Sermon – Day of Pentecost – May 20, 2018
Acts 1:1-21 ‘The Holy Spirit and You’
CT: Pentecost marks a new chapter in God’s story where He gives us the Holy Spirit to go beyond believing to telling of what God has done through Jesus Christ.
Intro: The events we read from Acts seem far removed from anything you’ve ever experienced, and I’m sure it’s not what the disciples gathered that morning expected either. But then what did Jesus mean when He said He would clothe them from power on high. And in our Gospel lesson he said that he would send a Helper, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father? For many, this event is seen as the birth of the Christian Church; God’s purposeful intervention in our world. It caused quite a stir in Jerusalem, and if anything, Pentecost should shake us up too; it led Peter to quote Joel’s prophecy about the great and magnificent day of the Lord! It should cause us to ask, “What does this mean for me?”
So let’s unpack what Pentecost means. 50 days after Easter! Easter on the Jewish calendar is the Passover, and our 7 Sundays of Easter coincide with the Jewish feast of weeks which culminate in a celebration of the spring harvest, and the giving of the Law. Rabbinic tradition says this is the day God spoke, but the people could not stand to hear His words so they asked Moses to intervene.
God Speaks: This time there was no fire and smoke covering the top of a mountain, instead there were divided tongues as of fire resting on the disciples and the whole house they were in was filled with a sound from heaven like a mighty rushing wind. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and God spoke again. This time it was His message of grace, hope, forgiveness articulated in every language for every person that was gathered in Jerusalem to commemorate the day God first spoke His Words of love and Law to His people. People heard in their own language about the “mighty works of God.” It grabbed their attention; they questioned, and listened.
And the message was simple. This is God’s doing; He poured out the Holy Spirit on His people. And God’s plan was made clear through Jesus whom, as Peter put it in his first sermon, “whom you crucified and killed,” but God raised Him up and provided witnesses to this fact. Now, we can know for certain that “God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Spirit at Work: Through the disciples the Spirit of God spoke and bore witness to His work. It’s the Spirit who convicts you and me of the raucous nature of our sin, the truth; it was our sins that took Jesus to the cross; He died for me. It’s like that old joke about the pastor delivering one of his best fire and brimstone sermons, only to have his head elder poke his wife in the side and say, “Hey Ethel, he’s talking about you!”
The Spirit didn’t let the crowd in Jerusalem off the hook that easy. Through the disciples’ witness the Spirit brought people to receive God’s words, and it cut them to the heart, and faith took root in their hearts. As someone once said, “Belief is what you hold onto; faith is what takes hold of you.” And you can’t repent—turn away from your sins without faith. It’s the Spirit’s work of faith that hopes above all reason that forgiveness, not punishment, awaits those who turn to the Father.
It’s the Spirit’s work that brings about a response that says, “I need to be baptized.” It’s the Spirit’s work that that says, “I want to live out my Baptism.” It’s the Spirit’s work that says “I need to bring my child to Baptism.” For the Spirit’s promise is that in the waters of Baptism forgiveness is ours, secured, sealed, along with His ongoing presence in our lives. As taken from Peter’s sermon in verse 38: “And you will receive the Holy Spirit (not maybe or if, not as some separate and ecstatic event, but directly connected then, now, and always to your Baptism…you will receive)… “For the promise is for you and your children.”
Baptism: Baptism is that great leveller of our manmade playing field of ‘who is better than who’. Sin is not just something we do; it is who you are. The devil with great craft made sin our shameful inheritance. And Baptism acknowledges sin’s death grip on us regardless of age, gender, race, or social status.
But Baptism goes far beyond the acknowledgement of sin, death, and the power of the devil over us; it says that by no work or worthiness of our own, God in His mercy, for Jesus’ sake, forgives all our sins, breaks death’s grip on us, and brings us to newness of life, abundant life, life eternal in Him. In Baptism God pours out His Spirit on you and me, no matter who you are, what you’ve done, or where you’ve come from. In Baptism we all put on the same clothes—robed in Christ’ righteousness. We all receive the same light—the Light of Christ—to bear witness to what God has done for us. We all receive the same promises, the same Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son, who brings the power of God’s mighty work of forgiveness—the cross—into our lives. Jesus said the Spirit of truth will take all that is His, which is all that is the Father’s and declare it to you, making you a witness to God’s mighty work for you…in you.
Your Pentecost: Pentecost marks the beginning of God’s mighty work in His people; in you! As baptized Christians, the Spirit has come to us and works against all that is in our sinful nature to make our bodies into His house. And wherever the Gospel is spoken and heard, the Spirit is there working—God making Himself known—telling His love story—telling us we are His own—giving of Himself—giving us His Spirit that we may believe and have life eternal.
So don’t limit today’s worship and celebrations to singing happy birthday to the Christian Church; instead, remember your Baptism (your birth into God’s family of faith) and what God has spoken to you and how He continues to speak through you. You are alive in the Spirit to bear witness to God’s salvation; Jesus Christ!