S-1122 5/31/09 Pentecost 3B Hymns: (O) #224; (S)#236; L.S. #225; #226; #229; (C) #234
Texts Ezekiel 37:1-14; Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-27; 16:4-15
Theme: “Nothing but Fire kindles Fire” (Acts 2:1-4).
Question: “How would you describe your life?”
SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Pentecost Day is from the book of Acts: “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
Saints in Christ, sometimes ago I read three quotations that describe the heart of Pentecost. The first quotation is this: “Nothing but fire kindles fire.” The second: “If you want to set someone on fire, you have to burn a little bit yourself.” The third: “A burning heart will soon find for itself a flaming tongue.”
I will need your help to complete this message today. You need to be my chorus. I will teach you a key part of each of those quotations. During the sermon, I will point to you to speak your part of the line. So would you be willing to help me? I will say to you, “Nothing but fire...” and you say “kindles fire.” (Repeat as needed so they can learn it.) The second quotation is this: “If you want to set someone on fire, you have to…” You say the second part: “burn a little bit yourself.” (Repeat it.) The third quotation is this: “A burning heart will soon find for itself a ... flaming tongue.” Ready? (Repeat it). So now let’s do all three quotations: “Nothing but fire ...” “If you want to set someone on fire, you have to ... A burning heart will soon find a ... You have to get into the mood of this sermon: Let’s do it again. “Nothing but fire... If you want to set someone on fire, you have to ... A burning heart will soon find a ... Good. Be prepared during the sermon.
While growing up in Israel, my family would often head to Mount Carmel for a retreat from the city. While there, mother would send us little kids to gather small twigs to start a fire for our grill. Mother would take these small twigs, and put few pine needles on them and light them up. And before long the grill was ready for our shish kabob.
Today, our sermon is about fire. Not a fire that mother started to cook shish kabob, but a movement that spread across the Jerusalem Mountains, the Judean hills, and the Samaritan valleys and across the globe.
This is the fire of the Holy Spirit that inflamed the hearts of the disciples that first Pentecost Sunday. It is the fire that burned with zeal that moved across the wilderness with the fire of the Gospel.
Luke, the author of the text describes the events of the first Pentecost: The disciples were in the temple sharing God’s Good News. These first Christians were waiting for the promise of the Savior to be fulfilled, but they weren’t quite sure what they were waiting for. They were waiting for the Holy Spirit to come on them and in them, but they didn’t know what that would mean. With vivid colors Luke said, “It was like a rush of wind” into the room. The Holy Spirit came into their lives. Like tongues of fire above them. Like tongues of fire inside of them. They knew the power of God inside of them, and they couldn’t help but rush out of that building into the streets to preach. They went from street to street, home to home, neighbor to neighbor, family to family and nation to nation. It was a movement like none other. A movement that swept across the prairies, the villages and towns and countries. That’s the way it was in that first century of Christian expansion. The Flames of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was spreading across the whole world.
Why did that happen? I know why it happened. “Nothing but fire ... If YOU want to set someone on fire, YOU have to ... A burning heart will soon find for itself a ...”
What happened is that those Apostles first went to a village or town. Those first Apostles planted a church, and then went to a second village or town, and planted a church. They went to a third village or town and planted another church. But before they left the villages and towns they left committed people to Jesus Christ. They set up leaders to carry on the cause of Jesus, declaring His death and resurrection to all who would listen.
These people in Greek are called “laos.” This Greek word means, “the laity,” “the people,” “the people of God.” The Apostles always left common and ordinary towns’ people and villagers whose hearts were on fire, whose tongues were on fire, who hadn’t gone to the seminary, who hadn’t seen Jesus face to face, who hadn’t talked with Him in the flesh. These were not the Apostles. These were not the twelve disciples. These were the people of God in each village who spread the Gospel from house to house, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend and family to family. That’s the way it is: God’s people—preachers and people who believe in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus become inspired by the Power of the Holy Spirit. It’s God’s people who are on fire that fire up other people about ministry, mission and the message of the crucified and risen Jesus. And it is the Holy Spirit that feeds this fire through the means of Grace so that God’s people will become mature Christians and actively involved in the ministry of the Gospel.
How do the people of God do this? Do they do this by their own power? By their own intelligence? By their own seminary training? Do you want to know why? I’ll tell you why. “Nothing but fire ... If YOU want to set someone on fire, YOU have to ... A burning heart will soon find for itself ...”
Well, that’s what happened in that first century. The first century was a great century of Christian expansion. The Church went to Ephesus, Rome, and even to Spain within thirty years. From farm to farm, village to village, town to town. It was absolutely incredible, spreading across the whole known world. It was like a spreading flame.
Today, we stand in the year of our Lord 2009, and the flame of Jesus Christ is still spreading. It is still spreading like wildfire. The spreading flame of Pentecost is a movement that can’t be drenched or quenched by water, or the devil or man’s will. It is a movement that has changed hearts, and people and countries. From few followers in Jerusalem to over 1.2 Billion believers in Jesus Christ throughout the whole world. You will find Christians in every country persecuted or not. You will find Christians in every continent. You will find Christians everywhere. Why? YOU know why: “Nothing but fire ... If YOU want to set someone on fire, YOU have to ... A burning heart will soon find for itself a ...” Because God’s people are on fire for the Lord carrying out His mission and message and ministry.
Well, that’s the good news. Sadly there is also bad news. Many churches have grown cold—the fire has gone out of their hearts and messages. Many countries that were once Christians are now luke-warm; standing on the verge of being heathen nations. We don’t have to go far to see how people, godly people who no longer live for God but for themselves. Consider our own congregation. On any given Sunday we have about 40 people who live in town, that don’t darken the doors of God’s house. Even in our own small community almost 40% are un-churched.
Why is this? Because many have grown cold. Many churches only look to themselves and not to Christ for power or strength. Many look only to the inside rather than the mission fields. Tragically many have forsaken the faith and live selfish lives.
Brothers and sisters in Christ remember the statements I told you in the beginning of the sermon: “Nothing but fire ... If YOU want to set somebody on fire, YOU have ... A burning heart will soon find for itself a ...”
“If you want to set someone on fire, you have to burn a little bit yourself.” Remember that Jesus is our whole burnt offering! “A burning heart will soon find for itself a flaming tongue.” On my heart imprint your image, blessed Jesus, king of grace, that life’s riches, cares, and pleasures never may your work erase; let the clear inscription be: Jesus, crucified for me, is my life, my hope’s foundation, and my glory and salvation! (# TLH179).
By the grace of God we have come to God’s house to be kindled again with the fire of the Gospel. Today, you and I remember the gift of Baptism by which we were made part of the flames of the Savior. Today, we gather around the table to be fed by His body and blood so that we might glow with the fire of the Gospel. Today, the fire of the Savior, who once was dead but is alive and ascended to heaven, is put on our tongues and in our hearts so that we continue to be on fire for the Lord.
Today, the Holy Spirit continues to come upon us by the hearing of the Word, by the eating of the Word and by the blessed assurance that our sins are forgiven. Having been in the Upper Room with Jesus; having received again the gift of the Holy Spirit; having been fed at His table, we leave here as God’s redeemed people on fire. Why? You know the answer to that question. “Nothing but fire ... If YOU want to set someone on fire, YOU have ... A burning heart will soon find for yourself a ... It is always God’s people empowered by the Holy Spirit that make the difference. Amen.
Now the peace…