FIRST LESSON: Joel 2:23-29
SECOND LESSON: Acts 2:1-16
TIME FOR CHILDREN: Acts 10:1-48
Now you remember how that was, don’t you? Jesus’ twelve disciples had all been very active men with important jobs (at least the ones that we know about.) They were used to working hard and being responsible and doing what they had to do. Then Jesus had come along and had recruited them, and if anything they were more busy and more active with more important things to do. They were working hard day and night and facing significant obstacles and seldom taking a break and doing what Jesus called them to do. He talked a lot about his coming kingdom and they talked a lot about his coming kingdom. Which they were sure they would have some very important part in, and they had high hopes for their glorious future together. With Jesus. In Jerusalem. When he was king.
And then suddenly, that was all over. Jesus was dead and gone. They had lost all sense of direction or purpose in their lives. Their hopes for a coming kingdom had died along with Jesus. It was starting to sink in that there wasn’t going to be any brand new kingdom and there wouldn’t be any important roles for them in the inner circle of the brand new king.
They had all kinds of questions about what they had done for the past three years - knocking themselves out day and night - and for what purpose. They wondered how they could have misunderstood so badly about Jesus’ kingdom. They wondered if they could still go back to their old jobs and whether they would want to. They were in mourning and grieving for Jesus and they had lost the center and passion and purpose in their own lives. And they knew very well that their own lives were in danger from the same people who had killed Jesus.
So they hunkered down together. In hiding in secret, locked rooms. They ate together and prayed together and told Jesus stories together. They remembered every word he had ever said to them, and everything he had done in front of them for three years. They read the scriptures – they poured over every shred of the scriptures, searching for some clue to help them understand it all. They searched and searched the Old Testament for some vision for their own futures.
For fifty days they did that. The eleven male disciples that were left of the original twelve, and the women disciples, certainly, and some others as well. One hundred twenty of them.
They were demoralized and discouraged and dejected.
But suddenly it all came together. The sound of a powerful wind blew through that room and little flames of fire danced on each of their heads and it all came together. All that prayer, and all that searching through the scriptures and all that remembering Jesus and quoting Jesus to each other. It all came together. And Peter preached it.
Now you haven’t forgotten Peter, have you? He’s the guy who denied three times that he had ever known Jesus. A little nobody servant girl asked him about Jesus in the middle of the night and that big, brawny, bold fisherman (as I picture him) got scared and said he had never known him.
You haven’t forgotten Peter, have you? The last time we saw Peter, Jesus was asking him, “Peter, do you love me with all your heart and soul?” And Peter replied, “Well, I’m really quite fond of you.” Three times he answered Jesus like that. We are not likely to forget Peter.
But something came over Peter that day in that room. And the others who were with him. As they were sitting together they heard the sound of violent blowing wind. They looked around at each other and saw what looked like little flames dancing around on each of them. And then the most amazing thing of all - all those very simple people – most of whom had never been out of the country that we know of – started speaking in other languages. Speaking fluently in other languages. People came rushing from all over the city when they heard that violent noise. You remember how that was – that Jews from all over the world were home in Jerusalem to celebrate the Pentecost holiday with their family and friends and to worship in the temple. They came running to see what all the noise was about and they heard Peter and all the others speaking in the languages of all the places they had come from. And they concluded that all of them must be drunk. One hundred and twenty of them. At nine o’clock in the morning.
But they weren’t drunk. They were full of the Holy Spirit and Peter got up and preached it. Boldly. With conviction. He quoted the prophet Joel which he had just been reading. He quoted the Psalms of David which he had just been reading. And put it all together and he preached that Jesus had been sent from God and had done miracles among them. That he had been handed over to the Jewish elders and priests who had executed him on a cross. Which had been God’s plan all along. But God raised him from death and welcomed him to sit on his throne. (Not a throne in Jerusalem, but a throne in the glories of heaven.)
Now this is all very familiar to us and it doesn’t sound very special. We’ve heard this all again and again all of our lives, and we’ve said it again and again. But this was the very first time in the history of the world that those words had been said. The first time that anybody had ever said that Jesus had been sent by God, and that he died on a cross, which was God’s plan. And whom God raised back to life again. And then Peter said a very dangerous thing to all those Jews who had come running. He said “You have killed our Messiah. You have killed the one whom all the Jews have been waiting for for centuries and centuries. Jesus was that Messiah and you killed him.” Those are very dangerous words.
So here’s what happened to that big, brawny, bold fisherman who was afraid of a simple, nobody servant girl and who had said that he had never known Jesus. Here’s what happened to that man who said that all he could manage was to be very fond of Jesus. That man is gone. Way gone.
Peter has received the Holy Spirit. He is no longer hunkering down in a room afraid for what will happen to him. He’s not demoralized or discouraged or dejected. He’s going to preach a passionate, eloquent sermon and 3,000 people are going to be added to the church in one day. Brand new Christian Churches are going to be formed in all those places all over the world where those people have come from. That man Peter is going to travel all over the world preaching what he just preached so powerfully.
He’s going to hear God speaking to him in ways he can’t misunderstand. (Like in the story I told the children.) He’s going to discard a lot of what he always thought was true, and he’s going to come to some bold, new understandings of what God is asking of him. (Like in the children’s story.) And he’s going to follow God into some pretty amazing places. All because the Holy Spirt has come to him.
So see what happens when the Holy Spirit comes to us, North Kent Church? See how our lives change? See how we can be transformed from being timid little, scared little, discouraged little people? See how purposeful and powerful we can become, and how we can catch a brand new vision of who we can be and how we can be? See how we can dream new dreams and have visions, and see how we can do things we never even dared to imagine?
We may be asked to let go of some old ideas that we have always held on to. We may be called to do some new and even scary things. We may have new energy and new passion and new ideas and in fact, we may become new people, in the companionship of the Holy Spirit.
Until pretty soon we won’t know ourselves any more. That’s what happens to people when the Holy Spirit gets ahold of them. That’s what happens to a whole church full of people when the Holy Spirit comes over them.
So North Kent Church: Do you see yourselves in this story of Peter at Pentecost? How do you see yourselves? A moment of silence to pray and ponder that.