The Day of Pentecost
May 20, 2018
“Ready for Something New?”
God’s grace, His mercy, and His peace be to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The text that engages us today on the celebration of the Day of Pentecost is the First Reading for today from Ezekiel chapter 37 which was previously read – a portion of Scripture commonly known as the valley of the dry bones.
My dear friends in Christ Jesus,
The beginning of this sermon is something brand new. I re-wrote the first 6 minutes on Thursday night because of what happened to our little 1-year-old grandson Elijah this week. A small rash on his back early in the week spread to his entire body and on Wednesday morning he was in the ER at Palms West in West Palm Beach. We raced to Florida’s east coast to help with the kids and in any way we could. As it turned out, Eli had a SEVERE allergic reaction to amoxicillin, and he is doing much better now which is good, because just a few days ago we were running pretty short on hope.
What is hope? The dictionary says that hope is “to desire with expectation of obtainment.” That’s a pretty clinical definition of hope, which is not always helpful when it’s your life or your family in crisis. What’s more important is to know what does it mean to have hope; to live with hope? Not so easy to answer, right?
You may be more familiar with the opposite feeling – to be hopeless, lost, alone, miserable, dejected. You might have to look hard each day for a reason to lift your head off the pillow. When you feel hopeless you’re consumed by powerful emotions: a loss of purpose, empty, lifeless, hollow. You find that you’re a shell of who you used to be or wanted to be but never were. Thankfully, we have the First Lesson for today. In Ezekiel 37 we are shown how our lives of hollowness and emptiness and uselessness can be made new; made alive again and how dry bones can be made into living flesh – by God the Holy Spirit, who revives and restores us daily.
Today is our celebration of Pentecost; 50 days after Easter and the day the Church received the Holy Spirit. One of the three chief festivals of the Christian Church, today – Pentecost – is just as important as Christmas and Easter. Everyone gets all excited for Christmas and Easter, but not Pentecost because maybe they don’t understand Pentecost or the Holy Spirit as well.
Today we focus on the work of the Holy Spirit. It was the Spirit who first called you to faith, brought you into God’s family in Holy Baptism, and through the Word continually comes to you in the means of grace. It is the Holy Spirit that enables you to call Jesus “Lord,” but then sin ravages us and we end up feeling lifeless and in need of something new. Sometimes that feeling comes because people remove themselves from God’s Means of Grace.
Today’s lesson from Ezekiel is actually a prophecy of how God will resurrect the children of Israel from their misery in exile in Babylon. God takes Ezekiel to the middle of a valley covered with bones. They are dry; they have been there a long time. In this scene of absolute and utter hopelessness and despair, God gives a word of hope to a hopeless people: He promises that they will arise. But, this resurrection will only occur by the Word of the Lord. God speaks and it is so…even with old, dry bones.
The man struggles to rise from his recliner. His recovery has been too slow in coming, and the reality is he may never recover. “I feel so useless,” he says. “I can’t do anything I used to do. My life is nothing but a waste.” Do you feel like that man? A widow, crippled with grief and loneliness says, “My children are grown. My spouse is never coming back. My friends have either died or left for the summer. I spend so many hours alone. What’s the purpose of my life now?” Are you that woman? A mother sighs, “I have no time for myself. Life is nothing but work from one day to the next. My life is busy, but really empty.” Are you like that mother? An employee complains, “How can I, with my supervisor constantly looking over my shoulder, stack boxes and stock shelves eight hours a day to the glory of God?” Are you like that worker? Are you a collection of bones – dry bones, lifeless bones, dead bones? Are you feeling cut off from life with no hope? Are you feeling ready for something new? We don’t necessarily need something new; we need what has always been there – the Holy Spirit.
He was present at the creation of the world breathing life – His ruach – into mankind, He brought a valley of dry bones back to life, He was present at that miracle of Pentecost (2nd Lesson), and He is here today in His Word and the Sacrament! He lovingly desires us to receive His Word and Sacraments, to be open to His Holy Spirit – His ruach – who would turn your dry bones into new, living flesh with a sense of purpose and a renewed sense of hope in Christ crucified and risen FOR YOU. That is how much God loves and renews you…through shed blood and a tomb-shattering resurrection. As that great hymn says, you can face tomorrow and life is worth the living just because Jesus lives!
Today we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Next week too. And the week after that. Too much? No way. Holy Communion is for sinners like you and me; people who need the “something new” that God offers us every day. His Word becomes our hope so that the world can see that we live life differently people, because we live life with hope – real hope; sins forgiven and eternal future – and that effects your words and deeds.
Earlier in the sermon we defined hope as “to desire with expectation of obtainment.” Maybe a better definition is that hope is a willingness to accept our conditions without needing to understand. Hope reaches out its hand in the darkness; faith knows that God is waiting to take that hand. Hope is stronger than fear; joy motivates more effectively than anxiety. God’s promise to Ezekiel does give us something new – a kind of hope the world cannot offer. Do you ever feel like a collection of bones? Do you want hope and life and a joyful spirit? Then come, for all things, new life and forgiveness of sins – hope – are ready for you just as they have always been.