Psalm 104: 24-34
ACTS 2: 1-21

PENTECOST May 28, 2023

There are times when Scripture lessons reveal new messages that we need to hear. There are days and nights when, as people of faith, we have the opportunity to be reminded of how God wants each of us to be living in and through our lives. Both of those truths are dependent on us … they’re our choices … how we live our lives … how we connect to the Creator of the universe.

Actually, I believe that if we deliberately take the time from our ‘oh so busy’ schedules to examine God’s Word on an ongoing basis that we will constantly be given new directions … Holy Spirit directions from God for our lives. And that in doing so our lives will be better, we will be able to sense that peace that goes beyond human understanding and perhaps even more importantly the people around each of us may discover through our joy that they need this God we have … in their lives too.

I recently read somewhere that it is nearly impossible to have a conversation with God if we ignore God’s Word because without God’s Word we don’t know God. And, that same author reflected that it is impossible for the truths of Jesus Christ to have an impact if Christians don’t have conversations with God and then proceed to act on them.

Today is PENTECOST SUNDAY … not merely a historic date on the calendar to wrap carefully in a religious package to declare that yes, we worshiped on this date. I believe, perhaps more than ever before, that our celebration of Pentecost in our Red caps and red clothing has relevance to the 21st century church. Luke has provided people of faith with a connection from the ASCENSION of JESUS CHRIST in Acts chapter 1 to the beginning of the Christian church in Acts chapter 2. In my Bible, it’s the very next page.

I am sure that I don’t have to remind you that Jesus, before He ASCENDED to be with God, left a very clear message to Jesus’ followers … to Jesus’ believers … to people like you and me who call ourselves Christian. Truthfully it was not just a message, it was a directive. Jesus said, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you WILL BE my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, to the end of the earth even unto Swedesboro.”

Together we celebrated Easter just a few short weeks ago once again acknowledging that Jesus Christ is RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>> but have we been witnesses beyond our church’s beautiful sanctuary to the truth of Jesus since that Sunday morning? Have we been talking with God? Has our focus in life been on developing 21st Century teamwork for God’s purpose … you know that heaven on earth request we frequently pray for? Did this Easter and Lenten season move you forward in your faith journey? Have you allowed your faith journey to matter in your life and are you walking with Jesus every day… believe me, believe me, I know that there are lots of things going on in your lives so perhaps it’s difficult to squeeze in that God time.

Luke reports that following Jesus’ Ascension that His disciples and other followers specifically including women gathered together in prayer in Jerusalem. Jesus had been with them for 40 days after His Easter Resurrection … they would continue to tell each other “He is Risen” <<He is Risen Indeed>>. Another special day of worship celebration was on the horizon … fifty days after the Passover celebration it was time for SHAV-U-OT, the FEAST of WEEKS or as it was also called, THE FEAST of 50DAYS, which is where the name we know, PENTECOST, came from.

The faithful would again come to Jerusalem to celebrate the first harvest of grain. And traditionally it was also a day to renew the covenant that God had made with God’s people after the great flood. Those early Christians who had always followed Jewish tradition would be headed to the Temple as would devout Jews from around the world.

This SHAV-U-OT would be different … the world had been changed … Jesus Christ had lived as an example of God’s love teaching each person who experienced Him that God had plans for each of us. Verifying Jeremiah’s message that God has a plan for a future with hope for you and me … living and demonstrating Micah’s clarity that God expects the faithful to do justice, love all others with mercy, and walk humbly with God. Jesus had been taken to the cross, but the tomb could not hold Him and now in front of His followers Jesus had Ascended into heaven a few short days before the festival would begin again in Jerusalem. A new and final Covenant established through God’s grace and love with all of humanity was just beginning. Jesus … believe in Him … follow His teaching … become a changed individual … and eternal life with God awaits.

Luke, ever the historian, documents for all time the moment when the Christian church became a universal body of the faithful … he records the amazing moments that occurred amongst those who were gathered together from around the world including at least Peter if not all of the disciples. The rushing wind with its loud howl … those individual flames of fire landing on each of them. The unique and frankly at times ‘odd sensation’ when one knows they are being touched by God’s Holy Spirit. John Wesley recalled one very specific Holy Spirit moment at Aldersgate in England like this, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me.”

PENTECOST … the PENTECOST of Jesus Christ had arrived and for all time the faithful have a record where we are shown the power of the Holy Spirit … a record revealing the potential of the Holy Spirit … and what we discover when we read or hear the history of that day in Jerusalem is unmitigated joy amongst those gathered once they had recovered from the initial shock. PENTECOST was not a day of confusion nor of babbling, it was a day of clarity and of God’s presence being revealed.

It struck me, as I read and reread Acts chapter 2 over the last week or so, how the reaction of the Parthinians, the Medes, the Elamites, and the Cretans and Arabs was truly one of great joy. They were almost giggling with joy as they talked with strangers who moments before they were unable to communicate with. They had each sensed the surge of power deep into their souls providing peace and personal joy that in a gathering like this could only be observed as uncontrollable happiness … leading to the observation from the casual observer that they might be drunk.

Long before Paul wrote the words “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice” these folks were full of a connective celebration at a discovery of God’s love … God’s power … and God’s Holy Spirit. They were speaking clearly with individuals whose spoken language was not their own.

Peter, who had gotten over his denial of Christ, delivered the message for that day … the message for this day … the message for every Pentecost Day that will follow so clearly showing that the prophet Joel offers God’s expectations for people of faith, like us, to work together … teamwork … “I will pour out my Spirit on ALL people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young will see visions, Your elders will dream dreams. Even upon my servants, men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will prophesy. And, EVERYONE who calls upon the name of the Lord WILL BE SAVED.” Note the inclusion … EVERYONE … note that the young and the old are included in the impact of the Spirit of God … men and women … not a single human excluded from God’s faith plan nor God’s faith assignments. It’s always amazing how some leaders try to imply that those unlike themselves are excluded from God’s plan but when you read Scripture you see that EVERYONE who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved … and God’ Spirit will be poured out onto everyone.

Peter spoke to them giving the current news update of the last few months, “Jesus the Nazarene was a man whose credentials God proved to you through miracles, wonders, and signs. You, with the help of wicked men, had Jesus killed by nailing him to a cross. 24 God raised him up! God freed him from death’s dreadful grip, since it was impossible for death to hang on to him. This Jesus God raised up. We are all witnesses to that fact. 33 He was exalted to God’s right side and received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit. He poured out this Spirit, and you are seeing and hearing the results of his having done so. “

When they heard Peter the people in the crowd wanted to know what they should do. Peter told them, “Change your hearts and lives. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Those gathered had experienced God’s Holy Spirit in the moments of the whooshing sounds of the wind and the dancing images of fire. They had been filled with joy … and they did not want to lose it. So, their next step had to be to change their hearts and lives.

It’s also true for those of us alive in 2023 … if we make the deliberate choice to align with God then our lives and hearts must be changed. God desperately needs the 21st Century collective of Christians to pull together as a team. We can no longer merely go through the motions or disconnect with the Spirit’s call thinking we either can’t do what God needs us to do or we just won’t.

We need to get into the Pentecost Spirit like those who were in the room that day. We need to be willing to take on the Holy Spirit with joy. Does your walk in faith with God bring you joy that others notice?

At the start of worship today, I shared the words of the 15th century theologian, Desiderius Erasmus. “There is no joy in possession without sharing.” On the Day of Pentecost, those present were sharing their joy … sharing their Holy Spirit moments. We read in Acts how within days … thousands had experienced a change in heart; a change in direction; and a change of faith and had become activists for Christ sharing everything they owned with the community.

Last Sunday morning without any requests from our family churches across New Jersey were praying for us; churches I have never set foot in. A church in Nebraska was part of that specific 21st Century teamwork for the Delaney’s as were churches in Western New York. TEAMWORK out of love … for a moment and for a specific family. Yes, it meant a lot to each of us but imagine if churches across New Jersey … across the United States … throughout the world because united daily to showcase God’s truth as delivered by Jesus … to love GOD …. To love ALL of our neighbors; to be forgiving … to be filled with joy and to actually worship God rather than human driven policies focused in on attacking specific groups of people who do not have the numbers nor desire to respond with equal vehemence.

The challenge that I find from all of this is to the Christian Church you and I represent. We are the 21st Century Christian church of Jesus Christ … we are the people who have to unite as a team to deliver the truth of Christ … the specific messages of God through the Gospel teaching of Jesus … and it begins with our willingness to take on the Holy Spirit.

The concluding teaching from today’s Psalm is our perfect Pentecost Challenge because the world awaits us … our friends will be paying attention to us. Our neighbors may be wondering about us. Co-workers and family members focused in on our life priorities.

Can we … you and me … commit to “Singing the Lord as long as we shall live? Singing praises to our God. Letting our praises be pleasing to God. Living by rejoicing in the Lord!”

If we do that perhaps we can get some other church folk to join in and truly develop a 21st Century plan for Christian teamwork to change the world not by mandate nor forced regulations but by allowing non-believers to discover our joy, our love, and our devotion to God. That’s our challenge but it’s Pentecost and I am celebrating that my Savior Jesus Christ is Risen! <<He is Risen Indeed!>> AMEN

© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ