Saturday, May 14, 2005

Festival of Pentecost, May 15, 2005, Acts 2:1-4

Pentecost, May 15, 2005

St. John’s, Burt ~ Our Savior, Swea City

(Acts 2:1-4, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Lost Dog!” The sign said. “$500 reward. Description: Black and tan mixed breed. Flea-bitten. Left hind leg missing. Blind in right eye. Answers to the name, ‘Lucky’”

Now Lucky doesn’t seem like much of a dog. Not to me anyway. But there is someone who wants him back and he is willing to pay the price to do it. The funny thing is that Lucky doesn’t sound like a dog that’s even able to do a lot. He certainly isn’t worth the reward that’s offered. He has no pedigree, can’t see, can’t run, plagued by fleas… and yet someone wants him back. Someone loves him that much.

Have you ever felt like Lucky? Lost? Unable to do what needs to be done? I have. We all feel that way at one time or another. Actually, God makes it quite clear that we were all like Lucky. The entire human race is “lucky”: lost in our sins, hell-bound, spiritually blind and unable to see God, unable to do what God wants us to do. And yet, God paid the price to have us back. The price He paid was more than a $500 reward. He paid the price of His only begotten Son.

Jesus suffered and died on the cross to have us found. Someone loves Lucky a lot. God loves us even more. You and I have already been found, and returned home to have a relationship to God again.

Now just think another moment about crippled, blind, worthless, Lucky again. I think the Disciples and the folks gathered on the first Pentecost felt. It’s true they’d seen the resurrected Jesus, but they probably felt pretty worthless to tell people about Him. Who’s going to believe a bunch of flea-bitten fishermen from Galilee? That’s where I think you and I can relate. I’m sure those folks gathered together there had the same fears and problems and questions you have when you think about sharing the Good News of Jesus with people. We feel pretty worthless when it comes to that kind of thing. It’s much easier to get out the checkbook and pay to have it done for us. I’ll bet you’ve had thoughts like these: “I don’t know the bible well enough to answer questions that will come up if I talk about Jesus.” “Christianity is too difficult to understand. It takes years to learn. Where do I begin?” “I can’t tell that person about my faith we have too much questionable history, they know me too well to believe my faith is real.”

That last one thought is one of the reasons why I think evangelism is more difficult in communities like ours than anywhere else. It is very difficult to speak about Jesus to someone you’ve known all your life and never had anything remotely spiritual pass between you. And Jesus name has only been spoken of as part of a curse. In communities like ours, we already have well established relationship, and those relationships have well established expectations, which may very well include the idea that religion isn’t to be discussed.

Well, the disciples had similar problems. They doubted their ability to tell people about Jesus, just as you do. They didn’t just feel lost, like Lucky, but worthless, too.

That’s one of the things I like about this account of Pentecost. I’ve read it hundreds of times, and every time I come to the same conclusion. The disciples didn’t do a thing. They sat in a room waiting, un-inspired to do what Jesus told them they would be doing. The thing that fired them up was the fire… of Pentecost. The rushing wind told them that God was there. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, the writer tells us. The tongues of fire that showed them what was happening to them also told them what to do next… it was the sign of what the Holy Spirit was giving them. I know the common picture you have in your mind is of the fire setting on their heads. It’s not a bad picture. But I think the fire is just as a literal translation would picture it. The fire distributed to them, in “tongues like fire.” Not on top of their heads but in their mouths, after all as soon as the Spirit came to them they began to speak.

Now by this time the crowds had gathered to see what was going on. That windy sound drew them. And the disciples were speaking in languages they hadn’t learned, to people from all over the world, who understood what they were saying. And don’t think for one moment they were talking about the weather. When the Holy Spirit speaks, as He did on that day, He always speaks about Jesus. Nobody expected it to happen, least of all the disciples. But you see, God had promised that this is what they would do, and He always makes good on His promises.

Peter got up before the crowd and preached a sermon. When it was done, the Holy Spirit gave the gift of faith to about 3,000 people. Pretty astonishing for a rag-tag group of fishermen from Galilee. Even though they were more like our dog Lucky, God used them to accomplish something great. The Holy Spirit equipped them to do the task that He gave them to do.

Now, this is the point I want you to think about. You’ve been equipped to do exactly what God has called you to do. It might not be as dramatic as speaking in foreign languages you’ve never been taught. You might not hear the violent wind and have fire coming out of your mouth, but the very same Holy Spirit is in you that was in those disciples in Jerusalem. You see, that’s Jesus’ promise to you. “If I go, I will send Him to you.” In your Baptism God came to you in the person of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). He lives in you and He equips you to do the task at hand. Think about it this way: If He can make “Galileans” speak in foreign languages that they never learned, He can and will help you speak the simplicity of what Jesus did for you.

That’s why we lit the candles during the Acts reading today. That fire you held in your hands isn’t the Holy Spirit, but I wanted you to feel connected to the disciples. There was no way for me to put that fire into your mouth… but that’s exactly what God has already done through the Holy Spirit in you. You might fell worthless like the dog, Lucky, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not up to you to say the right thing anyway. It’s only up to you to speak. Just like He gave the disciples the foreign words to say, He’ll give you the words to say. That’s exactly why He’s there.

So, where do you start? How about a few practical tips: First, pray that the Holy Spirit will show you the opportunities you have. They are there in your everyday life. He’ll make you aware of them. Second, remember that even your Christian friends need to hear about Jesus. Just think about what it means to you to hear of God’s love for you in Jesus. It doesn’t matter if they are Presbyterian, Methodist, or even members of St. John’s, we all need to hear about Jesus again and again. Keep it simple. You don’t have to preach a sermon, that’s my job. Just take a deep breath, call upon the Spirit and say something about Jesus. The Holy Spirit is right there to guide you, depend on Him. You have God’s promise that it will be enough.

There’s a story in the Old Testament about the Prophet Elisha and a poor widow (2 Kings 4:1-7). She was about to loose everything so she came to Elisha for help. Her husband had died and the creditors were at the door. Since she couldn’t pay them her sons were to be made slaves to pay the debts. All she had was a little flask of oil. The prophet told her to go to her neighbors and borrow all the containers she could get her hands on, “not too few!” He urged her. “Go into your house and start pouring… and pouring… and pouring.” She did what he said and as long as there was another pot to pour into, the oil kept flowing and flowing and didn’t run out.

You know, God poured out His Holy Spirit on Pentecost just as He promised. He poured out His
Spirit on you in Baptism and the Spirit never runs out. You see Him at work all the time. Every time another baby is baptized, every time the Cross of Christ is proclaimed, every time you hear “I announce the grace of God to all of you …” and even when you receive the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, that is the Holy Spirit giving and giving.

So Pentecost is for you. It’s a reminder that you aren’t alone but Jesus is with you through the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. God promises us, “I will not leave you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5) He proves it through the life death and resurrection of Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. He rescued you when you were lost and helpless. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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