Three points are easier to remember if they all begin with the same letter. Case in point: Business owners know that it’s all about people, process and product. Marketing professionals place the logical order of products as price, place and then promotion. Relationship professional advise men to protect, provide and profess their love for family. The key ingredients to being a chef are patience, presence and practice. Finally, if you practice first aid, then you must preserve life, prevent further injury and promote recovery.
While I do not expect you to remember all those Ps, they illustrate that points are easier to remember if all the words begin with the same letter. That said, for Pentecost, I focus on pneumatology, passage and a practical application.
First, pneumatology. Pneumatology refers to a particular discipline within Christian theology that focuses on the study of the Holy Spirit. We derive the term from the Greek word pneuma meaning breath or spirit that symbolically describes a non-material being or influence; and logos meaning teaching about. Pneumatology includes study of the person and works of the Holy Spirit. Works of the Holy Spirit includes teachings on new birth, spiritual gifts, sanctification, the inspiration of prophets, and the indwelling of the Holy Trinity.
The early Church engaged in debates over the divinity of Jesus led to similar arguments about the Holy Spirit. Later, during the Medieval period, a debate ensued regarding the relationship between Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Eastern Church situated in Constantinople asserted that the Holy Spirit ‘proceeds’ from the Father alone, as stated in the original Nicene Creed, while the Western Church added to the Creed the clause filioque meaning that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
During the Reformation and Counter-reformationthe relationship between the Spirit and the Scriptures was re-examined. Martin Luther and John Calvin held that the Spirit has a certain ‘interpretive authority’ to ‘illuminate’ scripture, while Counter-reformation theologians responded that the Spirit authorized the Church to serve as authoritative interpreter of Scripture.
Contemporary pneumatology, marked by the Pentecostal movement in various denominations, understands a distinctive relationship between the Spirit and the Church community. Various contemporary theologians see the Spirit as the authority that governs the church, liberates oppressed communities and creates experiences associated with faith.
Now, before I move to my second point, your word for the day is pneumatology. Start a conversation about pneumatology at Sunday dinner, while watching the Cubs or Sox or around the water cooler or coffee pot at work. Discuss pneumatology with conviction and certainty – like you are filled with the Holy Spirit. And so, we move from pneumatology to passage.
In Acts 2, Luke focuses our attention on Pentecost. Pentecost was an agricultural feast where Jews celebrated not only the harvest but also the giving of the Torah. It was known as the Shav – u’– oth or the Feast of Weeks. This festival was celebrated 7 weeks or 50 days after Passover. It brought farmers from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Asia, Egypt, Libya and Rome to Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot. They came to thank God for the harvest and for the Law.
The original agricultural feast later became a commemoration of God giving the Covenant and Law on Mt Sinai. For Christians, the celebration of the gift of the Law embraced the giving of the new law in the spirit, the writing of the law on the heart. We read in Jeremiah, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah … I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Paul echoed the Second Letter to the Corinthians, “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
The coming of the Holy Spirit fulfilled this meaning of Pentecost. The opening verses introduce the festival of Pentecost. It declares a salvation event of highest importance, the actual turning point when Israel begins to separate itself from unbelievers to become the Church. To illustrate this Luke assembled a vast representation of all Israel to hear the apostles.
The signs that manifested the Spirit, the loud noise like a strong wind and the tongues of fire, evoked divine appearances on Mount Sinai to Moses and Elijah. Yet, the sign that Luke most emphasized that the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit was their speaking in different tongues or languages.
The fact that many Jews from different nations heard the apostles speaking in their own tongues of the mighty acts of God signified that the ancient tragedy of Babel was reversed. And the apostles’ “drunken state” symbolized joy and abundant blessings. Yet, the onlookers’ reaction was astonishment and bewilderment. At Pentecost it was clear that the new wine of the Holy Spirit, the gift of God’s love, was poured into human hearts, as Paul remined Christians in Rome.
Again, we move from passage to a practical application. Here, today, we confirm 3 young people: Abigail Howard, Brett Seivert and Christian Woerner. Lutheran confirmation is a public profession of faith prepared for by long and careful instruction. This mature and public profession of the faith marks the completion of the congregation's program of confirmation ministry. Thank you for preparing these young people. ….
And now, since these young people have been studying Luther’s Small Catechism for some time, a bit of catechesis for the rest of you. As Lutherans, we do not treat confirmation as a sacrament of the Gospel in the way we do Baptism and the Eucharist. Yet, we lack a universally accepted definition of confirmation and a consistent approach to it. It’s the Lutheran way.
Luther approved the 1540 Brandenburg Church Order and subscribed to the 1545 Wittenberg Reformation. His emphasis on instruction, especially in preparation for the Lord's Supper, proved to be a major contribution to a new type of confirmation associated not only with Baptism but also with the Lord's Supper.
Where confirmation is associated with Baptism and the Lord's Supper, as is usually the case, 3 essential elements of confirmation are: (1) a course of instruction preceding the rite; (2) profession of faith, usually made through an examination and summarized in formal questions in the rite; (3) and intercessory prayers by the congregation, normally with imposition of hands.
Baptism, not confirmation, normally marks the beginning of one's membership in the church. But here we are preparing to celebrate the confirmation of Abigail, Brett and Christian.
And so, it behooves me to ask you how the Holy Spirit is active in your life today. It is a question I ask all of you. Applying the passage practically, how is the Holy Spirit active in your life today?
Preparing for this sermon, I sent the passage from Acts to some friends along with this question: How is the Holy Spirit active in my life today?
My friend, David from Naperville, responded with this: When I think “living in the Spirit” or walking with God, I focus on three priorities that your love and resulting time should have: God first, family second, and all others third.
When I read the scripture in Acts that you forwarded I am taken to every conference or function where Christians from all over get together that I have attended. The lack of personal or other agendas is gone. Focus is on God first, and what he is doing, or not, in your life. It gives me insight into what heaven will be like.
One of the first times I felt this, and I have felt it many times since, was when I attended the first Urbana (yes, I am that old). It had Christians from all over, and we were of one mind, and one focus. It was a great experience.
A friend named from Pittsburgh wrote this: The Holy Spirit is probably my go to. Since I have never had an original thought in my life, when reading Scripture, and particularly when preparing to preach I seek the guidance of the Spirit. On a day to day basis I pray to the Spirit to make me aware of and alert to opportunities to bring God's presence into every day circumstances. Over the last 35 years, I have repeatedly trusted in and acted upon His/Her urgings. That's how I wound up [being ordained as a deacon, and then living] in Tennessee and now Mississippi.
My cousin’s wife in San Diego said this: My religious education is pretty slim, having gone to public school, the only thing we got was an hour a week at CCD. I'm not sure I can directly say how the Holy Spirit influences my life, but I know there are times when things mysteriously work out and I say it's a “God Thing.” So, since the Holy Spirit is part of God, I suppose I’m getting guidance and comfort from him at those times too.
The signs I like best are the many, I mean many, times a hummingbird has appeared just when I needed it. The hummingbird is my connection to my mother who passed away 30 years ago. I believe God sends a sign of her angel existence in this form to show love and constant companionship. Is that the Holy Spirit maybe helping? Probably.
Finally, my college friend living in St. Louis replied with these words: I visited Rome for the first time with my daughter three years ago. We had a tour through the Vatican, starting at the Vatican Museums. The only part of the tour which I was interested in was The Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. The Chapel was magnificent; and filled with lots of people and tour groups; yet everyone was reverent and respectful. I noticed an Asian tour group, in St. Peter's Basilica, in a line touching the feet of some statue. So, I joined the group at the end of the line to see what was so special about this statue. When I touched the feet of the statue, some powerful force came through me, then I knew something was special. I went back to the statue to read that it was a bronze statue of St. Peter, holding the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.
She concluded her remarks with: The Holy Spirit is definitely dwelling among us. The Holy Spirit is definitely dwelling among us. The Spirit may not present itself in the same manner as it did to the Apostles on that original Pentecost, but in some manner or form, the Spirit is present among us.
Friends the Holy Spirit did not cease being active in the Church with the last page of the New Testament. Rather, throughout the centuries Scripture and the Holy Spirit have infused the lives of countless men and women that they themselves became living gospels. You are the living gospels because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As you depart from here, reflect on how the Holy Spirit makes you a living gospel and share that good news with others, and when you do may the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 William S. Kurz, Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 44.
 Jeremiah 31:31, 33.
 2 Corinthians 3:2-3.
 JBC, 730
 See Exodus 19:16-19; 1 Kings 19: 11-13.
 Kurz, 45.
 Kurz, 45. See Genesis 11:1-9.
 Romans 5:5.
 See Confirmation at http://cyclopedia.lcms.org.
 Christopher A. Hall, Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1998), 35.