The original Star Wars movie was released 40 years ago this past May 25th. 40 years! I know for some of us that seems like a long time ago – in a galaxy far, far away – yeah. I think there have been – what – seven Star Wars movies made so far?
But did you know – if you’re a Star Wars fan, you already know this – but did you know that Star Wars VIII is coming out later this year? “The Last Jedi.” Opening date is scheduled for December 15.
And I know – I know – some of you can’t wait. I know that there is at least one person here today who is going to want to see “The Last Jedi” the day it opens in local theaters.
Well, I hope you’re not like the two guys I heard about years ago – I don’t know – somewhere out on the west coast – but two guys somewhere waited in line for one of the Star Wars movies – they waited in line outside the movie theater for over three months. Three months!
Is there any movie that is worth waiting in line – outside – for three whole months? Not in Western New York in December. Not anytime, not anywhere! I think somebody needs to get a life! Now I like the Star Wars series of movies – and Nancy and I intend to see this one too – but honestly folks – I think I can wait. I can wait.
Just like the disciples. The disciples of Jesus were told by Jesus to wait. Jesus – before he ascended from the earth on the clouds of heaven – gave as his last words to his disciples – the instructions to go back to Jerusalem – and wait.
And why were they to wait? And for what were they to wait? Well – to be more precise – for whom were they to wait?
Here is what the Lord tells them just as he is about to ascend into heaven. You can read all about it in Acts 1:8. Here’s what Jesus said:
“...you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; – and you will be my...” What? Does anybody remember? That’s right. You will be my witnesses. Acts 1:8.
To be sure the Holy Spirit for whom they are to wait is nothing like the “Force” from Star Wars. And you know how you can always tell who the good Lutherans are in a theater watching a Star Wars movie. When someone on screen says, “May the Force be with you,” that’ll be the person shouting out, “And also with you!” No, actually. Please don’t do that. The Holy Spirit is nothing like the Force – because the Force has both a good side and a bad side. A light side and a dark side. Remember what Yoda says to young Luke Skywalker, “Beware the dark side of the force. Consume you it will.”
No. The Bible says that “...God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” So, do not confuse the Holy Spirit with “The Force” of Star Wars.
The Holy Spirit is a person – a force to be sure – and a powerful force at that. But the Holy Spirit is a person – a person with the power to change lives. Even your life. Even mine. It is the Holy Spirit who is the one who gives us the power to say, “Jesus is Lord. This I believe.” In fact, without the Holy Spirit, we can’t ever say “Jesus is Lord,” and mean it. We need to remember that.
On that first day of Pentecost the Bible tells us that 120 disciples – you heard me right – 120 disciples – were gathered together in one place. And what were they doing? They were waiting. They were waiting just as Jesus said they should.
And when the Spirit – the Holy Spirit – came there was a sound like the blowing of a rushing, mighty wind. It came from heaven and filled the whole house. And the disciples saw what appeared to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each one of them. And all of them – all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. And they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability. You know – like the president. They started using words they had never used before. They began to covfefe all over the place.
Now what you need to know is that Pentecost was not originally a Christian holy day. Pentecost was a Jewish holiday that came 50 days after Passover. It was a celebration of the Spring harvest. So Jerusalem is filled with devout men and women from all over the world – from every nation.
Our reading today from Acts chapter 2 says that as the Holy Spirit descends on the disciples – there is this sound like a mighty, rushing wind. And when these devout Jews who have come to Jerusalem from all over the place to celebrate Pentecost – when they hear this sound coming from the house where the disciples are gathered – they come running. And they hear the disciples speaking to them in their own languages. The Bible says that 3,000 were baptized that day. That’s what happened when the Spirit came. The church was given birth. It was the birthday of the church. And the world has never been the same.
By now most of you know that I like to talk about evidence for what it is that we believe. What happened on the day of Pentecost is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the best pieces of evidence that we have to say that Jesus is who he says he is. Because he is the risen Christ – crucified and risen from the dead – he can make good on his promise to send the Holy Spirit.
And when the Spirit comes to the disciples – their wait is over. And what they see – and what we learn about – is the difference that the Spirit makes in the lives of these 120 people. What we have is this before and after picture of the disciples. Before the Spirit came they just didn’t get it. They were frightened. They were timid. And they fled at the first sign of trouble.
But afterwards – afterwards – when the Holy Spirit comes – the One for whom they had been waiting – they were different. They were bold. They were fearless. And what happens? Peter gets up and preaches a sermon and 3,000 people are baptized.
Now this is the same Peter who just a few weeks earlier had denied Jesus after his arrest, not once, but three times. This is the same Peter who is nowhere to be found when his Lord, Jesus Christ, is hanging on a cross. This is the same Peter who was terrified out of his mind – afraid that they might come for him next.
What made the difference – not only in Peter’s life, but in the lives of all of these other men and women? The Holy Spirit.
They take the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus Christ – to the whole world. They heal the sick. They cast out demons. They’re thrown into prison where they sing hymns late into the night until the prison walls fall down. What made the difference? The Holy Spirit. Again, you can read all about it in the book of Acts. The longer name is “The Acts of the Apostles.” Somewhere I read that this book in the Bible ought to be called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit,” because it is the Spirit that enabled these early Christians to do what it was that they were able to do.
Well, so what? So what? What does this mean for me? I’ll tell you. When the Spirit came, not only were those first disciples changed men and women, but they went out from their crowded room and made a difference in the lives of people they met. They changed the world.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you are already a changed person through the Holy Spirit who lives in you. Pentecost says that you can go from this room and make a difference in the lives of people you meet every day.
Imagine what might happen – and quite frankly what does happen – when you engage your friends, neighbors, family members in conversation. This weekend, six families – 14 individuals – are joining our faith family here at Zion. To a person, they told us that someone had either invited them here, or told them about us. Three weeks ago, a seven year old girl invited her friend, another seven year old girl, to come to church here. The whole family came. If a seven year old girl can do it, can’t you?
All you need to do is to engage someone in a conversation. You might ask them what it is that they like about living in the community, – Clarence, Akron, Lockport, Lancaster, East Amherst, Williamsville – wherever it is – ask them what they like about living where they live. You might ask them, “What would make it better?”
And you just never know, in the course of conversation, you just might learn what it is that they value, and what is important to them. And the opportunity just might be there for you to say something to them about what your church – this church – and what it does for you – and what it might do for them. Tell them why your faith is important to you. Tell them why your church is important to you. Tell them how and why your faith makes you the person that you are.
If there are children or teenagers in the home, tell them about Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and our youth group. If it’s a family with very young children, tell the mother in that family about MOPS – Mothers of Preschoolers. Tell them how much joy and inspiration you get from worship – you do get joy and inspiration, don’t you? Invite them to come with you next time – that you would be happy to sit with them here at worship sometime. Use social media – Facebook – or whatever medium you use most often – just to tell people what you’re doing right here right now. Yes – you can do that right here, right now.
That’s what Pentecost means to you and me. It is about the person and the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit – who is present with us right here – right now. It’s about sharing the love of God in Jesus Christ with hurting people who desperately need to know that they are loved.
The Spirit of the living God has entered your world. You are loved. If you’ve been waiting – waiting for someone to tell you that – well, you’re wait is over. Now you know.
Now, I’m going to give you an instruction. It’s not an instruction to wait. So don’t wait. But you go. You go and tell somebody else about your faith. You don’t have to go to some far off place. But tomorrow – in the class room – in the office – in the home – at your place of work – in your neighborhood – you go and make a difference in someone’s life. For Jesus’ sake. The Spirit will give you the power you need to do whatever it is that God is calling you to do – and to be – and to say.
That’s what Pentecost is all about. So may the Force – Mm, No. May the Spirit – God’s Holy Spirit – be with you. Amen