Too Deep For Words!

Pentecost Sunday May 24th, 2015

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

Too Deep For Words!

Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:1-13

 

Today is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is not as well-known or as popular as Christmas and Easter, though it commemorates a watershed event in Christian history. In many ways, Pentecost is the birthday of the church. The English word “Pentecost” is a transliteration of the Greek word pentekostos, which means “fifty.” This day became especially significant for Christians because, fifty days or seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, during the Jewish celebration of the Feast of Weeks,[1] the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Christ’s first followers, thus empowering them for their mission and gathering them together as a church.

 

What Actually Happened on That Day of Pentecost?

So, what actually happened on the day of Pentecost and why it is so important for us today? This event is recorded in the book of Acts chapter 2. Acts 2:1 begins, “And when the day of Pentecost had come, the first followers of Jesus were all together in one place.” All of a sudden, a sound came from heaven, like a strong wind, filling the house where the people had gathered. Something like tongues of fire rested on their heads. Acts 2:4 explains, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.”

 

The languages given to the followers of Christ that day were the languages spoken by thousands of Jewish pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks. In Acts 2:7-8 we read, “Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?” The content of the miraculous messages had to do with God’s mighty works, the wonders of God (2:11).

 

At some point, Peter, one of the leading followers of Jesus, stood up and preached his first sermon. He interpreted the events of that morning in light of a prophecy of the Hebrew prophet Joel. In that text, God promised to pour out His Spirit on all flesh, empowering diverse people to exercise divine power. This would be a sign of the coming “day of the Lord” (Acts 2:16-21; Joel 2:28-32). Peter went on to explain that Jesus had been raised and had poured out the Spirit in fulfillment of God’s promise through Joel (2:32-33). When the crowd asked what they should do, Peter urged them to turn their lives around and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Then they would be forgiven and would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (2:37-39). Acts reports that about 3,000 people were added to the church that day (2:41). Not a bad response to Peter’s first sermon!

 

What is the message of Pentecost to our lives as followers of Christ today? What is the message of Pentecost to the Elmer Presbyterian Church as it carries on its ministry and mission in this community? In Acts 2:12, the Bible says, Amazed and perplexed, they (the people present at Pentecost) asked one another, “What does this mean?” Three important things happened on Pentecost Sunday and they place before us as individuals and as a congregation three major challenges:

 

First: Relaying on the Power of The Holy Spirit

Pentecost is the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit. The disciples of Christ felt very discouraged as they saw Jesus taken up into heaven before their very eyes on the Mount of Olives. Before He was taken up into heaven, Jesus promised them in Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” On Pentecost morning, the promise was fulfilled and the followers of Christ received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

The gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s dwelling in their lives, that treasure in jars of clay (2 Corn. 4:7), was the gift that made the whole difference. Who could’ve believed that a small group of Christ’s followers could make that huge difference in their communities? Who could’ve imagined that the message of Christ could reach the four ends of the earth in a few decades? How could this happen? It is the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christ’s followers. Zechariah 4:6, the reminds us that, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Friends, as I pointed out the last two Sundays, what you and I can do is just extend an invitation “come and see” and leave the rest to God. On the day of Pentecost, Peter offered that invitation to the worshipping crowds in Jerusalem, and the Holy Spirit worked in the hearts of 3,000 people.

 

Second: A Witnessing Community

From the day of Pentecost to this day, authentic Christian communities have become witnessing communities. That is the challenge I’ve put before you over the last few weeks as we launched together the “Come and See” initiative. My hope is to revitalize our calling, our vocation, as Christians set apart by the Most High for a specific purpose, “You are my witnesses.” Some of you are on board on this one and some are not. This is the very best outreach a church can have, is one that is lived by its people as they go on their way.

 

Robert G. Lee, (1927-1960) once said, “God never intended for the church to be a refrigerator in which to preserve perishable piety…He intended it to be an incubator in which to hatch our converts.” That’s how Christianity spread all over the world. On the day of Pentecost, there were people from the four ends of the earth as we see in Acts 2:9-11. Those very people took the Christian message to their homeland. Who took the Christian message to Asia, to Europe, to Africa, to Rome, to the Arabs and the Greeks? It was the native people of those nations who were present in Jerusalem in the day of Pentecost. They returned to their home countries with a new message; a message that was too deep for words.

 

Third: A Miracle of Understanding

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit enabled the followers of Christ to speak the languages of the people around them. In Acts 2:11 we read the comment of the people we heard Peter, the Galilean fisherman, preaching that day, “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” It is indeed a miracle of understanding! We are called to speak a language that those around us can understand. Have you ever had one of those…ah-hah… experiences when all of a sudden–something you had not understood–some great truth—suddenly, miraculously makes sense? One of my favorite Scripture verses is Isaiah 11:2, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.”

 

Friends, let me conclude my sermon this Pentecost Sunday with a story about the great French Emperor, leader Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). Napoleon once pointed to a map of China and said, “There lies a sleeping giant. If it ever wakes up, it will be unstoppable.” Today the American church is a sleeping giant. Each Sunday, church pews are filled with members who are doing nothing with their faith except “keeping” it. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

[1] Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, was the second great feast in Israel’s yearly cycle of holy days. It was originally a harvest festival (Exodus 23:16), but, in time, turned into a day to commemorate the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. This name comes from an expression in Leviticus 23:16.

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