Pentecost 2012


Romans 8:22-27 & Acts 2:1-21
SMAS 9am Communion (CW)

The Feast of Pentecost was a time for the Jews to celebrate a successful harvest. The men would make a peace offering to God, ask forgiveness, and would remember God’s help in freeing them from captivity in Egypt. They would have come from many far-flung places to be at the Temple in Jerusalem. A veritable hubbub of excitement and noise, with people speaking many languages.

Simultaneously, in Jerusalem, was Jesus’ band of disciples. They could surely be excused feeling the excitement of Pentecost coming. They must have felt confused and unsettled. They’d spent a lot of time with Jesus, then watched Him die, then seen Him rise from death and be with them again only to see Him go off to heaven in a cloud.

Jesus had told them that they were to go out and tell the whole world about Him and they would have to do this without His physical presence being there to help them.

But He’d told them to wait in Jerusalem first of all. They must have felt nervous and anxious? They must have thought ‘we can’t do this’? But then Pentecost Day arrived and they were transformed into people for whom nothing was beyond them. The breath of God’s Spirit on that Pentecost Festival did the most amazing things.

But Pentecost is not about ONE day it’s something that happened then, and now, and it’s also linked to things that happened before that special Feast.

Let's go back to just after flood; people decided they knew so much they didn't need God. They built the Tower of Babel to ascend to heaven and God confused them into many languages and spread them out.

God asked Moses to tell people about Him from an amazing burning bush which not only didn’t burn up but also showed His presence.

God asked Moses to lead His people to safety through the Red Sea and a sent strong wind* to divide the waters and bring about a tremendous change in freeing His people.

At Pentecost a powerful wind blew through to bring about a change. Tongues of flames didn't burn people but allowed God to be present and speak powerfully through the disciples in a mix of languages that all could understand, uniting scattered people into one body: the church. Heaven descended to be with people, the things of God were made clear to everybody of every language, and people were brought together.

And so today we celebrate the birthday of the church which is the legacy of those early disciples getting fired up to live and speak for Christ.

But as I said Pentecost is not about ONE day but about every day - the gift of the Holy Spirit is a continuous experience intended for all believers. Today new Christians get set alight by the Holy Spirit and speak to those around them in relevant language. We are called to be Pentecost people living and working in ways we once thought beyond us to the glory of Christ. Have we risen to the challenge? Do we know how to?

The disciples had been keeping in touch with Him through prayer and so they were prepared when His life-giving force of the Holy Spirit came to them so powerfully. We need to keep in touch with Him if we want Him to live in us. Have you done so in the past - and now its run out? Like a jug of water which we offer drinks from until it is empty. Or like a glove which has no power of its own to lift anything. Or like a BT Openzone voucher which has expired and we can longer access the world wide web.

We begin to feel apathetic/tired/uninspired. We begin to feel I don't need to go to church today/I don't need to pray today/I don't need to read my Bible today. That's partly how we know. But another way too.

We begin to be anxious about things, no inner peace because without the Holy Spirit filling us we lose what Jesus called the Comforter, what you or I might call the best friend we ever have. The Holy Spirit is Jesus living in our hearts giving us power and courage to proclaim Him to the world. He cleanses us with His holy fire and as He forgives us He also gives us peace and comfort in our hearts as we realise that He is ALL we need.

If we were to put diesel in a petrol car by mistake the tank would have to be drained, washed out and filled again with petrol. We can be like that. God designed us to work with him as the motivating power in our lives. But we want to run on our own fuel in our own way.

Without Him life is lived on daily basis in our physical body. With Him life is lived in a sense of a - past, present and future all become joined into eternal life - with Him and with all of our brother/sister Christians. Someone once said, 'Before Pentecost the disciples found it hard to do easy things; after Pentecost they found it easy to do hard things.' John Stott wrote, 'Before Christ sent the church into the world, he sent the Spirit into the church. Same order needed today.'

There are usually four types of people in any church setting:

Sadly, there are those who have never received Holy Spirit and don't want to.

Excitedly, there are those who have never received Holy Spirit but want to – they are in for a treat!

Disappointedly, there are those who have received Holy Spirit but have run out – take heart all is not lost, ask and you will receive!

Wonderfully there are those who have received the Holy Spirit and topped up again and again – wow you have life in all its fullness!

To those who would like to live in God's power by His Holy Spirit we need to come to God, to empty ourselves of ourselves, so we can be filled with God. AND we need to do that if we have never done that before, or if we have done it a hundred times before.

To do that we need to repent - change direction. We need to say sorry to God for the times we have done things in our own strength. To ask Him to send His Holy Spirit into our hearts and help us live for Him. To ask for his forgiveness and power. His purifying of us. His peace.

Augustine of Hippo, 5thC theologian wrote, 'You did not stay long with us Lord, and yet you never did leave us. You ascended from before our eyes, and we turned back grieving, only to find you in our hearts.' meaning that no sooner had Jesus left the disciples to return to heaven, then he sent the Holy Spirit to be with them, in their hearts.

I am now going to pray. Pray for those who have not already decided to follow Jesus but want to. Pray for those who have already made that step, but want to come to God again to be filled with His Spirit.

*(3.5 99 fastest wind speed 318 mph recorded as tornadoes ravaged Oklahoma).