Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, which is also the birthday of the Church. The Holy Spirit is the aspect of the Trinity that we often refer to as our sustainer. It is that invigorating presence which challenges us and propels us forward to do God’s work. What might that work look like?
Text: Acts 2: 1-21
As a preacher I and many of my colleagues are always curious of what you really think about the sermon. Yes, many of you say nice things after the service and I believe that you are genuine. That is you aren’t just trying to be nice to me as you head out the door. Some of you will send me a note during the week if the sermon spoke to you and others pick up the phone to share a kind word. Occasionally, one of you will tell me that you disagree with something I’ve said or will challenge what you have heard. This is also good, though sometimes uncomfortable. However, the sermon should spark dialogue, as it seeks to drive us closer to God’s will.
However, I still wonder what you really think. About two years ago I preached for the call and after that service one of you came up to me and said “Make it shorter next time.” Now to be fair I don’t know if that meant every other service or the next time I preach for a call, which I have no intention of doing anytime soon.
I also know that some of you are thinking deeply during the sermon, though the thoughts are occurring on a subconscious level, I know this because I see you sleeping. No I won’t name names.
Sometimes I wonder if you wish I could preach a little like Peter with his ability to quote the prophets, his fiery rhetoric and ability to stir crowds. I’ll be honest, sometimes I wish I could preach a little like Peter. Though perhaps you are wishing I could preach like Peter because his sermons seemed to be short and to the point. Though I will caution you his sermon does go on past where our reading ends.
Friends, today is Pentecost. A day when we welcome the Holy Spirit or as Jesus speaks of it in John’s gospel, the Advocate. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, a unifier as we see in our passage from Acts. We are drawn together, the Holy Spirit breaks down barriers and brings us together. Provides for us a common language in which we can speak and understand one another. The Holy Spirit keeps us in love and is a part of the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit.
When I read the account we have of the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts I never cease to be amazed at how skeptical some of the people are. They sneered and said, “The are filled with new wine.” They were unable to comprehend what was happening and so they defaulted to a base accusation of drunkenness.
I know in my own life I have doubted certain claims. I have been a doubting Thomas wanted to see proof, because what I was being told just seemed a little too unreal. Often when we are involved with something we have difficulty seeing it from the eyes of an outsider. We are baffled by their questions or their inability to understand because it all seems to normal to us.
I believe this happens to us as the church. I wonder how often people outside our doors think of us as drunken fools. Just as some of the people did on the streets of Jerusalem all those years ago. However, the reality of it is that we are not drunk. Instead we have been granted insider knowledge to the workings of creation. Many outside the church dismiss these claims as foolish, trivial, outdated and outlandish. But we hold to a different truth, that God acted through creation in the person of Jesus Christ to reconcile humanity to God. To forgive sin and restore our relationships. Further, God supplied his Spirit to nurture and continue to guide us in our daily living.
We believe the testimony that is found in Scripture. We believe it do be God’s divinely inspired and authoritative word to us. However, we also believe that God continues to work and inspire us and that this is done by the Holy Spirit who even now is among us. The gentle breeze, the fierce wind. The Spirit blows and our task is to see and understand God’s message for us today.
Peter shares with his audience words from the prophet Joel. He speaks about how men and women, young and old will have visions and prophesy. How God’s Spirit will be poured out upon all people so that all will call upon the name of the Lord.
We have just come through several weeks where we considered John’s letter to seven churches in Asia Minor. His letter, which we call Revelation, is full of visions about the future glory of the Kingdom of God.
I wonder what do our visions from God look like. How is God inspiring us and what are we being called out in faith to do? Because we are called to step out in faith and engage our world.
People often ask what’s the different between a Christian and a service club? Both raise money for good causes, both are interested in the community of which they are a part. So what’s the difference, why come to church on Sunday morning singing some old hymns and listening to a guy talk who really isn’t that good at speaking. Why bother, I’ll just go once a month to a service club and help them. Isn’t that a better use of my time?
Good question, with a very simple answer. Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the center of why we meet here to worship on a Sunday morning and why we go out into our community to do good work. Jesus Christ is central to all that we do because we believe in something that others don’t. We don’t help people because it feels good or makes us look good. We do it because of our faith which is founded in God, informed by Jesus Christ and sustained through the Holy Spirit.
We do it because we have seen a vision of what the world should be like. We didn’t have this vision in a drunken stupor or drug induced hallucination. We received this vision with clarity and purpose and it is underwritten by our faith in Jesus Christ.
If we were to read further in Acts 2 we would read about the first converts and life amongst the believers. Many feel that Acts 2 describes the foundations of the early church and that it is the coming of the Holy Spirit which jump starts that process. The question we might ask that early group of believers is what unites you?
To which I imagine they would respond, Jesus Christ. The church is not a social club, though I hope you develop deep meaningful relationships here. The church is not a service club, though I pray you will be inspired to serve.
The church exists to serve Jesus Christ. It’s the only reason we are here and these disparate believers came together to form the church when the Holy Spirit, the Advocate arrived.
Everything that we do flows through our belief and understand of who Jesus Christ was, is and will be. That knowledge is sustained and empowered through God’s Spirit.
Friends, let’s vision and dream together about how we can work with God to make all things new. How, we can work to usher in the kingdom of God and as we work may the Holy Spirit continue to nudge us forward in faith. Amen.