Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
Without a doubt we have lots of incredible things happening today! First, Holy Pentecost! The arrival of the promised Holy Spirit. Jesus promised His disciples that they would be clothed with power from on high when the Spirit - the Helper, the Comforter, the Paraclete - would come. And what a doozie of a promise that was! Wind and Fire from heaven fills the disciples with such an amazing and overwhelming power that they can’t help but talk about it! Literally, they can’t help but speak! The weird thing was, the talking was in different languages! The bystanders “were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:7-11).
And it wasn’t only that they heard the message, it was also the content of the message! The mighty works of God. That Jesus was born by miraculous means, lived a perfect and sinless life, taught the people the ways of God’s Kingdom, healed and fed the masses in His great compassion, was crucified by Roman governor Pontius Pilate though innocent of any crime, suffering and dying as a common criminal, and then 3 days later rising again, triumphing over sin, death and the devil, giving life to the world! For all who hear this message of God’s mighty works and believe it have exactly what our Lord promised: victory, forgiveness and eternal life!
And not only this, they also have the Helper. The Holy Spirit has come with Divine wind and fire. The Third Person of the Holy Trinity who calls us by the Gospel and gathers us together as the church. He comes to us in God’s promise to us in our Baptism, being washed of our sins in a cleansing combination of water and fire. One scrubs clean the stain of sin, the other burns and purifies and makes holy. He comes to each of us through faith and dwells within us as living temples to the living God. He assures us of God’s rock solid promise that we belong to Him as He has claimed us as His own. St. Mark boldly proclaims the promise: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (16:16).
And the consequences of God’s grace in the Holy Spirit mean that we no longer live for ourselves. We no longer seek after sin and the ways of the world. Nope! Now we seek first the Kingdom of God. Now we seek delight in His will and walk in His ways to the glory of His Holy Name. Now we seek to talk, just like the Disciples did on that first Pentecost - maybe not in other languages (we have apps for that now anyways) - we seek to share and tell the mighty works of God to those around us! Our friends at school, coworkers, relatives, anyone who will listen and even those who won’t. This becomes the prime directive for our lives as God’s people. Share the Good News that Christ is Risen! Show the Good News by what you do and say. Glorify God in all you do and the world will be changed for the better.
My favorite TV show of all time is without a doubt “24.” It beat out “The A-Team,” but just barely. In 24 you had Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, the lead guy from CTU - Counter Terrorist Unit. It was an action packed, crime fighting adventure packaged as a weekly suspense thriller that left you on a cliff hanger at the end of each episode so that you come back and watch again and again and again! You always want to know what’s happening next! Who is behind the terrorist plot? How is Jack Bauer going to get the information he needs to save the world? Will he strangle the bad guys with a belt or shock them with a severed table lamp cord?! Jack Bauer was willing to do whatever it took and go to any length to accomplish his mission.
The thing that always impressed me about the lead character was that his word was his bond. One of the most famously repeated lines from the show was “I give you my word.” No matter what, if Jack gave you his word, he would keep it. Guaranteed. Imagine if we had a government filled with people who actually did what they said they would? People of integrity who if they gave you their word it actually meant something. There was once a time when all you needed to do a business deal was a man’s good word and a handshake! His word stood for something. His personal honor was on the line. If he went back on his word, he was a shameful snake, not to be trusted, the prince of lies and deceit! Nobody would deal with that miserable wretch. Oh how times have changed on this one – and changed for the worse. We need more people like Jack Bauer. People who make promises and keep them, even when it’s hard, even when it’s tough!
At all the big times of our lives, we make promises. When we are Baptized we make promises, or our Sponsors do on our behalf when we are too little to vocalize them ourselves. We promise that we reject Satan, and all his works and ways; we promise that we believe in the Triune God and His plan of Salvation to forgive the sins of the world through Jesus, and that we want to be part of God’s family the Church and participate in the mission to spread the Good News! Likewise when we get married, we promise before God and the congregation that we will have and hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish our beloved through the whole gambit of wedded love and happiness!
And this conveniently leads us to the second big thing happening today, Confirmation! Today we promise to take greater responsibility for our walk with God. We promise that we want to come to God’s house regularly, hear His Word of Law and Gospel, and receive His Supper as much as we possibly can. We also promise that we are going to strive to live according to God’s commandments and to remain true to Him even to the point of death, suffering all rather than fall away from it. These are not small promises! They are huge. That’s why Confirmation is such a big deal, because we are promising much to ourselves, our Church and our Lord!
“I give you my word” Jack Bauer says. And we know that he means it! But as we make our way through this life, we quickly realize that people seldom keep their word. People promise to bring their baptized babies up in the church and never come back. Husband and wife come to the altar promising forever more and get a divorce 2 weeks later. Or we go to the car dealership and buy a new truck, being assured that oh it’s a good one, reliable and fuel efficient and it turns out to be a heinous lemon! Or our friends say that they care about us, but the next thing you know, they are spreading rumors about us all over Giant Tiger!
With so many promises of great things and so many accompanying failures, whose word can we trust anymore?! That’s the problem with being dirty, rotten sinners – it’s hard to know who to trust. But thanks be to God that He has given to us His Word, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to assure us our sins are forgiven and that God gives us a fresh start in life! And, that He who promised the Holy Spirit made good on that promise and sent us the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who assures us with the peace that surpasses all human understanding, that we have a God who always keep’s His word. He has called us out of the darkness into His marvelous light and shown to us the way of peace. God’s Word never fails, as the psalmist has written “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous laws endures forever” (119:160).
So today is indeed a big day! Be mindful of the promises you will soon make. And be even more mindful of God’s promises to you of faith, forgiveness and abundant life through the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit. Here as God’s family we continue to rejoice in our Lord’s promise and presence in water and the word and in bread and wine. Soon you will give us your word. And thanks be to God that He has given us His in His Spirit. Amen!