O God the Holy Spirit, grant us heavenly fire in our hearts and on our tongues. Amen.
Text: Acts 2:1–11
Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs – we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”
The confusion of tongues at Babel and the division into different languages shows the human race’s separation because of sin. It had been God’s will that people should spread over the earth. It had also been His will that they should establish separate nations, each with its distinctive features. As each individual person is distinct from another, so each nationality is distinct from others, and this multiple diversity between persons and peoples would also have happened even if we had not sinned. But all would have been united in peace and love, with sympathy for all near and far, in perfect mutual understanding and in the most beautiful unity and harmony. Now the fellowship is broken. People have become strangers to one another and do not know or understand each other. Their spirits go separate ways and do not agree. Nations are enemies of one another and destroy one another. Love is gone; God’s image is lost. Man has declared himself rid of God, “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21), and thereby the fellowship of unity and love is gone.
But Pentecost is the reverse and annulment of Babel. The tongues of fire from heaven are the living language that the Spirit puts in the mouths of the saints from the new life in their hearts, and this life is a life of fellowship with love, fellowship with God in Christ and mutual fellowship with one another. When the Holy Spirit cleanses our hearts, no one is deprived of individuality. Rather He sanctifies it, brings us into harmony with each other and unites us as one in God. All united with Christ, we are united with one another and have everything in common, that is, each one uses the talent entrusted to him for the edification of the whole Church.
The diversity of languages will never be removed, but they shall all be purified and transformed into a higher unity. This most glorious work is not yet finished, but God’s Spirit is working on it continually. Language barriers are being overcome, and the Gospel is being proclaimed over all the earth. All people shall hear the word of life in their own tongue, and all languages are filled with the everlasting truth. This was foretold in the miracle of Pentecost day when people of all nations heard the Apostles speaking in their own language. When the Church is made perfect, the ransomed of all nations together shall form one blessed and holy race, and all languages shall sound harmonious together in the heavenly language of love, in which the Church sings the song of God and the Lamb.
O Holy Spirit, gather our hearts to Christ, and gather in all people so that there soon may be one flock, one Shepherd. Amen.
Thou sacred Love, grace on us bestow,
Set our hearts with heav’nly fire aglow
That with hearts united we love each other,
Of one mind, in peace with every brother.
Lord, have mercy!
Thou highest Comfort in every need,
Grant that neither shame nor death we heed,
That e’en then our courage may never fail us
When the foe shall accuse and assail us.
Lord, have mercy!
Luther: We now implore L 3:3-4 ELH 33:3-4 tr. TLH ©1941 CPH. Used by permission.;
tune: Nun bitten wir