The Day of Pentecost - Whitsunday
June 4, 2006
First Reading: Acts 2:1-11
Sermon: "Pentecost 2006"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
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."
The Day of Pentecost - Whitsunday - June 4, 2006
Several years ago I heard speaking in tongues for the first time. It wasn't a huge event like we just heard of in Acts. In fact, it was a rather quiet event. The person speaking was my priest. He was praying quietly for me and all of a sudden he was speaking in words I didn't recognize. The words were very beautiful and I felt no fear just wonder. I have to admit I stopped praying myself, because I was listening to the words he was praying so quietly. I also have to admit I did not understand them, but the sound of the words, the way each syllable was pronounced was beautiful. I knew these words spoken on my behalf were wondrous words of prayer.
The event I just described is one way that speaking in tongues occurs. Now, in this world there are many who doubt the gift of speaking in tongues and rightfully so. Every day there are people on the television who profess to pray in tongues or speak in tongues. Televangelists stand and pray out loud and claim they are praying in tongues to God and can teach you how to do the same. All you have to do is send them, you guessed it money, and they can teach you this gift. No money means no gift. In other words, the gifts of God are not free but they are for sale.
Please do not let these charlatans jade the importance of this gift. Please do not let peoples' greed cause us to misunderstand the importance of today and how this gift was used on this day so many years ago.
Today, we celebrate what is truly the birthday of the church. Oh, there were no pews, and no spires of cathedrals. There were no organs and prayer books, no silver chalices or collection plates. There was only a group of disciples gathered in one place waiting. They were waiting for the presence of the one Jesus promised. Jesus promised that they would receive power from God. On this day these disciples received that power. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit they received power to go and tell people about God.
What an incredible day that must have been? Here are the disciples. They don't know what to expect. They can't know what to expect. Suddenly, they realize something is present with them... There is a sound of rushing wind. Something like fire appeared among them and rested on each of them. The Holy Spirit came upon them and they began to speak. The room could not contain them. They burst out of the room out among the crowds in Jerusalem. The streets were teeming with people who had arrived for the Jewish celebration. They burst out among them and the story of God's redemptive work and great deeds through Christ came bubbling out. For each of the disciples speaking, someone was present who could understand them. The people on the streets could understand the words spoken. They heard about the love, the wonder, and the power of God.
Oh, this day is an important day in the life of the church. It is the day when God tells us that the news of Jesus Christ, his birth, his life, his death and resurrection is for everyone to hear. God is not just the God of one group of people. God is the God of all creation. The Good News of God in Christ is to be shared freely and openly. The love of God is not to be spoken of in quiet rooms by a cloistered group of believers, but shared openly with everyone. All races, all conditions of humanity are to hear the Gospel. All people are invited to hear the story. All people are welcome to share in the incredible love of God. Pentecost is a powerful day. It is the day when the church understands its purpose. That purpose is singular. It is to share the Gospel story.
So, now we see another purpose for tongue speaking. On this day, the disciples were given the gift to share the story with all of the different people gathered. It was given in this event to teach the disciples their purpose. It was given not to lift the disciples up in the eyes of the hearers. It was given to share the story of God with the hearers. It was not of the power of man. It was of the power of God. God had a purpose. The purpose was to build the body of Christ.
What about today? Why doesn't the Holy Spirit come among us here and empower us to go out of these doors and tell people about the Gospel? Why don't we exhibit this ability to speak to others so they can understand?
First of all, we have received the power of the Holy Spirit. We have been empowered to share the story of Jesus and the love of God since the day we were baptized. We have been given the abilities we need to share the Gospel. We might not speak in tongues. We might not have other gifts like prophecy or wisdom. Yet, we do have gifts. Each of us has been given gifts through the power of the Holy Spirit. Those gifts have been given to each one of us to build up the body of Christ. We do not need to burst from this building today speaking in fifty different dialects. What purpose would that serve in this town? Instead, we are called to go out of this building and share the Gospel with the gifts we have. We are called to share the love of God to the people of this community at this time.
Now, I know we might be fearful. We have all grown up in a society that has taught us there are three things we are never to discuss in public, politics, sex and religion. Well, I don't agree with that saying anymore. I learned it as a child and it is full of it. If we are going to call ourselves Christians; if we are going to say we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior then we can not simply come to church on Sunday and warm the pews. We have received a call and some gifts from God. We are called to go out into our community and share the story of Christ with the gifts we have been given.
Today, this day, this incredibly wonderful day, we are reminded of that call. We are reminded that we are the disciples of today. We are reminded that we are the ones empowered by the Spirit of the living God. We are reminded that God through the power of the Spirit will be with us. We are not alone. We never have been. God is here Through the presence of the Holy Spirit God is here. Today, I pray we will be bold. I pray we will leave this building, this room, and share the Gospel. To celebrate Pentecost is to celebrate the power of God in the world. It is a power of love that enables us to be good disciples of our Lord and Savior. Amen.