Sermon: The Day of Pentecost-Then and There; Here and Now

The Day of Pentecost-Then and There; Here and Now
Acts 2:1-21
RUMC 15 May 2016

Years ago, two young brothers, Peter I and Ivan V, occupied the throne of Russia.  Although those co-rulers, or co-czars, were very young, they had to make very important decisions.  They needed help.  Princess Sophia sat hidden by a curtain behind the two thrones and whispered answers to the difficult questions for the two young rulers.  Princess Sophia worked behind the scenes to help her brothers without the Russian people realizing it.

Just as Princess Sophia helped those two boys, the Holy Spirit will help us on our journey of faith.

Today is Pentecost Sunday—the day when originally the Holy Spirit descended upon the early disciples in the form of wind, tongues of fire and the speaking of tongues.  My text is Acts 2:1-21.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 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.’

Before Jesus had ascended into heaven, he gave one final command to his disciples.  We read that conversation In Acts 1:4, when he told them “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father.

Ten days later at precisely 9:00 in the morning, the Holy Spirit appeared in a special way:

  • In the form of wind, this symbolized God’s presence among his people.
  • In the form of a gentle flame, this signified the cleansing power of the Spirit of God.
  • And in the form of unknown tongues, which was to empower believers to speak boldly for Christ.

And so, with all of these things, the disciples were changed, in terms of holiness, a desire to be in God’s presence and a new found boldness.  This is similar to what the Holy Spirit does for each one of us.

When we invite Jesus Christ into our hearts, we become recipients of the Holy Spirit.  But as children of God, I don’t think we can really grasp the type of spiritual help that is available to us.

An example of this would be similar to the situation Mr. Ira Yates, a West Texas cattle rancher faced.  Mr. Yates owned a lot of land, but he also owed a great deal of money to the bank.  Things looked bleak until a seismographic crew from an oil company informed him that there might be oil on his land and asked permission to drill.  Mr. Yates agreed and signed a lease to drill.  At 1100 feet, the oil company struck a huge oil reserve, which they calculated as large enough to produce 80,000 barrels of oil per day.  The company drilled more holes and soon discovered there was twice that amount of oil.  Up until that time, Mr. Yates had no clue that he owned a fortune, because it was all hidden underground.

From a spiritual standpoint, I think it is fair to say that many of us might be like Mr. Yates in the sense that we may not truly know what is at our disposal when it comes to spiritual resources that are available.

  • Instead of faith, we worry.
  • Instead of prayer, we stress.
  • Instead of trust, we despair.

The great Scottish preacher, Alexander McLaren once said: “We may have as much of God as we will.  Christ puts the key of the treasure chamber into our hand and bids us take all that we want.  If a person is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank and is told to help themselves and comes out with one cent, whose fault is that he is poor?”  

When I first asked Christ into my heart, I soon realized that I was not alone in my spiritual journey.  Although I couldn’t see the Lord, I sensed that it was the Holy Spirit who directed my life.  My faith in God was more of a relationship than a religion.  When good and unexpected things began to happen, I thought they were mere coincidences.  As time went on, I realized that it wasn’t luck or good fortune, but the Lord who worked on my behalf.

The turning point of my walk with the Lord took place when I was in college at a prayer meeting.  On that particular night, a visiting Episcopal priest spoke about Pentecost and after his message, he asked if any would like to have the laying of hands.  So I went forward that I might have a closer walk with the Lord.  John 10:10 speaks of that: “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.”

Several days after I received the laying on of hands, I began to notice a deep desire to read the Word of God beginning to form.  Psalm 119:11: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might sin against you.”  I soon discovered that the Bible was not outdated, but relative to my needs.

Another result of the laying on of hands was I wanted to be in the house of God on Sundays.  Psalm 84:2: “My soul longs or yearns for the courts of our God.”  From that point on, I have made every effort to be in church on Sunday.  If I do not make it to church, for whatever reason, there is a feeling of emptiness.  I cannot stay away for the entire summer or long periods of time.  I am not wired that way.

Through my Holy Spirit experience, I felt more strength to live the Christian walk.  One notable impact was my tongue.  Back in the day, I used to say whatever came to mind, including certain colorful words.  But when I read James 3:10 which says, “blessing and cursing should not come out of the same mouth, ” I knew I needed to change the phrases I used, and with God’s help, I did.

Finally I wanted to tell others about my experience.  Matthew 28:19 instructed us to “Go into all the world and preach or share the gospel.”

Notice the symbol of our Methodist church. It is both the cross and the flame.  The cross is for Jesus’ death, for forgiveness of sins.  The flame is the power of the Holy Spirit and what Christ does through us.  We can’t have one without the other.

Power can be used in at least two ways.  It can be unleashed or it can be harnessed.  If a person were to drop a match in a 10 gallon can of gasoline.  It would cause an explosion.  If the spark was to be channeled by the means of a combustible car engine, then we can be safely transported. Explosions can either be destructive or useful.

With regards to our faith, the Holy Spirit is a controlled source of power which works through the church and through us.  Specifically it works when we are convicted of sin, it helps our belief in God, it is present in the worship experience in church, and it helps us to do service.

The infilling of the Spirit should not be restricted to the once a year ordination service where the bishop gives the laying on of hands to the new ministers or a confirmation service where the pastor gives the laying of hands to young teenagers.  But the infilling of the Holy Spirit is to help us live the normal Christian life.  If we truly allow the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts, he will change and refine us.

May we all be open to have a closer walk with the Lord.

Prayer:  Come Holy Spirit, come as mighty wind or gentle breath.  We ask that you blow on the embers of our faith.  Empower us to speak and act and serve so that we might touch our generation.