Pentecost – May 28, 2023
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But 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. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘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. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
| Centering Prayer |
Red is my favorite color.
It has always been my favorite color.
And it will always be my favorite color.
As a child I fell in love with
A fire engine that wasn’t red just wasn’t a fire engine.
No other vehicle on the road is that color.
Fire engines were to be respected,
breathed in fire, and
torqued out raw horsepower.
Real men ran fire engines.
Developing through the various children’s leagues of organized baseball,
I took on allegiance to
the Cincinnati Red’s.
It wasn’t the players, coach, or city of Cincinnati
that captured the imagination of a boy
from upstate New York.
It was the fact that they were the Red’s;
the Big Red Machine spoke to my soul!
Rose, Bench, Griffy, Parez, Conceptione, Morgan…
baby, they were Reds!
working towards my Master’s degree,
I was exposed to the basics of psychological testing.
I was intrigued by a number of questions on the MMPI,
the Minnesota Multiphasic Inventory,
which inquired about the color red.
I was told that people who tend to be attracted to red
often had some type indicators
which often present with schizophrenia.
I remember smiling,
holding my teeth together,
telling my mentor that I liked blue,
but knowing deep in my heart I am Red!
In the final weeks of my appointment as the associate pastor of
the Canandaigua UMC,
I decided to go out with a bang!
For Pentecost Sunday,
I ordered $4,000 worth of specially screened red tee shirts to hand out to worshippers.
And red we became!
It was glorious!
Leading worship for a congregation that appeared to be on fire with the Spirit.
It is only by the grace of God
that people offered to pay for their individual shirts
and I wasn’t held personally accountable!
I love Red!
Red is the color of fire,
the flames of the Holy Spirit,
as symbolized with the icon of the United Methodist Church,
as depicted by the cross and flame before you today.
The flames of the Holy Spirit gave birth and empowered
the beginning of Christianity
in our narrative from Acts of the Apostles this morning.
Just as St. Luke began his gospel with the birth of our Savior,
so too does the author of both Luke and Acts
begin his narrative with a birth;
the birth of the Church.
Those early disciples felt the coming of the Holy Spirit.
“The Hebrew word ruah,
the Greek pneuma,
and the Latin spiritus all mean
“air in motion,” “breath ” or “wind.”
According to ancient language scholars
The root meaning of spiritus is “power.”
(John J. Pilch, The Center for Liturgy at Saint Louis University).
The early disciples experienced the power of the Holy Spirit,
coming to them with divided tongues,
as of fire,
resting on each of them.
They were filled with the Spirit of God
and began to speak in all the languages of earth.
As the impious generation thousands of years earlier
erected a high tower called Babble,
and so brought about the division of the human race into many language groups,
at Pentecost, by contrast,
the piety of believers brought all these diverse languages into the unity of the Church.
Saint Augustine wrote
“What discord had scattered,
love was to gather together.
Like the limbs of a single body,
the separated members of the human race
would be restored to unity
by being joined to Christ their common head,
and welded into the oneness of a holy body by the fire of love.”
“Ah,” the critics sneered, “They are filled with new wine.”
No, they are not,” Peter countered.
It is interesting that
the one who had denied Jesus three times only seven weeks earlier
is the one whose voice and stature rose above the crowd
and placed himself into a position to preach.
Peter begins by recalling the prophets of his Jewish foundation.
He recites Joel,
whose original prophecy to Israel was a pretense
of disaster and destruction.
However, for Peter,
Joel’s prophecy has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ himself,
“whose purpose is nothing less that the redemption of humankind.” (Cousar, Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV, Year C, 1994)
God’s judgment is no longer destruction.
God’s judgment is salvation,
a broken world redeemed, restored, recreated,
reunified with the Lord himself; that
“everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Peter probably had no idea
the implications of what he just spoke.
He was preaching to a thoroughly Jewish crowd.
He turned their religious life upside down.
No longer was faith accounted according to established orthodoxy:
the Torah, the Law,
and how righteously one observed the rules God put forth.
Now, faith is accounted
according to calling upon the name of the Lord;
bearing witnessing to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Yet, the Spirit had greater plans than Peter’s limited foresight.
The Spirit reached out to “all flesh,”
to Jews and Gentiles alike.
Oh, the scandal of the cross and empty tomb!
It wouldn’t be until the 10th chapter of Acts,
when Peter preaches to, converts, and baptizes
Cornelius and his host of Gentiles,
that Peter would begin to see the larger implications
of God pouring out His Spirit to “all flesh.”
The promise given by the Holy Spirit through Peter’s sermon,
that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved,”
became reality when Peter concluded his witness.
“welcomed his message were baptized,
and that day about three thousand persons were added.”
The first order of business for the disciples was proclamation.
Through witness and testimony,
disciples of Jesus were transformed into apostles of Jesus.
Following Peter’s sermon and the conversion of 3,000,
St. Luke reports in verse 42 that
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
to the breaking of bread
and the prayers.”
The Holy Spirit fueled the revival,
provided all the energy necessary to kick the early Church into afterburners.
The apostles taught from their firsthand, eyewitness experience
about the life, passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
The apostles taught from their Jewish experience
how Christ had impacted it, and
how their lives had changed as a result of Jesus.
The apostles spread their witness,
first to Jerusalem,
then to Judea and Samaria,
then to the ends of the earth,
just as Jesus had directed
immediately preceding his ascension into heaven.
are we to glean from today’s
historical account of the coming of the Holy Spirit,
giving birth to the body, known as the Church?
What does it mean to me?
How does it impact my life today?
1. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Revival.
God is not content with leaving things the way they are.
God wants revival, renewal, a change of heart;
nothing less than the complete transformation of society.
We pray for Thy Kingdom to Come,
yet we act like we want to keep everything just the same.
The Holy Spirit of God fuels revival;
changed hearts, changed lives, a changed world.
Silent contentment smothers the Spirit;
chills it’s red flames with blue ice.
If God wants a revived, changed society,
then we should, too.
If God wants a revived, transformed church,
then we must open our hearts and submit our will.
Our passion for divine transformation
should burn red with desire,
as a fire in our bellies,
deep within our souls.
2. The Holy Spirit is given to all flesh;
that means you and me.
Pentecost reverses the curse of Babel.
The Holy Spirit of God comes in every language,
to every race,
through every culture,
to you and to me.
Though we are removed some 50 generations and half a world away,
the Holy Spirit is given to you and to me-
if only we claim it.
What a shame it would be
to leave the Holy Spirit unclaimed in our lives,
to allow it’s power to go untapped,
to enable the further secularization of the church.
What a shame it would be to leave the Holy Spirit unclaimed in our lives,
to allow ourselves and grow content with the way life is.
God wants to change the way life is!
God wants to transform your life and mine!
God wants to fuel our efforts on His behalf to transform the world,
to bring about His kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven.
The Spirit is given to you and to me
to make it happen.
3. God’s judgment is no longer destruction. God’s judgment is salvation. Let us never grow tired of this message.
This is the heart of God!
God’s desire is for us to keep ourselves attached to Him,
to graft our lives into his Divine nature,
to be united and joined together as the Body of Christ to the Body of Christ.
God sent us his Son, Jesus,
NOT to condemn the world,
But that the world might be saved through him.
We destroy ourselves when we separate ourselves from the Body of Christ,
when we allow ourselves to fall away from the refining fire of His love,
when we cut ourselves off from the fellowship of His Holy Spirit.
This is Hell,
when we separate ourselves from God.
“Turn back, O Man,”
and accept God’s gracious gift
of redemption and salvation
for your own life.
God wants you to be joined to him for eternity.
4. Finally, Proclamation is essential.
I remember listened to an interview with Peter Gomes many years ago,
(Plummer Professor of Christian Morals
and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard Divinity School).
Dr. Gomes said point blank
that he preaches for 35 minutes or more each Sunday.
Why should I be limited to 12 minutes
when we are dealing with the eternal nature of people’s souls?
The Word is life- eternal life.
We must join ourselves with the early apostles
and proclaim the witness that has been passed on to us.
Jesus died for our sins.
Jesus rose from the dead to give us eternal life.
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is all the rage.
When asked to summarize the New Testament,
The AI response is right from the Gospel of John:
God so loves the world
“that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whosoever believes in Him,
shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Believe it! Preach it!
Witness to it!
It is a matter of life or death;
eternal life or death.
The divine redemption and eternal disposition of the world
is dependent upon you witness, and mine.
Red is not dead!
Red is alive and thrives!
We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It has been poured into the church.
It breaths and blows.
It rushes like the wind.
The Spirit is the red hot refining fire, tempering us, the Church,
to proclaim our witness to all the world.
May we receive it.
May we claim it.
May it empower us.
May we proclaim it.
“That everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”