Pentecost C; Acts 2:1-21 (John 14:8-17, 25-27)
Zion CC; 5/14 &15/16
Welcome to the day of Pentecost! This is the day the Church celebrates the Holy Spirit coming and filling Jesus’ disciples in a powerful way—and because of this filling of the Spirit, they traveled far and wide to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world. We consider this the “Birthday of the Church”, because this is the event that started EVERYTHING.
Pentecost is one of the three major festivals of the Church. Anyone want to take a crack at the other two…? Yeah, Christmas and Easter. Pentecost is considered to be equally as important and the other two holy days. Without Pentecost, we wouldn’t be here right now. The Church wouldn’t exist. People wouldn’t know the love and saving power of Jesus. I cannot stress enough how important Pentecost is to our lives and to the world. This day changed everything.
I’ve always loved Pentecost because it’s a day we focus on the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. We Lutherans talk a lot about God the Father, and God the Son. But we tend to forget God the Holy Spirit. Other Christian traditions, like Pentecostals (notice that they use Pentecost in their name!), talk about the Holy Spirit a lot. But for us, the Holy Spirit isn’t someone we talk about a ton. The Spirit may get a mention here and there, but for the most part, the Spirit is sort of the runt, the forgotten one.
Which is so weird, because without the Holy Spirit, there would be no CHURCH. There would be no US. There would be no FAITH. The Holy Spirit moves in quiet and dramatic ways in our lives and in our world, all the time. The Holy Spirit actually lives IN us, inspiring us and sustaining us.
As someone who feels like a big part of her calling is to remind people of the Holy Spirit and help them notice the Spirit’s movement in their lives, I’ve read this Pentecost story in the Book of Acts probably hundreds of times. I honestly didn’t even feel like I needed to read it again to preach on it.
But I did read it again. And lo and behold, the Holy Spirit showed me while I read some things I never noticed before about this story. Four things, to be exact, that the Spirit is up to. And these four things not only help us to understand the Pentecost story better, but to also understand how the Holy Spirit acts in our lives and in our world today.
You want to know the four things? OK, here we go. (Feel free to write these down. You don’t have to be a Confirmation student filling out Sermon Notes to take notes on a sermon!)
The first thing is that the Holy Spirit is GETTING PEOPLE’S ATTENTION. So the disciples are all hanging out, waiting, because Jesus told them to hang out and wait for the gift of the Spirit. And then suddenly, there’s a rush of wind and tongues of fire show up and rest above each person’s head (that’s why we use red to celebrate Pentecost by the way, because of the fire). And if that wasn’t attention getting enough, the disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit in such a powerful way that they start speaking in different languages that they had never learned before, speaking about the amazing things God has done.
This is so incredible that other people notice this right away. The crowd gathering are people from all different places, and they are hearing about God in their own different languages as the disciples speak. The Spirit GOT THEIR ATTENTION, all right.
And because they were now paying attention, they wanted to know how this amazing thing was happening. Some just wanted to dismiss it, saying that the disciples must be drunk. But they weren’t drunk!
They were filled with the Holy Spirit! And now that they had people’s attention, Peter talks to the crowd. This brings us to our second thing.
The Holy Spirit POINTED TO JESUS. Now that everyone was paying attention, Peter tells them about how Holy Scripture has prophesied that this would happen. What we read today is actually only part of what Peter says to the crowd. He tells them about Jesus. He tells them about Jesus’ death and resurrection, and how Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit. Does anyone know what happens after Peter tells them about Jesus…? They all want to know how to become Jesus followers too.
3,000 people wanted to know what to do next that day, to become followers of Jesus, all because the Holy Spirit POINTED THEM TO JESUS. The flashy stuff—the wind, the tongues of fire, the different languages—wasn’t just to do something cool. It was to GET PEOPLE’S ATTENTION AND POINT THEM TO JESUS.
Which brings us to our third thing. The Holy Spirit CREATES BELIEVERS. Does anyone know what Peter told the people to do…? He told them to repent and be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit. And they did. 3,000 people that day were baptized and became believers in Jesus Christ, and received the Holy Spirit. Their lives were completely changed. The Holy Spirit not only POINTED THE 3,000 PEOPLE TO JESUS—the Spirit GAVE THEM FAITH AND MADE THEM BELIEVERS.
OK, so we’ve got three things the Holy Spirit was up to: GETTING PEOPLE’S ATTENTION, POINTING TO JESUS, and CREATING BELIEVERS.
Here is the fourth thing: the Holy Spirit was INSPIRING TO SHARE. The Holy Spirit inspired people to share the Good News of Jesus.
Peter, an uneducated fisherman, delivers the most powerful sermon on record—inspiring faith in 3,000 people-- all because of the Holy Spirit. He was INSPIRED TO SHARE. The Holy Spirit gave him the words and the ability to share so that others may come to believe as well.
And those 3,000 people? They were INSPIRED TO SHARE as well. It says in the Book of Acts that they lived together, learning and teaching and hanging out with one another, eating with one another, worshiping with one another. And then it says “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
And how were there more and more people added to those being saved…? The Holy Spirit INSPIRED THEM TO SHARE the Good News with others. It’s not like people came to faith in Jesus in a vacuum. These people were filled with the Spirit, ready to tell others about what Jesus has done for them. And then those new believers were filled and ready to share, and it just keeps going.
OK, so we’ve got the four things the Spirit is up to: GETTING PEOPLE’S ATTENTION, POINTING TO JESUS, CREATING BELIEVERS, and INSPIRING TO SHARE. How does the Spirit do these things, today? I’m so glad you asked!
First of all, the Holy Spirit is trying to GET OUR ATTENTION on a regular basis. We just aren’t used to looking for it.
The Spirit is God with us and within us. When you were baptized--and if you aren’t baptized, please see me or Pastor Randy after service so we can talk to you about baptism!—In baptism, the Spirit comes to live within you in a special way. In fancy church terms, we call it the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit.”
So the Spirit lives within you. That’s why a lot of time when the Spirit is speaking or nudging us, it comes as an inner feeling or thought. Anyone ever had someone who you haven’t seen or spoken to for a long time randomly pop into your head? Many times that’s the Spirit nudging us to pray for that person, or maybe even to call or text them, see how they are doing.
The Spirit is also at work outside of us, and that’s where other people come in. If you’ve heard something over and over from different people, that is quite likely the Spirit speaking to you. If someone says something you REALLY needed to hear in that moment, it is probably the Holy Spirit speaking to you. Or if things fall into place just at the right time and place… what? Yeah, the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is our paraclete—that’s the Greek word that Jesus uses—and it literally means “being alongside of”. The Holy Spirit is always with us. Always. And because the Spirit is always with us, the Spirit is constantly trying to get our attention—to guide us, inspire us, move us. Sometimes the Spirit tries to get our attention in small, subtle ways, and other times the Spirit gets our attention in big, dramatic ways. No matter how it happens, the Spirit is trying to GET OUR ATTENTION.
The second thing the Holy Spirit is up to: the Spirit is POINTING US TO JESUS. That is what the Spirit does. We read in our Gospel reading from John that Jesus promised the coming of the Spirit—“whom the Father will send in [Jesus’] name.” And if we really think about it, human Jesus—God in human form-- wouldn’t have existed without the Holy Spirit. It was the Spirit who caused Mary, a virgin, to be pregnant with Jesus. The Spirit isn’t here just to hang out with us for the heck of it. The Spirit is in us and with us to point us back to the One who gives us our purpose for living—Jesus Christ. When the Spirit guides and nudges and shows us things, we are brought closer to Jesus, and we grow in our relationship with him.
Third thing the Spirit is up to: CREATING BELIEVERS. The main job of the Holy Spirit is to give people faith in Jesus. You cannot believe Jesus is your savior without the Holy Spirit giving you the gift of faith. Paul tells us in First Corinthians “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” As a believer in Jesus Christ, you were given the gift of faith by the Holy Spirit.
When I met my husband Will, he was not a Christian. He didn’t know much about Christianity at all. And when we started dating, I invited him to take the Alpha Course—and there, he was encouraged to try reading the Bible. So he downloaded the YouVersion Bible App, the first app that came up on his smartphone store that was free, and started to read.
And when he was reading the part of the creation story when God breathes life into man’s nose, he felt an actual crushing pressure on his nose. It was like someone was taking the palm of their hand and pressing his nose into his face with all their might.
He texted me afterwards: “Either my mind is playing tricks on me, or the Holy Spirit just punched me in the face.”
It was this experience that made Will realize that God was bringing him to faith. You could say that the Holy Spirit GOT HIS ATTENTION, POINTED HIM TO JESUS, and CREATED A NEW BELIEVER.
And the fourth thing the Spirit is up to: INSPIRING TO SHARE. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit like those disciples on the day of Pentecost, you are bursting to tell others about Jesus. The Holy Spirit will guide you and nudge you and give you the words to say—you just have to listen and look for the Spirit’s movement.
If you feel the urge to tell someone about your faith journey, that’s the Holy Spirit. If you feel the urge to be Jesus to someone in need by helping them, that’s the Holy Spirit. If you suddenly have the exact right words to say to comfort someone and show them Jesus’ love, that’s the Holy Spirit.
I think we sometimes expect God to break open the heavens and God’s voice to boom out and be like “TELL THIS PERSON ABOUT JESUS NOW!!” And sometimes it is that dramatic and it feels like God is smacking you upside the head. But most of the time, it’s that still, small voice of the Spirit giving you gentle nudges and impressions.
Some of you know already that Will now works for the YouVersion Bible App—the one that he was reading when the Holy Spirit punched him in the face and made him a believer. Once he became a Christian, he was filled with the Spirit and wanted to do anything and everything to make sure people heard the Word of God and came to faith in Jesus, just as he had.
So now he works in technology ministry, keeping the servers running for the Bible App so that people all over the world can read the Bible in their own language, for free. He was INSPIRED TO SHARE the Good News because of the Holy Spirit.
Both in our Pentecost story and in our lives today, the Holy Spirit is GETTING OUR ATTENTION, POINTING TO JESUS, CREATING BELIEVERS, and INSPIRING TO SHARE. The Holy Spirit is doing amazing and incredible things, all the time. How is the Holy Spirit working in YOUR life? Amen?