Monday, June 6, 2022

Drunk on the new wine of the Spirit...

Sermon for the Day of Pentecost (C) preached on Sunday, June 5, 2022.

When the crowds gathered from the various parts of the world to be in Jerusalem for a high and holy feast, they gathered as any of us would.  They met old friends and found new.  They told jokes and updated them on their families.  And they ate, just as we eat when those from far away come together.  And they drank, enjoying the reunion and the heady experience of the Temple with the wine that God made to gladden the hearts of men.  They expected that the disciples were doing the same thing.  In their search to explain the languages that came from their mouths and the message that they heard, they presumed it was old wine that moved their lips to speak.  But it wasn’t; it was the new wine of the Spirit, the joy of salvation.

Those who once hid behind locked doors fearful of anyone and everything, were made bold by the Spirit and ventured out into this Israelite family reunion to herald the source of their joy in the fulfillment of the prophet’s word and the law’s demands in the flesh and blood of the crucified and risen One.  This is not the old harvest festival focused upon the fruits of the ground but the new harvest of the Spirit in the hearts and minds of people.  Our Lord was planted in death and rose to with new life for all the world.  He brings forth a harvest of souls for the kingdom of God – a crop a hundredfold many times over.  Jesus promised it.  Unless a seed falls into the ground and die, it remains alone but if it dies it brings forth much fruit.  And now Jerusalem was filled with this fruit.

All the scattered and exiled will be gathered in as the harvest of the Lord.  As one preacher put it so well:  “Gluttonous Cretans, bullying Romans, proud and belligerent Parthians, the backwoods hicks of Phrygia in their silly hats, the rich and vain dark-skinned Arabians with swords and knives, the law-loving Jews and half-hearted proselytes, even the stiff-necked Krauts, the pagan Barbarians, the cynical Gauls, the stuck up English, even, the prideful Americans too lazy to learn any language but their own.”  Every one.  New wine, new song, new life – sinners  whom the Lord has redeemed, clothed with His righteousness, and now presents as the first fruits of the harvest to the Father who owns the vineyard.

The sinners of Babel have one language again.  The lost coin is found.  The wandering sheep returned.  The prodigal son welcomed.  None of them obeyed the command of God, not one.  But God sent His Son whose obedience would cover all the rebels and bring home to Him a world created in love and redeemed in love.

How odd it is that we have it reversed today.  For us Easter is the big day with full pews and trumpets and choirs and alleluias to ring in the day.  And Pentecost is a quiet day often unnoticed and forgotten.  Originally Easter was the quiet day.  Mary and the women gazing into the tomb, the disciples who came to look and then return home behind locked doors, and only a stone rolled away to catch the attention of the world.  But Pentecost was not quiet.  You could not hear yourselves think in the sound of many languages speaking the same Gospel.  You could not miss the flames on their heads and the spectacle of ignorant fishermen telling the high and mighty of Israel what God had done.

The curse of sin has been undone.  The back of death has been broken.  The nations divided have one voice to confess the one Christ by the power of the Spirit.  Now everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved.  This is the promise first spoken on Pentecost that has become the message that reaches across time and geography.  Repent and be baptized everyone one of you, for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit – the promise for you and your children realized in devotion to the apostles’ doctrine, to the fellowship of baptismal brothers and sisters, to the table where Christ’s flesh and blood are eaten and drunk, and to a people who pray as one, “Our Father, who art in heaven...”

You were born a citizen of Adam and heir to all that Adam’s sin had done.  It inclined your heart to sin, your mind to error, and your body to self-indulgence.  It turned the world into a competition for the things the world deemed valuable and for power.  It delivered you up to death and to the punishment for your sins you truly deserved.  But now you have been born again by water and the Word.  You have received the new inheritance of Christ and the fruits of His obedient death and life giving resurrection.  Your citizenship is no longer earthly.  Your baptismal certificate is your passport as pass from this world fading away and into the permanent world to come.  Until then, you live with the a future that is not yet.

So the world is still your enemy precisely because you belong to Christ.  A battle rages in your hearts and minds and bodies between the good that belongs to Christ and the death pangs of the old Adam - dying but not quite dead. The Church you see with your eyes is divided on earth but the one that we confess in the creed is united in doctrine and life, awaiting the day when there will be no more Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, or any other –only brothers/sisters in Christ.  You cannot rush that day – it is God’s day and God’s time.
These are the best of days and the worst of them.  Pentecost has come and the future is assured but the past is not quite gone and the present is a struggle.  But know this.  What is the worst you experience on earth is the worst you will ever know and what is the best you experience on earth is but a shadow of the blessed future God has prepared for you.  It gets better.  Whether you see it or not, it is always getting better.  For the coming of the Spirit ushers in the age of hope.

The future is not yet but it is already yours.  Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  You are not what you were, but you are not yet who you will be.  You have before you the vision of that eternal tomorrow in the book of Revelation.  You have the foretaste of that eternal in this very communion, the earthly glimpse of the eternal marriage supper of the Lamb in His kingdom without end.  Though sorrow touches your life, gladness will erase its every memory when Christ finishes what began today.  Though sin is still your struggle and your will hard to convince, the ease of heaven will replace every hard choice and weary battle.  Though your conscience is still weighed low with sin, the repentance and forgiveness that relieves you now daily will cover you eternally with peace of mind and peace of heart.  Though death still casts its shadow over you, the mountain of the Lord will rise above the veil of death and you will live without end

For now the altar rail may seem a place of division, the world confused by the many voices claiming to speak for God, and a Scripture that some have deemed either myth or dark words that don’t mean anything until interpreted.  It can seem overwhelming.  For now the world grows increasingly unfriendly and intolerant of the things of God and the voice of His Word.  It can seem overwhelming.  For now the mirror is dim and our vision weak.  It can seem overwhelming.  But now will give way to the promise of the prophet Joel and the Spirit will live in God’s people, old men will dream new dreams and young men shall see great visions and all shall prophesy of the things of God.  Your and all who call on the name of the Lord.  Heard in the ear, filling the mind, transforming the heart, felt in water, and tasted in bread and wine.  We are as strange to the world today as the twelve with flames of fire dancing on their heads.  We are drunk, alright, but drunk on the new wine of the Spirit.

Rise, my friends, let us go from here into that new day, the today of faith and heading toward the face to face of tomorrow, drunk on the new wine of the Spirit, sure that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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