When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, d 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “ ‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
I looked out my office window on Thursday and saw my picnic table umbrella doing something a little odd. It was still stuck in that center hole of the table, but it was doing its best Mary Poppins impression, trying to take off and take my table with it.
What was the cause? What had the power to lift an umbrella that is anchored by a piece of concrete? It’s the wind. The wind is powerful, and it’s all around us. We know that pretty well here in North Dakota. Out in this part of the country companies are even using it for energy. Whether you like that idea or not, it doesn’t change the fact that wind is powerful.
But the thing is you can’t see the wind, you just can see what it does. I didn’t see wind out my office window this past Thursday, I saw what it was doing. I couldn’t tell you what direction the wind was coming from or where it would end up. You can’t see wind, but you see what it does. You can hear the sound as it blows through the trees and prairies.
Today, God wants us to think about the wind. It’s a fascinating word in the Bible: Ruach (רוּחַ) in the Old Testament and pneoma (πνεῦμα) in the New Testament. When God uses that word in the Bible, it also the exact same word he uses to talk about the mysterious, miraculous, and powerful third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Bible calls him the Holy Wind, Ruach (רוּחַ) and pneoma (πνεῦμα). You can’t pin him down to one location, but you see his power all over the place. You can’t see him, but you can see his effects in the lives of people all over the world. You can’t control his boundless energy, but God gives a bounty of it to be our power source for Christian living.
And this is his day. You see, in the Christian Church there are three big festivals that we celebrate, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. Each one of these festivals highlights one of the three persons of the Trinity. Christmas is the festival of God the Father, who so loved the world that he gave us the greatest gift we could ever have, his one and only Son, who was of the Father’s love begotten. Easter is about God the Son, who suffered, died, rose to save us from sin, death, and hell. He is our Savior who lives and reigns for us. Pentecost is about that Holy Wind, God the Spirit.
Today is the birthday of the Holy Christians Church, and that’s a day to celebrate the Holy Spirit. Because on this day the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples with power from heaven. It was on this day the he formed tongues of flame on their heads and put tongues of foreigners on their lips. This is the day the heavenly and Holy Wind, who was promised, came and powered his small church of Jesus’ followers to be bold and take the saving gospel out to the nations. That powerful wind is still showing itself on this festival all these years later.
But you can’t just see wind in North Dakota or any other place, right? In order to notice the power of the wind it needs something to blow against. To utilize the power of the wind here in North Dakota, it needs to blow against those big windmills. To get around in a boat you can use a motor or you can use the power of the wind by putting up a sail. To see the power of the wind you need to leave your picnic table umbrella open. The wind needs something to blow against.
In a way, the same is true for the Holy Spirit, that heavenly wind. He is God and that means he is all-powerful, all-knowing, and always present. But in order to see the effects of his power, he needs something to blow against.
And just what is that, you ask? It’s actually quite simple. This resource that the powerful Holy Spirit blows against is not hard to find. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly the sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
The disciples were the ones seeing the effects of the Holy Spirit’s power on Pentecost. There was no actual wind that day, but the Spirit, the heavenly and holy Wind, was blowing against those disciples. His power was clearly the main attraction that day.
Some wanted to make it about the disciples, how they were speaking in different languages with fire on their heads and in their hearts. Some were making a mockery by saying they were simple Galileans who had had too much to drink. But Pentecost is not about the disciples’ power. They were simply there for the Spirit’s power to blow against.
This is how I know that I am nothing special; there is nothing powerful about this pastor. I have a very special and important job that I love to do, but it’s not about my power or position. God’s church will go on just fine with or without me here in Bismarck or here on earth. If you were able to join us for the Luther movie this past Wednesday, you probably noticed how the church got into a lot of trouble back in the late Middle Ages when it was all about the priests and popes and earthly political powers. The church can never be about the men who serve it. Instead, it needs to be about the Spirit who empowers it, the Christ who saves it, the Father who preserves it, and the Word that proclaims all God’s truth.
The Spirit’s power blew against the disciples that Pentecost. It wasn’t the sound of the wind that really mattered or the fire or the men. It was the message. That was the real power of Pentecost. That is the power that continues to blow throughout the church today.
And do you know what that message is? Peter got up that day to preach it, and the Spirit was blowing through the crowd. I am called as your pastor to get up and preach it, and the Spirit still blows through us who gather here with this message: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Everyone! Do you know who that includes? God doesn’t say it’s the straight A students. God doesn’t say it’s the people you like. God doesn’t say it’s only the good people. He doesn’t say it’s those who try really hard to cover up their mistakes. God says, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Yes, that includes people who struggle with sin. In fact, that is the only kind of person there is. Every man, woman, and child on earth struggles with sin. It’s not a unique trait for a few. God says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We know this from looking in the mirror and seeing what God sees: sinners. People feel this burden. They know the guilt that sin brings. They know the conflict that evil inflicts. They know the uncertainty of death. These are universal struggles across the board for everyone, including us.
God has the universal answer in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Jesus died to pay the price for all sins of everyone. Jesus rose from the dead to open the gates of heaven for every man, woman, and child that believes in him.
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. This is the solution to a guilty conscience. This is the strength for living with sicknesses and sadness. This is secret to rebuilding relationships. This is the answer to what lies on the other side of death, because God is promising a future that has nothing to do with your current circumstances.
God isn’t uncertain about this. “…will be saved.” In Christ, God stretches our perspective out to eternity. In Christ, we have the cure for cancer. In Christ, we have the formula for a blessed life. In Christ, we have the ability to live forever in heaven.
That is what we have. And God says everyone on the face of this earth can have the exact same thing. The heavenly Wind wants to blow into the hearts and lives of every man, woman, and child in this world. God has promised, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The heavenly and holy Wind just needs someone to blow against for people to see his power. God has given this amazing privilege and honor to people like us. He could do it himself, but the heavenly Wind wants to use you to show how his power is for us and in us and among us.
The sound of the wind, the fire, and the languages would have accomplished nothing without the disciples speaking the saving message of a Savior who died and rose again. The Holy Spirit chooses to show his power by blowing against people like the disciples, people like you and me. Because that is when you really see what the power of the wind, when it is blowing against something.
Brothers and sisters, I know how fearful it can be. I know how easy it is to pass up opportunities to say the simple truth about faith in Jesus. I know the excuses that come up: “It’s probably someone else’s job. They know it better. They have a better knack for evangelism stuff.” It’s ridiculous and absolutely amazing that God would want to include us in taking a message of such importance out to the world.
But there’s something else I know about you. You have the same thing as the disciples. You have the forgiveness of sins, which Jesus delivered with his death. You have the certainty of heaven, which Jesus opened to you when he came back on Easter. You have his authority as he rules over you from his throne. You have the power of the Spirit blowing against you for the people around you to see. If you don’t think you are ready or fit for the job, then you are exactly the kind of person that God wants to use because then you know the power isn’t coming from you but from that Holy Wind of God.
The wind needs something to blow against for people to see its power. The Holy Spirit wants to blow against you so that people see how great our God is and what he has done to save us. What does that mean for you? I don’t know, maybe that means you will join our outreach team to help us find people who are lost and don’t know Jesus in our community. (That’d be great!) Or maybe you will help us carry out ministry here, like planning events so we can invite people here or like prioritizing projects to make our ministry and church witness better. Or maybe you will pray for this work and generously support it. Or maybe it simply means that you will go to work and let your light shine, so that people see your good deed and praise your Father in heaven.
Whatever it is, you know the power that is behind you. It doesn’t come from you, it comes from that heavenly and holy wind. And when that wind is blowing against you, people will notice, just like seeing an umbrella doing its best imitation of Marry Poppins.
God grant it in Jesus’ name. Amen.