The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
If there’s one day within the life of the Church that can produce the unintended consequence of causing people to feel grossly inadequate in their faithful service to God, it’s this day—Pentecost. Today we hear about faithful disciples boldly and masterfully speaking in tongues, and thousands of people hearing, repenting, and converting. The Church grew by thousands because of the amazing evangelistic efforts of a few. There’s not a single pastor or congregation out there who wouldn’t love to experience even a fraction of such extraordinary and miraculous results. If only…. And this is where the feelings of inadequacy start to surface.
In proud fashion, though, we attempt to overcome these feelings of inadequacy. We try to manufacture and re-produce the results. Churches do it all the time. Re-produce the excitement; manufacture some awe and inspiration, and perhaps you’ll also re-produce the massive influx of new members. If you’re not putting on the biggest, most entertaining and uplifting show in town, then you’re doing something wrong. You don’t stand a chance. You’ll never experience your own personal Pentecost. You’re just a congregation waiting to die.
Well…I don’t believe a word of that. You know why? It’s not true. It’s not right. It’s not faithful. You see, the disciples never set out to have this Pentecost experience. They didn’t organize focus groups and community polls to find out what the public masses were looking for so that they could “scratch the itch of the masses” and make a big public splash. They didn’t sit down at a board meeting and discuss membership data, and formulate marketing plans and advertising so that they could increase their market share. They didn’t even wake up that morning with the intention of going out from behind the safety of their locked doors. It wasn’t their plans and purposes and intentions that made that first Pentecost what it was. It was Almighty God.
It was the work of the Holy Spirit, who not only spoke the Truth of the Gospel through these men, endowing them with the gift of proclamation in a foreign tongue, but who also summoned a huge crowd of people to these guys’ front yard so that the crowd could hear the Gospel proclaimed to them. Remember: The text tells us that the sound of this great rushing wind caused everyone to come running so that they could find out what was going on. Faith comes by hearing. This hearing led the masses right to the source and wellspring of the Gospel. These men didn’t manufacture anything. In terms of “success,” these men were grossly inadequate, in and of themselves. Left to their own devices and schemes and plans, they would’ve produced nothing but ruin and despair. This Pentecost miracle was all God’s working. All glory and honor (and credit) belongs to Him.
And that’s why I want to draw your attention to the words of your Lord and Savior in the Gospel lesson for this morning. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Look around at this sinfully parched and barren world that we call “home.” Do you think we need a good healthy drink of the living water that is Christ Jesus? The answer to that question is so obvious, it could be summed up in one word – “duh.” Folks: Who is quenching the thirst of the sinfully thirsty? Who is giving life to those dying from spiritual dehydration? Jesus! To say that we’re grossly inadequate in our personal capabilities to save and deliver people from damnation is an understatement. We’re not inadequate. We’re completely and utterly incapable, in and of ourselves…just like those first disciples were on that first Pentecost Sunday.
And this is precisely why I love this text for Pentecost Sunday meditation. So many people have the very best intentions to serve God. They desperately want to overcome their inadequacies. They want to grow Christ’s Church, by any means necessary. Who doesn’t want to see growth? Who wouldn’t love to say that their church is the epitome of “success”? But…are we willing to let God grow His Church His way and by His means, or do we perhaps attempt to manufacture and re-produce the desired growth on our own? Look at it this way: If someone is dying of thirst, will an interpretive dance quench their deadly thirst and save them? If someone is dying of dehydration, will a rousing game of paintball or cards or a trip to the bowling alley save them? Will beautiful place-settings and a decorated fellowship hall and a kitchen with all the bells and whistles give them the drink of life they so desperately need? “You’re thirsty? Here…look at our fancy new stove.” If someone is dying of dehydration, will it help them and save them to know that you and your little group of friends got together privately and thought about them or talked about them while you drank? Kind of sounds like what often passes for “church” nowadays, doesn’t it?
Folks: This is what Pentecost is all about! It’s not a one-day-out-of-the-year kind of thing. It’s not a result to emulate and attempt to mass reproduce. It’s simply letting God work, in you and through you, and hopefully not in spite of you. “Out of his heart will flow living waters.” Christ not only quenches your deadly dehydration, but He flows through you to your thirsty neighbor in need. My question for you is: What flows forth from you? What do people get a drink of when they encounter you? Do they receive the life-giving waters of Christ through you and your words and deeds, or do they get a shot full of sin; a tall drink of septic sin flowing forth from your septic, self-centered, idolatrous heart? When you get down to it, it really is that simple; as simple as giving a drink of water; as simple as being the overflowing cup that Christ uses to quench the thirst of all those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
As I said earlier, people want to see growth. We all do. It’s natural. We want to have the same “big score” those first disciples did on that first Pentecost. We all want to be thought of as successful, individually and congregationally. We all want to see and experience more Pentecost results. We’d even be content with fractions of those results. Let God work. Let Him quench the thirst of all those who are sinfully dehydrated and dying in their sin. Open the floodgates and let the Word work, even if it’s one little drink at a time to one little thirsty soul in need. One soul saved is a Pentecost miracle; a miracle that causes the very angels in heaven to rejoice. Faith comes by hearing; hearing the life-giving Word of Christ. Just think about that first Pentecost message. “This Jesus, whom you crucified….” The mass of individuals, cut to their hearts, hear this and respond, “What shall we do to be saved?” “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” So simple. So concise. So right to the Christological point. Law and Gospel in its purest form.
My friends: Your Lord—your Good Shepherd—endeavors to lead His dehydrated flock through the valley of the shadow of death to cool, calm, life-giving waters—EVERYONE. “I desire the death of no man.” Let Him lead. Let Him work. Let Him quench and nourish His way. Proclaim the Good News that Christ Jesus died for our sins. Yes—such a proclamation rightly includes calling sin what it is – SIN. But such a proclamation also includes the life-giving cure—the Gospel Good News that says that all is forgiven and forgotten in the all-quenching, life-saving blood of Jesus.
May this Good News of the Gospel quench and satiate you as you continue to be in the world, but not of the world. May this living water of the Gospel freely flow forth from you as your Lord endeavors to quench and satiate all those who are dehydrated and dying in their sin and despair. May God’s almighty and extraordinarily life-giving miracle of Pentecost, which was begun in the lives of some rather ordinary and inadequate men so many centuries ago, continue to work in you and through you, and not in spite of you. Be at peace—the peace that surpasses all human understanding—because, in faith, you are not inadequate; not to God. You are in Christ, and Christ is in you. You, like the other ordinary means that God uses to nourish and feed and save—His Word and Sacraments—are made extraordinary by Christ, in Christ, and because of Christ, and He certainly can and does accomplish the extraordinary through the most ordinary and inadequate. May this peace of Christ be the life-giving water that ever flows in you and through you in all your daily Pentecost opportunities.
To God alone be all the glory, praise, and honor. AMEN.
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