Pentecost Sunday is the celebration of the beginning of the church, the birth day of the church. That is special and fun. Then, when you read the Scripture and you read about howling winds and flames on folks' heads-- well, that stuff is pretty cool.
Several years back when I preached at Brooks Memorial as a pulpit supply lay speaker, I had created a birthday gift and brought bubbles in flame colors (red, orange, yellow) and white for the Holy Spirit. I resurrected that aspect of that day for yesterday's sermon "Get Fired Up!"
Below you will find the sermon text, though what is written is never exactly what is said, as things are edited and adapted during the service.
You will see a picture of two people wearing red. Wearing red for Pentecost has become a tradition in many churches and I encourage folks to do it. I wore red too, foregoing the robe. I wore a red cross and some new flame earrings I got at the arts festival in Mentone over the weekend.
|Carmen and Cathy at FUMC on Pentecost Sunday|
I started off the day with a great view off my deck and a "Prayer to the Holy Spirit":
"Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy your consolations. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."
An additional celebration for me yesterday was getting to cheer on the Iron Man cyclists on our way into Flintstone yesterday morning. I enjoy encouraging them on their ride. There were some residents on the main road in St. Elmo shouting at motorists to take Tennessee Avenue. For us, that isn't a choice. We would still have to cross over at some point for us to get to Chattanooga Valley Road. We gave the cyclists the space they needed and got off the road as soon as we could, taking the back road to the church. The Iron Man is an awesome race and it is great to see so many participate.
“Get Fired Up!”
May 20, 2018 (Pentecost, Heritage Sunday)
1When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them.They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
Today is Pentecost Sunday. It is also Heritage Sunday and we celebrate 50 years in the United Methodist Church. It is truly a day of celebrating the birth of the church! To celebrate this special birth of the church, it has become a tradition for church goers to wear red on Pentecost. [page 22 in The United Methodist Church Handbook“Therefore, go: Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World” has a good time-line]
Today’s passage is a fairly lengthy one and we won’t be able to explore all of it.
Before we get started, we might need to look back to see what the background is for chapter 2. What is the setting? Who is there? What is going on? In Acts 1, we see that the risen Jesus is with the disciples and Jesus is instructing them on what to do next. Jesus continues to teach the disciples and reminds them to be on the lookout for the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:3-5—“3After his suffering, he showed them that he was alive with many convincing proofs. He appeared to them over a period of forty days, speaking to them about God’s kingdom. While they were eating together, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “This is what you heard from me: ” John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 1:9-10 tells us about Jesus’ ascension, which we celebrated last week on Ascension Sunday. “9 After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. ” While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them.
Acts 1:12-13 lets us know that they are in Jerusalem, in the upper room, the same room where the last supper was held.
When we pick up in Acts 2, we now know who is waiting, where, and why.
Now let’s look at our passage again. Verses 1-4—“1When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. ” They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
Imagine the apostles, in the upper room and a howling wind fills the space and they saw what seemed to be flames on top of each of them. At the same time, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. How would they have felt? How would they have responded?
This is the upper room where they had gone to get away after Jesus’ death. Jesus broke through the barriers of a locked door to get to them. Now, Jesus has gone away for the final time and the promised helper, the Holy Spirit has come upon them.
It wasn’t quiet nor something you could easily ignore. Hear some of the phrases again: “Howling like a fierce wind”, “individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them”, “filled with the Holy Spirit”, “began to speak in other languages”.
This is going on in the house and it gets the attentions of others in Jerusalem who gathered around. It was a loud noise.
Verses 5-6: “5 There were pious Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered. They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages.”
This gift of languages here is one of known languages. There is the gift of speaking in tongues, but that is a different gift and discussed elsewhere. The languages here are known, yet the mystery is that there are people gathered from all over, yet they are able to understand the apostles speaking because they hear it in their native language. The apostles didn’t speak those languages prior, but the power of the Holy Spirit upon them enabled them to communicate clearly to everyone as needed.
I will probably never forget the time I was with my French 3 students from Bryan College and I said something to one of them and she (Laurie Blanton) just looked at me funny. She had been a missionary kid in a Middle Eastern country. She finally said to me, you just spoke to me in Arabic. I was blown away and confused. I didn’t know Arabic. I knew a few terms because of Spanish, but nothing I could put together. But she said I spoke to her in clear Arabic rather than French. I had no clue. Mystery.
The Holy Spirit enables us to communicate with others in ways that are meaningful to them, in their “language”, if you will. It might take the form of a written word, a spoken word, a non-verbal communication, a number of things. If we pay attention, we might be aware of a Holy Spirit encounter. Sometimes, we might be the vessel, yet not even know it. Verse 11—“we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!”
Pentecost Sunday reminds us that the power of the Holy Spirit came down, it filled the room, the whole house with its presence. It enabled and empowered the followers of Jesus to be and do what they were called to do—to spread the word about Jesus Christ to all. They made such a ruckus that folks thought they were drunk on wine. Peter stood before the crowds to let them know that it was not wine, but rather the Holy Spirit that was the cause of the uproar.
These apostles were literally “fired up”. They were lit up by the Holy Spirit and allowed the Spirit to flow into them and through them. This was the beginning of their ministry with the Holy Spirit as their guide and teacher.
What was the result? If we read further down in Acts 2, verses 42-43: “42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles.”
The same Holy Spirit that descended upon the apostles is the same one that guides, directs, and comforts us. The Holy Spirit continues to teach us today.
Bishop Rueben Job of the UMC reminds us, “Through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost God in Christ became available to every believer.” (217, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God)
I imagine anyone who heard about or saw the sermon from the royal wedding would recognize that Bishop Michael Curry, head of the Episcopal Church, was Spirit led. I didn’t see it in real time, but after hearing about it, I checked it out.
Two of his quotes that caught my attention:
“When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all and we are brothers and sisters, children of God.”
“There’s power in love. Love can help and heal when nothing else can.”
When we sing, say, and pray, “Come, Holy Spirit”, do we mean it?
Are we willing to pray “Come, Holy Spirit” and allow the Holy Spirit to freely move within us—to give us dreams and visions, to show us and guide us?
As we consider the Holy Spirit coming and moving in and amongst us, hear these words of exhortation from ancient church fathers:
“It is possible either to sustain and strengthen this burning of the spirit, or to quench it.” (188)
“Cast everything aside that might extinguish this small flame which is beginning to burn within you, and surround yourself with everything which can feed and fan it into a strong fire.” (188) (A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants)
May the Holy Spirit come upon us and fire us up to live as followers of Christ, proclaiming the mighty works of God.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Worship was a blessing yesterday. The songs dove-tailed so well, like most Sundays. The Holy Spirit works well to orchestrate this.
Here are the songs from yesterday's service:
"Soul on Fire" by Third Day
"Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" UMH 400
"Freely, Freely" UMH 389
"Spirit of the Living God" UMH 393
Here are some resource links:
Heritage Sunday UMC Resources-- from General Commission on Archives and History
Pentecost Sunday UMC Resources
On Fire! Pentecost Worship
Pentecost 2018 Graphics and Resources
May this Pentecost season be a time when the Holy Spirit blows fresh wind through your world!
Blessings on your journey,
For some Pentecost humor, Kevin Frank's cartoon is pretty fun!