S-1436 PS/3A 6/08/2014 Hymns: (O) #234; (S) #224; L.S. #236; #226; #427; (C) #225
Texts: Numbers 11:23-30; Acts 2:1-21; John 7:37-39
Theme: “Flames of Fire” (Acts 2:1-3)
Question: “What would our community miss out on if our church closed?” Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is for Pentecost Sunday is from 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” (Acts 2:1-3)
On this Pentecost Day we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church and its mission. Jesus on this day fulfills His promise and the Spirit descends upon His disciples and sets them on fire to spread the message of His resurrection to the ends of the world.
Perhaps you have seen the images on TV of the flames of fire that are running wild in the western part of our nation. These flames have devoured homes, property, animals, land and life. These flames have caused havoc and heartache to many. These flames have brought destruction and death. These flames have drained many counties’ budgets. But thanks be to God that we have firefighters and other personnel who come to the aid of those in need.
However, in the text before us today, Dr. Luke speaks of different types of flames that were visible on the heads of the Disciples on Pentecost. These flames are not of death, but of life; not of destruction, but of deliverance. These flames of fire are a blessing and not a burden. These flames don’t cost funds and empty budgets; instead they bring joy and peace to many hearts that are cold and dark. These flames of fire built faith, brought hope to many and revealed the grace of God through the lips of uneducated fishermen from Galilee who shared the greatest message the world needs to hear then and now—the message of Christ’s death and glorious resurrection to liberate them and give them a future with Him.
When the Apostles received the promised Holy Spirit that landed on their heads as tongues of fire—the work of spreading the Gospel began in earnest like a wild fire that is scorching the earth. At first the fire was a little spark. As they spoke in multitude of languages to those gathered in Jerusalem many believed their message. The flames spread in such a way that 3000 souls in one day became followers of Jesus.
The fire jumped from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, with fervent zeal as each Apostle armed with the power of the Holy Spirit traveled to communicate the message of the grace of God and the salvation Jesus earned.
As they departed neither mountain, valleys, rivers or oceans could hold the tide. They passed the Mediterranean and traveled to Rome. Though many were persecuted the flames got higher and higher that all of Europe was on fire with the message of Jesus and His great accomplishments.
Even the forefathers of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod—the Saxon German immigrants crossed the ocean and came to New Orleans. From New Orleans they went on to St. Louis and to every part of the US and ultimately even Armour, SD. PAUSE.
The Saxon immigrants were on fire. They built schools and churches. Used the Bible as textbook and taught that salvation is only through Jesus Christ alone. They had the logo long before the US Postal adopted it, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” And they did! They took the message on foot, horseback, wagons, trains, cars and eventually planes. The flames of fires driven by the ever-blowing Spirit of God spread the Good News of Jesus sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross.
In Exodus chapter 3 we behold flames of fire as Moses sees a bush that is on fire but doesn’t burn. God gives him the command to go and tell Egypt to free His people. From that day on the flames of fire burned within Moses’ heart. We see the flames of fire on Resurrection Sunday as Jesus accompanied the Emmaus disciples. After Jesus reveals Himself to them, they respond: “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (LK. 24:32).
These two Emmaus disciples were indeed on fire. That same night they ran back the 7 miles to Jerusalem without fear of robbers, thieves, wild animals or any danger to communicate the good news that they had seen the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
Likewise, we too, need the Scriptures flames of fire to work on our hearts as they did to those who listened to Peter and the other disciples on that first Pentecost Sunday. We need the working of the Holy Spirit to ignite, fire us up and keep us involved in spreading the glorious story of our salvation. Do the flames of our church affect our community? Do your flames affect our community? PAUSE.
Last night, I returned from the NE District visit. While visiting the District I was a presenter in the “Prairie Fire” event. When I invited to be a speaker, I asked how this name came about. This is what I was told:
“The name ‘Prairie Fire’ was thought up by some staff members of the Nebraska District as an ‘Ablaze’ event in 2004. Our promotional materials featured the title and the following taglines: ‘Like a fire sweeping across the prairie, we pray the Spirit will use this event to ignite many of God’s people for ministry and mission’ and ‘Igniting hearts to make God known across Nebraska.’
People were invited to come and be resourced and re-ignited for ministry and mission in their congregations and throughout their communities, a focus we have kept this year.” PAUSE.
By the grace of God, we who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism have the same power at work in our lives. We have been ignited to spread the flames of fire of the Gospel to all people. Fire has lots of power, it kills and it brings to life. When I came to Armour, I went to visit one of our members who is a farmer. As I drove up to the farm I noticed all along the fence line was fire burning. I asked “Why?” His response, “We have to get rid of the old so the new grass comes up.”
Beloved saints, as we gather week in and week out, more fuel is put on the fire. The fuel of God’s Word and His precious Sacrament. As we hear the Word and dine at His table we are given the energy to do the work of ministry. We are re-ignited and like a wild fire that spreads across the prairie we take with us the message of hope and help, life and love, salvation and forgiveness and share it with others.
In this place the Lord makes His flames of fire burn in your hearts so that others may see those flames and be on fire too. God grant the Gospel flames to continue to burn in our hearts forever. Amen.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA.