Pentecost in 2020 is quite different from the first Pentecost, but God’s gift remains the same. Listen as Pastor Hinkle describes the people to whom God gives his Spirit and how the Spirit works in their lives.
I’m afraid today is going to be pretty tame compared to the Pentecost described in Acts. The believers then were all in one place. You and I are in different places. Their city and the temple within it were teaming with people who were there for a religious festival. Our squares and public buildings are empty. Tongues of fire appeared on their heads and they began to praise God for his mighty works in languages they had never learned. You are in listen-only mode. These differences make it even more imperative that we understand the Holy Spirit who was given that day has also been given to us.
All of today’s lessons refer to God bestowing His Holy Spirit upon people. And all of them also say that gift is given to all believers. When God put his Spirit on the men who would assist Moses they began to prophecy. Two of the men didn’t like Moses and had refused to come. They also received the Spirit and began to proclaim God’s Word and praise. When Joshua asked Moses to stop them, Moses said,
“Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that God would put His Spirit upon them” Numbers 11:29-30
In our lesson from the book of Acts, Luke uses the word “all” repeatedly and often. He also uses “each” and “every”. He begins by saying
they were all together in one place
Then when describing how they all received the Holy Spirit he says
divided tongues as of fire… rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
The crowd that heard them was from all over the world and spoke many different languages at home.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?
all were amazed and perplexed.
Peter got up to address the crowd that had gathered and cited the prophet Joel to explain that the gift of the Spirit had come and was intended for all God’s people.
I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh
it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved
In our Gospel lesson Jesus declares:
If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
And Luke adds the comment that Jesus said this concerning the Holy Spirit who was to be given after he was glorified.
The reason I’m making such a big deal of this is so that you, dear listener, will understand that what Moses and Joel prophesied has now been done and the gift is also for you who believe in Jesus Christ and have been incorporated into the people of God through baptism.
Now it used to be, in the days before Jesus, that the Holy Spirit was only given to a select few people. Some, such as kings, received it because of their office. A few received the Spirit because God had called them as prophets to speak in His name. Others became artists, musicians, poets, historians, and warriors as the Spirit empowered them for service to his people.
In our day, is no longer true that a select few serve by the power of the Spirit. Every believer is called to offer him or herself to God for his service. They render that service in worship, in witness, or in works of mercy. And God has given his Spirit to them to empower them for their service.
Now it is true that not everyone sees the Spirit at work in their lives. A common cause could be that they are serving themselves rather than God. It is terribly easy to get one’s entire life so turned around that one thinks “God works for me. Why isn’t he doing what I want?”
Do you suppose that Peter grew up wanting to teach the meaning of the faith to the leading theologians of his day or to travel the world preaching to pagans? Did young Stephen say, “When I grow up, I want to take food to old women and be stoned for my trouble?” Hardly, but as they sought God and His will that’s where they ended up, serving by the power of God’s Spirit. They didn’t ask God to serve them, they served him and did so in the power that he gave.
Another reason we may not see the power of God’s Spirit at work is that we don’t know what to look for.
Consider that the chief work of the Spirit is to call people to faith in Jesus Christ. He does this through others as he gives them words to speak so that we will hear and believe.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Do you call God your Father? The apostle Paul taught that no one can call Jesus Lord expect by the Spirit of God and that it is the Holy Spirit that teaches us to call God our Father. Your faith is a sign of the Spirit’s presence and work.
The Spirit also gives those who believe power to speak about the salvation God offers in Jesus Christ.
In dry countries, like those middle East and northern Africa, agriculture is limited by the availability of water. Ancient Egypt was a long skinny country kept alive by the Nile. Away from the river all there was was sand. Introducing more water for irrigation changed that, making more agriculture, towns, and bigger cities possible.
When Jesus talks about rivers of living water flowing from us, he is talking about the Spirit using us and our words and deeds to give life to others. Our testimony to the saving power of Jesus brings eternal life to those who hear much like irrigation water brings life to a desert.
Worship and works of mercy are also under the Spirit’s direction and benefit from his power.
Many of the Psalms were written by men who led Israel in worship at the temple. While anyone can read or recite them; when, by faith, they become our own so that we truly pray them, the Spirit is at work. The same is true of modern songs and hymns that faithfully proclaim God’s works and praise him. When they enable us to give expression to our own faith and love for God, the Spirit has been at work in us building our faith and our understanding of God’s love and mercy.
The Spirit also moves us to engage in works of mercy. Dorcas was led by the Spirit to provide clothing for the poor around her. Her work physically demonstrated the mercy and compassion of Christ. Perhaps she told that them that Christ would clothe them with righteousness much as she clothed them with cloth. The can be said of the things we do individually and together to help our neighbors in Jesus name.
One of the things that fascinates me about the Holy Spirit’s work, is how differently he reveals his presence in the lives of various Christians. Although there are some things, like faith, hope, and love, that are common to us all, there are also many different gifts that the Spirit gives to enable us to serve one another and grow up together into the fulness of Christ. No one has everything all by himself. Some Christians are generous, some lead, some teach, some minister to the sick, some pray for miracles and see them accomplished, others excel in wisdom, or craftsmanship. When any of these gifts benefit the church and her people we may assume that Spirit is at work.
You see it is God who sets good works before us, so that we may do them, and it is his Spirit that gives us the ability to do them. So that apart from Christ and his Spirit we cannot do anything and in Christ Jesus we can do anything by the Spirit’s power.
For the Spirit that was given at Pentecost is God himself. His presence imparts wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the faith, but the greatest gift is God himself. The Spirit is the very presence and power of the LORD our God at work within us.
We might be frustrated by being kept apart, but nothing can separate us from the power and love of our heavenly Father, for his Spirit dwells within us and fills us with his presence and love.
Therefore, I encourage you to draw upon that power by faith. Be willing to attempt things great and small in the service of God and for His glory. Do the things he calls you to do and trust in His Spirit to accomplish them through you. It’s why he came. Amen.