Acts 2: 1 – 13 - “The Pentecost” – May 15, 2016

Theme: The Holy Spirit uses us to explain God’s power unto salvation in ways that make sense to our people.

Purpose: Give members tools and impetus with which to share a gospel contextualized to their situation.

·      A virgin is conceived by some Holy Spirit.

·      The Son of God dies a human death.

·      A human returns to life after being crucified.

What’s next?

Washington Post columnist, Friday, May 13, 2016,  Ann Hornaday quoting Rodrigo Garcia, director ofLast Days in the Desert: “If Jesus is in your movie, your movie’s about Jesus.” 

That is to say, if your movie includes Jesus, he WILL be the main thing!

Likewise for us, if this story has anything to do with Jesus, things will continue to be extraordinary, creative, and bold. 

We serve a mighty God!

So what do we get for the next installment?

Wind, fire, and tongues? – God never likes to repeat himself.

All in one grand swoosh, the motley band of followers is possessed by some alien force that thrusts them out into the highways and byways speaking in tongues. 

But the wind, the fire, the tongues, curiously enough, are not what impress the bystanders. 

No, in Jerusalem, the collection point for any and all magicians, faith healers, and wonder workers, they’ve seen it all. 

No, the special effects are nice but that’s not what intrigues them:

Chap. 2, vss 7 – 8

How did a couple of dozen or more locals – Palestinians – all of the sudden become fluent in

a couple of dozen or more different languages?

Yes, the hearers were all Jews but they had already assimilated into other cultures and long since lost any recollection of Hebrew, or Aramaic, or whatever the locals were speaking.

They lived in a completely different world.  It is possible that through the grapevine some notion of some would-be Messiah, one of many, had wafted through their communities into  Greece or Egypt or some obscure parts of Asia where they resided.  But the stories were sketchy and fleeting.

Now they were hearing the details up close and personal: who Jesus was, what he did, how his life ended, what happened next - from first-hand witnesses who not only knew the facts but could explain what it meant in terms that made sense even to a Jew from another continent. 

God had taken advantage of the Passover week to jumpstart a translation process that continues today.

Even today there are hundreds of Wycliffe Bible Translators around the world who have long since translated the Word of God into any language we’ve ever heard of but are now translating it into obscure languages spoken sometimes by only a few hundred people.  Why?  So they too can hear it in language, cultural concepts, idioms, phrases, metaphors, and symbols that make sense to them.

And what was it that they were translating?  What was the content of the message being translated?

v. 11: God’s deeds of power

do they mean the Pentecost tongues of fire?

I don’t think so.  I think they would have referred to that as a ‘deed’ of power.

What were the deeds (plural) that they were referring to?

I believe they were referring to the power they had seen manifest in their own lives.

It was a message that began with John the Baptist and continues throughout the book of Luke and the book of Acts, the sequel, both written by Luke.

Listen:

a.     Luke 1:77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins

b.     Luke 3: 3 proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins

c.      Luke 24: 47 that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations

d.     Acts 2:37 – 38 Brothers, what should we do? Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven.”

e.     Acts 11:18 Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.

f.      Acts 20:21 as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God

g.     Acts 26:20 and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance. 

Repentance.  Forgiveness of sin.  Repentance.  Forgiveness of sin.

It’s the stuff of salvation. 

Why is it so powerful?

Because it allows people to move forward once again in their walk with the Lord.

Forgiveness allows you to move on from the past. 

Repentance allows you to move into the future.

You can’t do either unless you believe there’s a God powerful enough and loving enough to offer both.

If your son tells you I forgive you, you’ve restored a relationship.

But if your Creator tells you I forgive you, your identity changes.

If your son tells you repent, you say, go repent yourself.

But if your Creator tells you to repent, you’ve just been offered a new lease on life.

That’s a great deal of power! 

You all have heard all this before, right?  We talk about salvation every Sunday.

But that’s not the miracle of Pentecost.  The miracle of Pentecost is that this power was explained in so many different languages and cultures. 

So what’s our takeaway today?  Send money to the Wycliffe Bible Translators? 

Hold on!  Before you get your checkbooks out, look around you here in Falls Church, Arlington, Vienna, Manassas. 

Is it just me, or do you see hundreds of thousands who have not heard of God’s deeds of power in a way that they can understand?

God’s power?  Well, we see God as nice!  God seems at least sometimes based on the church people we encounter to be compassionate and friendly.  Warm, hospitable.   

But powerful?  How so?

v. 11 in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.

What would it look like for the people around you – co-workers, friends, family members, etc. – to hear God’s power explained? 

Yes, they all speak English.  Yes, they all share a Mid-Atlantic culture, a D.C. spin on life.

But what does ‘salvation’ mean?  How about repentance, righteousness, holiness, justification, sanctification, atonement?

You may say, well, pastor, even I don’t know what some of those mean. 

But that’s OK.  You can offer better: you’ve actually experienced them in your life!

There’s no better explanation than, ‘here’s what happened to me!”

You want to know how I’ve seen the power of God translated to the people around me?

In the daughter of a former parishioner whose father had left both of them years before who, when she heard her mother talk about the sermon series I had just finished on forgiveness, remarked “well, I guess I could start with my dad.” 

That’s the power of God.

In a Russian immigrant in Glendale, CA, in our apartment building who befriended us and one night came to us frustrated and said, ‘I just want to know that I’m OK with God; I’m tired of never being sure if I’m good enough for him.  All we did was sit her down and suggested a prayer about asking God to forgive her and accept her as she is.  The marked peace that came over her that night was powerful. 

When we were studying the Bible with some folks in Los Angeles, reading in the 8th chapter of Romans that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God and I asked Francis what he could do to get God to love him more?  And I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he stumbled upon the answer in his head and then blurted out: “Nothing!  I can’t do ANYTHING to get God to love me more!”  Watching the impact of that realization unfold in his life, in his marriage, in his leadership among the people of God was nothing less than powerful!

Tim, a member of the church in Gaithersburg whose disillusionment with organized religion was matched only by an equally strong repulsion of Christians whose practices don’t match their creeds.  He joined our discipleship group and I watched the Word of God, slowly over the weeks, leaven its truth into his life and break down his resentment and unleash in him the humility and freedom to come alive in his faith.  He is currently working on a plan to bring guitars to the homeless shelter once a month so that men who haven’t played in years can jam together.  There’s power in the gospel.

And sometimes the power of God shows up right in the middle of Presbyterian decency and order such as was the case with Robert, a Japanese American tagging along with his Filipina girlfriend who had become an active member of our church in Los Angeles.  I have no doubt that when he agreed to become a member of the church he was just doing it for his girlfriend.  Well, we had the membership class much like we’ll have this afternoon, he agreed to become a member, we brought him before the elders to profess his faith, and before we knew it, Robert was in tears.  Somehow the significance of what he was doing caught up with him and he was overwhelmed.  I’ll never forget that moment because the tears and the mucose and everything else was just flowing down his face – he was a basket case, and we couldn’t find any kleenex – and he just didn’t care.  Respected physician in his community, a man of education,  and he just didn’t care.  Whatever he had just encountered was powerful!  

Folks, as followers of Jesus Christ, as members of a Christian church, we are here to offer love, and grace, and forgiveness, and warmth and hospitality and friendship.

We are also here to offer power.  The power of God. The power of God unto salvation.

And our task in living out the Pentecost legacy, guided by the Holy Spirit who gives us the insights, the energy, the passion, and imagination, is to translate that power into language, idioms, metaphors, symbols, actions, signs, maybe even wonders that make sense to the folks around us. 

Difficult?

That’s what Pentecost is for.  To remind us that God goes before us, He empowers us, and it’s His Son who did the work in our lives preparing us to share what we have with others.

Welcome to Pentecost!