“A New Beginning?”
June 4th, 2017
Acts 2: 1-8, 12-21
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Hear now these ancient words from Acts, chapter two, verses: one thru eight and twelve thru twenty-one. May the Living Spirit of God, open your minds, as-well-as your hearts to a deeper understanding of this accounting.
[Acts 2: 1-8, 12-21]
1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 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. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 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. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘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. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Having now heard this reading, let us consider how the Spirit of the Living God is moving in our lives and in this community.
Today, we welcomed new families, new members into our faith community! This could be a new beginning! Today, we shall share from the table, remembering the last supper which Jesus celebrated with his disciples before his crucifixion. Through God’s grace and mercy, this could be a new beginning! Today, we remember the day of Pentecost; a day set aside to remember how the ‘Living Spirit of God’ first came to the disciples and followers of the Risen Christ! This was their new Beginning! Might it also be a new beginning for us as individuals and as a church!? Could it be, that our God, the Living God, the Spirit of Christ, the God of Abraham and all those who have come before us, could it be that “on this day of Pentecost, God shall take this group here gathered; a group of haphazard, assorted believers and unites us with the precious gift of spirit-language.” /David N. Mosser/ Is this a new beginning? Let us pray it is to be!
“Many readers of this story focus their attention on the spooky details of wind, fire, and amazing speech, and miss the real story Luke is trying to tell.” /John C. Holbert/ “Well, what is that?” You ask. One theologian states it this way: “This is the promise of Pentecost: now we no longer depend solely on Jesus to be the one who understands. Now we, too, understand. And now we, too, can speak and our voices can spread the Spirit of understanding.” /Nancy Rockwell/ This new level of comprehension, and appreciation for one another; this ability to speak and hear from our hearts – without needing to fact check it with some lawyer or resource book. This coming together to share from the same table with an understanding which draws us ever more together in community. This, my friends, is the meaning of Pentecost! The symbolism of new memberships today, the sharing in the sacrament of Holy Communion, coming together on this day of the Spirit, is no coincidence. No, this is not some chance or fluke occurrence. This is the Spirit of God working in our midst! Let us take pause and notice and observe the fullness of God’s awesome power!
The coming of the Spirit of the Living God into one’s life, into one’s church, is meant to comfort yes, but it is more than that! The Spirit is our advocate, our supporter, promoter our sponsor! The Spirit also comes to agitate us just a little bit. Sometimes we modern Christians get a little too comfortable, a little too complacent with God’s grace and mercy, we take it for granted! One of our new members asked me last week, “how come so many of the people, especial new members, that were here a year or two ago, are not here now?” This is a good question. Very, very observant and thought provoking. Our recent guest from Africa, Reverend Winston Matafwali, spoke with me about how different Christians are here in America than where he is from. He said: “You seem to be so comfortable and secure with your wealth, as a people, that you take God’s Love, God’s mercy and grace for granted!” He continued on saying: “In Africa, life is still hard and people still need to be saved, so they come to worship God, begging for God’s Grace, Mercy and Love. So many of you Americans seem to no longer enthusiastically pursue this!” He concluded by stating: “It is you Americans whom need missionaries to come and convert you!”
Yes, we know that some new members, especially in recent years, have not stayed with us. It is troubling, and many on our leadership team are aware of this problem. We are searching our hearts and reviewing our processes to see where we as a community may be failing those who have come to us. We need your help. I am speaking to all of you, our newest members, but also to others of us who are fully involved in the workings of this ‘particular’ church community. We need to use our hearts to hear the beat and the rhythm of this faith community. Sort of like what our Compassion team does. They interact with me and others trying to keep track of who is ill or in need of special prayers. Helping me, to get out and visit those that need comforting and reassurance that both God and their church care for them. Also, both our outreach and our spiritual ministries could use your support as we look for and work together to correct those things we are now weakest at. Let us all reach out, in the language of the heart, to those newest in our community, even as they reach out to us, so that we can connect and leave no one behind as we continue ever forward on this journey of faith.
This day of Pentecost, when we remember how those of different languages and dialects came to understand one another is meant for both our hearts and our ears to feel and hear. We live in a world that is filled with hatred of all kinds and at all levels. We live in a great country that is going through a time of division and stagnation in our governmental processes. When we speak and interact as a faith community we cannot allow ourselves to get bogged down with the divisive language about what political party we most associate with. If we do, we shall find ourselves becoming more and more divided as a church, if this happens here, then no one will want to join our community and even more will search for a new place to worship! No, we must come together, raising up the message of the church, the Universal Church of Jesus Christ! Yes, the many branches Christian churches have many points in theology we disagree with. However, this is not where our focus ought to be! Our focus needs to be on building bridges! Christ has given us the bridge; the language of the heart! A language that touches and understands the heart of others. How is this so? It is because we have been given the gift of God’s Living Spirit, first passed to us though our baptisms. This Holy Spirit opens-up the channels of communications, one to another.
We continue to look for ways for various religious groups and organizations to work together for the common good of others in our community. This is in the Christian churches in our community as well. Looking for common ground is the focus! Some important pastoral work is being done with congregations that have different stances on some theological issues that we still debate! Yet, places like the Daily Bread, we have managed to come together to help the hungry and the homeless. We have connected with and in “the language of the heart!” We are linked by the interaction of the Holy Spirit that lives within us! Let us, here gathered, do likewise! Let us come together in the presence of the Living Spirit of God, worshipping and loving God together, while serving the needs of God’s people!