Sermon Pentecost 23rd May 2021
Acts 2:1-21. Psalm 104:26-36. Romans 8:22-27. John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
Last week I spoke on Ascension as the moment Jesus left the disciples to be with the God in order that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate could be sent to empower the disciples and the Church.
Pentecost marks for us the moment the disciples receive the promise of the Holy Spirit to empower them for the work and ministry of the gospel, to continue the work that Jesus had begun., to bring healing and comfort to a broken world. Jesus had been their example in word, deed and action, and it is on this day that the disciples, now apostles are empowered by the Holy Spirit into action.
In our Acts reading today we discover that the disciples are speaking in the languages of those gathered around. The list of languages is quite long. And what is it that the people hear? They hear the disciples speaking about what God has done. They are perplexed, confused, and ask ‘What does this mean?’ Peter then stands in the midst of them and begins to speak. What is it that Peter shares with the crowd.
Peter reminds the crowd that the disciples are not drunk on wine as it is only 9 in the morning. I’m glad to see that there seems to be something of a cultural tradition that sees being drunk early in the morning as unthinkable. Instead Peter speaks to them about the Prophet Joel, ‘in these last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters will prophecy, and your young men shall see vision, and your old men will dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those day I will pour out my Spirit. There are two important things to note about Peter’s speech. Firstly, that God pours out his spirit upon all who believe, men and women, slave and free, there are no distinctions here. Secondly that the Holy Spirit would bring undeniable change in the lives of those who received.
In John’s gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that the ‘Advocate, the Holy Spirit would ‘testify on Jesus behalf’. The Holy Spirit came to the church to confirm the work of Jesus ministry. An advocate is one who speaks on behalf of another. The coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church signals the moment when the disciples would now speak on behalf of the head of the Church as the body of Christ. It must have been unsettling for the disciples to hear Jesus saying he must go away in order for the Advocate to come. They had spent a long time walking, talking, listening, questioning and understanding all that Jesus had to say to them. Once the day of Pentecost comes, the disciples eyes are fully open, fully aware of the promise that Jesus had made to them while he was alive.
In these final weeks of the Easter season we travel through the days of Ascension, and Pentecost as a means to understand not only why it was necessary for Jesus to ascend but also because it pathed the way for Jesus to send the Advocate the Holy Spirit. Peter, who had often questioned Jesus, believing he would never deny Christ, only to do so, was also the one Jesus told to ‘feed my sheep’. This same Peter now stands up on the day of Pentecost to declare what Jesus had done in sending the Holy Spirit to the people of God.
The apostle Paul gives us some more information in the Letter to the Roman’s. The [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit gave Peter, who was standing with the eleven other apostles, the strength to speak to the crowd on that first Pentecost. Peter testifies to them that God raised Jesus from death. And upon hearing Peter’s sermon, those listening were cut to the heart. And said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘what should we do?’. Peter’s reply is simple, repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:37-38). It was a tremendous day for the church, many believed and were baptised.
The day of Pentecost recorded in the Acts of the Apostles should be a reminder to us of the gift of the Holy Spirit that was given to us at our Baptisms. It is the power of God to change and transform our lives. The Holy Spirit has been given to us to help us in our weaknesses. To help us when we do not know how to pray, to encourage and enliven us in our faith. How soon do we forget the gift of God that is given to us through the Holy Spirit? How soon do we forget the reason that God gave the Holy Spirit to the church for a purpose. How soon do we forget that God is interested in each one of us to live our lives in such a way that glorifies God.
The symbols that mark the day of Pentecost are well known, the dove and flames of fire. They remind us of two of the characteristics of God the Holy Spirit. The dove represents the gentleness, love and compassion of God. The fire represents the transformation power of God the Holy Spirit. Those disciples who became apostles on the day of Pentecost were forever changed. They recalled what Jesus had told them. They patiently waited, spending time in prayer, not just the apostles but there were the women with them too including Jesus mother. The Holy Spirit came upon them all.
How then are we to live now in light of this message, that the Holy Spirit of God helps us in our weaknesses, helps us in our prayer, helps us in our everyday lives? For me, it reminds me that in my humanity I need God, I need God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit to come and make their home in me, to enliven me, to strengthen me, to encourage me, to stir me.
May we be like the apostles, who although in their weaknesses and disbelieving could not imagine what would happen on the day of Pentecost, yet they were changed and very much believing in al that Jesus said and did in their presence and now much more so that Jesus had sent them the Advocate, God the Holy Spirit.