I am interrupting my series on Nehemiah to share my Pastor’s sermon last Sunday on Pentecost.
Pentecost is the Jewish harvest festival or Feast of Weeks, celebrating God’s provision (Ex 34:22).
In the UK we call Pentecost ‘Whit Sunday,’ which is a corruption of White Sunday, named for all the people in white clothes going to be baptised. There also used to be Whit Sunday marches of witness, when the whole church would parade around the town proclaiming Jesus.
On this day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church for the first time, empowering them to work and witness. Sometimes it’s called the birthday of the Church. The Holy Spirit did not arrive for the first time at Pentecost. He is part of the Triune God, active before time and throughout time.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs–we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:1-12)
The Holy Spirit is described as being like wind & fire.
Power: wind farms, getting blown off your feet.
Movement: ships, windmills.
Destroys: turns everything to ashes.
Heat: keeps us warm, cooks our food.
Purity: refining metal, steelworks.
Wind and fire together are really difficult to control & contain, like the Holy Spirit.
In the ancient world the word for spirit comes from breath. The Holy Spirit breathes life and power into us. When we proclaim the gospel, we breathe out the Holy Spirit.
What does the Bible say about wind and fire (in the Old & New Testaments)?
Regeneration: The valley of dry bones (Ez 37:1-14) & Jesus telling Nicodemus he should be born again (Jn 3:5-8)
Judgement: “They sow the wind but reap the whirlwind” (Hos 8) & “His winnowing fork is in his hand” (Lk 3:17)
Powerful presence of God: Moses and the burning bush, and the pillar of fire in the wilderness (Ex 3 & Ex 13:21-22) & “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Matt 3:11)
Holiness: The burnt offering (Lev 6:8-13) & “Everyone will be salted with fire.” (Mk 9:49)
These all come together in our understanding of the work of God in our lives.
The role of the Holy Spirit changed at Pentecost. In the Old Testament he came on the people as a whole. When he came on David (1 Sam 16) he departed from Saul. But Joel prophesied he will come on all people (Joel 2:28).
In church you need to have an individual experience of the Holy Spirit who then brings you into the community of church. Today God wants to bring the Holy Spirit to work within each of us.
On the first Pentecost, the effect of the Holy Spirit was:
Personal: the tongues of flame rested on each of them.
Powerful: they were hiding behind closed doors but then opened the doors and went out and proclaimed the Good News.
Proclamation: uneducated people spoke in many languages to praise God, followed by a brilliant sermon by Peter. The fruit is a spiritual harvest.
What is our response today?
Personal: the Spirit helps us in prayer.
Powerful: the Spirit brings healing.
Proclamation: the Spirit inspires us in sharing Jesus.
He takes us from a respectful distance into a close relationship with God. Is your relationship with God respectful or relational?
The crowd reacted three ways on that first Pentecost: amazed, perplexed and cynical. Are you amazed, perplexed or cynical?
Amazed is wonderful, perplexed is great because you’re asking questions, but don’t be cynical.
God doesn’t want you to be respectful he wants a relationship with you.