The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
Given our current circumstances, it’s very easy/tempting to extract from the Word of God only that which we want to hear or say. Like statistics, you can make the Word of God say whatever you want it to say. You can twist and contort the Word of God to fit your agenda. It’s not just the devil who does this. It happens all the time. Example: How many times have you heard “God is love” used as a proof text to support all kinds of sinful perversion? Given our current situation, it’s very easy to look at these texts and cherry pick the parts we like. These texts have often been cited as “proofs” to further agendas concerning segregation, integration, immigration, and whether or not people should speak one particular language or be free to speak different languages. Opposing sides point to the same verses and say, “See! Look at what God’s Word says!” Today is no different. Those who firmly believe that churches should not be open for fear of death by contagion look to the Old Testament and Epistle accounts appointed for today and say, “See! God doesn’t want His people massed together. Even He splits them up and disperses them!” Those on the opposite side of the spectrum point to the same texts and say, “See! God doesn’t want His people quarantined and hiding behind locked doors! They need to get out amongst the people and spread the Word!” All of this cherry-picking and twisting of Scripture to make it say what you want it to say is called “eisegesis,” which is just a fancy Greek word for “reading into the text your own suppositions and beliefs.”
Folks: What is today about? I know the simple answer is “proclaiming God’s Word to everyone in their own language.” That’s right, but the simple VBS answer overlooks a very important point. We’re told that the Holy Spirit gave these men “power from on high.” Knowing what we know, we automatically assume that this is referring to the ability to speak a different language. While I certainly don’t want to take away from the power of this heaven-sent miracle, there is so much more to it! Your Lord Christ promised these same men on the very night He was betrayed that even though He was going away, He was going to send them the Holy Spirit. He was going to leave them with and give to them His peace. To be sure, it wasn’t a peace like the rest of the world gives or understands. This wasn’t a peace that simply consisted of everyone getting along or playing nice or feeling “happy” and content. No. He was giving to them His peace; a peace that surpasses all human understanding. And keep in mind: This peace that Christ was giving to them was pointing to and flowing forth from His cross; His all-redeeming sacrifice.
This takes us back to Pentecost Sunday. These guys are all sitting together in one room. It’s safe to say that they had quarantined, locking themselves in. After all, this is what they had done immediately following Christ’s death, so it was certainly nothing new. Just ten days earlier Jesus had ascended into heaven, disappearing from their sight. From their vantage point, they were now left all alone and on their own, and it still wasn’t exactly safe/popular to be a follower of Jesus; definitely not in Jerusalem. As I said, I have no doubt they were, once again, huddled up behind locked doors out of fear and uncertainty. They had no control. Nothing was working out the way they had planned or expected. Locking the door was the only thing they could control (or so they thought).
This is where the Holy Spirit finds them. This is where the Holy Spirit bursts in and “gives them power from on high.” Folks: That power from on high wasn’t merely the ability to speak a different language. It was the power of salvation for all who believe. It was the power of the Good News of Christ crucified and resurrected. It was the power of Christ’s peace; peace that knows and holds fast to this cruciform truth. This is why we’re told that Peter and the apostles were “lifting up their voices” and boldly proclaiming the Law/Gospel Truth of Christ. They weren’t afraid anymore. By God’s grace, through the working of the Holy Spirit, they were finally able to understand what the mission and ministry of Christ—the life, death, and resurrection of Christ—was really all about, and what it meant for them and for all children of Adam. Through the God-given gift of faith, they now had a peace that surpassed all understanding. They now had the power to boldly and unashamedly proclaim Christ crucified. People mocked and ridiculed and dismissed what they heard, chalking it up to drunken foolishness. It didn’t matter. The disciples lifted up their voices and proclaimed. What was the worst you could do to them? Make them wake up in heaven? That’s all you got?!
And here’s the thing for us to remember today: Their peace—the peace of Christ Jesus—is also our peace. “One holy, Christian, apostolic Church….” The very same peace that Christ gave to the apostles He gives to us. The very same Holy Spirit, who brought and bestowed this peace—this confident joy of faith in Christ—comes to us today to do the same exact thing. Now, I know that some of you will disagree with this. After all, the Holy Spirit isn’t working the exact same way today as He did then. Look around. There’s no great rushing tempest of wind. There are no fiery tongues or foreign languages. There aren’t great masses of foreigners among us. We don’t even have all of our own people coming out of quarantine and coming to be in the Lord’s house yet.
And yet…the Holy Spirit still comes to us and works in us and on us the very same peace of Christ He gave to those apostles so many centuries ago. Look no further than right here [the altar]. Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! Here is Christ, right where He tells you to look; right where He promises to be—in His Word and in His sacraments. His peace—His absolution—is spoken to you. You hear it in your ears. It’s real. Your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Look to this rail. Look to these elements. Look and listen. “Take and eat. Take and drink. As often as you do this, remember what I have said. This is My body. This is My blood. Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sin.” What peace we have as we come before the Lord of heaven and earth, and with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven, receive these gifts and offer up our sacrifice of thanksgiving to Him! It is beyond all understanding. It’s a peace that is known only in the humility of faith.
But wait…there’s more! Look to your baptism, for it is here in these simple waters that Almighty God Himself brought to you His blood-bought victories over sin, death, and the devil. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” Folks: We already know how the story ends. Christ lives, the victory is won. I’m a baptized child of God! I’ve been baptized into this victory. What's the worst you’re gonna do to me? Gossip about me? Complain? Make fun of me? Fire me? What’s the worst you can do to me? Make me wake up in heaven? That’s all you got?!
Folks: By virtue of your baptism into Christ, this is your reality too. This is your peace, and it’s a peace that can never be taken from you. So, whatever circumstance you find yourself in, whether you’re healthy or ill, or suffering, or rich or poor or depressed or lonely or deathly afraid and anxious…whatever…you belong to Christ. You bear the name of Almighty God on your head and your heart, marking you as one redeemed by Christ the Lord, and nothing and no one can ever take that from you.
May this unwavering, unfailing, and unconditional baptism peace of Christ Jesus guard and keep your hearts and minds in Him, now and into all eternity. Go forth in the powerful Gospel peace of Christ. Go and be unafraid, unashamed, and at peace.
In the name of Jesus…AMEN.
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