Message : Why we gather
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Peter's Sermon at Pentecost14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.[b] 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants[c] and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Message : Why we gather
12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’
13 But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’
Whenever there is a shared event in life there are those who accept it and those who reject it. It is never more evident than here in the story of Pentecost when there was a great wind and fire and 120 people all proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in many languages. Even then, there were people who scoffed and belittled the miracle right there in their midst!
There were actually 2 miracles that day: the first was the speaking in many tongues for each of those gathered but the 2nd is that those outside could actually decipher and single out their own language.
We tried this out once at St. Andrew’s with everyone speaking at the same time in different languages but no one understood anything because the voices and languages all blended into one great noise!
But on this day of Pentecost, God made sure that everyone had a chance to experience the miracle.
Some accepted it – others scoffed.
Unfortunately many in the church today are still scoffing. They may not realize it but they are.
Many churches are filled with people – well maybe not filled with people – because many are suffering from dwindling attendance and memberships – but the people who are there are scoffers just the same.
They go about doing good deeds, working on special events, meals and sales, singing in the choir, serving at coffee hour. To the casual observer they seem very devout Christians. And the work that they do is indeed praiseworthy and helpful to the community.
But many of them lack one thing – the most important thing – they lack the power of the Holy Spirit.
They go about doing church stuff and believe that that makes them holy and worthy before God. But they are doing it on their own power and are getting tired, or bored, or disillusioned by something that they can’t name.
That something comes from communion with the Father, it comes through prayer in the power of the Holy Spirit.
By neglecting to pray or to gather in communion with others, they are scoffers – believing that they don’t need the Holy Spirit because they do the good works.
One cannot give what one does not receive. Pay attention to the Holy Spirit in your life. How?
By prayer and by reading the scriptures. Study the Word of God to know His plans for you.
Take the time to pray to the Father in thanks and in petition.
Ask to be filled with His Spirit in order that your work may be blessed and in accordance with His will.
And then, and this is very important, gather with others who believe as you do. Pray and read the scriptures together. Discuss your insights with one another. Love one another and look after the other’s needs.
Remember that the scripture tells us that “they were all together in one place”. This was more than the 12 disciples – this was about 120 people who had congregated to pray for guidance and help. They were obedient to God in their gathering and in their praying. And it was while they were being obedient that the Holy Spirit showed up in full power.
That experience was unique and singular – it will probably never happen again in quite that way but don’t think that because there is no wind and flame that there is no Spirit working among you when you gather.
Jesus promised that where 2 or 3 are gathered in his name, he is there in their midst. You don’t need to hear or feel him to know that the Holy Spirit is present and active when you gather. You have the promise of Christ himself.
We cannot carry out the great commission of our Lord Jesus Christ unless we, too, are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the world today there are many scoffers who stand outside the church and who criticize it. They do not even attempt to open up their spirit to the Holy Spirit and so they are cold and ineffective.
They may believe that they don’t need the Holy Spirit to do good works – and they are right. But, with the Holy Spirit working alongside them, they could do great works – they could be effective beyond their dreams if they only knew – if they only believed.
God’s gift of the Holy Spirit is for more than doing good works. The Spirit gives unity.
Now remember, that just as Passover is a Jewish festival day so is Pentecost a traditional Jewish feast day.
For the Jews, Pentecost is the celebration of the giving of God’s law on Mt Sinai.
And for Christians, it is a celebration of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit.
One establishes a single nation living under the reign of God.
The other establishes a church of all nations, all languages, all races.
That’s why this powerful display of God’s will was unique – it only had to happen once in order for the word and the power to spread throughout the known world.
It was the opposite of the tower of babel where God confused their language and spread them out throughout the world. Now, God brings them all back together under the power of His spirit. The same power that dispersed them then, now unites them.
They have a new common goal – a new focus. That focus is Jesus Christ. They, and we are to be of the same mind as Christ; to imitate his life in ours; and to do it with help from the Spirit that is ours because of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension.
Remember he promised to send the comforter; he could not do this without first ascending to the Father.
It cost him everything. Because of his sacrifice we now live a new life in the Spirit. Our sins are forgiven because of Christ’s sacrifice. We are commissioned to live that life to the fullest. That means to keep ourselves always open to the spirit’s urgings.
The Holy Spirit not only comforts us but it equips us to move forward the cause of Christ and to do so in unity of mind and body. The body of Christ which cannot be divided.
If you are one of those people whose spirit is closed to the power of God’s holy Spirit then my prayer is that you will soften your heart and open it up to the Spirit’s direction. I pray that you will experience the spirit alive in you as you do the work of the church – as you imitate Christ in your life.
And if you know of any scoffers outside the church, pray for them, invite them in, work with them in the power of the Holy Spirit.
17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen