29 April 2013

The Miracle of Pentecost

Coming up in the May "Hope Lutheran" (my congregation's monthly newsletter):
We are fast approaching the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles, and they proclaimed the Gospel in different languages (Acts 2:1-21). When God the Holy Spirit manifested Himself in the rushing wind and the tongues of fire, He was just getting started. The real miracle is that the Gospel was being proclaimed to people of various nationalities. As the Apostles proclaimed God’s works of saving us sinners and giving us life in Christ, people could “hear them telling in [their] own tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11).

But what about today? It’s one thing to hear this story and look back in time. It’s quite another to experience that miracle today. Could that miracle still be going on? Some Christians look back on the Day of Pentecost with great longing. They try to imitate what that day “must have been like.” They even try to restore the Church to some kind of pristine, Day-of-Pentecost purity and simplicity. But is that really necessary? What if the miracle of Pentecost is still going on?

As we approach the Day of Pentecost—May 19 this year—I encourage you to remember that the miracle of Pentecost is still going on. Through the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church the Gospel is being proclaimed, and in various languages around the world. We don’t need to “recreate” the day or miracle of Pentecost. God is already doing that every Lord’s Day, every time the Gospel is proclaimed and we sinners are comforted and enlivened in Christ’s forgiveness and life!

A sermon from an unknown 6th century African preacher says it this way:
They speak in every tongue. It was God’s will to demonstrate the presence of the Holy Spirit at that moment by enabling those who had received him to speak in every tongue. For we must understand, my dear brethren, that it is through the Holy Spirit that love is poured out in our hearts.

Now the love of God was to gather together the Church all over the world. Consequently, while a single man, if he received the Holy Spirit, could speak in every tongue, now the one Church in its unity, which is established by the Holy Spirit, speaks in every tongue.

And so if anyone says to one of us: “You have received the Holy Spirit; why do you not speak in tongues?” he should reply: “I do speak in every tongue. For I am in the body of Christ, the Church, which speaks in every tongue. For what did God signify by the presence of the Holy Spirit if it was not that his Church would speak in every tongue?”

In this way the Lord’s promise was fulfilled: “No one puts new wine into old wineskins, but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both will be preserved.”
It was with good reason, then, that some people, when they heard the apostles speaking in every tongue, said; “They are filled with new wine.” For they had become fresh wine-skins, they had been renewed by the grace of holiness, so that when they were filled with the new wine, that is, with the Holy Spirit, they spoke with fervour [sic] in every tongue; and by this spectacular miracle they foreshadowed the spread of the Catholic Church [that is, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church] through all nations speaking every tongue (For All the Saints, vol. II, p. 187, emphasis added). 
So the miracle of Pentecost is still happening! Every time the Gospel of the Risen Christ is proclaimed throughout the world and in the many languages around the world, it’s still a miracle!

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