In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.
The world’s idea of unity is making the world one homogenous group. One currency, one language, one culture, everything the same. Just look at what we see across our country. It used to be that towns were unique, and you travelled to see the variety of shops or to eat in exciting restaurants. Now, no matter what exit you take on the interstate there will be a Walmart, a McDonald’s, and an Applebee’s. They may look a little different from place to place, but they all peddle the same wares, the same standardized products and foods, and if you’re lucky enough the Walmart in your vacation city is designed the same way as your Walmart at home and you don’t even have to think about where you’re going.
The Feast of Pentecost reveals to us that unity is not something achieved by man. We create unity by sanding down every square peg’s edges until it fits in the round hole. In Christ, it is not so. True unity is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ, a unity created by the Holy Spirit. In the Body of Christ no one sounds the same or looks the same, but they all confess the same Savior by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Originally the diversity of tongues, the plethora of languages was a sign of the curse. Man tried to be like God. Instead of calling on the Name of the Lord, he wanted to make a name for himself. After the Flood God reissued the command to be fruitful and multiply, filling the earth. What does man do instead? Stay in one place and set up a monument to their own greatness. So God, agonizing that “nothing they propose to do will be withheld from them,” that is, once this rebellion succeeds, there will be no end, makes them all speak different languages. Families were divided because they could no longer communicate and everyone was forced to scatter to attempt to find unity with those who spoke their language.
But at Pentecost that curse is reversed. It is no longer just Hebrew that is worthy to carry the message of God. The Holy Spirit redeems all languages, makes it so that everyone hears in his own language the wonderful works of God. The Gospel is for all the world, not just for one group of people. And remember what St. John hears when he is given his glimpse into heaven: He hears the song of the redeemed, that they have been called out of every “tribe and tongue and people and nation,” redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ (Rev. 5:9). They do not lose their diversity in heaven, but keep it as a powerful demonstration of the universality of Christ’s forgiveness. We will always be Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female (Gal. 3:28). That is part of life in this world. God made us male and female, set us in various families of various ethnicities, and gives numerous vocations where we can glorify God and serve our neighbor. But regardless of how we may be identified, we are all one in Christ Jesus. No matter where you are from, salvation is offered to you by the Holy Spirit who gives the Word and work of Jesus Christ.
This is precisely why Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. He sends the Holy Spirit to teach all things and to bring to your remembrance all that Jesus has said to you. The Holy Spirit points you to Christ, shows you all that He has done for you, and then makes it all yours. You didn’t suffer the punishment you deserve for your sin, but Christ did, and the Holy Spirit gives it to you and makes it just as if you had done it! You can’t raise yourself from the dead, but Jesus can, and the Holy Spirit promises that resurrection to you. The Holy Spirit creates faith in you when you hear these mighty acts of God read to you in the Words of Holy Scripture. The faith which He creates then reaches out and takes hold of all these things. Because you are filled with the Holy Spirit you are saved, joined in the unity of Christ’s mystical Body.
So Pentecost is really the beginning of the end. It is the undoing of the curse of Babel, the reuniting of brothers and sisters divided by ethnicity, culture, economics, and language. People who were once separate are now one in Christ Jesus who transcends all these other things. God has made a people for Himself, cleansed by the Blood of Christ. The Spirit has called you with His Gospel: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has gathered you by and around His Word. He has enlightened you with this Gift. And He sanctifies you, that is, declares you holy. In Baptism you were named with Jesus own Name, all that He has said and done for your salvation. He has declared you to be His own child, and He will never let you go.
That is why you are here today. You are a rightful heir of Pentecost. You are a recipient of the work the Spirit began this day two thousand years ago. He gave the Apostles the blessed Word to speak, the same glorious, miraculous, powerful, life-changing Word of Holy Scripture. There you hear Jesus, and by hearing Him you hear the Father. You hear them by the work of the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who inspired men to write the very Words and thoughts of God, revealing God’s grace and mercy to us poor, miserable sinners. That is to say, the Holy Spirit gives you the peace which the world cannot give. He reminds you what Jesus has said, who He is, what He has done, and who you are in Him. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. You are forgiven, a child of God, an heir of heaven.
The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Sermons from Mount Olive
Mount Olive follows the historic one-year lectionary (series of readings).