Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 10, 2020 (Rev. Stan Temme)
Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 17, 2020 (Rev. Stan Temme)
Seventh Sunday of Easter – May 24, 2020 (Rev. Stan Temme)
Pentecost – May 31, 2020 (Rev. Stan Temme)
United by the Holy Spirit
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text is from the Old Testament reading. Moses said, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” Here ends our text.
These past few months have been a time of anxiety, isolation, and loneliness for all of us. The population of our communities has remained the same, and we have people all around us, living in their homes, driving in their cars, shopping in stores, and laboring at their workplace. And yet because of the threat of disease and death, we’re socially distant, and we feel alone. We have fear and anxiety about our jobs, income, and savings. Where will our daily bread come from? So, naturally, we complain about our misfortunes. We grumble about what our president and governors are doing or not doing. Our government leaders are also surrounded by people, and yet they must feel lonely at the top. All the masses crying out for their bread, sustenance, and security. What a burden to bear alone.
Imagine how Moses must have felt in our Old Testament reading. The Lord had anointed Moses with the Holy Spirit to lead the Israelites out of slavery, but now they had left their security in Egypt. They were alone in the wilderness, living in tents. We complain when the grocery stores are missing one of our favorite commodities that we crave, but these people had only manna to eat. It was like eating oatmeal everyday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They craved meat to eat and the fruits and vegetables which they had left in Egypt. They were uncertain about the future.
When would they run out of the little they did have? So, naturally, they complained about their misfortunes. They grumbled about what Moses was doing or not doing. Their leader Moses was surrounded by about two million people, and yet he must have felt so lonely. All the masses crying out for meat, sustenance, and security. What a burden to bear alone.
So what does Moses do? He cries out to the Lord. You might say he pours out his complaint to God. He laments, “Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight.” The burden of carrying the needs and the complaints of all these people by himself is too much for Moses. He can’t do it alone. His anxiety is so great that he pleads with God to kill him at once if he has found favor with God. How many government rulers, corporate leaders and managers, and even pastors despair and ask God to take their life rather than carry the burden of their people alone? How many isolated individuals just want the pain to go away and ask the Lord the same?
What is the Lord’s response? He has compassion, enough compassion to do something about it. The Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel and bring them to the tent of meeting. I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.” The gift of the Holy Spirit which God had bestowed upon Moses, he also promised to put on 70 of their elders to bear the burden with Moses. The Lord also promised a change of diet by giving the people meat to eat. Moses, of course, was skeptical. “Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered, or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together and be enough for them?” But the Lord replied, “Is the Lord’s hand too short? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”
So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. Moses didn’t tell the people his own words. These were God’s words. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on the seventy elders. As soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it. Two of the elders weren’t present at the Tabernacle, but they began prophesying God’s word back at the camp. Joshua complained, “My lord Moses, stop them.” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” Moses was relieved. He no longer carried the burden of the people alone. God the Holy Spirit now dwelt upon seventy of the elders to share this burden with him. The Lord even sent quail in the evening to provide meat for the people to eat. Moses was satisfied. The people were satisfied. And God was satisfied with his people and their servant Moses. Instead of division, isolation, and loneliness, the Holy Spirit had united them into a holy people to receive the Lord’s blessings and serve him.
Imagine, though, how Jesus must have felt. He’d left the security of heaven to become man. God the Father found favor with Jesus and anointed him with the Holy Spirit at his baptism to deliver his people from the bondage of their sins. But how alone Jesus must have felt. All these people coming to him with their sickness to heal, their sins to forgive, and their stomachs to fill. All the masses crying out. Jesus fed them with his Word, his absolution, and his miraculous powers. But it was such a burden to carry by himself. Yes, Jesus had twelve disciples, but they weren’t much help. They argued about who was greatest. They complained about carrying their cross. At his most trying time when Jesus suffered great anxiety in the Garden of Gethsemane, they all deserted him and fled. Jesus was all alone at his trial, alone when he was mocked and beaten, alone when he was crucified. Even his Father in heaven forsook him as he bore the sins of the world alone. Jesus had found favor with God and pleaded that the cup of his wrath might be taken away, and yet it was God’s will to kill him for us. Jesus didn’t take his own life in despair, rather he laid it down of his own accord. His Father took his life when he received his spirit.
But when Jesus atoned for the sins of the world, God was satisfied with his sacrifice. After Jesus’ body was three days alone in the tomb, the Holy Spirit made him alive in the body and raised him from the dead. Jesus was reunited in body and spirit. By the Holy Spirit, Jesus was reunited with his disciples and believers in him. This is the same Holy Spirit which Jesus proclaims in our Gospel reading today. It was during the Feast of Tabernacles, when the Israelites remembered how God preserved them in tents in the wilderness. Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” This “living water” Jesus said about the Holy Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive after Jesus was glorified.
It was now after Jesus was glorified in his death on the cross, his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension to the right hand of the Father. It wasn’t the Feast of Tabernacles, but the Feast of Pentecost. The twelve disciples were isolated, hiding in the upper room from anxiety and fear of death. Like the Israelites thirsted in the wilderness, they thirsted for the water of life. Just as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit came upon them in a rushing wind and tongues of fire. Just like he did for Moses, God took the Holy Spirit which had dwelled on Jesus and put it on the disciples. As soon as the Holy Spirit rested upon them, they began to prophesy. The Holy Spirit united them in doctrine, united them in purpose, and united them in speaking the Gospel message which flowed out of their mouths in other languages. Living water flowing out of their hearts. Jews from every nation heard in their own language the mighty works of God in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit also came upon them to bestow the gift of faith in Jesus. They repented and were baptized for the forgiveness of sins, and 3,000 were added to the kingdom of God that day. They’d been separated by language, but now the Holy Spirit united them by faith.
But it wasn’t just the disciples who prophesied or the Jews who received the Holy Spirit. After Pentecost, Moses’ wish finally came true. Moses hoped that all the Lord’s people would be prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them. The Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet Joel and through Peter on Pentecost, “In the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” This prophecy has come true now in these last days. People who are thirsty today still come to Jesus and drink. When they’re told the Word of the Lord, God pours out the Holy Spirit upon them. You are one of those people. You’ve heard the message of the Gospel in your own language, and the Holy Spirit has given you faith to believe in Christ. Not only that, but the Lord has kept his promise to change your diet and give you a different food to eat. With bread in the form of manna and meat in the form of quail, God fed the Israelites. But Jesus feeds us his body in the form of bread and his blood in the form of wine. Would there ever be enough for all of us? Yes, indeed. The Lord’s hand is not too short. Like the manna and the quail, he never runs out of his body and blood. He never runs out of the blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
In the past we were separated, fearful, and alone. But today as we celebrate Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has united us. He’s united us in doctrine, in purpose, and in speaking the Gospel message. Our mission statement on our banner speaks the truth. “United by the Holy Spirit, Trinity Lutheran Church and School joyfully proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ and serves all people with Christian love.” You are the sons and daughters who prophesy. United by the Holy Spirit, rivers of living water flow out or your heart and through your mouth to joyfully proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people. We eat of God’s Word and drink of his Spirit. Jesus is satisfied. We’re satisfied. And God is satisfied with his people and their servant Jesus. Instead of division, isolation, and loneliness, the Holy Spirit has united us into a holy people to receive the Lord’s blessings and serve him. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.