Pentecost (Whitsunday), June 12, 2011

John 14:15-31

On the day of Pentecost, in the year 30 A.D. a small group of followers of a man named Jesus were gathered together in Jerusalem. As we heard in the Epistle reading, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost…”

On that day the Church was born!

Those first disciples were just a handful of rather ordinary men and women: a few fishermen, a couple of housewives, a former tax collector, a few farmers, and others. Yet through those ordinary people God built a Church which has lasted for over 2,000 years.

In less than 300 years, Christianity became the official religion of the entire Roman Empire and today the Christian Church has over one billion (“B”) members. How did they do it? What happened to those early followers on the day we call Pentecost? The answer is, they came in contact with the Holy Spirit!

And so today we remember the Day of Pentecost. It is a festival day that is very important for the life of the church, and for our lives because the Holy Spirit is God’s presence in this world.

It is the same presence that was moving over the face of the earth when God created the world. It is that same presence that took the form of a baby born in a manager in Bethlehem. It is the same spirit of God that walked the earth for 33 years, teaching, healing, and proclaiming the love of God for all people. And now, today, it is that same spirit that is with us, working through his people, the church, to bring His love into the brokenness of this world.

The source of the Holy Spirit is God. We believe in the Trinity: God the father who creates; God the Son who redeems; and God the Holy Spirit who calls, guides, sanctifies and makes His people holy.

Jesus in our text from John this morning, talks about the Comforter coming to lead the disciples in truth and to convict the world of sin and to bring God’s righteousness into the lives of people who have experienced the sinfulness of this world. That same spirit is in each of our lives.

The Spirit of God comes to us in our Baptism, and remains with us, calling us to worship, bringing us to service, gathering us together as a body, enlightening us about the truth of God, and continually making us holy before God. All this happens day in and day out in our lives. The Spirit is there with you as go about your daily life: as you raise your family, as you work, as you interact with others, as you worship, even as you deal with the trials and tribulations that come your way.

The spirit of God is there in all that we do. The Holy Spirit comes to us with enough power so that we are able to do the job God calls or leads each of us to do. He is there to give us the power to live the kind of lives, and be the kind of people that God intended us to be. The Holy Spirit works within us so that we might experience the righteousness of Christ in our lives. He convicts us of our sins, and shows us that we really aren’t as good as we think we are.

And it is also the same Spirit who comes with mercy, and by the righteousness of Jesus washes away our sins. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:14-16, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

It is this Spirit that comes into our lives, into the church to allow us to spread God’s message of love to all people.
It is this Spirit which points not to itself, but to Christ. It is this Spirit which allows us to point not to ourselves, but to Christ.
It is this Spirit which makes the church, the Body of Christ, the most amazing organization in the world!

The power of the Holy Spirit was brought into the world over 2000 years ago, and that power is still present today through us and within the church.

Three things continue to flow from that first Birthday of the Church. The first thing is the ongoing work of the Spirit to build up the Temple of God that is the Church. The gifts of the Spirit Paul spoke about have that very purpose.

Paul put it this way 1st Corinthians, chapter 12, verses 4-7, “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”

Writing to the Ephesians (4:12-13) Paul said that the Spirit distributed spiritual gifts among believers: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

Writing to Christians near the end of his life, Peter wrote (1 Pet. 2:4-5), that Christians who come to Christ come “to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

In other words, these scriptures tell us that one of the ongoing works of the Holy Spirit, which has continued generation after generation and to this day, is the building up of the Church. When we commemorate the birthday of the Church, we commemorate the time when God’s Spirit began His work of creating what will one day be a finished Temple of the Lord, and you and I my friends, will be one of the stones in that Temple.

The second on-going work relates to those tongues of fire – also translated and understood to be “the light of truth”. It means that Christians are the new lamp stands in the Temple, doing the work of the Spirit to bring light to the world and to shed light within the Body of Christ.

Which is why Paul told the Philippians (2:14-15), “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” And why he wrote in his 1st letter to the Thessalonians (5:4-5), “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” And why Paul wrote to the Ephesians (5:8 & 11), verse 8 “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.” Verse 11, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”

So you see! The Day of Pentecost is also the day when God’s Spirit began to do His work of shedding the light of Christ through the Church. The church of the living God which in 1st Timothy 3:15 Paul calls, “the pillar and ground of the truth.” And, finally, the goal of all the Spirit’s work in the Church began on that Day of Pentecost, with the first harvest of souls from the nations.

That day, it was Jews from the nations who heard the mighty works of God in their own languages. Later, it was the Gentiles in those same nations. And, at the end of the age, as John records in the 7th chapter of the Book of Revelation, verses 9 -10, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”

On this birthday of the Church, may God grant us grace to behold the power, might, and purpose of His Spirit as he continues in our day what He began on that Day of Pentecost.

Folks, it is a time for us to open up to the mind-blowing, heart-warming, life-changing power of God. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit will disturb you when you’re complacent, strengthen you when you’re struggling, and lift you up when you’re down.

When God sends forth the Spirit amazing things happen: barriers are broken, communities are formed, opposites are reconciled, unity is established, disease is cured, addiction is broken, hope is established, and people are blessed. But most of all, Christ the Savior of the world is honored and glorified.

God the Father and God the Son live eternally in communion with the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit descended on Pentecost, He brought the Apostles, and through them the other members of the Church (you and me), into that the divine communion and fellowship. Therefore, we can attach our hope upon the work of the Holy Spirit, to the end that we may join the host of saints who went before us, as living stones in the Temple of God, as lights that shine in a dark world, until the day when we are gathered before the Lamb on His throne and join them in the singing his praises.

“May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore.” AMEN

Last updated - June 26, 2011.