“Same Old Story – BUT It Doesn’t Have to Be”
Acts 2:1-21
Dr. Robert J. Anderson
May 24, 2015

  

Many of you know the story of Pentecost better than me perhaps.  We hear it every year.  Has it become so known as to no longer be heard?  Is it stale and/or old hat?

 

What kinds of things have been done over the years to commemorate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the church?  We’ve worn red clothes to symbolize the fire of Pentecost.  We’ve used red balloons to remind us of the Holy Spirit on the wind going where it wills.  There have been Pentecost cakes – birthday cakes celebrate the day the church was born.  All kinds of things to refresh our understanding of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

 

One young associate pastor in the first call was mending the store while the Pastor was away.  She, along with the church’s director of Christian Education, wanted to make Pentecost stand out for the members.  They gathered brave members willing to dance down the center aisle waving long poles with red and orange streamers attached.  Then the Acts passage was read and other members stood and joined their voices to that of the pastor speaking in Spanish, German, and Serbian.  The choir sang a discordant anthem that featured wind-like sound effects and a minor key.  They were pleased with what they planned!

 

The reaction of the congregation was, let us say, different.  The polite ones said, “That was interesting?  Some used words like “memorable” and “unique.”  One less polite, anonymous person put a note in the associate pastor’s mailbox that said, “I felt like I was in the community theatre yesterday with those undulating red banners and that strange music.  Please don’t do anything like that again.”  Perhaps the head of staff got an earful when he returned.  He was gracious enough not to reprimand the associate pastor for her creativity!

 

Think of that original Pentecost scene with me for a moment.  Jesus told the disciples to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came, but they didn’t know what the Spirit would look like and what to expect!  They gathered together daily waiting.  Then all of a sudden there was the sound of loud, rushing, mighty wind and what appeared as tongues of fire resting on each one of them and each of them speaking in different tongues!

 

I’m guessing it was a scene surprise, chaos, excitement and fear.  The thought comes to me of the scenes we’ve seen of people caught in the suddenness of an earthquake.  There is shock, disbelief, fear.

 

Now, every year the church tries to recapture that day with red clothes, balloons, many voices in many languages.  We attempt to recapture the drama, chaos, and excitement.  We want to experience the sense of the magnitude of the Spirit’s coming!  The problem is that we are trying to choreograph the very being that can’t be controlled.  We read in John’s Gospel that the Spirit blows where it wills, and we don’t know where it comes from and where it is going.  So, in the final analysis, we should trust the Spirit we celebrate to the Spirit’s work in our lives.  The Spirit will show up.  Whether we wear red clothing, have balloons, have a cake, or whatever; the Spirit will show up.

 

So, here we find ourselves on Pentecost relying on the Holy Spirit to be with us as Jesus promised it would.  What are the signs of the Spirit’s presence?  The prophet Joel writes that in the last days God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh.  Sons, and marvelously for his time, daughters will prophesy.  To prophesy is to speak God’s words to people and life situations.  It is not crystal ball reading!  Young men will see visions of what God is doing in the world, and old men will dream dreams of what God’s world will be like.  The Spirit will be upon those people that many feel underserving.  Slaves, servants, both men AND women will speak the word of God.  There will also be natural signs in the sky.

 

All flesh includes you and me.  We can be God’s prophets.  We can speak the words of God.  You and I can speak God’s word of encouragement.  You can and I speak God’s word of forgiveness.  You and I can speak God’s word of hope.  The Holy Spirit will use us to accomplish the purposes of God!

 

The words “all,” “everyone,” and “both” jump off the page of our Acts’ passage.  God’s grace isn’t just for a few or select group of people; it is for everyone!  For God so loved the world.  It isn’t for God so loved me and my kind.  Christian faith is not, or at least it should not be, elitist.

 

Everyone has a gift of the Spirit: wisdom; knowledge; faith; healing; miracles; prophesy; discernment of spirits; speaking in tongues; interpretation of tongues.  Each person here has at least one gift of the Spirit that is to be used for our common good.  The gifts of the Spirit are not to be hoarded and kept secret.

 

Another sign of the Spirit’s presence is the activity of God.  There is a lot of Spirit around the birth of Jesus.  John the Baptist will be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Elizabeth upon seeing Mary is filled with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is upon Simeon and enables him to recognize Jesus as Lord.

 

The Spirit is very active in the Book of Acts.  It is the Spirit that enables people to speak boldly and courageously and hear with understanding.  Pentecost is the prime example.  Peter and others, who running for their lives 50 days ago, now boldly and courageously proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior.  People hear what the disciples are saying, many in their own language, and understand that the message is from God.  There are conversions that day.  People change the directions of their lives from moving away from God to turning and entering God’s family through accepting Jesus Christ as God’s son.  The Pharisee Saul known as the persecutor of the church becomes the champion of the church when the Spirit touches him.  The Ethiopian Eunuch reading an Old Testament prophet has his life turned around as Philip, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaks God’s word to him.

 

So, today we don’t try to call forth the Holy Spirit.  We recognize the Spirit is here and let the Spirit work.  God loves you!  You are important to him!  God didn’t want anything to stand in the way of you knowing that.  So, he sent his son into the world that you may know it, see it, and experience it.  The world doesn’t want the light of Christ in the world, and the forces of evil conspired to kill him on a cross.  God said death isn’t the final word.  Resurrection is!

 

The word for each of us today is God loves you!  There is nothing you’ve ever said or not said that changes the fact God loves you.  There’s nothing you’ve ever done or not done that changes the fact God loves you.  There’s nothing you ever thought or didn’t think that changes the fact that God loves you.

 

There’s one more thing to share with you.  I went to a seminar a few years ago and talked to a college professor that had a sign on his door for all to see as they walked down the hallway past his office.  The message on the sign changed students’ lives.  The message is.  “You are better than the worst thing you’ve ever done!”  Don’t be defined by the worst thing you’ve ever done.  Instead, be defined by Jesus Christ in your life and the certain knowledge that God loves you.

 

May the Spirit be with you and go with you now and forever!  Amen!