Today is Pentecost, the church’s birthday – so, ‘Happy birthday’ everyone! I think we are going to have a celebration at morning tea, so I’d better not take too long with today’s message.
Now when Morag was arranging for speakers for the Sundays she would be away, she asked me which ones I would be here to do. I looked at my diary and said “well one could be the 4th June”. She then said; “You sure, that’s Pentecost”? I thought, ‘well so what, after all it’s not like Christmas Day or Easter or any of those type of popular celebrations, is it’?
In preparing for the message, I think I started to understand why Morag second checked with me.
Christmas is the celebration of ‘Immanuel’, or ‘God with us’, through the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord. A spectacular event in the Christian calendar when people come to church that are not inclined to do so throughout the year.
But Christmas becomes important only because of the life of Jesus who taught love by the way he lived, healed the sick, restored sight to the blind and raised people from death back to life; all miracles that glorified God.
But Jesus life came to a climax as we reflect on Maundy Thursday, the last supper and betrayal and trauma of Jesus in those last hours.
These events lead to Good Friday and the Cross where the sacrifice of Jesus breaks the divide between people and God caused by sin. Here at Mulgrave we celebrate that significant event each Sunday in communion.
But the importance of the Cross can only be realised through the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. This is God, through Jesus the Christ, being victorious over death and sin in an act of Devine Resurrection.
There could not have been a Good Friday without the advent of Christ’s coming which we celebrate at Christmas. Good Friday would have been a meaningless martyrdom without the victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ which we celebrate on Easter Sunday.
But it is Pentecost that enables the gift of faith by which you and I can know that the birth, the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ were all for us!
Jesus was not finished when He rose from the dead and ascended to be glorified. He came back to give the greatest gift of all — the gift of His own Spirit to live in us.
This may be why Morag asked; ‘are you sure you want to speak on Pentecost’?
All the other celebrations have enormous importance in our Christian faith, but let us not understate the importance of Pentecost.
With this in mind let us now look at Acts 2 and the events experienced by those present 2000 years ago.
We read in verse 1& 2
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 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.
There is no record of dust flying about, or people or furniture being blown over; but ‘there came a ‘sound’ like the rush of a violent wind’.
We think the writer of Acts was Luke, a very well educated articulate man who would have had an excellent vocabulary. But here he appears to struggle explain what was in fact occurring.
Have you ever spoken to a farmer who begins to celebrate the coming of rain when there are no clouds in the sky? You know; ‘I can feel it in my bones’. More often than not, he is right. He can’t explain why, so he simply he says; ‘I can feel it in my bones’.
I have tinnitus; it creates a problem with my hearing sometimes. The Doctor asked me to explain it and I said; ‘the sounds in my head are like sitting next to a freeway and it clouds my hearing’.
Now neither, the farmer nor I have done a very good job of explaining our experiences, and these are just everyday situations. Luke is trying to explain a supernatural event of the most enormous magnitude; the coming of the Holy Spirit on a group of people.
We go on to read in verses 3 & 4:
Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Very dramatic events were occurring, but no one was being hurt or injured. No one was being blown over or burnt by tongues of fire. But they were all filled with power and ability that they had never previously experienced.
Luke continues to find it difficult to explain in human terms what was happening, so I will find it extremely difficult to explain. So rather than try to explain, I intend to stick to what I do know.
What I do know is today is Pentecost, a celebration of a supernatural event that first happened 2,000 years ago and continues to happen in our lives now. In this day and age, we are also ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’.
Today is Pentecost, the celebration of the truth that God’s presence with us didn’t end when Jesus’ life ended.
Today is Pentecost, the celebration of the fulfilment of yet another promise of Jesus to send a comforter and advocate to be with us always.
Today is Pentecost, the celebration of the truth that there is more to the story of ‘Immanuel’ or ‘God with us’.
Today is Pentecost, the celebration of the truth that we are only a small part of the story of God…the whole world and all of time, past, present and future, is the story of God, too.
Today is Pentecost, the celebration of the truth that we play a part to create heaven on earth; and that we CAN because the Holy Spirit, our advocate, resides in each of us; lives in us and gives us power and ability beyond ourselves.
What an exhilarating thought. This is the celebration of the birthday of the Church and of equipping or empowering us to live our lives for Christ; because we know He lived, He died and He was resurrected in Glory.
But we can only know this because we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Even this knowledge is an ability beyond ourselves.
When we face challenge’s in life to cope; sickness, loneliness, loss of a loved one or friend, broken relationships, fear of the future, questions of faith, anxiety over world events or even over our own personal situations, we find strength beyond our own ability to work through these things. We are filled with the Holy Spirit.
When others are in need beyond our ability to provide physical answers; through prayer, answers are often provided far beyond our ability and sometimes we are even given the gift of the right words to say or skills needed to bring comfort or resolve to a problem. We are filled with the Holy Spirit.
That’s what we celebrate today, with these balloons that represent God’s breath; ‘came a sound like the rush of a violent wind’, and God’s fire; ‘divided tongues, as of fire’.
Jesus’ promise that those who believe would be filled with the Holy Spirit back 2000 years ago, that was so miraculously fulfilled at Pentecost, is the same promise we receive today.
God is with us now and we who believe in Jesus are filled with the Holy Spirit. God’s grace is beyond our understanding and the gift of the Holy Spirit is beyond my ability to explain, but both are given to each of us. Amen.