Pentecost Sunday “Alive in the Spirit”

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:0cm;margin-bottom:.0001pt'>O God, take my lips and speak through them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire. - Amen 

“Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday God’s people – Happy Birthday to You”

Today we celebrate Pentecost

–        Today is the birthday of the church

–        Pente – the Greek word for 50 - Today is 50 days from the Easter

–        Easter, which is of course, is the greatest of all Christian days – because it is the day that we were given our freedom

o       The day when our Lord Jesus defeated death… and all that is death

All that distracts us, all that limits us … all that binds us

On Easter, Jesus rose from the dead

§         Giving us, who are Christians, the share in the victory

However, the first Christians didn’t fully understand the victory that they had been given

            The first Christians marveled in the story that Mary Magdalene told of seeing the risen Christ

The first Christians experienced the risen Lord behind locked doors and knew a miracle had occurred

Thomas, a week later, wept at the presence of the Lord, knowing that he had not the faith to believe in what the others had said

Peter jumped out of his boat and swam to shore, after a night of fishing upon seeing the Lord on the shore

            And yet the Disciples still didn’t fully understand

–        They saw with their eyes - as St. Paul records it “he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time”

–        They touched with their hands – the wounds in Jesus side, the nail marks in His hands

–        They heard with their ears – like on the road to Emmaus

–        They understood with their minds – they knew that Jesus had Ascended

o       But, they were still afraid – they did not have the Lord in their hearts…

§         They were still hiding out for fear of the Jewish authorities…

o       Yet they were obedient

§         they went to Jerusalem as instructed and waited - and gathered to pray


And at just the right moment

At just the right time, when “there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven residing in Jerusalem” - gathered to Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks, an occasion to celebrate the gathering in of the harvest (Exod 3:14-17; Lev 23:15-22)

                                    Gathering of the Harvest – isn’t that foreshadowing            

At the moment when the city was teeming with pilgrims

When, we are told that 120 are gathered in a large upper room, 10 times 12 – biblical numerology for big and complete

“Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were staying, and tongues spreading out like fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them, All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them

Today is the birthday of the church

            Because it is the coming of the Holy Spirit in their hearts – ALL were filled with the Holy Spirit

                        Then as now – the church is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit

–        Nearly 2000 years ago today, the church was born

o       Our celebration with red balloons and red throughout the church is to mark this incredible day

So Happy Birthday – people of God

Let’s just take a moment – turn to your neighbor beside, in front, behind you and say “Happy Birthday”

It may seem kind of silly, but notice how it made you feel – consider how we as a community of God

         As the people of God gathered – when we share in a simple welcoming message, it warms your heart

That is the working of the Holy Spirit – then as now - when the people of God gather – share – pray – worship - inviting God the Holy Spirit into our lives together – it warms our hearts

            Jesus said when two or three are gathered – God is there

                        Believe it, trust in it, God is here!

So what happened next, nearly 2000 years ago?

            Did they stay holed up in some upper room – hiding away from the religious authorities

                        The Holy Spirit has come “like a rushing wind” did they stay out of sight – fearful?

            When the Holy Spirit entered their hearts – they flooded out into the streets

                        They began speaking in foreign tongues or foreign languages for all to hear

                                    Devout Jews from every nation under heaven heard them

                                                Heard them in their own language

These simple, humble Galileans, flooded out into the streets and spoke God’s words for all God’s people

What a sight this would have been!

If you were there, how do you think you could explain this?

            In the moment of this miraculous event, this strange unexplainable moment

When simple people flooded out in to the street speaking the languages of every nation

It is human nature to try to come to grips with whatever is happening - to rationalize – to try to understand and explain things

Notice how someone humorously suggested that they might be drunk on new wine

Well – it was indeed new wine – but not in the way they were thinking

This moment – this comment, became the cue for the transformation of Peter

Peter, like the other disciples, only moments before, was cocooned, gathered in secret in an upper room

            Peter, like a Butterfly coming out of a Chrysalis, grabs hold of the situation

Peter, named by Jesus as Peter – meaning rock, when formerly he was called Simon, who Jesus had declared would be the rock, the foundation of the church

Peter begins to preach…

In the midst of the eleven - He declares that they are not drunk - That it is only 9 in the morning

And ‘like any good sermon since’, Peter draws them into the scripture

Peter, empowered by the Holy Spirit, preaches God by God’s word

Peter declares that this is the moment that the prophet Joel had prophesied about:

·         This was the pouring out of the Holy Spirit of the Lord

·         That sons and daughters will together as one, speak God’s word

·         That young men will see visions

·         That old men will dream dreams

·         That it is for everyone, even servants – men & women

o       God will pour out His Spirit

·         He will perform wonders in the sky

·         Miraculous signs – of fire and smoke

·         That everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved

This is why we celebrate this great beginning – this birthday of the Church

            Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved

On that day Peter – the one who had formerly denied Christ three times – Peter who was always putting his foot in his mouth – Peter preached for all to hear

Peter like a transformed Butterfly out of a Chrysalis preached a powerful message

If we read on we will see that Peter held nothing back, Peter proclaimed a challenging message and they responded as it is recorded:

“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” Peter (said) to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.” He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.

So it is the beginning of the church

            Tongues of flames over the heads of the 120 faithful

Released from fear – empowered by the Holy Spirit they flooded out into the streets proclaiming the Lord – in every language known

            Then a stirring – heart moving sermon by Peter

A call to turn from worldly ways and repent (turning from one way to another) turning towards the Way of Jesus the Christ

            And then a sealing of their new direction in life

            About three thousand accepted his message and were baptized


Today we celebrate this incredible moment in our shared history

This day nearly 2000 years ago, the Holy Spirit birthed the church

Today we also celebrate, very appropriately, our role as equal heirs to the victory by joining with young Oliver baptized today - - with our own affirmation of the Baptismal covenant

            We as the church proclaim our membership in it

                        We state our faith and trust in the power of the Holy Spirit by being the church

While on my 4 day holiday, I read a very good book called “The Living Church”

            (Read, mostly on the plane and waiting for the plane)

            It is written by John Stott and is subtitled “convictions of a lifelong pastor”

                        In it he provides lessons experienced over 6 decades of pastoral life

And he includes three appendixes – the second of which is the ending of a sermon he gave in 1974 when the church was celebrating its 150th year

And he makes apologies and thanksgivings to Martin Luther King and his famous – “I have a dream” speech in Washington D.C.


He shares his own dream of church - which I too share!

So as we celebrate the Birthday of the Church – this Pentecost Sunday - here is a dream of the church…

I have a dream of a Church which is a biblical church

–        Which is loyal in every particular way to the revelation of God in scripture,

–        Whose pastors expound scripture with integrity and relevance, and so seek to present every member mature in Christ,

–        Whose people love the word of God, and adorn it with an obedient and Christ-like life,

–        Which is preserved from all unbiblical emphases,

–        Whose whole life manifests the health and beauty of biblical balance.

I have dream of a biblical church

I have dream of a church which is a worshipping church

–        Whose people come together to meet God and worship him,

–        Who know God is always in their midst and who bow down before him in great humility,

–        Who regularly frequent the table of the Lord Jesus – to celebrate his mighty act of redemption on the cross,

–        Who enrich the worship with their musical skills,

–        Who believe in prayer and lay hold of God in prayer,

–        Whose worship is expressed not in Sunday services and prayer gatherings only – but also in their homes, their weekday work and the common things of life.

I have dream of a worshipping church

I have a dream of a church which is a caring church

–        Whose congregation is drawn from many races, nations, ages and social backgrounds, and exhibits the unity and diversity of the family of God,

–        Whose fellowship is warm and welcoming, and never marred by anger, selfishness, jealousy or pride,

–        Whose members love one another with a pure heart fervently, forbearing one another, forgiving one another, and bearing one another’s burdens

–        Which offers friendship to the lonely, support to the weak, and acceptance to those who are despised and rejected by society,

–        Whose love spills over to the world outside, attractive, infectious, irresistible, the love of God himself.

I have a dream of a caring church

I have a dream of a church which is a serving church

–        Which has seen Christ as the Servant and has heard his call to be a servant too,

–        Which is delivered from self-interest, turned inside out, and giving itself selflessly to the service of others,

–        Whose members obey Christ’s command to live in the world, to permeate secular society, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world,

–        Whose people share the good news of Jesus simply, naturally and enthusiastically with their friends,

–        Which diligently serves its own community, residents and workers, families and single people, nationals and immigrants, old folk and little children,

–        Which is alert to the changing needs of society, sensitive and flexible enough to keep adapting its program to serve more usefully,

–        Which has global vision and is constantly challenging its young people to give their lives in service, and constantly sending its people out to serve.

I have a dream of a serving church

I have a dream of a church which is an expectant church

–        Whose members can never settle down in material affluence or comfort, because they remember that they are strangers and pilgrims on earth,

–        Which is all the more faithful and active because it is waiting and looking for its Lord to return,

–        Which keeps the flame of the Christian hope burning brightly in a dark, despairing world,

–        Which on the day of Christ will not shrink from Him in shame, but rise up joyfully to greet him,

I have a dream of a church which is an expectant church

Such is John Stott’s dream of a living church – such is my dream of a living church – alive with the Holy Spirit

            May all of us share this dream, and under God may the dream come true!

                        Happy Birthday people of God!

Let us pray.

Come Holy Spirit, our souls inspire and lighten with celestial fire. Ignite our hearts, inflame our souls, and kindle our spirits that we may burn anew with your love. Overcome what might be timid in faith with these encouragements of your presence and gospel. Warm up all that is cold in us. Give us the flame of lively living and believing. O Spirit of God, take our words and speak through them; take our minds and think through them; take our hearts and set them on fire. Amen.

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