Acts 2:1-18 (The Message)
When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”
Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”
Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”
That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:
“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes, I will pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both, and they will prophesy.
June 3-4, 2017
“God Wishes Us More”
Today is the Day of Pentecost on the church calendar. In Greek, the original language of the New Testament, the word ‘Pentecost’ literally means “fifty days.” The day of Pentecost comes 50 days after the Jewish Passover. It was an important Jewish festival and a time that the faithful traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate Israel’s liberation from Egypt.
In the Christian tradition, Pentecost concludes what we call the Great 50 Days of Easter and affirms and celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus.
The book of Acts is a story about how the church begins after Jesus has died, been resurrected and returned to heaven. And what is left is this group of Jesus’ followers who have very little in common. They speak different languages and they come from different cultures. The Scripture says they were visited by the power of the Holy Spirit. They become empowered believers who will become the church.
Our Pentecost story comes from the second chapter in the Book of the Acts, the first 18 verses. I invite you to follow along on the screens. I will be reading from a paraphrase of the Bible called The Message.
(Read Acts 2:1-18)
Do you like surprises?
For most of us, it probably depends on what kind of surprise it is. There is a big difference between a surprise birthday party or celebration where family and friend gather to share in the special day; and a surprise visit from the IRS, or a large medical bill that you are surprised was not covered by insurance.
A wonderful surprise happened on the Day of Pentecost long ago in Jerusalem, and some tried to dismiss it, saying, “Oh, don’t pay any attention to those followers of Jesus. They’re just drunk on cheap wine…ignore them!”
But those first followers of Jesus were not drunk and they would not be ignored. They were filled, not with wine, but with power, courage, enthusiasm, hope, and confidence; because they were filled with the Holy Spirit of God!
Let’s remember the biblical story of Pentecost…We get the sense there is a chaotic crowd…people from all over…all kinds of people; high spirited people who had come to celebrate the great Jewish festival. While all this was happening, the disciples of Jesus were gathered together in one place.
Over the last 50 days the disciples had experienced the agony and grief of the crucifixion of Jesus. They had experienced the hope and elation of the resurrection; then the risen Christ had appeared to them a number of times and promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to be with them; and finally they had watched as Jesus ascended into heaven.
Now, the disciples were gathered and waiting in prayer. Suddenly, something surprising, but very real happened. It was like a strong, gale force wind. This surprising power entered the disciples and suddenly they began to speak in languages that they did not know.
A crowd gathered to see what was going on and more surprises…Each one in the crowd heard these followers of Jesus describing their experiences of God; and each person, regardless of their land of origin, heard the message of God’s love in their own language and could understand it.
It was true communication that included listening and understanding. Authentic communication where we are listened to and understood and where we in turn are listening and understanding is one of our greatest human challenges in life.
Even between people we are closest to, such as spouses or friends or family, understanding each other can be very difficult. Then, when we add in differences of culture, language, faith, opinions, or political views; true communication can seem impossible.
Yet, through the events of that first Pentecost and the Spirit’s outpouring of power, the disciples and people gathered were able to break through these barriers and discover a level of communication and understanding they never thought possible. That same surprising power of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit is also available to us.
It is not so much about what or who the Spirit is, rather it is about what the Spirit does. The Spirit changes us in surprising ways to see God’s presence and grace in this world; despite and often in the midst of the tragedy, grief, terror and sadness we hear about or experience. The Spirit changes us to believe the Easter promise that good will overcome evil; that grace is stronger than sin; and that life triumphs over death.
The Holy Spirit always surprises us. And following the wonderful theme of the book Terry helped us and the children read…God wishes us more surprises than sadness!
Sara Miles is author of a book titled “Take This Bread.” In the book, she tells the story of being surprised by the Spirit as she unexpectedly met Christ in the bread and cup of communion.
Raised as an atheist, Sara Miles says she lived an enthusiastically secular life as a restaurant cook and writer. Then early one morning, for no earthly reason, she wandered into a church in San Francisco. She writes, “I was certainly not interested in becoming a Christian.” But she ate a piece of bread and took a sip of the cup and found herself radically transformed at the age of 46.
She says, “This was my first communion and it changed everything…I realized what I was meant to do…feed people.”
After that first taste of communion bread, Sara Miles felt compelled to find new ways to share her experience. She started a food pantry and gave away literally tons of food at the same church where she first received communion.
She then organized food pantries all over the city to provide hundreds of hungry people with groceries each week. With very little institutional or organizational structure, she recruited dozens of volunteers and raised thousands of dollars.
The living, surprising Spirit of God surprised and transformed Sara Miles and her community. But she also discovered that her newly transformed life was not going to be easy.
She had to be out in her community dealing with all sorts of people and their challenges. She had to struggle with her atheist family and doubting friends. And she had to learn about the great American scandal of the politics of food, the economy of hunger, and the rules of money and power.
She says she met all kinds of people who were blown into her life through the surprising, restless power of a call to feed people.
The same Spirit that surprised the first disciples and those gathered in Jerusalem; the same Spirit that transformed an atheist into a follower of Christ, is still active and surprising us today…that same Spirit is ready to blow new life into us. The miracle and magnitude of Pentecost is that the Holy Spirit brings new life.
God wishes us more new life than our old life.
You may be one that has experienced a moment when the Spirit of God has come upon you in a powerful way. Perhaps it happened on a mission trip or retreat as a youth. Perhaps it was an experience during a worship service or a Wednesday night LOGOS experience. Some have felt the Spirit’s presence while praying or as music from a song or anthem washes over them.
Others are skeptical…and it’s o.k. to be skeptical…it’s o.k. to have our doubts. Most of us do a lot of thinking and wondering. Our graduates may wonder about the future. We may wonder if the church will survive? We wonder if our children will have faith?
Will we be able to pay our bills? Will we be able to handle the challenges and problems from political wrangling, divisions, injustices and arguments?
These are all big questions that require the guidance of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit. We cannot control when or where God’s Spirit will show up–it’s usually surprising—but we can put ourselves in a place where we will be ready when it happens.
And when the Holy Spirit gets ahold of us, we can’t stay inside. Like the first disciples, we have to go out with bold urgency…to preach, to witness, to teach, to pray, to invite, to care, to serve, and to love.
God wishes us more Pentecost moments than passive existence.
Where is the Holy Spirit taking us and will we follow? Hopefully we will follow the Spirit outside of ourselves with bold urgency.
I don’t know who wrote this message on the sidewalk just outside the front doors of the church (slide). The words say, “Servants’ Entrance,” with arrows pointing us out of the church. What a wonderful summary of Pentecost! The Holy Spirit of God is leading us…urging us…to use the “Servants’ Entrance,” which always leads us out.
We just can’t help it…That’s Pentecost!
It’s Pentecost and God simply wishes us more!
This is the Good News of God this day.
Thanks be to God. Amen.