A Day to Celebrate
May 27, 2007
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs--in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?"
13But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine."
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17'In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'
If you woke up in a town in Europe, a city, a village, you might have heard something like this: [Pastor Tony sits at the organ and plays. If you close your eyes, or if, as this transcriber, you can only hear, not see, then you are transported to that European village and you are surrounded by a crescendo of church bells ringing out an incredible welcome to the day.] All over Europe, early in the morning, for a very long time, the bells have been ringing. They’ve been ringing in each town and village; they’ve been ringing from cathedrals, everywhere, to celebrate this day.
Why are the bells ringing? The bells are ringing, my friends, because it is Pentecost. It is a day of jubilation. It is a day of rejoicing. And the bells tell us so.
Let’s talk about Pentecost. Why are we celebrating this day? Why is this a day of great joy for the church? Let’s think about it together.
When Jesus walked the earth, on the Passover He said to His disciples, “I have longed with great longing to share this meal with you.” And surrounded by the love of His friends, He broke the bread and shared the cup which He would not do again in the earthly form that they knew. He went to the garden, was betrayed, taken to the cross, and gave His life for us. He was laid in the tomb, and then, on Easter morning, He rose! He came alive again, and He appeared to His disciples, and they were thrilled to see Him. He walked the earth for 40 days, and He appeared to them in various places. And then He went to the Mount of the Ascension, and stretching out His hands, He said, “I will be with you always.” And He rose up to heaven.
At that point, something difficult happened. The disciples were suddenly filled with fear. The gospel tells us that they gathered together in one place. They gathered in the upper room. They didn’t know what the outside authorities would do. They didn’t know who would provide for them. They didn’t know where they stood in the world. They were locked in a room with open doors. They had shades on the windows. They didn’t know what to do.
Don’t you think that’s amazing? I do. These people actually knew the physical part of Jesus. They knew Him walking the earth. You would think that would give them great courage and great stamina and great drive to go forward. But you know what? It wasn’t quite enough for them.
But they had a promise. They knew that Jesus had said that He would be with them always, that He would send them another comforter. So they huddled together and they waited. Then suddenly, on Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, something remarkable happened. On that Sunday morning, there was a sound in the room like a mighty rush of wind. Or perhaps it was the sound of all of them saying “Ah ha!” at the same time. Perhaps it was the sound of all of them saying, “Now I get it!” There was a glow about them, a glow like tongues of fire, a glow that surrounded them, and they were full of light. They burst out of that room! They opened the windows, and they opened the doors, and they went out into the street and proclaimed the love of Almighty God for them and for all who heard them. They were filled with courage.
You see, my friends, Pentecost was an explosion of light. It was an explosion of faith. It was an explosion of light analogous to the first explosion of light when God said, “Let there be light” and there was. That was light for the outer world. Pentecost was light for the inner world. People were encouraged. People were filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus had come back. Jesus had returned. He returned in a brand new form, in the form of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ was with everyone who called upon Him and invoked His name as Savior. Jesus filled them, and He fills us, with a brand new kind of spirit, because He is with us. Pentecost is a great day, because it is the fulfillment of a promise, because Jesus has come back.
There is an ancient creed that was written on the walls of a Christian worship area very early in the church’s history. The creed simply said, “Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.” Well, I know that’s true. I know that Christ will come again. He will come again for each of us when we cross over to meet Him. But I also celebrate the fact that Christ has come again. He has come again at Pentecost and filled you and filled me and filled everyone who calls upon Him with spirit and energy and courage for living.
Why is Pentecost so wonderful? Pentecost is wonderful because Jesus has come back. Jesus has come back to be with each and every one of us.
This is the beginning of a little series. Next week we’re going to talk about three practical ways in which the Holy Spirit empowers us. But for today, let’s just look at what Pentecost is. Pentecost means that Jesus has come back to be with each and every one. It is an explosion of faith. Because Jesus has come back, we are empowered. We don’t have to stay in the room of fear. Pentecost helps us burst out into the light. Pentecost helps us turn away from that dark little corner that we’re staring at and turn into the light of Christ and be empowered for the abundant kind of living that God wants to give us. That’s reason to celebrate! That’s what makes us deep and rich Christians. The Holy Spirit comes to us and enlivens us and turns us away from our fear and to a life of faith and joy. Pentecost is the Holy Spirit empowering you and lifting up your heart.
Dear friends, I have this one challenge for all of us and this one prayer for all of us. I don’t know how this particular thought touches your life, but I pray this for you – that in a little way, just by inches, or in a big way, with a 180-degree turn, you might turn away from a corner of darkness, a corner of fear, a corner of inadequacy, a corner of worry, and toward the abundant light of God, filling you and lifting you up and encouraging you. May you go forth with a Pentecost spirit this week. May you go forth with unexplainable light. May a Pentecost moment be yours, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2007 Anthony J. Godlefski