Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, June 4, 2017
Putting On the Lord’s Spirit - June 4, 2017 - Pentecost Sunday - Text: Numbers 11:24-30
Last week we somewhat celebrated that church holiday that is pretty much ignored, as we said last week because it is not such a sellable holiday. Last week we were reminded that Ascension day had occurred and we were looking forward to our celebration of today, Pentecost Sunday. Last week we were reminded that for forty days after Easter Jesus showed Himself to be alive and then on the fortieth day after Easter, Ascension Day, Jesus gathered His disciples, gave them His authority and promise to be with them, told them to wait in Jerusalem and then ascended back to the place from which He had descended in order to come and save all people.
Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. Today marks fifty days after Easter. Today marks the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, to the disciples and even to us. Now there are some who would suggest and have us believe that Pentecost is the first time we see or hear of the Holy Spirit. That is not correct. As a matter of fact, we see and hear of the Holy Spirit right from the beginning. In Genesis chapter one we are told that the Spirit of God hoovered over the face of the earth. But even more specific, a little later in Genesis chapter one we are told, God said, “Let us make man in our image” (v. 26). This us does not mean that we worship a God who is many gods, because in Deuteronomy the Lord tells us, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). Here in Deuteronomy we have the word God in the plural as He tells us He is one. These and similar passages remind us that we worship, what we humanly label, a triune God, a God who is three persons in one Godhead. But there is more evidence of the Holy Spirit throughout all the Bible. In our Old Testament reading for this morning we are reminded that God poured out His spirit on the seventy who prophesied. And so we see that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God in all of Holy Scripture and in all times.
But, in order to help us get a better understanding of what we are celebrating today, Pentecost Sunday, let us go back a little. Perhaps you remember that after God created the world, man fell into sin. Sin brought death, eternal spiritual death and physical death. At one point God cleansed the earth with a global flood saving only Noah and his family. Unfortunately, sin was not eradicated as the population again began to grow so people began, again, to sin, which should not be a surprise since sin was now in our DNA, indeed we are conceived and born in sin. And so, instead of obeying God spreading out and populating the world the people all stayed at Babel, grew to be a large number of people and worked to build a tower to themselves, thinking themselves as gods, that is what it means when we read that they wanted to make a name for themselves, they wanted everyone to know who and how great they were, at least in their own minds. Here let me just throw in a contemporary analogy. The people at Babel thought so highly of themselves that they were in control of this world, a lot like some believe concerning man’s ability to control the world and even the weather today. How pompous of us to think so highly of ourselves. Anyway, when God saw what the people were doing, not obeying Him, He went down and divided their tongues, that is He gave them all different languages so they could no longer communicate with one another. Not being able to communicate with each other, the people had to find those who could speak the same language and then they dispersed to different parts of the world. And here we have a lesson in what is mislabeled as races. Truly, there is only one race, the human race, but from the disbursement of the tower of Babel we have the various cultures or ethnicities that have come about in the world today. And yes, this is genetics, as the people who spoke the same language found each other and then dispersed, going to various places around the world they carried with them certain dominant genetic information which give us the distinctive characteristics of the various cultures we have in our world today. With this information as our background we move on to today.
Fast forward to fifty days after Easter, to Pentecost and we have what many call the undoing of the tower of Babel. At the tower of Babel the languages were separated, at Pentecost God gave the gift of languages so there was in essence the uniting of languages. This brings us back to the fact that when God promised to send a Savior, that promise was made before there were the various people groups, when there was only Adam and Eve and so now the message of salvation again has the opportunity to be given to all people.
Now, finally, getting to our text. Moses is God’s chosen leader for the children of Israel. Moses was having a difficult time leading by himself. So, the Lord provided help. The Lord had Moses appoint seventy elders. These would be men of good repute who would serve under Moses at God’s direction. The elders were separated from the rest of the people and as we heard in our text, all except two gathered around the tent. Then we are told that the Lord poured out His spirit in an extraordinary way allowing them to prophesy giving evidence of the authority He was bestowing on them.
The next thing we hear is that “a young man ran and told Moses,” that Eldad and Medad were prophesying in the camp. These two were chosen as part of the seventy, but for some reason they failed to be with the others. Joshua, who was to be Moses successor, was jealous for Moses. He pushed Moses to stop these two men. However, Moses tells Joshua that he would like that all could prophesy. Moses was not a power hungry, authoritarian leader. He was humble servant of the Lord. Moses who was not afraid of losing any authority and we know that His authority did not diminish, but instead God multiplied his authority and power by giving these seventy more authority and power.
What does this mean? As we have been reminded over the past few weeks, God gives the Office of the Keys to congregations, that is God gives congregations the authority to preach the Gospel, to administer the sacraments and to forgive and retain sins. This authority is carried out in our congregations when congregations call pastors to carry out the office of Holy Ministry in their midst. And this is carried out when members of congregations live out their calling in the priesthood of all believers.
God gives congregations pastors to exercise the Office of Holy Ministry. Pastors are called by God, through the congregation to preach the Gospel, administer the Sacraments, and forgive and retain sins. When we remember that God comes to us through means, the means of grace in particular, we begin to understand the importance of this Office. Without a pastor there is no one to deliver the means of grace. Without the means of grace the gifts of God remain undelivered. No gifts, no faith, no forgiveness, no life and salvation. But with a pastor, the Gospel is preached, the Word of God is expounded, both on Sunday morning in Bible class and in Divine service, and at other times during the week through Bible studies. With a pastor the sacraments are administered, children and adults are baptized and the Lord’s body and blood are given for the forgiveness of sins. With a pastor confession is heard, either corporately, during the Sunday morning service, as we did this morning, or privately, and absolution is given. Thus, the gifts of God are distributed and given: faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.
God gives the priesthood of all believers, that is God gives all believers faith and strengthening of faith as well as guidance and direction to live lives of faith so that others see the faith that is in our hearts so they too may be brought to faith. As believers, as members of the priesthood of all believers we are to work together with our pastor and with each other. One of Satan’s greatest victories in any congregation is when he works to divide us. There is the “we” and the “they.” Of course, that is our nature, after all we are conceived and born in sin and Satan knows the best ways to work this out. One person gets upset with another. Someone does not like a decision that was made. Someone stepped on someone’s toes. Someone’s feelings got hurt and what happens, we begin to divide and conquer. Lest Satan get a grip on us, perhaps we would do well to constantly remind each other that this is God’s church, not our church, not their church.
Perhaps we would do well, also, to constantly remind each other of the purpose God gives us for being His church in this place. First and foremost, as you have heard me say, time and again, God’s purpose for us as individuals is to be loved by God. God created us to love us and He shows His love time and again, especially He showed His love in the giving of Himself in Jesus Christ as He died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, including the sins we have talked about this morning from our text, jealousy, envy, divisiveness and the like. As a congregation, God calls us to be His people in this place for the purpose of strengthening the faith of our own members. In other words God’s first call is that we make regular and diligent use of His means of grace by being in divine service and Bible class. We are to be so filled with God’s gifts and grace that we overflow and share our faith with others which is God’s will so that His Kingdom here in this place may be extending out into the community. And if we are doing these things then this will indeed bring praise and glory to His Holy Name.
God calls and when God calls His calling is never without a purpose. God called the seventy and put His Spirit on them, giving them authority to be of service to Moses and to Himself. God calls us and puts His Spirit on us, which was done at our Baptism. He gives us gifts, talents and abilities and His authority to be His people, His disciples, His witnesses to our family, friends, neighborhood and the world. God calls each one of us. He calls us to life, to faith, to our vocation, and He calls us to be loved by Him. When we fail to be in divine service and Bible class we refuse the gifts and call He extends. It’s kind of like telling your mother you do not want any of the fresh cookies she spent all morning baking. And yet, even when we refuse and reject the gifts of God He continues to call us to be given the gifts He has to give, forgiveness, life and salvation.
Fifty-three days ago we celebrated Jesus’ death, not that we celebrated His dying, but we celebrated the fact that He took our sins and paid the price for our sins, which should have been ours to pay, eternal spiritual death. Fifty days ago we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection, the fact that Jesus did not stay dead and the fact that we worship a living God. Right after Easter we asked the question, does Easter make a difference? Obviously to too many people in our world it does not make a difference. Last Sunday we celebrated Jesus’ ascension and we realized the importance of Jesus being in heaven, as well as being everywhere present, where He is watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us. Today we celebrate God’s continual working with us and among us. Although we may tend to downplay the Holy Spirit and His work today, He is still with us. He is constantly working through the means of grace which is how He works with us. He is constantly point us to Christ, to the cross, to forgiveness of sins. My prayer is Moses’ prayer, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them.” To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.