Today is Pentecost, the day we commemorate and celebrate as the day the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus' Apostles. This day is extremely significant for Christians and is held by most as one of the three most important days in the Christian year, with Easter and Christmas. Today we are going to spend our time together talking about that event and what our response should be to the infusion of the Holy Spirit in our own lives.
Did You Hear That?
A few months ago there was a bad storm here in Ocala, with lightning and thunder, dark skies, and pounding rain. I was down here at a meeting and when it was done I dodged the raindrops up the backyard on my way home. I did not think much about it but as soon I walked in the door I was met by Wesley. Do any of you remember the Flintstone's cartoon where as soon as Dino saw Fred he would run into him and knock him over and start licking his face. Well Wesley did not start licking my face but he ran into me with all the force he could muster. While in the midst of his running start he was hollering, “Daddy's home, Daddy's home!” I just thought he was happy to see me but I would soon find out it was more relief than happiness. Once he had my attention, he proceeded to tell me that it was raining outside and that there was a terrible noise. He said, “Daddy, loud noise!” and then he did this type of flex pose. I guess he did it so well he scared himself because as soon as he did it he wrapped his arms around my neck, stuck out his bottom lip, and said, “it scared me!”. That noise was a very real event for my two year old, that conjured up some serious emotions within him.
Our Scripture lesson today speaks of another noise that conjured up some very real emotions within some other people soon after Jesus ascended into Heaven. That noise is why we celebrate Pentecost. That noise forever changed this world and the followers of The Way.
What is Pentecost?
So what is Pentecost and why do we as United Methodists make such a fuss about it? Pentecost is the day when we celebrate the sound that came like the rush of a violent wind and descended on the believers where they sat. Pentecost (or "the 50th day" in ancient Greek) is a holiday of Christianity commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, fifty days after the resurrection. Pentecost is when we remember the third person of the Trinity being revealed to us. And in today's age, we as a church also celebrate Pentecost as a time to commission people into new ministries with our support and prayer for the Spirit’s power.
As a denomination, Pentecost is so important to the United Methodist Church that the flame that accompanied that sound is part of our denomination's logo and we have emphasized it on the front cover of our bulletin this morning. So as you can see there is an extreme amount of importance associated with this event.
Our Scripture lesson this morning paints the picture for how this foundational event unfolded. However, in order to gain a better understanding we need to dip back, just a bit, to the beginning of the book of Acts where Jesus' ascension to Heaven is recorded. We are told that after Christ's ascension, the Apostles begin to make their way back to Jerusalem. I cannot imagine what they must of have been feeling and thinking about. They have just watched their Master ascend into Heaven and everything is changing. They are now the ones responsible for instructing people about Jesus' teachings. They are the ones that are now responsible for starting this new movement for Jews and Gentiles alike, modeled by and entrenched in the love of Christ. They are now the ones that the Romans and other religious leaders will seek out for retribution and attack. Their response to all of this change...prayer. Acts 1:14 tells us they constantly devoted themselves to prayer.
And as we open up in chapter 2 they are sitting in a house together when the sound like the rush of violent wind comes upon them. All of them are immediately filled with the Holy Spirit and all of them begin to speak in different languages. Languages that they themselves did not previously know, but were familiar to the other people in Jerusalem at that time. And they were all speaking about God's power. Now some people figured they were drunk but Peter explained that they were not and what they were witnessing was actually prophecy being fulfilled.
What Does This Mean For Us Now?
So what does all this mean for us today, in 2010? I think it means several things.
One thing is means is that we need to make sure we are constantly practicing the discipline of prayer. Remember what the disciples were doing? They were all joined together constantly in prayer. The benefits for this are immense! Prayer is where we speak with God. Prayer is where God speaks to us. Prayer is what enables us to be in tune with God. Prayer is what joins us together as one united body. Prayer is where the power of the Holy Spirit can be unleashed! Do you know where the church is growing the fastest? It is not in the United States. It is in Korea, Africa, and Latin America. For some years now there have been massive revivals taking place in these southern countries. Ask the Korean Methodist ministers and they will tell you that the cornerstone of this revival is prayer.
And those churches are not alone in this thought. I want to read to you what the President said about our nation and the power and importance of prayer:
“We have been the recipients of the greatest blessings of heaven. We have been preserved in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand, which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God that made us. We should be moved then to humble ourselves before the God, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
These words were said on April 30...1863, by Abraham Lincoln as he proclaimed a National Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer. Prayer is just as vital today as it was in 1863. We need to constantly devote ourselves to prayer so that the power of the Holy Spirit can run rampant in our lives, so that we can be infused with His power to carry out the will of God.
Another aspect that we can learn from Pentecost is that the coming of the Holy Spirit also fulfills the promise Christ made that when He left, that we as His followers would not be alone. In John 14:25-27, Jesus tells the disciples, “ All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Christ loves us so much that a way was created for us to always feels His presence. And that way was the Holy Spirit. When we pray we are connected with Christ. When we are connected that is the work of the Holy Spirit creating and maintaining our connection with our Savior.
So, working with the understanding that prayer and companionship are the ways in which the Holy Spirit works through and in us, now comes our part. The Holy Spirit was sent for more that just as a constant connection with one another and with Christ. The Holy Spirit was also sent so that we could be equipped to build the Kingdom of God. We have work to do. We have people to reach. We have people to love. That can be done with active evangelism, where we are speaking directly about God and the impact God will have in a believer's life, or it can be done with passive evangelism, where we teach by example rather than direct words. But it needs to be done. Stepping out for Christ can be daunting. It can be terrifying. But the Holy Spirit is here.
When Wesley was scared about the lightning and the thunder outside, being able to wrap his arms around my neck brought him comfort. Wesley knowing that daddy was there to physically protect him from the scary outside noises was all he needed to feel safe. When we are scared about the outside evangelism that we are asked to do, you can wrap your arms around the Holy Spirit and feel the peace and calmness that comes from that.
We Christians are called to a special life, a set apart type of life. A life that God did not intend for us to live alone. All of us here derive some pleasure from being part of this church body. Some of us derive some sort of energy from having a close group of friends that we can share our lives with. Fellowship is vital, at church and in life.
Just as we are charged up in those settings, the Holy Spirit, when called upon through prayer, will do the same thing within us. All we have to do is make that call. I encourage you to make that call today!