Pentecost Day – The Holy Spirit gives power to our word

Sunday, May 23, 2021

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Gather Together

How do you know if I mean it? Owen and Andrew, both of you have had catechism class with me. And you know that there are things that are important to me as your pastor. How do you know? I suppose, you might say that I say them differently than normal. But, really, you know that there is an important matter to know when I repeat it. God’s word is the same. We know it’s an important topic when it is emphasized. But we really know it’s an important topic when it’s repeated. This morning we’re going to look at one of the important matters that is important to your Triune God. And it’s important because it’s repeated. In the book of Joel, we read: 1 The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel: 2 Hear this, you elders; listen, all you inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors? 3 Tell your children about it, and let your children tell their children, and their children the next generation.” (Joel 1:1–3 CSB17)

What is it that is repeated in in God’s word over and over again? The Lord asks and invites to gather together around God’s word. This is important to our Lord. But in the words that follow, we see who it is that the Lord wants to gather around his word: 15 Blow the ram’s horn in Zion! Announce a sacred fast; proclaim a solemn assembly. 16 Gather the people; sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the infants, even babies nursing at the breast. Let the groom leave his bedroom, and the bride her honeymoon chamber. 17 Let the priests, the Lord’s ministers, weep between the portico and the altar.” (Joel 2:15–17 CSB17)

There’s a context in these words. The Lord’s people are facing two major problems. First, there are locusts that are devouring the crops. Second, there is an army that is killing the Lord’s people. The people ask what they are going to do about this problem. And the Lord answers their question. He tells them, “gather together.” But notice who it is that the Lord invites to gather together. It’s those who might seem to have an excuse to be away from worship at the temple. He says, “assemble the aged” (Joel 2:16 CSB17) There might be the temptation to say, “I’m old, I have arthritis and my hips don’t move as smoothly as they used. I should stay home.” And the Lord says, “assemble the aged” (Joel 2:16 CSB17) Next he speaks to the infants. There might be the temptation to say, “they are too young. They’re not getting anything out of this.’” But the Lord says, “gather the infants,” (Joel 2:16 CSB17) And finally, there’s the newly-weds. They’re on their honeymoon. So let’s leave them alone. They get to stay away from worship days and months because they need time together. And the Lord boldly says to all these groups, “Gather them all here for worship.” So the Lord answers the “who” question with “everyone.” But, in what follows we find the answer to a different question: Why: “Let them say, “Have pity on your people, Lord, and do not make your inheritance a disgrace, an object of scorn among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”” (Joel 2:17 CSB17)

Why is it so important from the Lord’s perspective that we gather together? Each of us has problems in our lives. We live in a sinful, broken world. And the brokenness of our world gets to us every day. And when we endure hardship, we face temptations. First, we face the temptation to solve our problems away from God. If we aren’t gathering together we can begin to think, “I got this. I don’t need God.’” But we do. The second temptation is to conclude that we can solve our problems away from God’s people. There is this weird, strange conclusion that I keep bumping into now days where people pretend they can be Christians, but away—away from God’s people in worship and bible study.

But Andrew and Owen, we need each other. God has placed us in our lives together to grow up together. One of the wonderful facts of growing up in a small town is that each of you are going to know each other years down the road. And you have the privilege of helping each other along the way. When I think of this, I think of the picture in the basement with Charlie and Jeff in it. There they were, in the same confirmation class. And, evidently, their path looked like this: Step one: get confirmed. Step two: Settle in on a name of a future wife. Step three: go out and get her. But for both of you, you might want to stay away from “Samantha.” It looks like that name is already. What does that look like? It’s remembering the nick-names you called each other when you were young. I had a hard time not laughing when Tory called Jeff, “Nordy.”

And Owen and Andrew, I don’t see that as a weakness. I see that as a strength. For each of you can grow up and grow together in your every day life. You can talk about video games, and ATV’s, and hunting. But even more than that, you can grow together in your spiritual life. If you talk about video games, vehicles, and guns, how much more can you talk about your faith. If you end up straying and staying away from worship and bible study for a while, God has placed each of you in each other’s life. And each of you can ask the other, “Hey, it’s been a while since you’ve been in church. You going through a hard time?” God has placed you in a church together to kindly correct each other. But God’s word gives us another real reason to gather together: 18 Then the Lord became jealous for his land and spared his people. 19 The Lord answered his people: Look, I am about to send you grain, new wine, and fresh oil. You will be satiated with them, and I will no longer make you a disgrace among the nations. 20 I will drive the northerner far from you and banish him to a dry and desolate land, his front ranks into the Dead Sea, and his rear guard into the Mediterranean Sea. His stench will rise; yes, his rotten smell will rise, for he has done astonishing things.” (Joel 2:18–20 CSB17)

We gather together to kindly correct each other. But we also gather together to remind each other of the astonishing good that God has given us. Life isn’t always easy. In the bible it says that it is necessary that we go through many hardships before we enter the kingdom of heaven. So it’s easy to forget. It’s easy to forget the good that God is giving to you. God has placed each of you in each other’s lives to remind each other of the astonishing good. Remind each other of the faith you share. For there are so many that do not have this confidence. Remind each other of your forgiveness that Jesus won. I once had a professor who said that you are going to do things before the ages of 15 and 25 that will keep you awake when you are 65. And it’s true. So often, it takes someone else to show us and remind us that we are forgiven. And finally, remind each other of your future. If we go through this life alone, it’s so easy to have the failings and faults of today push out the promises of our future. Remind each other to run your race with perseverance. For your finish line isn’t getting confirmed or graduating high school. Your finish line is heaven. Now, and the rest of your lives, gather together for worship. For you need each other for kindly correction and confident encouragement. Amen.

Pastor at Immanuel, Steve Bauer

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