Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pentecost

Today is Pentecost. Today marks the celebration of the Christian church as a body and the moment when the church began - when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and first believers in front of a great multitude of witnesses.

I give you Acts, chapter 2:

2 When the day of Pentecost came, they (from Acts 1:15 we know there were about 120 in this group here referred to as ‘they’: In those days Peter stood up among the believers, a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them….22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[d] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.

Because he is at my right hand,

I will not be shaken.

26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

my body also will rest in hope,

27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

you will not let your holy one see decay.

28 You have made known to me the paths of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence.’[e]

29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried,and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:

“Sit at my right hand

35 until I make your enemies

a footstool for your feet.”’

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter replied, “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. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (emphasis mine)

Sidenote: Pentecost translates as ‘50 weeks’ and is the Greek name for the Feast of Weeks, a prominent feast in the calendar of ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai. This feast is still celebrated in Judaism as Shavuot (source: Wikipedia). Because the events that took place in Acts as quoted above took place on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, it has become a shared holiday, albeit infused with different meanings.

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From 120 believers to over three thousand, in one day. Think about that for a moment. That’s some kind of revival! It was at this moment in history that God’s plan for the church through the Holy Spirit caught fire and really began to spread. And there is no stopping it. Those first three thousand? It seems that those were Jewish folk. But we know God didn’t stop there. In Acts 10, we are given a portrait of the first gentiles (i.e. non-Jewish people) to be folded into the Christian church:

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues[b] and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water.They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

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So what we see here is that the Jewish folks- the ones who understood that in order to be welcomed into God’s family you must enter into Judaism including lopping off your foreskin and such, are shocked that God is sending his Holy Spirit down upon those who haven’t officially converted to Judaism in any capacity! Suddenly, God is coming to everyone and anyone, right where they are, without any hoops for them to jump through first. It’s new dawn! It’s a new day!

So of course this means great news for you and me here today in this modern world. God sends his Holy Spirit to us, right where we stand, and asks us to submit to his will and enter into relationship with him. You only have to say yes, and your journey begins.

The Methodist call to the faith through baptism of the Holy Spirit sums up the questions God has laid before us, the questions that each of us must answer. How do you answer them?

Through the Sacrament of Baptism we are

initiated into Christ’s holy Church.

We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts

of salvation and given new birth through

water and the Spirit.

All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.

On behalf of the whole Church,

I ask you:

Do you renounce the spiritual

forces of wickedness, reject the

evil powers of this world, and

repent of your sin?

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you

to resist evil, injustice, and

oppression

in whatever forms they present

themselves?

Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior,

put your whole trust in his grace,

and promise to serve him as

your Lord,

in union with the Church which

Christ has opened

to people of all ages, nations,

and races?

According to the grace given to you,

will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy Church

and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world?

Do you believe in God the Father?

Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?

Likewise, there is a beautiful hymn named “The Summons” that puts the call of God into song:

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?

Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?

Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,

will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?

Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?

Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?

Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?

Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?

Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,

and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?

Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?

Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,

through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

The Summons

And finally, this original composition from SonRise Praise Band (our band at Grace United Methodist Church here in Manassas) captures the essence of the Holy Spirit and its role in the trinity.

SonRise sings Holy Trinity (among other songs)

How can i explain a love created before time?

A love that formed the vast expanse and told the light to shine

A love with no beginning, a love without end

This is the father's love

and it's where love began

There is one who rules the heavens in all his majesty

There is one who gave it all for sinners like me

There is one who dwells among us for all eternity

Godhead in three persons

Holy trinity

How can i explain a love that chose to be born?

A love that cared to show me love within a human form

a love so strong so deep he took the nails for me

This is the son's love

and it has set me free

There is one who rules the heavens in all his majesty

There is one who gave it all for sinners like me

There is one who dwells among us for all eternity

Godhead in three persons

Holy trinity

How can I explain a love sent from heaven to earth?

Descending like a dove and lightning at his rebirth

A loving counselor who's with me every day

It's the holy Spirit's love

and it guides me on my way

There is one who rules the heavens in all his majesty

There is one who gave it all for sinners like me

There is one who dwells among us for all eternity

Godhead in three persons

Holy trinity

So my friends, today, right now, is your moment. If you’re a believer already, let this be a moment of celebration as you recall when you entered into covenant with God and joined the church. And a moment of gratitude as you recount all the blessings God has bestowed upon you.

If you’re not yet a Christian, perhaps this is a moment of awakening and awe as you hear the call of our Holy Father and decide that today is the day you will embrace it and in turn allow the Holy Spirit to come over you. The decision is not be made lightly, the road is not easy, and joining the faith won’t render everything sunshine and roses from here on out. It will mean that you become a willing partner in something great, the amazing work of God unfolding all around us through the church. It will mean that from here on out you carry a peace with you that no one can ever take away and that you have the strongest shoulder in the history of shoulders to lean on when you are weak. It will mean your life changes forever for the better and you have finally come home to the father who loves you and welcomes you with open arms.

Happy Birthday to the Church and many blessings on all the faithful.

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