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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Pentecost 2016

Pentecost is often seen as the beginning of the Church, and as we work through we’ll see how Luke has this idea of beginning in his mind and has the Genesis account of ‘in the beginning’ in his mind. There is a new birth recorded for us in this reading today, maybe there is a rebirth waiting for you TODAY.

When the day of Pentecost came, 
Pentecost is a Jewish festival of Harvest.  It is 50 days after the Passover Festival and was one of those festivals that Jews were expected to attend in Jerusalem. That’s why there is a crowd from all over the world. 

They were all together in one place
The believers were a small group and could still gather in one place. It’ll be the last time the Church will ever be able gather together in a small room. They will NEVER fit into a small room again!
This gives us an idea of what is possible when Pentecost happens.

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
In the Genesis account of the beginning we are told that God’s Spirit hovered or moved over the waters.
The word used for Spirit in Genesis is ‘ruach’ which means wind.
So there is a sound from Heaven like wind, and it fills the room.
Luke is teaching us that God is about to do something great. There is a new beginning here.
And then, what has been heard (the wind) is suddenly seen and what do they see – light.................Fire enters the room. And what does this fire do – it breaks into tongues of fire that comes and settle on each one of them.

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

Anyone who has watched a camp fire will know what tongues of fire look like as they go up.....but this is different, this is coming down, from heaven, and settling on people.... and (this is important)........ it doesn't consume them, it doesn't burn the room or them or their hair.

In fact, it's just like that fire that appeared on Sinai on the bush when God called His people to Himself and gave them a new beginning as a nation.
We call it the burning bush, but that is wrong, because the miracle was that the bush wasn't burning, but there was fire and there was bush and the fire was the presence of God......the fire was the holiness of God, .........take off your shoes Moses, you’re on holy ground,....... the holy fire of God that destroys chaff but never wheatthe holy fire of God which is a refining fire, a fire that burns up that which is bad and leaves that which is good.....must not even gold be refined by fire....

The holy fire of God descends on human beings and in a lovely play on words, Luke tells us that this fire that looked like tongues, now enables them to talk in other tongues.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

And somewhere between verse 4 &11 a change occurs, Luke doesn't tell us when it happens, but we notice that the believers who had been in the room, are suddenly in the street, out into the world.

This Holy, refining, all filling Spirit of God sends people out into the world - we call this mission and Spirit filled people must... go... out.
There is a sense in which they cannot be contained, they must go out, and not to get into their cars and drive home, but to tell of the mighty wonders of the God who entered into them, the God who has fulfilled His promise to be Emmanuel, God with us. 

And just as in the beginning, the created beings in Heaven must have stood back and watched in awe and wonder and amazement at this new thing that God was doing, so too in Jerusalem at Pentecost a crowd gathered, for they had heard the roar of the wind, and they heard the wonders of God spoken in their own languages, in their own tongue (in modern day geography they were people from as far as Iran in the East, Black Sea nations in the north, Greece and Italy in the West, and in the South from Arabia, and Egypt and Libya and Ethiopia), and they all hear the Good News in their home language.....

we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

It’s always heart warming to hear things in your native tongue, isn't it?

At Babel, different languages divided the peoples of the world, at Pentecost, Spirit filled believers use those very languages to unite diverse nationalities under God.

Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Peter speaks up and says: These people aren't drunk. Rather, this is what the prophet Joel prophesied hundreds of years before, that God would pour down His Spirit, His creative ruach on people, young, old, male, female, slave and free......you and me!
Then he says: Remember Passover, 7 weeks ago (Pentecost means 7 weeks)........ Remember Jesus who was becoming quite famous as a prophet, preacher and miracle worker to the extent that our religious leaders were so threatened by Him and His way that they sent him to Pilate and when Pilate gave us the choice of Jesus or Barrabas, we shouted, ‘crucify Jesus’..........Do you remember all that?

And they would have.

Then Peter says: God raised Him from the dead... and we have seen Him.
And I’ll tell you something else, (vs 36) Be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Friends that remains the message of the Church, that is our gospel, our good news.
A man who was dead, lives, to never die again, and God has made Him the ruler/king of everything and everyone... including you and me. That was Peter's message...that is our message.

‘When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and they asked the twelve: 
What shall we do?”’

That question is our question as well. If this is true (and 3000 people on the streets of Jerusalem that day thought it was) if this is true... it begs a response. A man who was dead, lives, to never die again, and God has made Him the ruler/king of everything and everyone... including you and me.
 You can't hear that without it having an affect on you, and that affect is either...what a load of nonsense,... I’ll have another coffee please... or........this affects my life in some way.
Which of those is your response?

And Peter says to those of us who feel... this affects my life in some way...

Repent – which at it’s simplest means, change direction – stop moving in the direction of unbelief and start moving in the direction of belief.
Be baptized – as a sign that you have changed direction and accepted that you need cleansing from sin.
And receive the gift of the Holy Spirit – receive the creative ruach of God into your very being.


Those of us who have done all this ... What shall we do?

I suggest 2 things: If we have repented, believed and been baptised then let's be reminded today that the Spirit of God drives us out onto the streets ... they couldn't stay in their building ... the Spirit always drives us out in mission into the world around us. In the incarnation, Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us. In the church which let's the Spirit drive and compel us, we are called to go out, equipped, gifted and empowered ... out into the world.

The second thing I suggest from our reading is that we learn a new language ... they were given a new language at Pentecost, you and I are too. That language is a universal language understood by everyone. It is the language of love taught by Christ ... it is a language of words and actions ... it is a language which as we live it and speak it points to the One who is love.

Pentecost 2016: Perhaps this is the day for you to turn to the God who has turned to you in Christ;
Pentecost 2016: perhaps it is time to let Him drive you out onto the streets ... whatever that might mean specifically for you;
Pentecost 2016: perhaps its time to learn new ways of speaking love into the world around us.



Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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