DAY OF PENTECOST – May 20, 2018
Acts of the Apostles 2:1-21
2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in
one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the
rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were
sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a
tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy
Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living
in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was
bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native
language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all
these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each
of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and
residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and
Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya
belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and
proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear
them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and
perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But
others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed
them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known
to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as
you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is
what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days it will
be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men
shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even
upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out
my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the
heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and
smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to
blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious
day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be
John 15:26 – 16:15
26 Jesus said to his disciples, ”When the Advocate comes, whom I will
send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the
Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because
you have been with me from the beginning.
16”I have said these things to you to keep you from
stumbling. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an
hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so
they are offering worship to God. 3 And they will do this because they
have not known the Father or me. 4 But I have said these things to
you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told
you about them. “I did not say these things to you from the
beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who
sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But
because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go
away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will
prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and
judgment: 9 about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about
righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see
me no longer; 11 about judgment, because the ruler of this world has
been condemned. 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you
cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will
guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but
will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things
that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is
mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this
reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
The Church’s commemoration of the Day of Pentecost is a celebration of God’s
loving, empowering Spirit. Today we are reminded that God’s Spirit is given to us
with the intention of igniting our passion and courage for sharing Jesus’ Good
News of God’s triumphant, unconditional, world-changing love.
As I pondered what to share this morning, something came to mind that I’d never
preached before. I truly believe that God illumines us through our experiences;
and my recent experiences certainly contribute to what I’m about to share.
In the second-century Christian movement, a man named MARCION articulated a
belief that became heresy. Even though his father was a Bishop in the Church,
MARCION strayed from traditional teaching choosing to be influenced by
Gnosticism and other non-traditional ideas which view Jesus and his life’s purpose
in ways not conveyed by our four gospels.
MARCION came to believe that the God of the Old Testament was not the God of
Jesus and the New Testament. MARCION suggested that the God revealed in
Jewish scripture was unknowable, vindictive, jealous and a vicious bully. He
argued that “the creator was an incompetent being: why else had he afflicted
women with the agonies of childbirth? 'God' in the Old Testament was a barbarian
who favored thieves and terrorists such as Israel's King David.
The traditional Church had considered the Old Testament to be sacred, assuming
that Christianity was a fulfillment or continuation of Judaism, but MARCION de-
emphasized Christianity's Old Testament and Jewish roots as much as possible.”
(From Marcion, the Canon, the Law, and the Historical Jesus, By Layman)
Recalling the MARCION Heresy motivates me to highlight that one of Jesus’
purposes was to reveal the true nature of the God of Abraham. While the stories
within the Old Testament certainly give God a different twist from the God
revealed by Jesus of Nazareth, just maybe, the writers of the Hebrew scriptures
sometimes misunderstood God, like we may sometimes misunderstand God, God’s
plans and God’s intentions.
I think the human tendencies of selfishness (taking what we want at the expense of
others), fear (experiencing anxiety at the anticipation of danger or change), and
defensiveness (justifying self-protective responses) contribute to the Old
Testament writers’ anthropomorphic description of God. In other words, the
writers put on God some of our worst human characteristics, thus
misunderstanding and misrepresenting God.
I think Jesus had to come to set us all straight about God. God is love! Not
ruthless; not judgmental; not seeking revenge. No! GOD IS LOVE! And, only
when we accept that GOD IS LOVE are we able to actually experience God’s
empowering, igniting, life-giving, reconciling, stimulating, loving HOLY SPIRIT.
You see, the HOLY SPIRIT breaks down walls separating us. On the First Day of
Pentecost, as told by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, even language was not a
barrier to telling the story of God’s GOOD NEWS made real in the life, teachings,
death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Once we accept God as LOVE, then we
can better comprehend God’s plan for the world and experience the incredible
connection to one another that God’s HOLY SPIRIT gives us.
Merging God’s love with the Holy Spirit connecting us to one another is the
dynamic for real, positive change that tremendously impacts our world with God’s
healing, transforming, reconciling love.
Living within the dynamic of merging God’s love with Holy Spirit connection is
the work of Jesus Christ’s Church.
19 years ago, I attended a Sunday morning church worship service that I’ll never
forget. It was a church within the community where I was to plant an Episcopal
Church. My experience that Sunday made a huge impact in my life.
I entered the unimpressive church building, and was greeted by two people as I
walked into the crowded entryway. An older woman handed me a service leaflet,
with a polite smile, and then I was left to my own to find seating.
It was a contemporary, minimalist, Protestant worship space with carpeted floors
slanting toward the front ‘stage’ area where there was no central focus. But the
pews were padded and comfy.
It wasn’t long before another older woman stood in the isle beside the seat I’d
chosen. She responded loudly to another woman engaging her in conversation.
The other woman was sitting directly behind me. I couldn’t help but hear the
conversation. It went something like this:
“Hello dear; how are you today?
I’ve been better.
Where are you going to sit today?
I’m not sure. As you can see, someone is sitting in my seat.”
I know dear. I’m so sorry. Do you want to sit with us today?
I guess I might as well. It doesn’t look like that person is going to move.”
Of course, the woman was talking about me.
It’s not just an historic misunderstanding of the God of the Old Testament (that
Jesus tried to straighten out) that sometimes gives the Judeo-Christian tradition
a negative, mean-spirited image; it’s also the way you and I choose, at times, to
not express love and value for our connection one with another.
As followers of Jesus Christ and active participants within Jesus Christ’s Church,
you and I have the power to deflate the Good News of Jesus or spread it with our
own personal touch.
It’s healthy to ask ourselves tough questions, such as:
Do we hinder God’s work of love
or do we work at bridging the divides by loving, valuing and living our
connection with others?
God’s Holy Spirit desires to empower us with God’s incredible love so that we
may bring into harmony all God’s people under the umbrella of God’s loving
Let God’s empowering love permeate your life and just watch as it transforms
hopes and possibilities for a better world into blessed realities.
The craziness and violence of the world will not consume and destroy
the hearts of God’s people. God won’t let that happen. Absolutely not! The Holy
Spirit will empower and God’s love will win!
The question is: will we help God’s love win? I pray that we will.