< back to Sermon archive

Sermon for Pentecost Sunday 2024

First Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

1The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” 7So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. 11Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”

Psalm 139:1-15

1Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 2You trace my journeys and my resting places and are acquainted with all my ways. 3Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, but you, O Lord, know it altogether. 4You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me. 5Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain to it. 6Where can I go then from your Spirit? where can I flee from your presence? 7If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also. 8If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 9Even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast. 10If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light around me turn to night,” 11Darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike. 12For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 13I will thank you because I am marvelously made; your works are wonderful, and I know it well. 14My body was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth. 15Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb; all of them were written in your book; they were fashioned day by day, when as yet there was none of them.

Second Reading: Acts 2:1-21

1When the day of Pentecost arrived, {the apostles} were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians — we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”

Gospel: John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

26{Jesus said,} “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

4b“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”


God with Us

Believe it or not, but today, Pentecost Sunday, once again marks the beginning of the season of Pentecost and our 28-week march to the end of the Liturgical year.  The lessons we just heard are familiar; we hear them every year.  Over the years, we’ve learned that Pentecost is the day when the Christian church was instituted, and it’s the day when the promised Holy Spirit was sent.  All this is established information since it’s explained each year on this particular Sunday.  However, the first question I want to focus on today is, how is it that we know the Holy Spirit walks beside us?  It’s one thing to be told something, it’s something else to know, or believe, the information.  Second, our gospel reading also brings up another relevant question: how do we know, or how do we determine, the truth?

As fallible human beings, we struggle with these two questions since we cannot see the Holy Spirit and the world forwards that there are many truths.  Why is it that we, as Christians, accept that Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is with us and that the Holy Spirit was sent to reveal all truth to us?  Again, as Christians, we accept these facts on faith because Jesus said the Holy Spirit will be with us and that the Holy Spirit would bear witness to Him, and that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth.  And to assist us in our faith journey, we have the Bible, and we have the writings of the church fathers.

The first promise given us, in our text, is that the Holy Spirit would reveal the truth to us.  Jesus, in our Johannian text, assures us that God the Father has sent His Spirit to bear witness about Jesus and to teach us all truth.  The question of what “is truth”, was most famously expressed by Pilate during Jesus’ trial when he asked Jesus, “what is truth.”  We, of course, know the answer to this question since Jesus was very clear when He told the disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  And what is the truth that Jesus is talking about, in our gospel reading, when He said that the Holy Spirit “will bear witness about me?” (John 15:26).  Clearly this is the truths about Jesus Himself.

These are the truths about Jesus that we can pull from scripture: Jesus came to us in the flesh, that Jesus came to reveal the Heavenly Father to us, and He came to reconcile us to the Father.  Jesus came to do the will of the Father, and Jesus came to pay the price for sin, even though He had no sin.  We hold it to be true that Jesus was crucified, and that He died a cruel death for our sins.  It’s true that on the third day He rose from the grave defeating not only sin, but death itself.  We believe that Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father in glory, and that He will come again to judge the living and the dead.  Jesus came in obedience to the will of the Father to fulfill all the laws and prophecies about Him, and to be Emmanuel, God with us.  This is what we confess each week in our Creeds.  This is what was foretold and promised, and these are the truths that the Holy Spirit was sent to reveal.

Again, we accept these truths and promises in faith, but it’s a faith that is also bolstered by our own experiences.  Many people will testify that they have had a significant spiritual experience in their life; an experience in which they could feel the very presence of Jesus walking with them.  It could have been a time of healing.  It could have been a sense of peace during a difficult time.  It might have even been a special revelation.  Or, it could be in times like these, at Pentecost, when you become aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence more than you do when you’re going about your everyday routine.  Or maybe you’re one of those people who can feel the Spirit with you no matter where you are or what you’re doing.  That’s what it means to “walk by the Spirit.”  When discussing us walking in the Spirit, one person asked, “how is your Spirit Awareness Meter?  To which end of the meter does the needle point?”

When Terry and I were stationed in New Jersey, just up the road from McGuire AFB was the city of Morristown.  Anytime I would travel highway 38 going to and from the seminary, I noticed that no matter what time of day or evening, the town would be filled with dogs.  Lots of dogs.  But these weren’t just any dogs, these were seeing eye dogs.  To the casual observer, the town, it seemed, was filled with blind people.  These seemingly blind people and their service dogs could be seen walking along the sidewalks and going in and out of shops, confidently strolling through the park, sitting on benches.

I asked someone who lived in Morristown about this oddity and was told that Morristown was in fact home to a nonprofit organization called “The Seeing Eye, Inc.”  The nonprofit’s mission is to “enhance the independence, dignity, and self-confidence of people who are blind, through the use of specially trained Seeing Eye dogs.”  This nonprofit raise and breed puppies for the specific purpose of becoming seeing eye dogs.

Even more interesting is the fact that they train not just the dogs, but the people as well who need to know the proper use, handling, and care of the dogs.  Having a Seeing Eye Dog isn’t just about a dog facilitating a human.  It’s about cultivating a very special, meaningful, close relationship between human and canine, one that will last many, many years and enrich the lives of both parties.  It’s a fascinating organization with a wonderful mission.

On the company’s website, the management currently explains that they have, to date, partnered more than 18,000 guide dog teams throughout North America.  John Bauer, one of the company’s seeing eye “grads” describes having a “seeing eye dog” beside him as like having a pair of wings.  His dog is both a companion and a guide.  John tells us that not only does the dog enable him to live a fulfilling life, walking wherever he would like in public places and experiencing events and people, but having the dog has also increased his relationships with others, because people will stop and talk to him, socialize, and get to know him.  They’re drawn to his dog.  The relationship has increased his social life and ultimately his psychological health.

Those who have either Seeing Eye Dogs or other emotional support animals know that no longer must they walk through an unknown and sometimes terrifying world blind, but they now have a guide to walk beside them, to be their eyes, to see the road ahead, to make judgment calls, to defend them if necessary.  For many, this amazing companion is their guide, advisor, and advocate.  In Greek, we could call it their “paracletos.”

Paraclete is the Greek word for advocate, supporter, intercessor, guide.  This is the word used in the scriptures today for the Holy Spirit.  Etymologically speaking, the word “paracletos” meant “one called to walk alongside.”  Our spiritual “eyes,” our defender and advocate, our spiritual and emotional support system, our Christ companion in the world, the “paraclete” helps us to navigate the world while staying spiritually and emotionally sound.  Jesus knew that we walk at a disadvantage through this world, that most of the time, we are blinded by a thousand distractions that keep us from staying on the right path that leads us to the kingdom of heaven.

Just as Jesus’ disciples worried when He was leaving them, they felt lost without their Master and Teacher, without His guidance, without their sense of mission, without their compass for right and wrong, without a strategy or a goal for the future and what they were called to do.  Jesus, before He ascended, assured them that an Advocate would come, a Spiritual helper who would walk beside them just as He had, and we too, in Baptism were granted that same advocate.

Jesus knows, we’re no good on our own.  Without God’s presence with us, we can do nothing.  However, with God’s presence, and through His power, we can do anything (John 15:5; Philippians 4:13).  The Holy Spirit enriches our lives, leads us when we’re feeling lost, enlightens us when we can’t see the truth, guides us in the right paths, and comforts us when things go awry.  Like a “Seeing Eye Dog,” Jesus didn’t just send us a helper but a companion.  Jesus sends us Himself.  Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus remains with us, walks with us, talks with us, joins with us in life’s journey from beginning to end.  Jesus promised to “Be with us always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Jesus is God’s Son and was the “once for all Sacrifice” (Hebrews 10:12), our wake-up call and our transfiguring catalyst, but the Holy Spirit is God’s support system.  To “walk with God” or to have God “walk beside us” is the oldest phrase in the scriptures signaling someone’s relationship with God, the kind of person in whom we know God dwells because we can see it in their walk, their talk, their demeanor, their love for others, their sense of security, their calmness in the face of danger, their kindness, and their gentleness.  You can read in the scriptures this phrase commenting on the lives of the patriarchs and many who came after them: “They walked with God.”

They not only lived a Godly life, but they were constantly aware of their relationship with God.  Their lives were focused on that awareness, and they allowed God to guide them, to move them, and to orient them.  The early church would be founded in this same way.  Those who came out of that Pentecost experience, in which the Holy Spirit came upon them in a dynamic and powerful way, emerged a new person, a person empowered to share the gospel, excited about what the world could become, charged up to be change-makers, and assured in what they were meant to be and do.  With the Holy Spirit as their guide, they would go out and change the world as they knew it.  We too are called to keep that mission alive.

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Truth, our advocate and guide, was given in baptism to guide us and comfort us, advocate on our behalf, and lead us into the future, proclaiming Christ risen, calling for repentance, and granting forgiveness to all God’s people wherever they reside.  Therefore, to be a disciple of Christ is to be a traveler,

Our call as disciples isn’t a call to stay in our homes or buildings or behind closed doors, but to be a traveler on the roads and byways of life with the Holy Spirit by our side, who is our eyes and ears and our compass in the world, so that all may hear the lifesaving good news of God’s love and mercy.  The Holy Spirit comes to us not just for our sake, but for the sake of the world that God so loves.  The world and people that God created and called good.  The world and people God redeemed by sending His only Son to be put to death by the same people He meant to save.  The world and people God has never given up on.

The world and people that include you and me and everyone we come in contact with, and even those we don’t.  The world and people that God, through you and I, will never stop trying to share the good news of God’s amazing grace to others, no matter who they are or what they’ve done, even to the moment of truth.  God never gives up on God’s people.  And neither must we.  In this season of Pentecost, I pray that you feel the power of the Holy Spirit around you, within you, and beside you.  May you open your hearts and lives and allow Christ to guide you in your being and in your living.  And may the peace of Christ and the love of Christ go with you wherever you go.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

< back to Sermon archive