, the Son of God.
But are we like the apostles? Today, even as people gathered together in this congregation, we often have a hard time telling others the Gospel message. We don't tell the people in our daily lives, though we talk about "mission work." If we were to tell a friend or coworker about what God has done for us, that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we risk rejection. We could get hurt. And so, we don't tell. Our sin is at work in keeping us silent. It must have been easy for the apostles to go and tell the people about Jesus, right? He sent them, and the Holy Spirit was with them, in power. How could they have been afraid? Really, we're none too different from the apostles. They risked rejection of their friends and families, imprisonment, and even death. But like the apostles, we have been sent. Like the apostles, Jesus died for us to forgive our sin of silence. Like the apostles, the Holy Spirit is with you and me to tell others that God loves them in this way: that He gave Himself to give them new life.
In our church body, The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, and amongst other Lutheran Christians around the world, a mission movement called Ablaze! has started. We've got Ablaze! banners in our narthex. You might see people wearing Ablaze! rubber wristbands. There's a danger that we might be distracted by numbers or marketing campaigns - if we focus on Ablaze! instead of what Ablaze! is about: the telling of the Gospel. At its core, Ablaze! is a concerted effort to share the Gospel with 100 million people who have not heard it or have been indifferent, by the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation in 2017. This is a push to jostle us out of our complacency and into lives that follow Jesus' directive to tell the Gospel to the world, including those people we see from day to day. But we cannot accomplish this goal and we cannot break free from our apathy on our own.
Christians rely on the work of God the Holy Spirit. He is the One who gives us faith in Jesus as God's Son. He is the One who gives us the words and courage that we need to tell others about Jesus, despite our fears and limitations. He is the One who gathers and sustains the Christian Church. And He is in you, through the free gift of Baptism. When we speak of "inviting others into a life transformed in Jesus Christ," that's the Holy Spirit's work.
So here's the challenge: during the next seven days, tell at least one person what you believe about Jesus Christ. One person, who needs to hear about the free gift that God has given to you. "But, Pastor, how am I supposed to do that?" Pray. Pray about it this week, and ask God to show you the opportunities around you. Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you, give you courage. If you don't know what to say, remember the Apostles' Creed, a concise statement what we Christians believe. Though it is a much shorter thing to memorize than Hamlet, even if you're not a tiny, plastic ninja. And if your memory slips gears, pray that the Spirit will give you the words that this one person needs to hear.
Go and tell. God is with you!