Pentecost Sunday 2010
Scripture Passage – Acts 2:1-13
Description – The final sermon in the series “The Message of the Church is…”
This past week at a seminar here in town, I was introduced to a church in Sheffield, England that I would very much like to visit. Called St Thomas Crookes, it is a church that was formed through the merger of an Anglican (we call them Episcopal here in the states) and a Baptist church several years ago. I have no idea why it is called St Thomas Crookes, but I like how they describe their vision for the ministry that God has called them to there in the city of Sheffield.
(Slide 1) Here it is…
What I like about (beside the fact that it is Biblical) is that it uses a simple icon, a triangle, to express a very simple vision: UP which means to meet God; IN which means to meet with friends; OUT which means to live life better.
It says a great deal with few words. If you use a computer these days, we recognize programs by their icons. It is how we navigate our computers these days.
Word pictures, icons if you will, have been used in this series as well.
(Slide 2) On April 11th I used the word, “slather” as in we need to slather people with message and acts of God’s love and forgiveness through Christ. I did not have an icon for that word but I thought this week of slathering ribs with barbecue sauce. (Smells good!)
I also thought of putting up a picture of a St Bernard, but that would be a rather, disgusting shall we say, image of slathering! (A drool machine!)
(Slide 3) On April 18th I used the image of a turning point that illustrates the need for repentance, a turning away from our sins and a turning to God as we proclaim the message of repentance.
(Slide 4) On April 25th I used the image of a “plus” sign to illustrate the message of adding Christ to our lives while subtracting sin as the Patrick Morley quote illustrated.
(Source: Patrick Morley, Walking With Christ in the Details of Life.)
(Slide 5) Two weeks ago on Mother’s Day, I used the image of the shepherd as we thought about the important and practical message of guiding and caring.
(Slide 6) Then last week, I used the image of a prescription, for the message of peace. We viewed Philippians 4:6-7 as a prescription for having God’s peace in our lives as outlined in that text and on the screen.
(Slide 7) For today, I first remind us that it is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost, as we read in Deuteronomy 16:16 was one of three annual Hebrew festivals in which thanksgiving for the harvest was made. On the Pentecost, however, that we remember and are going to revisit this morning, a great event was to take place in which the harvest of human hearts and souls would begin to take place. A harvest of redemption and forgiveness that continues to this day.
The image to consider this morning is power or strength. But it is a power and strength that is not for sale. It is a power and strength that is not for us to use for our own personal benefit (though it does benefit us). It is a power and strength that comes from God the Holy Spirit for His purpose and plans. It is a power and a strength that creates change, deep change, in a person’s life and character.
(Slide 7a) This message of the church is about the power to change… for the better! This brings me back to St Thomas Crooke’s website…
(Slide 8) Notice the first sentence of their vision statement “God has given us a life to live and our desire is to live that life better by living a God life.” This is a key part of Pentecost… the ability to live our live better by living a God life.
On this particular Pentecost Day that we will read about shortly, 10 days have gone by since Christ ascended back to heaven. Prior to His ascension back to heaven, He told the eleven, as we read in Acts 1:4 and 8:
“Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you what he promised. Remember, I have told you about this before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit… But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The coming of the Holy Spirit allows for the launch of the Christian faith and church. The result is a power, God’s power, to live for Him and to tell others about Jesus Christ and His saving grace and forgiveness.
But, but, it is not about building our own private reservoir of power for our own personal use. It is about allowing the power of God to work in us for our betterment AND through us for the betterment of others. A better that is redemptive.
Let’s now read our main text or launch text for this morning, Acts 2:1-13:
On the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them, and it filled the house where they were meeting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
Godly Jews from many nations were living in Jerusalem at that time. When they heard this sound, they came running to see what it was all about, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.
They were beside themselves with wonder. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking the languages of the lands where we were born! Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya toward Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabians. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other. But others in the crowd were mocking. “They’re drunk, that’s all!” they said.
Now to get the full impact of what follows from this initial shock and wondering about what is going on we need to continue into chapter 2. As we do so, we read that Peter gets the audience’s attention and says to them that they are not drunk people they are ordinary folks just like them. He goes on to quote the prophet Joel and then launches into a sermon in which he speaks of Jesus of Nazareth. (Remember that 53 or so days have passed since Jesus was crucified. So the memory of Jesus’ crucifixion is still fresh.) He goes on to link the prophetic utterances of the Old Testament to Jesus as the Messiah and concludes with the declarative statement that “let it be clearly known by everyone in Israel that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified to be both Lord and Messiah!” (NLT)
The result of this message, as we read in verse 37 is a deep and profound conviction of heart, “Brothers, what should we do?” And, as we have already studied in this series, Peter replies with “Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Repentance takes place. The Christian faith begins to take root in people. God’s mission of being witnesses, of making disciples starts to occur. It is the result of allowing the Holy Spirit to do His thing.
We read it in verses 42 through 47:
joined with the other believers
A deep sense of awe came over them all
met together constantly and shared everything they had
sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need.
worshiped together at the Temple
met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity
all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people.
This the result of allowing the Spirit to His work.
Selfishness is surrendered; cliquishness is let go, personal agendas (the “what’s in it for me” attitude) is given up… this is not the goal of Pentecost.
(Slide 11a) It is result of Pentecost.
Pentecost is the coming of Holy Spirit to empower the church to do its work and, as Jesus said in John 16:6 “convince the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.”
All of this takes place in Acts chapter 2.
(Slide 12) So what does all this mean for us today?
Let’s think for a moment about the context of Acts 2.
In verse 41, we read that about 3,000 persons believed that Jesus was the Messiah that day. In verse 5 we read that “Godly Jews from many nations were living in Jerusalem.” They came running to find out what was going on because they heard their native language being spoken in a place that was a hub of “multilingualness” at the time. And, in verse 13, there were the skeptics and the mockers in the crowd. (There always is…)
I think that there were hundreds of thousands of people in Jerusalem, perhaps a million people, but more likely several hundred thousand. And not all of them believed what Peter said. And because all of them did not believe what Peter said, they resisted the work of the Holy Spirit.
But, but as we read over in chapter 6, there was eventual grumbling in the developing Christian community as we read “as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. Those who spoke Greek complained against those who spoke Hebrew, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.”
The issue is addressed and the apostles say “elect seven men who are well respected and are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. We will put them in charge of this business.” As we recall then from last week, Stephen was one of them.
Here we have both an essential criteria and a focus that comes out of Pentecost – seeking spirited filled persons to lead and seeking the Holy Spirit’s aid in the resolving the situation so that the message of the church goes forward uninhibited.
Here, I think the rubber meets the road for us today. And it has more to do with Acts 6 rather than Acts 2.
There has been so much written about the dynamics of Acts 2 over the years. It is constantly referred to when thinking about and discussing the role of the church and how the church should function. Pentecost Sunday is a very important Sunday for us in the Christian Church. I think that it is just behind Easter Sunday (and for others behind Christmas Sunday) in importance.
But I think when it comes to the Holy Spirit these days we find that the rubber meets the road more in the collision of goals and issues in Acts 6 than in the awesome power of Acts 2. Part of the role of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus indicates in John 14 is to be our comforter; our advocate.
And we have need of the Holy Spirit in this capacity often, if not daily. Yet it is not for selfish purposes that He comforts us. It is for God’s purposes and our growth that He comforts us…
… especially when it has to do with changes and the fear (even anger) that change(s) bring.
This past week I read the words of Rupert Loyd, Jr about change and it was one of those ‘aHA!” moments for me.
(Slide 13) “Change can be a difficult animal to wrestle with. Most of us perceive change as resulting in some kind of loss on our part: loss of influence, or authority, or control, or maybe just the loss of being comfortable with a stable situation. People don’t resist change, we resist what we think change will cost us.”
Loyd is describing fear here. We fear that change will cost something and we are not sure if we want to pay it. Not everyone in Acts 2 wanted to pay the price of confession and repentance and in a few short chapters those that did, found that they were not willing to pay a certain price on another matter. Jesus talked about counting the cost. It is still something we do.
We have had a lot of change, unwelcomed change in our community over the past 18 months. We have had job change, really job loss. And though it is beginning to turn around and people are going back to work, there is still a feeling that we are not out of the woods yet.
Our schools have been radically changed and it has caused frustration, disappointment, and even anger not just for adults but also for kids. Lack of funding has caused job loss and there has been disagreement, often public and intense disagreement, about the best way to spend the dollars we have in the bank on our education system.
There is, and there has been, a strong sense (and experience) of loss and powerlessness in us and our community for the past year and a half. So we can really relate to those widows in Acts 6 who felt that the food distribution plan was not exactly fair.
But, the Holy Spirit was at work in this conflict. I think that we can read between the lines and sense that the Spirit gave shape and influence to the apostles’ decision to have the church select “seven men who are well respected and are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” Then with the requirement of being filled with the Spirit, there was a second way in which the Spirit’s will was carried out. A problem, yet also an opportunity, is solved and God’s work moves forward!
We cannot bottle up the Holy Spirit. We cannot stop the progress of God in and through His church. We cannot contain the Holy Spirit like we think we can… He runs through us and well as in us to accomplish God’s work. To reservoir Him, is to try and contain Him for our private usage. He won’t allow us to do that!
To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled on His terms and not ours. God is on the move, here in Kendallville and Noble County, as well as elsewhere. As Henry Blackaby has said, “find out where God is at work and join Him there!”
‘Are you with God this morning?” Better yet, “Are we with God this morning? Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to have His way in us? Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to change us and help us move forward as the First Church of God?
We have to because if we do not, we are going to get nowhere. And God wants us to get somewhere… His direction, His mission, His location.
But for each of us personally this morning, we also need to be in alignment with God and allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in us and to be allowed to do the inner work of transformation of our attitudes, priorities, and habits that will enable us to live as God would have us live… in His strength and power.
(Slide 14) …which brings me back to St Thomas Crookes.
This is one expression of living a God life. It sees a Spirit filled and Spirit led life as the synergistic response to a life lived in God (UP) and with other believers (IN) so that as we go (OUT) we demonstrate and invite others into this God life we have.
This is Pentecost living. This is what and how the Lord is calling us to live. And it requires of us the infilling of the Holy Spirit and our obedient response to His direction.
I invite us this morning to recommit ourselves, individually and congregationally to live in the strength, power, and mission of what this Sunday is really about – a Spirit Filled life on mission with God to accomplish His plan and purpose in the whole world.
I pray that it be so! Amen.