Thy Kingdom Come: Now Cause the Word of Life to Shine

Text: Acts 2:1-21
Date: The Day of Pentecost + 6/4/17

On this day every year, and unlike all other festivals where the Holy Gospel leads the way, on this day every year the main reading is the account of the Day of Pentecost recorded by the Holy Evangelist Saint Luke in the book of Acts. Almost like the birth process everything has been leading up to this day—everything. The Holy Spirit made His first appearance already in creation in the second verse of Genesis one. Throughout the Old Testament the Spirit was “limited” so to speak in leading and guiding and causing faith in the hearts of God’s chosen people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David who prayed “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me” (Ps 25:3-4). We heard how the Spirit came down, not upon all, but upon only the seventy men of the elders of the people of Israel as they were on their way in the Exodus, but only to them. Nevertheless Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wished, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” And how we see and hear the Spirit in the coming of Jesus into our flesh: the inspired songs of Simeon and Mary. Jesus Himself foretold of the coming of the Holy Spirit any number of times, but not yet, as St. John told us today, “because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

Jesus was glorified on the cross, that is, in the majestic work of giving His life, His body and blood on the cross taking away our sins, then the empty tomb of His resurrection for our justification. At His ascension the disciples prayed “Thy kingdom come” once more as they asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:6-8). But not yet as the disciples remembered also the risen Lord’s words, “But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49).

So has the entire work of our salvation been done for us by God alone, working through His word alone in the various holy men and women of His own through the Holy Spirit. But today is like the birth of a newborn. We could call it the birthday of the Holy Church Throughout the World. For today the Holy Spirit is given to everybody, without hesitation or distinction. How did Luke list the first audience? “Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians.” And we might as well add to the list: people from Africa and Europe, Germany, Australia, South America and even to our own land in North America. Now is the Holy Spirit given freely, lavishly, almost recklessly to almost all; “almost” because now there is only one restriction, for the Holy Spirit is given through the means of God’s Word.

All these people from all over the known world were hearing in their own languages, the hundred and twenty or so disciples speaking to them. And what were they speaking? “We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” That is what God’s word is all about; all His mighty works from our creation to our salvation. That is what alone is the interest of God the Holy Spirit. Not calling attention to Himself or to so-called miracles or spectacular displays but to Jesus Christ who is the Word of God. In the Hymn of the Day Martin Luther makes this clear as he has us sing:

Come, holy Light, guide divine,
Now cause the Word of life to shine. (LSB 497:2)

All of this was prophesied by the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28). The Spirit now comes upon all flesh, sons, daughters, young men, old men, male servants and female servants, you, me and even among the Gentiles! And for what purpose? “And they shall prophesy,” that is preach, witness and proclaim the mighty acts of God to everyone who will hear. And we will do that, we must do that, because the Holy Spirit wishes to create saving faith in the hearts of all, so that “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

“You will be my witnesses…to the end of the earth.” You have been given the saving faith and now also received power to be His witnesses. Here is the full answer to our prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” George Herbert caught the high joy and vision of Pentecost when he wrote:

Let all the world in every corner sing,
My God and King!
The heavens are not too high,
His praise may thither fly,
The earth is not too low,
His praises there may grow.
Let all the world in every corner sing,
My God and King!

Let all the world in every corner sing,
My God and King!
The church with psalms must shout,
no door can keep them out;
But, above all, the heart
must bear the longest part.
Let all the world in every corner sing,
My God and King! (Antiphon I, George Herbert)

This year we have been unfolding the meaning of our prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come.” It all comes down to this. Now the only thing left is for the Kingdom to come to others, our children, our families, our neighbors, the whole world by means of proclaiming the mighty Word of God. Now we enter the time of the Church, the Sundays counted after Pentecost, after Trinity where we learn how the Kingdom of Christ makes us grow in faith. Blessed are you, for the kingdom of heaven is yours.