Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a meditation based on Acts 2 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, June 9, 2019

Big, life-changing events can happen in a moment.  They say most tornadoes last less than ten minutes.  But in that short period of time, a lot of damage…a lot of destruction…a lot of lives can be drastically impacted…just ask the people of Jefferson City, Missouri.  Two weeks ago, on May 22 at 8:51pm the tornado hit, traveled twelve quick miles and went away.  Before it left it took three lives…tore apart businesses and homes.  Big, life-changing events can happen in a moment.  It takes just a few seconds for a parent to leave a small child unattended and a few moments later there’s an Amber Alert.  It takes just a few moments for a driver to take eyes of the road – next thing you know, ambulance sirens or ICU or worse.

Big, life-changing events can happen in a moment.  But they don’t always have to be bad.  Today as we celebrate Pentecost we see something fantastic happen…something that takes the people by surprise.  And in a very short time a small band of disciples that had been described as scared and sheepish and uncertain are now acting like bold and courageous preachers.  In a very short time a gathering of believers that numbered in the dozens was now over 3,000.  All that as a result of the spectacular moment of Pentecost.

“They were all together in one place.”  The disciples were all in Jerusalem.  They were in Jerusalem because Jesus had told them – Do not leave Jerusalem – wait for the gift my Father promised…the gift I told you about.  So they stayed in Jerusalem.  Also, there was a special festival going on at the time.  50 days earlier they had celebrated the Passover.  Now it was the Feast of Weeks.  That, by the way, explains why there were so many other people in Jerusalem at the time – you heard it read earlier – Parthians, Medes and Elamites…residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia…and so forth.  So there in Jerusalem they would have expected offerings and prayers and songs and worship and fellowship.  They were not expecting the miraculous signs and wonders that took place.

  • The sound like the blowing of a violent wind
  • The tongues of fire that separated and rested on each disciple
  • The speaking in all different kinds of languages…not babbling…but speaking words that could be understood by all those travelers that came from different lands and cultures.

And just like that…in those few moments…those few fantastic moments…everything changes.  Because the greatest miracle was not the sound of violent wind…not the flames of fire…not even the speaking in different languages.  The greatest miracle was the gift of the Holy Spirit.  “Filled with the Holy Spirit they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”  And what did they speak?  They were “declaring the wonders of God.”  They spoke the words of God – the Holy Spirit shattered confident hearts and healed repentant hearts…in other words, the message of Jesus Christ was shared and the Spirit did his amazing, enlightening, faith-creating work…dozens of believers were soon over 3,000.

Big, life-changing things can happen in a moment.  Wonderful things.  But as we started off today talking about tornadoes and traffic accidents – bad, destructive things can happen pretty quickly too.

  • Some of you know what it’s like to lose just about everything. Some of you know what it’s like to literally have your possessions go up in smoke.  In a moment, the flames or the floods or the fierce winds can take it all away.
  • In a moment, a doctor can click-on that bright light to the X-ray reading panel and your life can change.
  • In a moment, that seemingly harmless temptation can snap its jaws around us like a bear trap and the Old Evil Foe teams up with our sinful nature and before you know it, we’re getting comfortable with attitudes and using words and walking down paths that no child of God ever should.
  • It can happen pretty quickly. It takes just a moment for me to lose my temper…for me to lose my focus…for me to lose sight of my heavenly treasures because I’m too busy running after worldly trinkets…for me to tear down the reputation of my brother or sister rather than build it up…for me to hide my faith rather than share it…and the list goes on.

And so we are thankful for this moment.  We are in God’s house because the Holy Spirit has brought us into God’s family. We don’t belong here.  We belong with the Old Evil Foe.  But the Holy Spirit has called us by the gospel and enlightened us with his gifts.  In other words, the Holy Spirit used some very special moments in our lives to introduce us to Jesus and enable us to put our trust in Jesus.

No flames.  No rushing winds.  No speaking in tongues.  But what a moment it was when the sign of the cross was made on your head and on your heart and the water trickled on your forehead and the words were spoken and the Holy Spirit performed a miracle in your heart.

No flames.  No rushing winds.  No speaking in tongues.  But what a moment when the weary come to Jesus for rest…when the sin-laden come to Jesus to be forgiven…when the heavy-hearted come to Jesus to have that burden lifted.  What a moment it is when you hear the words, Take and eat; take and drink.  Go in peace.

No flames.  No rushing winds.  No speaking in tongues.  But what a moment it will be.  Maybe we’ll be at home in our beds…or maybe connected to a ventilator or hospital tubes…or maybe out and about and on of those surprising unexpected moments will put a sudden end to our earthly journey.  Yet, what a moment that will be.  For the Holy Spirit of God has taught us to say,

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to the cross I cling.

The Holy Spirit of God has enabled us to see and believe,

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

The Holy Spirit of God has enabled us to approach every day, aware of our own frailty, with a prayer on our lips and in our hearts…in fact we’ll sing it later after we have communed:

O Lord, now let your servant depart in peace…for I have seen your salvation. 

In Jesus we have seen…we have been given salvation. 

In the meantime…with whatever time our Lord gives us before he carries us home…what wonderful moments they are when the Holy Spirit uses us to “declare the wonders of God.”  When he turns disciples like us, who could be described sometimes as scared and sheepish and uncertain – but he uses us as bold, courageous witnesses.  Bold and courageous because we have a true message to share…and confident the powerful Holy Spirit will work through that message.  And maybe the Holy Spirit will use you to reach just one more hurting person in this world, or maybe 3,000, or maybe somewhere in between.  At any rate, seize those special moments the Holy Spirit gives you to listen to and receive the gospel of Jesus for your own faith.  And when the Holy Spirit open a door and invites you to share a special moment with someone else…be bold and courageous and confident.