When the day of Pentecost arrived, the disciples were in quarantine. It was about 50 days after Easter, and not as much changed as we figure. A couple months pass after Jesus conquering death, and we figure everything’s got to be different now. The Pharisees were still running the temple. Caiaphas still offered sacrifices there as high priest, refusing to believe he already sacrificed the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. The city was still under Roman occupation. The crowd still didn’t do anyone any favors by paying attention to them. Remember who this crowd is. They cried for a revolution when Jesus rode into town on a donkey. They cried for a cross when He didn’t deliver. On Pentecost, the 12 didn’t seek a crowd eager to hear them, the crowd heard a great noise and went to add to it. Pentecost wasn’t the sanctioned and safe beginning of an enthusiastic church we imagine.
We know the miracle of Pentecost, that tongues of fire danced over the apostles’ heads while they preached in languages they never knew. Each devout Jew gathered from every nation, heard in his own tongue the mighty works of God. The thing is, these same devout men spoke with one voice all on their own. No miracle necessary. Together, they cried, “Crucify!” The disciples were brought out of quarantine by God. He didn’t bring them out to preach to those who gathered together cheerfully after making all the right choices in the middle of it. They preached to the sinners who cried out for the death of God. They preached to the terrified. They preached to the confused who did their best and second guessed it every step of the way. They preached to those who hear what God would call good and mocked it then called the messengers drunk for it. They preached to us.
We can go back over the last couple months and wonder, second guess our choices, and attack each other for doing what we thought was best. The thing is, that doesn’t seem to be fixing anything. As it turns out, trying to feel better by making someone else feel worse doesn’t help. But this is the crowd God sends preachers to. Peter preaches hope, not in an action plan for the future. Not in being on the side that made the right choices. He preaches to the ones who put Jesus to death. He tells them Jesus didn’t die because of them, and for them. Of of the sins of all of the sinners gathered that day, the selfishness, the arrogance, the anger, the idolatry, are covered in the blood of God which pays the price for the evil they work. The sinners are forgiven. The path forward is, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Which is good, because God speaks a warning through him too. As weird as it is right now, it’s only going to get weirder.
“‘And 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, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Christians and unbelievers alike get caught in the same mistake. We’re all in this together. We see the same signs and marvel at them. It’s all the world talks about. We live in uncertain times. Look how weird it is. The internet says this all started when a gorilla named Harambe got shot in 2016. The political parties just blame each other. The preppers bought all the toilet paper. Sinners sinned. I don’t think it was any less weird a generation ago, we just didn’t have facebook to point it out. Wars and rumors of wars. Blood. Fire. Disaster. Fear. These have been the air we breathe since the crowds were gathered on Pentecost. And in all of it we miss the most important part. When all you look at are the signs, everyone can tell it’s weird, but nobody can hope in the middle of it. Even the world can see it’s weird down here, but it’s been weird so long we call it the new normal.
The crowd saw the sun blotted out from the sky when Christ was crucified. I’m pretty sure they didn’t mock the disciples and call them drunk for talking about the signs. Everyone was talking about them. Nobody gets filled with new wine and speaks perfectly in languages they never knew. It was what they promised that seemed so ridiculous. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. That’s greater than any sign and wonder you see here. There’s salvation for the crowds of belligerent sinners because God rode into Jerusalem to die for them. There’s salvation in the middle of uncertain times when nobody knows what to do but we’re pretty sure everyone else is doing it wrong because God doesn’t reserve salvation for the ones who navigate the signs, but promises it to those who call upon His name. There’s salvation not in finding a safe place to wait out the dark days or fighting on the front line of whatever thing happens next, but in the God who chose to dwell in this mess to bring you through it. There’s salvation in His death and resurrection, because He died and rose for you. Don’t just look at the signs of the world. Look at the promise. Look at the greatest miracle done on Pentecost, because it’s still going on today. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Peter preached that the church was never founded on safety. It was never founded on things being normal. It was founded on Jesus, who gives salvation to every sinner who calls upon His name no matter what was happening. It’s what you see in our kids today. Confirmation isn’t a graduation. It isn’t a promise that our kids will grow up in a world free from scary things. They won’t. We point blank ask you. Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it? But again, don’t look to the signs. Look to the promise. It’s in the answer. We don’t answer yes. We’re still afraid. It can’t stand on us. We answer yes, with the help of God. God helps you. God saves you. It stands on that. Even for crowds like the sinners who gathered then. Even for crowds like the sinners that gather here today. Even in a world that looks like that. Even in a world that looks like this. Confirmation isn’t the end. Not just because you have more to learn. It’s because God has more help to give.
Pentecost wasn’t the sanctioned and safe beginning of an enthusiastic church we imagine. It was an illegal gathering of belligerent sinners, called, gathered, enlightened, sanctified and kept by the Holy Spirit through the power of God’s word. The church still stands in dangerous times, full of forgiven sinners, and sustained by the same promise. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. This promise is for you, for your children, and for your children’s children. It gives a new identity. Every nation gathered to in Jerusalem was given a new identity that joined them together. Baptized. Christian. Those that saw the signs and still dared to hope. Those who called upon the name of the Lord and were saved.