May 15, 2016 – “Burn the Ships”
On this day of the celebration of Pentecost, I wanted to try and help us see Pentecost in a fresh light and a perhaps a new way. To do that I want to share a song, written and sung by Steven Curtis Chapman. I’d like you to read the parts in bold and as we move along you’ll see how this is such an appropriate song for today.
In the spring of 1519 a Spanish fleet set sail – Cortez told his sailors, this mission must not fail – On the eastern shore of Mexico they landed with great dreams – But the hardships of the new world made them restless and weak – Quietly they whispered, ‘let’s sail back to the life we knew’ – But the one who led them there was saying…‘Burn the ships, we’re here to stay – There’s no way we could go back – Now that we’ve come this far by faith – Burn the ships, we’ve passed the point of no return – Our life is here so let the ships burn”
In the spring of new beginnings a searching heart set sail – Looking for a new life and a love that would not fail – On the shores of grace and mercy we landed with great joy – But an enemy was waiting – to steal, kill and destroy – Quietly he whispers, ‘Go back to the life you knew’ – But the One who led us here is saying…
‘Burn the ships, we’re here to stay -There’s no way we could go back – Now that we’ve come this far by faith – Burn the ships, we’ve passed the point of no return – Our life is here so let the ships burn.’ Nobody said it would be easy – But the One who brought us here – is never gonna leave us alone. ‘Burn the ships, we’re here to stay – There’s no way we could go back – Now that we’ve come this far by faith – Burn the ships, we’ve passed the point of no return – Our life is here so let the ships burn.’
I really like how that song expresses the idea that comes through in today’s New Testament and gospel readings, that in the new beginning of Pentecost, the power of God’s Holy Spirit sets us free, truly free, to leave the old things completely behind; that the old things of our life, of our life without God’s Spirit, are burned and are useless for the new life we’ve been given by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ.
In the reading from Acts, Peter stands and, quoting the prophet Joel, says in part “God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…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.”
Joel says that the Holy Spirit will be poured out in a new way and that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved, and that is being fulfilled on that first Pentecost after Jesus ascended. This new thing that God was doing, while foretold from of old, is what all of Pentecost teaches us – both the old Jewish festival – and what God did in sending the Holy Spirit in that new way on this Pentecost, 10 days after Jesus was taken up into heaven that we celebrated last week. The Jewish festival of Pentecost can, like the SCC song lyrics, give us insight into what God’s mercy and grace does in our lives, daily.
Pentecost, in the Old Testament it’s called the Feast of Harvest or Feast of Weeks, celebrated the in-gathering of the first of the spring harvest and this was done by presenting a thank-offering of grain to God. God gives earth and rain the power to supply man, through the harvest, with food to sustain life. And for that, man is bound to give thanks to God. Pentecost is that time of giving thanks for the daily life that God supplies through the grain harvest.
But by Jesus’ day Pentecost had also taken on a broader meaning as well. It was also the time when the Jews gave thanks to God for supplying daily life through the power of God’s word given through Moses at Mt Sinai. That came, traditionally 50 days later; 50 days after Passover (remember Passover took place in Egypt before they left). So 50 days after Passover came the ‘Pentecost’ in the wilderness at Mt Sinai, when God gave the 10 commandments to the people through Moses.
So Pentecost by Jesus day celebrated these two things, the thanksgiving to God for life through the harvest of grain and thanksgiving to God for the power to live life set free from the bondage of slavery. They were now free, free to live life under the clear direction of His commandments, His word. Those things of the Jewish celebration of Pentecost teach us that in our Christian celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost –we too give thanks to God for the power to live our new life free of all that binds us to our past life in slavery to sin. The power of the Holy Spirit is what ‘burns the ships’ and tells us that ‘our life is here’ in Christ, ‘so let the ships burn.’
And that’s an image that helps us understand what the coming of the Holy Spirit did for the disciples. This power of the Holy Spirit was the gift of God that Christ had promised would fill them with power from on high. They now had what they didn’t have before / a new beginning / a new life and that is what Pentecost brings also to each one of us. Today in Pentecost power we are moving forward in our daily life in Christ, Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel. By grace, our old lives have been left behind and we’ve received the power of the Holy Spirit to ‘let the ships burn’ that held us to our old lives of guilt under sin and rebellion.
We have been set free from sin, that has been done, finished, and accomplished, by Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross where He died for us. And in Pentecost, with a new coming of the Holy Spirit, we’ve now been given power to lean on that cross of Christ and to live by and to live in the peace that Jesus spoke of today. He said in verses 26-7 of the gospel lesson, “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”
Like the Jews of the Old Testament, fleeing Egypt and ending up at Mt Sinai where God’s word came to them to give them direction for life, so in the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the disciples were given new power for life in the word of Christ alone. That’s what’s given to you and I at baptism, that power to live life in the Holy Spirit sent by Christ.
The power of life in Christ is the power of life for both here and for eternity. Like the Jews at Pentecost giving thanks to God for life-sustaining bread and grain, we give thanks to God for the life sustaining power of Christ’s body and blood that we take into ourselves at communion. Like the new direction for life given to the Jews in the law of God at Sinai, so we’re given direction for our new life by grace through faith in the gospel of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit sent down at Pentecost.
And so we, like Cortez’s sailors are ‘all in’, in our life in Christ, Paraphrasing the words of the song … Jesus, the One who brought us here – – Is never gonna leave us alone. So ‘Burn the ships, we’re here to stay – – There’s no way we could go back – – Now that we’ve come this far by the gift of faith – – Burn the ships, we’ve passed the point of no return – – Our life is here in Jesus Christ so let the ships burn. In His name, amen.
Sermon #827 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Genesis 11:1-9 11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Epistle Reading Acts 2:1-21 2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Holy Gospel John 14:23-31
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
“Come now; let us leave.