‘Building with Fire’
Pentecost | 12 June 2011
Fifty days after the Lord rescued His people from bondage in Egypt they came to the base of Mt Sinai. They found that mountain covered in fire and clouds, and were given the command not to set a foot upon it, and God spoke to them from the fire and gave them the Ten Commandments. This is the origin of the Old Testament feast of Pentecost, and this is not what we are celebrating today.
Fifty days after our Lord Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin and death and the devil, as the disciples were huddling for fear of their lives, our ascended Lord Jesus sent His promised Holy Spirit, and He came, and He came to the disciples, resting above them like tongues of fire, and they preached. In every language they preached the death and resurrection of Jesus, and repentance, and the forgiveness of sins. Peter stood up that day and preached, with boldness, without fear. He called sin sin, and He called Jesus the Savior of sinners, and that day 3,000 were baptized.
This is what we celebrate today, the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Some have called this the birthday of the church. I don’t like this too much because it implies that they church wasn’t there yet, in the temple or in the homes of the Lord’s Old Testament people, in the ark, in the Garden, wherever the Lord’s people gathered around His Word the church was there, in fact, the Holy Spirit was there creating faith and forgiving sin. But there is something quite wonderful happening on Pentecost, and it is very good to connect it to the church, to the life of the church.
In fact, the Holy Spirit builds the church. That is what He is sent by the risen and ascended Lord Jesus to do. And, in fact, it might be enough this morning to say just that, that the Holy Spirit builds the church. Most of the talk about the Holy Spirit these days is anti-church, completely individualistic; the Holy Spirit is like some sort of internal tazer: Zap! You’ve got the Holy Spirit, and you know it because know body around you has any idea what you are doing or saying, you’re shaking on the floor, or you are speaking in tongues, or you are acting completely impulsively against all of your better judgments, and this is proof that the Holy Spirit is here. Wrong.
The presence of the Holy Spirit is known by the preaching of the Word. This was true on the first New Testament Pentecost. It was true in the Old Testament Pentecost. It is true today. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. The Holy Spirit builds the church.
The Third Article of the creed tells a story. I believe in the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Christian Church, in the Communion of Saints, in the Forgiveness of Sins, the Resurrection of the Body and the Life Everlasting. These are not six independent things. They go together; they tell a story. Like this: I believe in the Holy Spirit who builds and sustains the holy Christian Church. This Church is nothing other that the communion of saints. They are made saints by the forgiveness of sins (which the Holy Spirit delivers to us in the Church). Because we are forgiven, when have the sure hope that the Holy Spirit will give us the gifts of the resurrection of the body and everlasting life. Forgiving our sins and building the church, these are all the work of the Holy Spirit.
But we can say even more this morning. We want to avoid abstractions at all costs. We want to close the gap between the Word of God and us, lets the devil have a little hole to sneak in there and do his work. So instead of saying the Holy Spirit builds the church, we will go all the way and say, The Holy Spirit builds this church. This one right here: Hope Lutheran Church, Aurora, CO.
We do not, of course, intend to say that the Holy Spirit is only working here in this place, and no where else. The Holy Spirit is working throughout the world, in every corner of this planet where the Word is preached and the Sacraments are handed out to the Lord’s people. But we are here, and so is the Holy Spirit.
We are celebrating Charter Member Sunday this morning, giving thanks to God for all the families that have been here since the beginning, and so I was doing a little study on the history of our congregation these past few weeks. Here are a few interesting things I noted:
In 1952 six families from area churches established the East Aurora Mission Society for the purpose of establishing a new church on this far edge of town. (Peoria, right?, was still a dirt road, and there were farms all around here.)
In the Mission Society meetings the name was discussed. On March 3, 1953, it was decided that the name of the congregation would be “Trinity Lutheran Church.” On March 17th (two weeks later) that name was changed to “Hope.” (The minutes show that the name St Mark’s won the first popular vote, but that seemed too close to St Matthew’s which was already establish down the street.)
Our congregation is 58 years, 1 month and 29 days old today.
The parsonage was purchased on 2361 Kingston, right up the street, and I heard stories this morning about how there where chairs set up in the basement and the services were held there.
Hope Lutheran Church was officially established on the 14th of April, 1953. There were 79 communicant members, 142 baptized members, and the average number of people in attendance in the three months before the establishment of the congregation was 103 (in the basement).
The total budget for the first year was $8,015.
Our congregation had the most members in 1968, 1,213 baptized and 810 communicant. (Now we have about 310-315 baptized.)
Hope has had eight senior pastors. Many of you remember these names. Some of you are hearing them for the first time.
Pastor Walter Malinsky 1953-1958.
Pastor Walter Kirk, 1958-1973
Pastor Tom Meyer, 1973-1979
Pastor Lenoard Martin, 1980-1990
Pastor Gerald Harms, 1991-1995
Pastor Gary Bell, 1995-1999
Pastor Bob Paulson, 2000-2004
Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller, 2005-present (quite literally. I, by the way, find it helpful to remember that I’m just the most recent person to stand in the pulpit, and, if the Lord tarries, that this pulpit will be filled with the Lord’s law and Gospel long after I’m gone.)
One more historical note: the original sanctuary (where the Sunday School rooms are now) was built in 1953, and this sanctuary was built in 1963.
There’s more, and if you are new to our congregation, you might have fun asking some of the old-timers (or older-timers) to tell you some of the stories.
“Pastor,” you are thinking, “this is interesting. But what in the word does it have to do with Pentecost, and tongues of fire falling from the sky, and men wearing robes and sandals traveling the world and being thrown in jail and all of that.” Dear saints, this is Pentecost. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus is up to. This. This pulpit, this carpet. These windows. Those pews. You. Pentecost is not far away. Pentecost is not long ago. The Holy Spirit builds the church. The Holy Spirit builds this church. The Holy Spirit is where the Word is preached, where baptisms occur, where the body and blood of Jesus is eaten and drunk with faith that believes His promise. The Holy Spirit is wherever sins are forgiven, and that wherever is right here.
And this, dear saints is good: because you sin. God knows. And His answer to your sin is not wrath. It is Jesus on the cross. And the Holy Spirit in His church. And the promise: I forgive you. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. This is Pentecost. Amen.
And the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO