Sermon: The Promise From Above

The Promise From Above
Acts 2:1-21
RUMC 4 June 2017

Once there was a Sunday school teacher who encouraged her class to memorize the Apostle’s Creed. On Children’s Rally Sunday, each child was to recite one section.
Sara began, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth.”
Rachel continued, “I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate.”
Ricky added, “was crucified, dead, and buried, the third day he rose from the dead.”
Noah was next and said, “He ascended into heaven, and seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from thence he shall come to judge the living and dead.”
Then there was a long pause. Finally a girl spoke up and said “The boy who believes in the Holy Spirit is absent today.”

I think for a lot of people, there is a mystery as to who the Holy Spirit is and what he does. Today on this Pentecost Sunday, we remember how the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts became real in the lives of the disciples.  It is my hope that this same Holy Spirit will reignite our spiritual lives as well.

My text is Acts 2.
2 1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”
12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?” 13 Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”
14-21 That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:
“In the Last Days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams. When the time comes, I’ll pour out my Spirit On those who serve me, men and women both, and they’ll prophesy. I’ll set wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billowing smoke, the sun turning black and the moon blood-red, Before the Day of the Lord arrives, the Day tremendous and marvelous; And whoever calls out for help to me, God, will be saved.”
This is the Word of God.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he gave final instructions in Acts 1:8  “But you will receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”  Ten days later the manifestation of the Holy Spirit was sudden and dramatic.

  1. First, there was the sound of the wind. The wind was the real attention getter, because it was sudden and in the house. This symbolized God’s presence.
  2. Then those present could see little flames hover over the heads of the apostles. It was not a devouring blaze, but more like the flame in the Methodist symbol. In this case, fire is the symbol of transformation that cleanses whoever it touches.
  3. Next the onlookers were startled to see the Lord’s disciples speak in foreign languages. This showed that the gospel was to be worldwide and that the prayer in the Holy Spirit is one of the spiritual gifts.

So on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, the church was born. The Holy Spirit changed the lives of the disciples, and they changed the world.  The Lord wants the same for us.  He wants us to be filled, controlled, and reignited with the Holy Spirit so that our personalities and talents can be used for the Kingdom of God.

In the 1960 movie, Ben Hur, the actor Charlton Heston was asked to drive a chariot. During those practice sessions he had trouble adjusting to the way it operated.  He told his director, “I can barely stay on this thing and I can’t win the race.”  The director told Heston, “It is your job is to stay on it and it is my job to make sure you win.”  Heston held on and the movie was a great success.  It is the same thing with us. The Holy Spirit orchestrates the events in our lives.  Our job is to simply stay in our chariot of faith.  If we do that, the Spirit of God will work through us in a remarkable way.

Once there was a blacksmith who had two pieces of iron that needed to be molded into one. So he took the two cold pieces, put them on the anvil, and began to hammer.  Of course nothing happened.  Then the blacksmith remembered something that he should never have forgotten.  He then put the two pieces of iron into the fire, took them out, laid one on the other, and began to hammer.  Soon they became one.  That is a picture of what the Holy Spirit does for us.  The Lord through the Spirit of God takes us and molds us so we can be useful in the Kingdom of God.

On January first of each year is the Tournament of Roses parade, held in Pasadena, California. One year a float covered with flowers suddenly sputtered and quit.  The unthinkable happened.  It was out of gas.  A good section of the parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas.  The funny thing about this float was that it represented the Standard Oil Company; yet with all of its vast oil resources, their truck was out of gas and couldn’t move.

What these two illustrations represent is that something was needed to complete the task. The blacksmith needed fire, and the float in the parade needed gas.  It is the same thing with the Christian believer; we need the presence of the Spirit if we are going to make a difference.

I think of a garden hose. If there are any kinks in it, the water may sputter or not come out.  We must unroll the hose and straighten it out to get the water going at full force.  It is the same thing with the Holy Spirit.  A lack of faith or not living right will block the flow.

If I could tie all this together: When we invite Christ into our hearts, the Holy Spirit gives us assurance that we are His children.  Pentecost becomes real to us when the “spiritual” wind blows into our lives; we become closer and deeper in our connection to God.  My hope is that you will allow more of God in your lives so that He can work through you.

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