Acts 2:1-21, 42-47; 4:1-4; 24:5-12, 36-42, 44-53
This Sunday we commemorate the arrival of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We remember that Pentecost is the day believers began proclaiming the Good News that “God has made Jesus, the one who was crucified, both Lord and Christ”. Such powerful proclamation was public and disruptive. It moved people to pay attention and we weakened the control and influence of an elite powerful few over the masses (Acts2:42-47; 4:1-4). Most importantly, it transformed the disciples from an assorted band of faint-hearted disciples (Acts 24:5-12; 36-42; 44-53). to a diverse and powerful people who grab the attention of everyone in their proximity.
Acts 2 is set in the time of the Jewish Pentecost holiday, known as the Feast of Weeks. This holiday occurs 50 days after Passover within Judaism. In ancient Judaism, it was an agricultural holiday, celebrating the wheat harvest (Jer 5:24, Deut 16:9-11, Isa 9:2). It was a time when the first fruits of the harvest were presented to God in the Temple and the Israelites celebrated in communal meals and festivities (Lev 23:9-14; Num 28:26; Exod 23:16). By the time of Jesus and the disciples in the first century, Jews from all over the Diaspora, living both inside and outside Palestine, gathered in Jerusalem annually for the celebration. As faithful Hebrew people, the disciples of Jesus also gathered in Jerusalem (Lk 24:52-53; Acts 1:12). Yet, their purpose is not just to observe a Jewish feast day. They gathered because they remembered what Jesus told them before he ascended into heaven: “You all will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
“When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 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 and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4).
How absolutely necessary is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit? It is not possible for us to promote the glory of God, or to bless the souls of men, unless the Holy Spirit shall be in us and with us. Those who were assembled on that memorable day of Pentecost were all men of prayer and faith, but even these precious gifts are only available when the godly fire radiates them. Acts 2:4 is not accompanied by a single, quiet moment, rather there were many sounds and divine acts of authority on display.
Three primary points illustrate divine power during this presentation of holiness. First, there is a sound like a violent wind (Acts 2:2). Luke describes the descent of fiery tongues on each person as a sign of God’s presence (Acts 2:3). In that moment, God is present among God’s people in the form of the Holy Spirit. Second, there are the sounds of many tongues or languages spoken inside the community of believers (Acts 2:4, 6). It is reminiscent of the tower of Babel in which the consequence of unified human self-importance is language confusion and puzzlement. Yet, the eruption of many languages in Acts 2 seems to reverse the consequences of Babel. Now many languages are the result of unified human humility, faithful prayer, and expectation (Acts 2:16-21). Third, sound is situated outside the community of believers. Sounds like this bring different peoples together (Acts 2:8-11). The literal force of God-language draws their attention, captures their awareness, and compels them to act contrary to their original intentions (Acts 2:5-6). In this moment we, as readers, encounter the capacity of God’s power and sound kindling curiosity and upsetting comfort levels of onlookers. Within the noise, there was logic soundness (Acts 2:5-8). Within the noise, there was clarity. Within the noise, there was a change of viewpoint. Within the noise, there was a focused message and a power transgressing and altering social standards. It was a power that shifted the very moral and religious fabric of everything in its vicinity.
The spirit of our Church is defined by expressing concerns attempting to turn the world upside down when it is not right, just, fair, equitable, or kind. We make sounds in our neighborhoods when our people are mistreated, ignored, and erased. We make sounds when we are attacked, denied basic rights, and our humanity questioned. We make sounds when the powerful hurt the powerless and when those in need are not served. We walk out of institutions that do not value our bodies, contributions, and support; we create our own institutions to serve our people and our communities.
We as Christians are children of that Pentecost union. Acts 2 reminds us that we encounter the same Good News the by-standers of Jerusalem heard standing outside the assembly of believers. Within the sound of many voices and languages, they heard one message about “the mighty acts of God” (Acts 2:11).
Are we committed to the Pentecost power of the Holy Spirit given to all who call our congregations to be at the forefront of change in our communities? Have we diminished the calling of Pentecost because we want what is comfortable and familiar rather than the power of God that not only sets us ablaze but every person fortunate enough to be near us? Hear the Good News. If we are expected to follow the teachings of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we must be willing and prepared to depend on the Holy Spirit at all opportunities to spread the Gospel.
We are a Pentecost People! God has done mighty things in many ways through our ancestors from the bible and Our Church. What sound will our congregation make: preaching, singing, praying now? What sound will our organization make in the future? Pentecost Sunday demands we ring with a sound that ignites change and shifts the rhythms of our neighborhoods, schools, communities, people, and institutions to look more like the power and affirmation of God.
Yet even experienced Christians, without the Spirit of God, are weak Among them were the apostles and the seventy evangelists, and with them were those honored women in whose houses the Lord had often been entertained and who had tended to Him Yet even these chosen and revered followers could do nothing without the breath of God, the Holy Ghost. Apostles and disciples dared not even attempt anything alone. They must remain at Jerusalem till power is given them from on high. It was not a lack of education. They had been led and taught for three years by Jesus. Yet they could not endeavor to open their mouths to testify of the many miracles of Jesus and his instruction until the anointing of the Spirit had come with blessed earnestness from above. Surely, if so, it was with them, how much more must it be with us?
Let us beware of trusting to our well-adjusted of committees and schemes. Let us be protective of all reliance upon our own mental faculties or religious enthusiasm. Let us thank God for all gifts and let us always be reminded that gifts and offices are but as “sounding brass and tinkling cymbals,” It has been said by some modern theologians, that we make this doctrine of dependence upon the Holy Spirit far too prominent, and that our constant teaching of this truth has a tendency to numb all human effort and foster indifference and sloth. Let us deny this smear through our own experiences and let it be seen that those of us who confess that without their Lord they can do nothing; we are able with His aid to do everything. With the Holy Spirit our life may be all zeal and love, self-sacrifice, and labor. I am convinced many do not often enough praise the Holy Spirit and certain ministries almost ignore His existence; some might attend worship services and not even know there was a Holy Ghost at all except for the benediction; were it not for the liturgy and the, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.” Listen to the Spirit of the Lord. How much better will humanity be!! Amen