In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
But it is not the tongues of fire but the blood of Christ proclaimed by these men that is miraculous! The miracle is them speaking boldly about Christ. The foreign tongues they spoke in are just a sign of what this blood does. It draws together what is broken. It unites divided humanity in Christ Jesus. The miracle is not the fire or the unknown languages spoken by bumpkins, or even the noise of rushing wind, but the mighty works of God proclaimed in the hearing of devout men living in Jerusalem. These men were pious, Bible believing sorts yet they were shocked and awed; primarily at the proclamation of Jesus as their Saviour and God, and only secondarily at these uneducated Galileans speaking the languages of the world like they were born in those places.
You and I are Christians. We love our Lord. We want others to love Him too. To know of His blood shed for them. To know His blood avails for them. We want them to desire His blood on them and in them. To catch the fire of the Spirit through this proclamation of Christ. To trust in Him so that their prayers are no longer a stench in God’s nostrils but the sweet smoke of the incense that pervades the heavenly courts.
Yet we are timid. We are afraid. We do not speak our minds. We do not give the wise counsel God’s Law offers. We turn a blind eye to our loved ones’ sins fearing they will cut nose to spite their face if we say anything. As a by product of our fear we end up losing contact with them in general. More importantly, we stop sharing our faith with them. It takes all our courage merely to speak of God generically, with them or others, but to mention the all offensive name of Jesus in our culture, even in our families? Surely not! If we all know just the name of Jesus is offensive to so many then talk of His blood and death is right out. Our sin and fear causes us to not speak freely, to hold back salvation from them, to shut our mouths to them. So we do not speak our faith, even though we know it is what they need. Even though we long to and know we ought to. Repent.
The miracle of Pentecost is that the Holy Spirit gave the apostles utterance. They were huddled together for fear of the Jews when the Spirit rushed upon them. Starting with those apostles Pentecost means that all God’s people prophesy! All His people dream the dream of freedom from sin in our bodies and the new world that Christ will bring into being at the end of time.
So, what is it to prophesy? It is to speak His Word about His salvation. We do it weekly here when we confess our faith in the Creed, and liturgy, and song. We do it in our homes to our young children, in bedtime and mealtime prayers, and daily family devotions. We do it in our lives when the Holy Spirit prompts us to pray, or opens the doors to speak to anyone about Lord. When any of this occurs it is a miracle.
For we know the pressure not to speak such words. Your sinful flesh certainly will not do it on its own. The world definitely wants to silence you. So because of our weakness to speak of salvation in someone else’s hearing is a work the Holy Spirit performs. It is a miracle of God. Be it in a foreign language you have never learned or your native tongue it is the Helper, the Holy Spirit, working it in you. For no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). So to profess, to speak this faith is a miracle of the Holy Spirit.
This miracle is not flashy. It is not like the sun being blotted out on the day of Lord when He hung on the cross. It is not like a sign in the heaven that no one can miss. It is easy to ignore. It is easy for us to overlook because it is so common among us. Yet it is a miracle. Mothers to daughters. Fathers to sons. Friend to friend. Pastor to people. A miracle all the same. God’s work through you. For the Holy Spirit speaks what the Son gave Him. The Son speaks and does what the Father gave Him. When you speak it you are God’s own prophet, speaking a miraculous message of salvation, God’s own words, words that have power, words that save souls.
Words that have peace. When the Son went back to the Father after the great and glorious day of the Lord—the day when the sun did not shine from noon till 3pm, when God’s blood was poured out on the earth of this planet for all who live under the raging of the moon—He left us His peace. His Spirit. His Spirit who speaks His Word in us. Though battles are constantly waged on earth, in families, in nations, and in the very heart of Man, when this Word is heard it gives peace. Not only a splendid sense of well-being, though that is important and your Father desires that for you, but literal peace with your Father. Though this world is at odds with everything and everyone, though you may find yourself angry all the time in this dog eat dog world, though your sinful heart wants to joke about and compete constantly with everyone around you, though we naturally look for people to hate, or complain, or gossip about, whether it be a “friendly” rivalry between the sexes, between Fort William and Port Aurthur, or whatever group society deems it appropriate to publically call down and castigate at this moment, freedom from this is not the peace He wants to give you. The peace that the God gives is peace with Himself. That is, freedom from His wrath and warfare against your sin. For whether we admit it or not we all know sin is wicked, deserves punishment, and that we are sinners. After all, when bad things happen what is the first thing that comes to mind? “What did I to deserve this?”
Peace with God is freedom from this thought. It is a change of thinking. For He promises you His love. In all things He works for your good. Even when life is at its worst, when you think God has abandoned you, He says He is not punishing you but parenting you. These fiery trials are not His wrath against your sin, they are His love for you through which He is teaching you, strengthening, and preparing you for the days ahead. For every parent who loves their child disciplines them. They try to prepare them for the difficulties of life. The Lord disciplines those He loves. Peace with God comes with this change of thinking. Repent of how you have thought in the past. For His Word wants to work this change in you.
The world will try to convince you this is not peace. That God has abandoned you. But you know better in Christ Jesus. "My peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you." The Father’s love is yours in Christ. So have courage. For times are tough for a child of the Almighty. But your Father loves you.
Blood and fire and vapour of smoke. They sound bad. They sound like life in the midst of a fire fight in Afghanistan. That is what our pilgrimage is from the great day of our Lord till His return. But keep in mind that though your blood may get spilt your Saviour's blood has already been shed winning your peace with the Father. In fact, His blood is the heat in the Spirit’s fire. Though the world will sorely press you and put you in some hot spots, our God’s Word is a consuming fire which puts to death evil in human hearts and raises up faith. The world’s testing and God’s fire in our hearts causes the sweet smoke of prayer to rise up to heaven from hearts that hear, believe, and cry out to their God in every trouble. Let my prayers rise before you as incense, Oh Lord.
Have courage. Jesus warned us life in Him would not be easy. But He has sent His Spirit to see you through with the blood of His Son, the fire of His Word, and the smoke of prayer that rises to Him.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON