Monday, May 20, 2013

Sermon for Pentecost: "The Language of the Faith"

+ Pentecost Sunday (Confirmation Day) May 19th, 2013 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:23-31

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “God likes matter...He invented it” (Mere Christianity, Book II, Chapter 5, paragraph 7). The same is true for language. God loves words.  By the Word of His mouth, He spoke creation into being: “Let there be light…and there was light.”
By the Word of His mouth God promised a Child who would save Adam and Eve and all creation from sin and death.
By the Word of His mouth God promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed by his offspring.
By the Word of His mouth God spoke to the prophets of old. But now in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son.
In Bethlehem, the author leaped off the page. The eternal Word of God became flesh. So Jesus spoke and prayed the Word of God. Jesus kept and treasured the Word of God. Jesus listened and obeyed the Word of God.

He did all of this for you.
God works through means. Word and water wash away your sin in Baptism. Words deliver forgiveness to you in holy absolution. Words and bread and wine give you Jesus’ body and blood to forgive your sins in Holy Communion. This is the language of the faith.

In grammar this is called running the verbs. God runs the verbs…not us. That was the problem in Babel. Man wanted to run the verbs and everything else. So, God made Babel just like it sounds – a babbling confusion. It’s a reminder that man’s sinful ambitions always result in chaos. Babel had it backwards. Man can’t climb up to God. God comes down to us. That’s the joy of Christmas and Easter…but also Pentecost.

At Pentecost, the confusion of Babel isn’t undone. You still need to learn Spanish in high school or German if you collect coins or Klingon…if you’re a big nerd.  God doesn’t restore a common language. At Pentecost God does one better. He gives a common Savior to all, each in their own language.

In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit worked the same way God always works, through means, in this case words. Nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, subjects, predicates. Human language. That’s remarkable! God puts His Word into human languages. He did it through Peter and He does it for you…all by means of ordinary words. It’s really no different than Baptism where there’s ordinary water, or ordinary bread and wine being the Body and Blood of Christ. God works through means. Ordinary, creaturely, earthy means.

So, what does all that have to do with confirmation day, you ask? Everything. Words matter. What we say and how we say it matters. But not just on Pentecost or Confirmation day… every day. Pentecost is a miracle of both hearing and speaking. The Holy Spirit works on ours ear and mouths. O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise.

Today is a day for hearing and speaking. In a few minutes we’ll hear our catechumens’ essays on the catechism. Then we’ll hear them confess the faith given to them at Baptism. Confirmation is a day for saying back to God all that He has spoken to us in His Word, in Holy Absolution, in Holy Baptism, in Holy Communion.

Jesus’ Words matter. And so do ours. “Whoever confesses me before men, Jesus says, I will confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

Today Bree and Darcy confess the same words we confessed at our confirmation: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?”

“I do, by the grace of God.”

Baptism, Pentecost, Confirmation, life, death, resurrection…all by the grace of God. Jesus died, rose, ascended and sent the Holy Spirit…for you. Free grace. Unconditional love. Outrageous forgiveness. It’s all yours in Jesus. That’s the language of the faith.

You first learned it in your Baptism. That’s your Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was poured out. And you were born from above in the font, the womb of the church. No wonder Pentecost is called the church’s birthday.

 We also continue to grown in the language of the faith in the church, in much the same way children learn to talk at home. Our heavenly Father gives us the pattern of sound words and we pray, praise and give thanks.  That’s simply what baptized children do.

And like human languages – the best way to be proficient - is to be immersed into it. Daily read, mark, and learn Jesus’ Word. Inwardly digest Christ’s Word from the page into your ears and from the altar into your mouth. That’s what confirmation – and the Christian life - is all about, hearing and speaking the language of the faith.
Today we hear and speak the language of the faith, all because Jesus gives us His Word and promise. And though it comes through ordinary words, water, bread and wine, it’s an extraordinary Word. For the same Spirit present at Pentecost with the disciples is here, giving you the Peace, Forgiveness, Life and Words of Jesus Crucified, Risen, and Ascended. 

This is most certainly true.
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

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