Day of Pentecost
June 09, 2019 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: Acts 2:1-21
Well it is the day of Pentecost. And so we've officially ended our Easter season and we're talking about the Holy Spirit today. And it's kind of interesting in the Lutheran church we don't seem to talk about the Spirit all that much. We seem to talk about it a little bit from time to time, but we don't focus on it too much in this denomination. We kind of relegate it to this day to really focus on it.
Now you may hear me when I welcome guests to our congregation I usually say something like we are glad that the Holy Spirit has called you here--right? And that's a recognition that it's not just us doing things, it's the Holy Spirit calling and inviting, and the Holy Spirit working through people's lives to come and know more about who Jesus is. The Holy Spirit is active and at work in and through this church and in and through this congregation.
And it's not always this BAM tongues of fire and all this amazing stuff happens--right? And so we get a little confused sometimes because we think the Holy Spirit is stuff like this, these amazing moments. And it was pretty amazing these people that were coming to Jerusalem, all able to hear the story of who Jesus is in their own language, their home local language. It's pretty impressive.
And it probably caught them off guard pretty good. Back in college as I said in the children's sermon you know I had about six years of Spanish under my belt when I was in college, and I had the opportunity to go to Mexico City for two weeks. And in Mexico City we partnered with a church there to help rebuild after an earthquake. And they just hadn't gotten around to building it--rebuilding it for some years. And so we had the opportunity to do this. And while we were down there, we spoke nothing but Spanish to each other. We were so immersed in it and day in and day out, working side-by-side with the members of this church rebuilding. And it wasn't easy work either. There were no power tools or anything like that. You know our tamper for for soil was a 5-gallon bucket with cement and a pole and you had to do this you know all the way around--this little 5 gallon imprint. And even in college that got exhausting after a while.
Well we got to know each other and it wasn't just visiting them and doing something for them, we worked alongside each other, spoke with each other so that by the time--and we dined together too. We were hosted in their individual homes and spoke and ate with them there also. We were so immersed that by the time it became the end of our time together we spent some time celebrating, and we went to go visit some of the local attractions and that included a Mayan temple. It also included the Wal-Mart in Mexico City, which was exotic to us to see there. But we were also at a bazaar and in that bazaar we were walking around and I remember hearing a couple of Americans at the bazaar speaking English to each other. And when you're speaking Spanish all the time you would think: OK now that you're hearing your own language it might be a little relief, you're finally hearing something more comfortable. And it was. It was a relief to hear English, but it was also odd and strange. And it actually felt foreign to me to hear English-speaking people. So at once it was comforting, but it caught me off guard as well.
Here in Jerusalem we have people from all nations gathered. Jews are coming on this day of Pentecost. For us it's this amazing day of the Spirit coming, tons of fire and them speaking in these languages. For the Jews it's a harvest festival, where they came 50 days after Passover to celebrate this. And they would come from all nations together.
And when in Rome. You speak Roman or Greek--Latin or Greek. Those are your two options. That was the main language at the time. And so when these people started suddenly hearing the story of Jesus in their own language it was probably amazingly comforting, and catching them off guard at the same time--a bit unsettling at the same time. A nice surprise so to speak.
We live in an interesting time. Where our language of the church has become united and we speak of things relatively the same way from church to church. We have a revised common lectionary that many of our churches focus on. To go through the church year and select the Scripture readings. Increasingly this common language is falling on deaf ears. Increasingly this common language is actually becoming mundane in this world. I recently read a Barna study that talked about the top 100 post Christian cities. I took a look at that line, I thought: post Christian? That's an interesting thing to say.
These are cities where the majority of people don't come to worship, don't read their Bible, don't pray to God, maybe don't even believe in God at all. And they're ignoring the language of the church altogether. The Des Moines/ Ames market--which Barna calls it--is ranked 26 on that list of the top 100. Isn't that amazing? We are the twenty sixth post Christian city in America.
That means we got our work cut out for us, Church. Well it would seem great to have this moment where the Holy Spirit just comes down and BAM all of a sudden we get 3,000 converts. I don't know if the Holy Spirit is working like that today, and we may ask ourselves why? And we may also ask ourselves why aren't people coming and enjoying the good news of Jesus? That wonderful forgiveness of sins and promise of life everlasting, that strength that we received from the body and blood of Jesus of the table. Perhaps the language has become too common. But perhaps the language has become too rigid.
There is a beautiful hope in knowing this forgiveness and knowing this promise of life. In knowing this beautiful grace of God. It is transformative. It helps us see the world in a beautiful lens, and forgiveness in life as well for others.
And we may not get this opportunity to just randomly speak languages, but I'll tell you this: when the Holy Spirit affected these people, it was a small group. It was able to accomplish this and 3,000 were added that day. But since that moment billions have been added to that number and the Holy Spirit is alive and well and active in over 2 billion people alive today. I would say that the Holy Spirit has some more opportunities through the over two billion people today than it did through that small number then. And we may not speak in local languages that people hear but we have an opportunity to share our lives--our changed lives!--with others. That old hymn: They Will Know We Are Christians by Our love.
The promise of God affects us in a way that we can share in a unique language that we can only speak to others because all of us have lived different unique lives affected by the good news of Jesus. What does Christ mean to you? How has Christ shaped your life? How is the promise of grace, the forgiveness of sins, and the promise to everlasting life affected how you live? How you treat others? And how can you share that amazing story through your eyes to others. The Holy Spirit is alive and well and active--able to share this story in more languages than we can possibly count. Because our story shares and proclaims God's story.
May it be so true for you, so that all may know Jesus crucified for the sake of the world. Amen.