Pentecost – 5/19/2024

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Ephesians 4:1-6  I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,  5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Acts 1:1-14  In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning  2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.  3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.  4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me;  5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”  6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”  7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.  8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.  10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.  11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”  12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.  13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.  14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

Acts 2:1-4  When 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 them ability.

The Unity of the Spirit 

I have a secret.  Shhhhh…  Don’t tell the Hallmark people.  Today we have the one holiday they haven’t discovered and made cards for.  I have never seen a Pentecost card.  They already have Easter, and Christmas, we wouldn’t want this holiday commercialized too.  Easter has the Easter Bunny bringing candy, Christmas has Santa Claus giving presents.  I wonder what they would use for Pentecost?  Doves, perhaps?  And what would the doves do for Pentecost?  Perhaps it’s best not to know!

 This is the eighth Sunday since Easter and today we celebrate Pentecost.  For Christians, it commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church.  The festival existed long before the Christian church though.  Since ancient times the Jewish people have celebrated Pentecost also known as the Festival of Weeks which remembers when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, the law the Jewish people were to follow.  Throughout the history of ancient Israel, people were incapable of following the law.  Many times the prophets called the people back and reminded them of the law.  The prophet Jeremiah said that God would make a new covenant with his people, one in which he would write the law on their hearts.  It is through the Holy Spirit that God’s new covenant is written on our hearts.  How appropriate that on first Pentecost the law was given to Moses and on this new Pentecost God now writes the law on believer’s hearts through the Holy Spirit.

Luke begins the book of Acts with Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances.  He tells us Jesus appeared to his followers for forty days before he ascended into heaven.  Ten days following that came the festival known as Pentecost.  Now let’s examine what Jesus’ followers did during those ten days.

Luke tells us that between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost the one hundred and twenty believers gathered in an upper room and constantly devoted themselves to prayer.  Men and women together; praying.  There is power in prayer, power in people gathered together in unity, praying to God.  They constantly devoted themselves to prayer, with one accord as other translations put it, in another words with a common will.  That speaks of unity.  We see here the power of prayer coupled with unity.  

On the day of Pentecost we have the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, empowering believers for evangelism and ministry.  Jesus had promised they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit and what a baptism it was!  A great wind, tongues of fire, speaking in other languages!  It was an unmistakable experience.  This is the birth of the church!  Up until this time people were filled with the Holy Spirit for a time.  From this time on, though, believers are filled permanently.  The Holy Spirit now comes to dwell in the hearts of believers, changing them and growing them in the faith.  Luke tells us, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”  Note the ending phrase.  As the Spirit gave them ability.  The Holy Spirit is the one who gives gifts to the church, the one who enables us to do the work God has given us to do.  

Paul speaks of this as our calling in our Ephesians passage.  He begs us to live a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called.  He instructs us to live with all humility, gentleness, patience and forbearance.  Paul says, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”  

Each of us needs to accept God’s call and walk it out in our own lives and we as a church also need to heed God’s call and live it out in the life of this church.  

Now let’s look at what happened after the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit.  We are told that Peter stood up and preached to the crowd that gathered.  Acts 2:41 tells us that those who welcomed his message were baptized and about three thousand people were added to their number that day.  

Something that comes with the Holy Spirit that I want us to see today is unity.  Let us look ahead in Acts and see the results of Peter’s preaching on Pentecost.  

Acts 2:41-47   41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.  42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.  44 All who believed were together and had all things in common;  45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.  46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,  47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Look at the unity shown in these verses. All of them were devoted to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and fellowship.  They held all things in common.  What a wonderful spirit of unity we see!  

Jesus Christ has created the body of the church.  The Pentecostal gift of the Holy Spirit gives life to that body.  The picture we have here of the early believers is one of a group, united in a confession of faith, and then empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Whenever and wherever two or three gather in the name of Jesus Christ, the Pentecostal gift is repeated, Jesus is present through the Holy Spirit.  And where Christ is, there is unity.  The most basic statement in all Judaism, one Jesus himself would have repeated every day is, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Unity. The unity of the spirit in the bond of peace that Paul spoke of is simply the New Testament way of saying this Old Testament creed.  

Where is the unity in the Christian church today? After all we are split into so many denominations. Can there still be underlying unity in the midst of such division? YES! All Christians of whatever name still worship the same God.  We unite in confessing Jesus as Lord.  We join in the one hope of salvation, in the vision of the chorus of unity before the throne of Christ in heaven.  The gift of the Holy Spirit is still promised to the two or three gathered together at a Roman Catholic Mass, or a Greek Orthodox Eucharist, in the silence of a Quaker meetinghouse or the joyous uproar of a Pentecostal service and in the traditions of our Presbyterian service.  But we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit if we are to have any hope of unity.

Think of those disciples in the early church.  They had spent three years with Jesus, hearing him teach.  They had gone through the horror of seeing Jesus crucified and the joy of his resurrection.  He was with them for forty days after the resurrection.  We have the Bible to teach us and it is has all we need but how much better it would be to have Jesus Himself with us teaching us as the disciples had.  Yet, despite having Jesus with them, they still needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus told them to wait for it, to do nothing until they were “clothed with power from on high.”  If they needed the Holy Spirit how much more do we, who have never seen Jesus, need His Holy Spirit to fill us, to unify us, to empower us.  

Listen to the words of the hymn we will sing following the sermon.  Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.  Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.  In these words, we are inviting the Holy Spirit to come again, to fall afresh.  

Let me paint a word picture of this for you.  Think of a winter snow, hard to imagine with this lovely spring weather but I’m confident we can do this.  A fresh snowfall is always so beautiful, so pristine.  But over time a snowfall becomes dirty, marred with footprints, rather ugly.  Let the snow fall afresh and the purity and beauty returns.  Our spirits can be like this snowfall.  The Holy Spirit comes and cleanses us, purifies us but then the world introduces sin and we become like the dirty snow several days after the snowfall.  In our hymn today we are asking the Holy Spirit to come again, fall afresh on us.  We are opening ourselves to God, asking Him to change us, to grow us, giving Him permission to, in the words of the hymn, melt us and mold us, fill us and use us.  I invite all of us to sing this hymn as a prayer to God asking Him to fill us again with His Holy Spirit.  Let us rise and sing ‘Spirit of the Living God’, #322 in your hymnal and we will sing it through twice.