6/8/2014 Pentecost The text for today’s sermon is Acts 2:1-11.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia and amen! Today, my friends, is the last Sunday of the Easter season, and today, we celebrate a miraculous event in the life of the church, the event which prepares the disciples for the long-term wait for the return of the Lord. Today is the Day of Pentecost. It is the finale to the events of Easter.
Pentecost is not a new word. It comes from the Greek term for the Jewish Feast of Weeks that is observed on the fiftieth day after the ceremony of barley sheaf during the Passover celebration. According to the Book of Acts, it is on this day that the disciples “were all together in one place…” It is on this day, the fiftieth day after the resurrection, that the disciples receive the gift promised by Jesus before he departed from them.
On Easter Sunday, we may have had the impression that Jesus’ work was over for everything had been accomplished. But, this is not so. The fact is, the disciples continue to be weak and confused even after they had first-hand contact with the risen Lord. At this point, there is no telling of the story, no preaching, no public sharing of the Good News…anyway, none that is reported in the Bible. The disciples remain weak and frightened and fragmented. They need something in their lives in order to give them a burning faith, an unquenchable desire to serve and to speak. They need something to give them the courage to face adversity with hope and the eloquence to express the wonderful works of God. And it is on the Day of Pentecost, a day in which they are gathered together and a day in which many people from many different places gather together in celebration, that the holy and life-giving spirit enters their lives.
Now, this is no minor gift. The spirit of the Lord enters their lives in order to help them. The spirit of the everlasting God comes to fill empty hearts, purify sinful lives and restore hope. It is God’s commitment to remain with them and all of us in order to strengthen us in faith and service. For the gift of the Holy Spirit is not a one-shot deal, something given to the first disciples, used up and buried with them. No…this spirit, the spirit of our Lord, is from everlasting to everlasting. It is a gift of God for the people of every generation. It is a gift given to bring peace to despairing hearts, empowerment to those who feel their own limitations, courage to stand firm in the faith in the midst of threats, forgiveness to the repentant soul, and remembrance to a forgetful people.
This Holy Spirit, which is received by the first disciples, is the same gift bestowed upon each of us in our baptism. This spirit resides in each of us so that we can believe and trust in the Lord. This spirit is there to fire us up and propel us into service in the same way that it fired up and propelled the first disciples who had been timid and weak to go out into the world sharing the Good News of God’s grace.
It might be nice to think that the Good News is for our ears only. It might be nice to think of the Holy Spirit as some passive glue that binds us together as family. But, the spirit comes like fire and hurricane winds. It moves people into unexpected directions and in new ways. And that, my friends, isn’t a bad thing!
We are told that the first disciples, after being filled with the spirit, go out into the crowds who have gathered for the celebration of the Festival of Weeks and begin to speak. They open their mouths and people from all nations understand what they are saying. Of course, the gathered crowd is amazed and they begin to wonder how this is possible because they come from many places. So they begin to accuse the disciples of being drunk – as if being drunk enables a person to speak in a tongue that is unfamiliar. I know that my experience with those who have had too much to drink is quite different. The tongue which they speak may be unfamiliar, but it isn’t because they are speaking an unfamiliar language. The slurring of words muddles even the best English. And what those people hear on the Day of Pentecost is not unrecognizable gibberish. Each of the visiting Jews hear the praises of God being spoken in their own language. They hear authentic, recognizable words proclaiming in unison the “wonderful works of God.”
On Pentecost, the disciples do not exalt themselves. They exalt God. On Pentecost, the disciples do not quietly and passively share the Good News to a small group who are willing to hear what they have to say. No! They are fired up with the spirit and they want everyone to experience the joy and excitement that is in them. They want everyone of experience a full measure of God’s grace.
It has been said that communication is the key to success. Back in the mid-60s, General Motors, the manufacturer of Chevrolets found out the importance of language as it launched its new compact car, the Nova, in the Mexican market. The car didn’t sell well at all…and it wasn’t until after the figures came in that someone in Detroit discovered that no va, in Spanish, means, “It doesn’t go.” But, the language of the Spirit, spoken by the disciples, doesn’t run into communication issues. It goes and goes and goes some more, as it comes from a spirit-filled people, speaking in other tongues, but essentially one language, the language of God.
We, too, are a spirit-filled people. We should be excited to be here today and even more excited to share the Good News with others. But, sadly, many of us have harnessed the spirit and all but snuffed out the fire within us, making us like the disciples of old…frightened, weak, and fragmented when it comes to sharing God’s grace. And yet we are sent into the world…we are sent to share the Good News in the language of God’s love. We are sent with the fruits of Spirit to touch the lives of others so that all may know what we know, all may trust what we trust, all may feel what we feel, concerning Christ Jesus our Lord.
Do we speak of language of God? Do we manifest the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Or, do we speak in gibberish in the slurred speech of a drunkard and display: hate, despair, hopelessness, greed, impatience, over indulgence, intolerance, self-righteousness and anger? If we were the only people that world had within it to witness to the love and power of God in Jesus Christ, would others come to know our Lord through us? And, what would they believe by what we do and by what we say? The first disciples are empowered by the gift to the spirit and they are propelled to share God’s love with others. Are we so empowered? Or, are we, as they were before this gift, confused and timid?
The Holy Spirit does all sorts of things in us, for us, and through us. The Holy Spirit edifies and enlightens. The Spirit of truth teaches us all things. The Holy Spirit warns us, rebukes and convicts us of our sin. No one has to tell you that you that you are a sinner. The Spirit does His work so well you already know if you need to repent and turn back to God.
The Holy Spirit is a counselor, a wondrous comforter in our grief. The Holy Spirit is there to help us in our pain, our sadness, our loneliness, our rejection, and our fear. The Spirit supports us as we go, for while we are weak, the spirit is strong. The Holy Spirit gathers and holds us together as church. It is Christ’s final and everlasting gift to us and for the world. And the spirit’s coming puts the “Amen” on Easter.
Let us say, “Amen!” And may we feel the fire of the spirit within us. Let us say, “Amen!” And may we not be timid or shy when it comes to speaking the language of God’s love and grace to the world. Let us say, “Amen!” And may we pray, “O come, Holy Spirit into our lives and make us a spirit-lead people who rejoice and sing praise to our God.” Amen, and again I say, “Amen!” And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.