Walker, MN

PENTECOST Sunday         “The River & the Flood”

May 28, 2023                             Joel 2:28-29 (quoted by Peter, Acts 2)


Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,

Today we celebrate the power of Pentecost  that was poured out on the early Christian Church by the Holy Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit is the 3rd person of the Triune God. That means there was never a time when the Holy Spirit did not exist;  AND there was never a time when the HSP was not doing His work of calling people to faith in the Messiah, the Son of God, & only Savior of the world.  And never was the HSp less powerful or more powerful;  He has always been,  and always will be ALL-powerful.   Nothing on earth,  in the universe, in heaven or in hell,  surpasses the power of the HSp. of God.

However,  in the same way that the Son of God  did not always make use of His power & glory on earth,  so too – the Spirit of God does not always exercise His power  in the same ways  at all times in history.   Sometimes the Spirit uses His power in a dramatic & miraculous way,  like on the Day of Pentecost  when the sound of a mighty wind filled the house,  a flame {like fire} appeared above the Apostle’s heads,  & they spoke of Jesus in foreign languages.

Most of the time  the Spirit is not so visible,  and works in rather simple ways.   Theologians refer to this as the ‘economy of God.’  God doesn’t ‘go all out’ all the time;  He holds back according to His will & purpose, to do things at the proper time.  This is the case throughout much of the OT.  The HSp was active in the OT,  working faith & fruit in the people of God = that’s what He does.   But for about 4,000 years,  from Adam to Jesus,  there were just brief glimpses of the total power of the Spirit of God.   Even with the great miracles of the prophets,  God was still economizing  =holding back=  until the right time.


*Why was Acts 2 the right time?   Because now Jesus-the-Savior had finished His work of the world’s salvation;   only now,  after Jesus’ /suffering in our place,  /dying on the cross for our sins,  /rising from the dead with victory over our enemies,  /& ascending to His position of all power & authority over heaven & earth,   only now  was the special measure of the Spirit given,  as promised -in these last days-  before that Last day  when Jesus comes back again in His glory & judgment.   Only now  is the last ‘great push’  for all people to be turned toward Jesus,  to believe in Him as Lord & God,  and be saved.   But until now,  it was not the right time.

Sometimes we forget how much time the OT history went thru.  Generation after generation of people being born,  growing up & dying,  waiting for God to fulfill His promise  of restoration of this fallen creation,  and the redemption of fallen mankind  thru His one, chosen Messiah.   And until the time of the cross,  God was holding back many things.

We heard this in Numbers 11.  Moses longed for the day  when the HSp would be more powerfully active among the people.   When Joshua told Moses that 2 men in the camp  were beginning to prophesy,  [which means they spoke & taught the Word of the Lord accurately to others],   Moses said,  “Are you jealous for my sake?  I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets,  and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them all!”    About 1,500 years later,  God finally did what Moses thought would be good,  & what God promised thru the Prophet Joel:  “I will pour out my Spirit on them all.”


The Day of Pentecost can be pictured like opening the floodgates of a dam,  and the Spirit bursting forth to create & grow the Church.   When a dam is built on a river for hydroelectric power,  that doesn’t stop the river from flowing downstream,  it economizes it.   The river still flows downstream  so folks can water their gardens & fields,  so towns have water for drinking & bathing.  Thru-out the OT,  the work & blessing of the HSp was a river that watered God’s people,  who bore the fruit of faith  as they were empowered for 4,000 yrs  to bring the Savior into the world.

Finally,  the time came for God to open the floodgates & throw the big switch;  and the power & results of the Spirit’s work was increased a thousand-fold.  The Hoover Dam holds back 6½ million tons of water,  controlling the river that provides 4 bill.kilowatts of power for over a million people;  think of the flood of destruction if that dam bursts.  At Pentecost, God’s dam bursts;  not in destruction, but in mission.  The HSp’s work is unleashed, & the NT Church of Christ begins to flood the whole world;  the Spirit empowers millions of people to believe in Christ,  and to produce the fruit of faith in their lives = to the glory of God.

Peter understood this event & this difference between the OT river  and the NT flood.  When the crowd said,  “they’re filled with new wine,”   Peter quickly corrected them:  “No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel!   In the last days, God says,  I will pour out my Spirit on all people”.        


Thru Peter,  God has called our days  ‘The Last Days.’   Since that Pentecost Day,  and for about 2,000 years now,  the next thing to come in God’s plan  is Judgment Day.  On that Pentecost day,  the last stage began.   Since that day,  the Christian Church is being supplied with its fuller power  for its final mission~push.  The Gospel of Christ is to be proclaimed to  the ends of the earth = to all people.  The message of forgiveness in Jesus brings souls into eternal life.  The HSp will continue that work until Jesus makes His return.


So,  between the Old & the New Testaments,  we see this work of the Spirit & the difference between the life-giving River  and the powerful Flood.   The HSp was there thru the preaching of the OT prophets;   God’s Spirit was present & working thru the OT sacrifices to forgiven the sins of the people  in view of the Cross to come;  God prescribed those OT worship ceremonies so the Spirit would strengthen their faith in the mercy of the coming Messiah.

And that River of Blessing fully sustained & nourished God’s people with the faith that carried them thru death to life.

And then came the fulfillment of the amazing physical presence of the Lamb-of-God.   The Apostles were the first to grasp Him;  and now you & I are part of God’s NT people.  It is an undeserved privilege  that we should be included in this time in the history of the people of God.  It’s a holy calling that we should be among the ‘children of God’,  but that is what we are.  Scripture says that the only ones who will be with Him in heavenly life  are those who belong to the Christian faith;  those who believe  and are Baptized in Christ.

You & I are part of His NT Church;  included in that number of those born anew by the flood of Pentecost.   WE have been given something the OT people only dreamed of;  the fulfillment of Moses’ wish.  We have the hydroelectric//baptismal power of Pentecost;  the fuller & more complete manifestation of the HSp.    But just like them back then,  we are still sinful people,  and we need simple ceremonies & tools  to strengthen & remain in this living faith.

Like those of the OT,  we are also wandering sheep;  so the gospel of our salvation needs to be easy to find, & easy to use, & share with the world.    As the OT people had God’s Spirit working thru the prophet’s Word,  & thru the sacrifices & ceremonies given thru Moses,  SO you & I have God’s Spirit working thru the Word & Sacraments given by Jesus  thru His Apostles.

Our Baptism is the OT Circumcision made better;  / the Lord’s Supper is the OT Passover meal made better;  / the written Scripture is the Word of prophecy made better  by the Word of fulfillment in Jesus;   it’s written down by the Spirit for all of us to speak.  In these Last Days,  the Word & Sacraments have Christ’s command for us to use,  with His promise of forgiveness & strength for this faith & life.

So,  every time we  /study the Scriptures,  /attend the services of His Word,  /contemplate our Baptism,  /or receive the Lord’s Supper,  the Holy Spirit is there working in us to confirm our faith,  and to equip us for living a life of humble obedience to Christ.  This is the NT work of the Spirit;  that we would obey Jesus’ teaching,  and serve our neighbor in His mercy & kindness,  and to always be ready to share the hope we have in the Savior.

If I were to ask you:  ‘would you like to be a stronger Christian?’  ‘would you like to have answers when others ask spiritual questions?’  ‘would you like to  -more often- stand firm against the temptations to sin?   Of course!  We all would.  The desire of every Christian is to live a more confident & faithful life.

Well, God has provided the tools used by His Spirit to enable those things:  thru His Word and His Sacraments.  +When we hear & read God’s Scriptures,  the HSp has promised to work on us.  +When we are reminded of our Baptism~birth;  +when we come to The Lord’s Holy Meal to eat & drink of Christ,  these are the NT tools that the Spirit-of-God is using

=in these Last Days=  to increase our faith & wisdom  for a strong & holy life.


I wonder if (for example)  Moses & Jeremiah would have wanted to live in the NT time  rather than in the OT time.   Do you think they would’ve rather done those animal sacrifices & holy-day pilgrimages to Jerusalem   OR  celebrate Jesus’ Christmas,  Good Friday & Easter, Ascension & Pentecost,  and have Baptism & the Lord’s Supper as holy Sacraments?  I’m glad I didn’t live in the OT times;  to live under all those Levitical ceremonies & sacrifices & journeys on foot.   It seems to me that our NT times are more simplified & focused.

And yet, we still complain about having to set aside time for Sunday worship;  we grumble about having to serve the Lord in church,  or giving our offerings;   we resist repenting of our sins & we don’t always value the pastor’s absolution of forgiveness in the name & stead of Jesus.   We might complain when Communion makes the worship service longer;  & we can neglect to do a daily devotion & prayer.

So, *what’s the problem — do we forget the blessing of the Word, worship & sacrament?  Those are the actual ways the Holy-Spirit-of-God is now  /communicating to us, / connecting us to God, /guiding our lives,  /forgiving our sins,  /& enabling us to look with confidence beyond death itself  to our real & eternal life to come.

Our problem is sin;  we are tempted away from the very things that would give us  strength against doubts & fears.  It was the same in the OT.  The prophets scolded the people for turning away from God’s things.  They, too, had many distractions from the real things of faith.  Whether OT or NT,  we are all guilty of treating God’s things poorly, and not valuing the things He gives  by which the Spirit conveys to us forgiveness & life.   But despite our resistance,  the HSpirit keeps working on us,  & for us.


By the HSp,  the people of the OT  lived in the light of the promise of the Messiah.

The Spirit connected them to that coming Savior  by means of the word of the prophets,  and  the sacrifices & ceremonies commanded by God thru Moses.  That was like living by God’s nourishing river,  and by that gift of faith in Christ,  they were saved.

And now  many things have been accomplished in history  and fulfilled in Jesus’ life & ministry.   So,  today we celebrate that  The Day came  when God opened the floodgates  so that in these Last Days,  the Spirit of God would be poured out on all people.  It’s the last great push for the Gospel mission,    so that every tribe, nation, & language of people will know that Jesus is the Christ,  the Son of God;   and that by believing & being baptized in Him,  they will have eternal life in His name.

‘The River & the Flood’ is one way to describe the meaning of Pentecost,  and the work of the Spirit.   The HSp is at work  so that we all will live in Christ Jesus,   obey His teaching,  worship Him as God & Lord,   and be ready to welcome Him  when He returns in glory on the Last Day.