Those of you who are with us in person this morning, this may be the first time, the second time, or the third time you have re-joined us for an in-person worship service. I imagine it’s safe to say that one of the emotions you have felt can be expressed by the one word, “Finally!” Finally I am back in the place where I get to hear God’s Word with my fellow believers and join them in praising my great God and praying in his holy name. And I imagine it’s also safe to say that those of you who are worshiping with us at home are looking forward to saying that very same thing –“Finally” – when you feel safe enough or healthy enough to once again join us down the line.
Do you think the disciples may have said the very same thing – “Finally” — when all those amazing things started happening on that first Pentecost? After all, what had Jesus told them in our words from Luke’s Gospel? In verse 49 he said, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised, but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Jesus told them, we could say, to shelter in place – to stay in the city – until some power came down upon them from above. That’s what he told them. But did you notice what he didn’t tell them? He didn’t tell them how long they would have to wait. They just had to trust him that at the right time Jesus would cause something very special to happen, which would help them do what he had said they should do – to preach what he described in these words as “repentance and forgiveness of sins … in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.”
So they knew there would be a right time when their Lord would give them the honor of sharing the most important words in the history of the world, but they did not know when that right time would be – the right time to do what they must have been chomping at the bit to go out there and do – to tell people about Jesus and everything he had done, including rising from the dead and rising up to heaven right before their eyes. That would all happen at the right time. But in the meantime — for what turned out be ten days – for what must have seemed like ten very long days – in the meantime they had to stay in place in Jerusalem and wait. I would have to think that when those tongues of fire started coming down on them and the Holy Spirit began giving them abilities they never before had, one reaction would have to have been, “Finally!” “Finally, Lord, we are able to do what we have been wanting to do, which is what you have us told us we would be doing all along!”
But did you also notice what they did while they waited? After Jesus returned to heaven, verse 52 near the end says, “Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple praising God.” Just as you and I have continued to worship and praise our Lord in various and different ways these past weeks, so those disciples of Jesus before us did the very same thing. And what did the disciples worship and praise God for? What do you and I worship and praise God for? All of God’s children worship and praise God for making them God’s children. God’s children worship and praise God for what he has done through Jesus, his Son. God’s children worship and praise God by continuing to hear and to study the very same thing that God wants us to share with others – repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name for all nations. Isn’t that exactly what we have continued to study and hear these past weeks – and what we have studied and heard in all the previous weeks and months and years – and what we pray we will study and hear for the next weeks and months and years until God takes us to heaven – those very things that Jesus told his disciples about in the opening verse of our Lesson: “He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while was still with you. Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”
Whether they were in Jerusalem waiting for whatever was going to happen to finally happen, or whether you and I are in our homes right now or in our church sanctuary right now waiting for whatever ultimately is finally going to happen with all this going on around us, we have continued to hear that everything the Bible says about Jesus Christ in the Scriptures has been fulfilled, except for his promise to finally return one last time to finally take us home to heaven.
Aren’t you thankful to God that you don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen at the end of your wait, when you finally get to say, “Finally?” Think of all the people who don’t know or believe what you and I know and believe. It is a hard thing to have to know and believe that all my complaining to God and all my worrying inside myself and all my disrespecting of others means I need to repent – to admit that sins like those should keep me eternally distanced from God. I wish everyone in the world would know and believe and admit those very same things, so they wouldn’t have to try so hard to ignore God or to not care about God or to tell God that they are just fine the way they are. Because while it is very hard to admit how bad we are before God and how we have no right to expect to live with God in heaven someday, it is wonderful to know and believe that God will admit us into his presence, because it’s not only repentance that the disciples and the next generation and the next generation and the generation before us preached to us in Jesus’ name, but it is also the forgiveness of sins that has been proclaimed to us and that we proclaim to others. I wish everyone in the world would know and believe that because of Jesus we are safe right now – safe at home in the arms of Jesus – and that we will be eternally safe and never having to be afraid of any pandemic or anything else in all creation when the time comes for us to forever rest in the arms of Jesus when we can finally say, “I’m finally home.”
I do wish everyone in the world knew and believed in the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins, but I am so thankful that so many people from all over the world were part of that Pentecost celebration and heard the message the disciples proclaimed. A few minutes ago I mentioned this was the first Pentecost. We could also say this was the last Pentecost, since this was one of those old festivals like Passover, which the children of Israel were required to attend every year. Fifty days after the Passover when Jesus died and ten days after Jesus returned to heaven, Jewish believers from all over the world gathered to thank God for the harvest of their crops which would keep them well-fed and safe. Little did many of them know until Peter and the other apostles started to preach to them in their own languages that the promise of the Messiah had finally been fulfilled by the person known as Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, who would keep them well fed and safe in ways that were so much more important than even the important crops they were harvesting in the fields. By God’s power thousands of those visitors were given the faith to believe the words they were hearing about repentance and the forgiveness of sins. They knew they needed what Jesus of Nazareth came to bring, and they believed that that is exactly what he brought – something they could take home with them and share with those back home in Greece or Turkey or Africa or wherever else it might have been.
And eventually that message crossed mountains and rivers and oceans and came to places like Brookfield where we continue to celebrate Pentecost today – the day we especially thank God for the work of the Holy Spirit – the work of putting faith in the hearts of people like you and me who otherwise would never believe anything like what the Bible tells us and the work of putting the desire in the hearts of people like you and me to do whatever we can to make the life of someone else easier and happier and more peaceful as they wait to see what will finally happen when all this is finally over — whether it’s wondering about when this pandemic will end or wondering about what it will be like when their life will end. In the end when all is said and done, we want them to know Jesus – and the sooner the better.
On that first and last Pentecost the disciples finally were able to stop waiting and to start working. But just like with us as we have been waiting, their work of worshiping and praising their Lord never stopped. Nor does it stop for us. There understandably may be some human limitations to how we can serve God right now, but there are no limitations to God’s strength and power and love, any more than there were limitations for a bunch of fishermen from Galilee telling the Good News of Jesus to people from all over the world. There still are many more “all over the world people” out there – far away and close by — many more we want to have the joy of being able to join us from every tribe, nation, language and people in saying, “Finally. Finally I know that my wait was worth it. Finally with my own eyes I am seeing Jesus.” That final Pentecost harvest on that Last Day will have a lot of people saying the very same thing. Just keep waiting – and working – so there can be more and more of them to join us! Amen.