PENTECOST: THAT WATERSHED DAY
Acts 2: 1-21
For the huge day on the Christian calendar that Pentecost is, it gets very little notice by the world. But to Christians, it is the day the Spirit took hold of frightened followers of Jesus in Jerusalem, empowering them to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ beginning in that city, and continuing to go with them into the world! And this was the day when the power of God was no longer connected with a place! Let me explain: In Exodus 25, Yahweh God instructed Moses and his people how to construct an Ark of the Covenant: a specifically sized and decorated container to hold the tablets of the Ten Commandments. On top was the Mercy Seat, on which the Lord God would dwell. So wherever the Ark was carried: into new lands, into battle, or placed under a tent, God was there. In the wilderness, the Israelites built a Tabernacle which was a portable earthly meeting place for the people to be in the presence of God. It was made possible because the Ark was stationed under the tent. The people in those days were wandering and journeying; deciding where God was leading them. Eventually God was leading them to Canaan, but not yet. Once they arrived at Mt Nebo in Jordan, Moses died there. Then Deuteronomy 34: 9 states that “Joshua, the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Spirit of God filled Joshua, but the presence of God was still with the Ark. Joshua led the people into the promised land, then called Canaan.
Once the people began to settle Canaan, (that would become known as Israel,) they decided that a more permanent home for their God would bring him glory. One would have thought that David would have had the glory of the build and the dedication, but the Lord said “No.” It would be known by the name of his son, “Solomon’s Temple.” That First Temple was completed in the middle of the 10th Century and it permanently housed the Ark of the Covenant: the presence of God. The ark continued to be in the Temple, in the Holy of Holies, as a reminder that God chose to live there in his city called Jerusalem, among his people. But people had to come to into his presence by coming into the Temple. Even when the Temple was greatly expanded during the time of Herod, it still was the place where Jews and curious gentiles came to be in God’s presence. Today, the Western Wall of the Temple attracts faithful Jews as the place where they can still feel the closest to God.
Then Jesus was born on earth by the power of the Holy Spirit according to Luke chapter 1. Christians believe that the fullness of God chose to come to earth in Jesus according to the first chapter of John. According to Matthew chapter 1, Jesus was referred to as Emmanuel, which meant “God with us.” Coming close to and following Jesus brought people into the presence of the man who stilled the waters and who embodied a holy life. Jesus even said to his disciples in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.” But last week we acknowledged one big event: it was called the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. Before Jesus left, he gave his followers the Holy Spirit, one who would teach, counsel, and comfort.
Shortly after Jesus ascended into Heaven, the disciples, and many other people were in Jerusalem at the Temple. Soon there was the sound of rushing wind, and the sight of tongues as of fire, and it began to rest on each of them. This was a big deal, and a giant change! Coming to fruition was what Jesus promised: that the Spirit of the living God would dwell within their hearts, no matter their nationality, no matter their background. The Holy Spirit would connect nations, and cultures, and peoples. But not only that: people would not have to travel somewhere to be close to God; they now had the power and the presence of God living within them! They could go into all the world feeling empowered, not afraid. They could find the power of the Living God, in their hearts, where they made room for Jesus as well. God’s presence was now in the temple of human hearts, not in a building made by human hands, or just in heaven! Pentecost is that day of big changes!
So what do we make of this? The English preacher Charles Spurgeon once said:
“Without the Spirit of God, we can do nothing. We are ships without the wind, branches without sap, and like coals without fire. We are useless.”
Sometimes God tries to get a message through to us, like a parent, a spouse, or a teacher might try. It can be like talking to a wall if we are exclusively focused on our cell phone, our job, or our latest obsession. That knock on the door of your heart, or that gentle nudge on your mind is important; it might be God trying to get your attention, and to gently guide or reassure you. But if the knock goes unanswered or the nudge goes ignored, the Great Spirit of God can go back into dormancy in our soul, until we are ready for the life changing and life-challenging messages brought to us by God. Be open to the Spirit that, like a breeze, we cannot see. Spirit can still move us like a fan can move wind chimes.
A boy was once flying a kite on a moderately windy day. His kite was doing so well that it continued to climb higher and higher. At one point a low cloud obscured his kite. A friend walked by and asked ‘Hey where’s your kite?” “Up there,” the boy replied.” I don’t see it” the friend said. “How do you know it’s still there?” “I can feel it,” said the boy holding the string.
Like a breeze on our face, we can feel the air without seeing it .The old gospel song declared: “Every time I feel the Spirit movin’ in my heart, I will pray.”
It’s actually better to pray first; then you can feel that spirit movin’ in your heart.
Be aware of the Spirit that came into you at your birth or certainly at your baptism. God dwells within you! Not in Palestine; not in an old Temple. God is within you! And Jesus said his Heavenly Father gifted us with His presence. May Pentecost be a reminder of the power and the guidance that is even within you.
Jeffrey A. Sumner June 4, 2017