Message for 5/31 Pentecost Sunday “Church Born & Reborn”

The church is open again on Sunday 5/31, 11 am for a worship service. We’re still taking precautions and doing masks for now, but going to try sharing Communion this week. For those joining us from home, the following is a recording and text of the sermon.

Call to Worship: Acts 2:1-4 

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.                                        (Opening Prayer)

Greeting; Today marks the beginning of the next phase of our church reopening to a point of some kind of normalcy. As we progress our goal is to be as safe as possible, follow the overall guidance for living in a Covid-19 world, and employ any lessons learned along the way. The reading I would like to provide for today’s offering and prayer concerns is a depiction of the ideal church. The church of the Apostles time as led by the Spirit of the Lord from the book of Acts of the Apostles.

Offering, and Prayer Concern reading; Acts 2:42-44

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.

Tithe, Offering, and Prayer Concerns:

Father as we learn what the new normal will become in our pandemic new reality, Lord we pray that you accept our gifts and offering this morning along with our most precious resource, our very soles dedicated to you. To serve you, worship you, and to share the Good News about you Father. Lord, we have many prayer concerns that are reflected in the hearts opened up for you today. Please bless us and use us in the furthering of your kingdom in this hurting world. Amen!

Message Reading: Acts 2:5-21

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Message: “Church, Born & Reborn”

       Those words of Joel are the living fulfilment of the future of our world. Some things have taken place and others will take place in that great time on that great day of the Lord.

It’s amazing when you think about the event that most theologians would call the official birth of the Christian church. Here is a small but growing group of people who have not even begun to use the name Christian yet, but refer to their faithwalk as members of; “The Way”. Well, members of “The Way” had been waiting since the ascension of the Lord into heaven for something to happen. We know from Acts 1:4-5, that the Lord had told them to wait in Jerusalem for the gift that would come:

       On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

It seems like it was like this a lot. The Apostles and Disciples trying to figure out what was going on around them. Judging the events and the Lords actions, anticipating Jesus’ next moves based on their limited understanding of the world, only to find out that the Lord was teaching them and us a new way to look at the reality of God’s world. God does this as we progress and grow in Him.

This was a group that had started to become battle hardened as it were, learning to fight their individual inner battles with the Lord’s help, and getting a little better at it each try. Time and time again since they had met and began following the Master, they have continued to have their ups and downs in their faithwalks. The Gospel shows us their instruction by the Lord, then Acts and the Epistles reflect their growth. Showing at times they like Peter were starting to get it, who Jesus was, and their own roles in the plan, only to pull of one boneheaded act of Christian immaturity after another.

By the way as a side note; far be it from me to ever throw the immaturity accusation at anyone. Suffice to say, we are all works in progress. I make a point of this because it’s good news for you and I. If the Lord can show patience and forgiveness time and time again in scripture, just think about the grace He has in store for you and me.

So here is our little Band of Saints, the Disciples, waiting for the Lord to direct their next move. They are expecting something to take place, but it’s easy to guess that they really don’t know what that big thing God is going to do, is going to be.

Then, on Pentecost out of the blue (well kind of), and:

       Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

       You can just imagine the jaws dropping by all who are witnessing this phenomenon from God. This infusion of the Holy Spirit was like a rebirth of a people in God. A people who had been chosen from the time of the original Passover. I am reminded of what God had done before in a crowd when the Sovereign Lord demonstrated His majesty. Going way back to the Exodus and chapter 20 by the book with the same name we have versus 18-21

18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

       God wanted a relationship with each person there, but the people opted for Moses to be the spokesperson. So awesome and terrific was the scene, that it would have been difficult for a person to keep their composure. The Rabbis of old teach in the Jewish Talmud that the people feared that God was going to literally pick up the mountain and throw it down on them. Thankfully for them, they probably were not in the audience at the creation of everything, recalling what God had to say to Job and continues to instruct us today in 39:4-8;

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

It makes one think about the day of reckoning when the Lord comes in His glory to administer judgement and justification.

Suffice to say, when our God is doing stuff and wants to be seen by us at work, it’s a pretty overwhelming event. It also provides us with an idea of the divine plan of God, showing that there indeed is a purpose for everything in the creation of God.

If we look at the three reference points in scripture, backwards from the order I just provided, we have the basic story of the perfect creation. The providing of the Law for mankind, and the redemption plan for a humanity too fallen to save itself. Each depiction, almost too incredible for the imagination to comprehend. Beginning with:

  1. Job 39:4-8 God describing His Creation to Job.

With the constellations (Stars) singing and the Angels shouting in joy!

  1. Exodus 20:18-21 The instruction of right and wrong with the Covenant of the 10 Commandments and mankind being blessed through Israel.
  2. Acts 2:2-4 The unleashing of the Holy Spirit into the world at large to sustain the Christ Body, the Church, and blessing all willing humanity!

Each time I think of something great God is doing in my life, or our church family’s thriving presence, I would like to think that it is as if the Lord of the Universe is putting an exclamation point on the original creation of our existence, as He describes (kind of) what it might be like to be the Lord, in God’s longest speech in the Bible in Job chapters 38-41.

Yes, each miracle we explore in scripture and experience in our faithwalks are yet just another building block on top of those massive cornerstones, God has used in the building of our lives in Him. Perhaps the Stars continue to sing and Angels still shout for joy each time we take a step closer to our Lord in our faithwalks.

Today, is a sacred day for us in the Christian Faithwalk, celebrating our God unleashing His Holy Spirit 50 days after Passover (Easter), into all of the world in which this message is centered upon today. Additionally, this day is also hollowed by our Jewish Brothers and Sisters. For they celebrate Moses giving the world the Torah, with the Law at Sini approximately 50 days after the original Passover in Egypt.

Memorializing the phrase (She-ma yisrael, adonai eloheinu, adonai echad) Hear O’ Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One! This provision is how the children of Israel have been and continue to be a blessing for all the world, with God using Israel to teach humanity ethical monotheism (worship of the one God, our God) and teaching of mankind right from wrong through God’s Law of the Torah (instruction) with the Ten Commandments.

For us Christians, the Law remains perfect and from God. It also shows us why we can not reach salvation on our own. All of us in one way or another have tried to handle our challenges, problems, and adversity on our own and failed. Whether those challenges were following the Laws of the Old covenant, or our addictions to sin in general. We failed. We now understand that to defeat those things that want to own us, we require God’s help in the battle.

What are those things that pull us down? Well, they are anything that you put before God. The things that begin to push God and other people off to the side, and begin to take more and more of your life away from you. The kind of habits/gods/idols that you give to, and sacrifice for. Instead of living with our God who has given all to us.

So before we can recite with our Jewish relatives: (She-ma yisrael, adonai eloheinu, adonai echad) Hear O’ Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One! We must get rid of the junk, those false Gods in our own lives. In fact, in most cases what you are trying to walk away from, can’t be done without our Lord’s help. You know what I’m talking about. The idols you and I cling to in general. Gossip, slander, our egos. Perhaps it’s nicotine, or alcohol, or pain killers, uppers and downers. TV, sports, food, or Dr. Pepper and Snickers bars. Maybe its popularity, or fear of humiliation. You name your poison, I would give you a full list of my own junk, but we would be running out of day light when I would just be getting warmed up. Suffice to say, we are a mess and without the Lord, lost.

That’s what gets a lot of us to Church on a Sunday. Not because we are better than other people. Instead, we have begun to discover just how low we and all of humanity is without God’s grace and forgiveness, and why we must be in the forgiveness business ourselves.

I was lost and now I’m found, was blind but now I see. Those are the words of a slave trader turned Pastor John Newton, who wrote hymn Amazing Grace. Proving that there is nothing that you have done that can’t be forgiven by a God that loves you in spite of you!

Two thousand years ago on a Pentecost Sunday like today, God unleashed His Spirit to sustain humanity. Offering the free gift and invitation of a relationship personally with God, to sustain us in our walk towards the Lord and everlasting salvation. Not of our own doing and following rules, rituals, and laws, but by “Loving God with all of your hart, sole, and might, and loving your neighbor as yourself”, and then letting God work in you.

It was the Holy Spirit that was able to shepherd the early Church to give its all to God, as explained by Luke in the book of; Acts 2:42-44

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.

Unfortunately, in our current fallen state, the church seldom experiences this kind of harmony in all things. In fact, I’m not sure that we are ever going to be in that kind of grace or ideal here on earth. We have been given the example of the Church in Acts as a look at what the Holy Spirit can do in and for the Body of Christ, the Church, our Congregation, when we follow God and not all of that junk, that list of Idolatry, I spoke of earlier.

When we are together in following the Lord, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished to further God’s Kingdom in this world. The reason for this incredibly hopeful outlook, is because of God’s Holy Spirit is working in each of us, proving God’s generosity and guidance and opening up new Holy approaches, avenues to our God. Providing us with hope for the future. And we know from Paul that Hope does not disappoint us. From Romans 5: 5;

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Given to us on Pentecost all those years ago. Humanity learned right from wrong from the Law of the Old Covenant on that Pentecost of the first Passover at Sini. Now God would reclaim mankind through grace given at the new Pentecost in Jerusalem with the Apostles.

Now, we have a better glimpse of just who God is, and what we are by His Holy Spirit unleashed. By the way, how does anyone have even an idea of who God is? Again, we have Paul’s words. This time to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 2:9-12

However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us

Through our faithwalk in the Lords Spirit, we begin to get a picture of who we are and what God is doing in our lives.

It is my prayer and hope for you this week, as you contemplate the majesty of God, the salvation of His Son, and the infusing rejuvenation of His Spirit, that you find your path in Him clearly marked for your journey ahead. Amen!

Benediction: based on Isaiah 61:1-3

May the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord be upon you,
because the Lord has anointed you
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent you to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
May you be oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.