Sunday, May 19, 2013

In the Name of the LORD (Sermon preached on May 19, on the Day of Pentecost)

Sermon texts: Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:23-31.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Ascended Lord, Jesus Christ.  Let us pray:

 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of (our) heart(s) be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, (our) rock and (our) redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

In the name of Jesus.

We have heard three readings this morning, on this Day of Pentecost.  Three readings which have put into our ears the viva vox Christi—the living voice of Christ—by which the Holy Spirit turns us from ourselves, in repentance and faith, so that we would see Jesus, and live.  In three readings the Word of God has been spoken to us, so that the Holy Spirit might deliver it into our hears, and to our minds, and down to our hearts, where, by pointing us to Jesus, He would plant faith firmly within, so that we might be a people who forever calls upon the name of the Lord to be saved.  This morning, on this Day of Pentecost, as we celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit to create and sustain and even strengthen the faith of all believers who have learned not to trust in ourselves, but in Christ alone, and as we consider the three readings which have been placed before us, we find that there is one theme which binds them all together.  And that theme is: The Name of the Lord.
The first reading is the well-known story of the Tower of Babel; the story of a people who have already disregarded the LORD’s command to be fruitful, and multiply, and to fill the earth.  Rather than filling the earth, they have chosen that they know better; they’ll stay in one spot, all together, so they think.  But even more, they’ve begun to think so highly of themselves that they decide to show God what they think of Him—and what they think of themselves.  “Come,” they say to themselves, “let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
In order to accommodate their obstinant refusal to spread out across the land, they choose to build a tower so tall that it alone would be big enough to serve as the city by itself, and all the people could literally be in the same place.  Do you see how brazen this is?
The LORD had commanded them to spread out across the earth—to fill it up.  But they would not.  They wanted to say all together in one place.  In fact, they are so blinded by their desire to stay in one place, that they begin to think that their tower-city will somehow impress God.  They think that their corrupt construction project will actually be able to reach up to God.  They think that by showing God what they can do, how they know better, and how they’ve been able to manage a work-around to His Almighty will, they will make a name for themselves.
But that’s the problem: they’re trying to make a name for themselves.  They’re trying to reach up to God by their work.  They’re trying to impress God by what they are capable of doing.  With their attempts to build a life for themselves,, they’ve disregarded the life which the Lord has chosen to give.  And in the process the only name they make for themselves is a name that reveals their rebellion, and they would end up being scattered anyway as a sign of God’s wrath and judgment.
Of course, we have done the same, have we not?  Maybe you don’t try to impress God with your architectural achievements, but you do try to impress Him nonetheless.  Those of you who have been coming to our Wednesday evening Bible classes have heard and read about a number of ways we try to reach up to God to impress Him, and to show him how great we have become.  We do it with our minds.  We do it with our ideas.  We do it with our morals.  We do it with our events and activities.  We do it with the next big thing which promises to deliver success.  We do it in many and various ways.  Because we want to reach up to God, and show Him what we’re capable of.  We want to impress him with our work.  We want to make sure He knows our name.  We want to make a name for ourselves.
And where does that leave us?  It leaves us invisible to the Lord.  It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad.  All of our attempts to impress God, and all of our reaching up to God, and all of our wanting to impress God, and all of our trying to show Him what we’re capable of doing, amounts to nothing: filthy rags.  All of our attempts to make a name for ourselves fail even to be seen by Him, much less are impressive to Him.
When those people of old tried to build a tower to the heavens the LORD God almighty couldn’t even see it.  He had to come down, our of heaven, to see what they thought was so impressive.  Can you picture it?  There they are, building their “Tower to the Heavens,” and they think what they’ve done is so impressive, but when the Lord looks down upon them, He can’t even see it.  He has to do down to get a look, because what man-kind is capable of, when it is compared to what the LORD Himself had promised to give, amounts to nothing.
But there are two other readings in front of us today.  And so, having learned the foolishness of our attempts to impress God with our work; having the Holy Spirit remind us through the Tower of Babel of the utter nonsense of trying to make a name for ourselves, we now turn to the Holy Gospel, where the Holy Spirit reminds us of the one who is doing both the building and the naming.
Solomon had written long ago, maybe even recalling the foolishness of the Tower of Babel, that, unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain (Psalm 127:1).  In John 14, with the Word of Jesus Christ Himself, we are reminded that those who love Christ, and keep His Word—that is, those who believe in Him—will come to Him and have their home with him.  In the Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would Jesus have told them that He was going to prepare a place for them, and for you?  He had spoken these things to them while He was still with them, but now, Jesus was promising to send the Helper—the Holy Spirit—who would teach them all things, and keep in front of them everything that Jesus had said, and taught, and promised.  And that Helper—the Holy Spirit—would be sent by the Father in the name of Jesus.
There it is: the name of the LORD—the name of Jesus.  It is that name in which the Holy Spirit was promised to come.  And when the Holy Spirit would come, he would bring peace which passes all understanding, and He would bring it in the name of Jesus—our Savior!.  When the Holy Spirit would come, he would take all your fears and your troubles, and He would remove them with the name of Jesus who would be raised victorious from the grave, and would ascend to reign on High.  When the Holy Spirit would come, all the faithful would love the LORD, and rejoice in the LORD, and believe in the LORD, for the Helper—the Holy Spirit—would come in the name of Jesus, and with the name of Jesus He would continue to build a heavenly home filled with the sons and daughters of God.
He had been given the name Jesus because He would save His people from their sins with His death on the cross.  And having risen from the dead, he would ascend to the right hand of the Father, so that the Holy Spirit might come as the Helper to continue to build the household of faith—a great city of God from every nation and tribe and people which no one can count.  Having completed His work of redemption, Jesus would go to the Father, and send the Helper—the Holy Spirit, by whose power all the faithful would no longer seek to make a name for themselves, but would learn, by faith, to call upon the name of the one who is above all names, whereby they would be saved.
And that brings us to Acts, chapter 2, the third of today’s readings.  The Day of Pentecost had arrived, and the twelve disciples were all together in one place, still waiting for Jesus’ promised Helper to be poured out upon them so that they could begin to serve as apostles and carry the preaching of Christ into all the world.  And then it happened.  The Helper was sent, and the Holy Spirit filled those twelve disciples, and by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, they begn to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to do.
And there were Parthians, and Medes and Elamites and residents of Meopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phyrigia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians all in that place.  The scattering of the Tower of Babel, and the confussion of languages was undone by the hand of God in the sending of the Helper—the Holy Spirit—who enabled men and women from across the land to hear, in their own languages, the mighty works of God.
Just as Jesus had promised, the Holy Spirit had come in His name, and in that miraculous event, He was teaching all of those people what Jesus had done to accomplish their salvation.  The life of Jesus, which fulfilled the Law’s demands; the death of Jesus, which took the Father’s wrath; the resurrection of Jesus which took death’s sting; and the ascension of Jesus, which proves the Father’s pleasure: these were the mighty works of God being placed into the mouths of the disciples by the Helper.  And so, the Helper—the Holy Spirit—had truly come in the name of Jesus, for on that day, the Day of Pentecost, those who would hear the preaching of Jesus would no longer seek to impress God, or to make a name for themselves; they were given the name which is above all names; the name by which they would be saved.
And so it is today, my friends.  As sinners who seek to impress God, and to make names for ourselves; as sinners who fight over personal preferences, and who seek to one-up each other so that we might gain a better reputation and our names would be known; as foolish men and women who try to impress God by what we can accomplish, be it with our mind, or our morals, or our prosperity, we have made ourselves a divided people.  We divide ourselves.  But God would seek to make us one—a Holy Communion of Saints, forgiven by the blood of Jesus and trusting in Him to give us a name.
And so He does.  Not in miraculous ways as we see on the day of Pentecost, but in simple ways.  The Helper Comes.  The Holy Spirit comes in the name of Jesus, and He puts before us in the reading of Scripture the prophecies of Jesus, and the works of Jesus and the teaching of Jesus.  And the Holy Spirit comes, and in the preaching done in the name of Jesus He puts before us the foolishness of the Gospel; He places before our eyes the cross and the empty tomb and He says that this is the way the LORD has chosen to build His house.  And the Holy Spirit comes through Water and the Word of Promise, and He washes us clean and plants faith in our hearts, and daily teaches us to trust in the name that has been placed upon us: the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  And the Holy Spirit comes through the promise made in Jesus’ name which declares you to be forgiven in the eating and drinking of His body and blood.  And in it all, the Holy Spirit comes, in the name of Jesus, to build a household of faith called the holy Christian Church.
And in this Holy Christian Church, the scattering of sinful people, and the confusion of our communication, and the divisions caused by our seeking a name for ourselves are undone in the name of the Lord.  The Tower of Babel is reversed, and by faith in the name of Jesus, people of all tribes and nations, and languages; and people with all kinds of personal preferences; and people with all kinds of names, are bound together by the name of Jesus.
Where people are trying to impress God with their accomplishments, and are seeking to make a name for themselves, there will only be division, and competition, and envy, and jealousy, and the list could go on and on.  But where the name of Jesus is made known, the Holy Spirit takes divided and sinful people, and binds them together as one, in the name of Jesus, to be a people that confesses, and believes, and rejoices in the name by which they have forgiveness, life, and salvation.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t help you reach up to God in order to impress Him.  He brings God down to you, in the name of Jesus, so that you would be gathered by the name, and call upon the name, and rejoice in the name by which you are saved.  In the name of Jesus the Holy Spirit promises you a home in heaven forever.  In the name of T Jesus.  Amen.

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