God’s Amazing Deeds of Power, Pentecost 2021
This Pentecost sermon on Acts 2:1-17 shows teaches how to experience the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s amazing deeds of power.
Pentecost is a Day of New Birth and Renewal
I’ve had Pentecost 2021 circled on the calendar for quite a while. It’s been my dream that we could open up in-person worship because Pentecost was the church’s birth and this is sort of a rebirth for our church after a long labor. Our new birth means we return to this sacred place. And today is the birth of our live streaming ministry that will help with worship and weddings, memorial services, and all sorts of other ways. If you cannot be here in person, you can be with us online—live or at your convenience. It is a newborn ministry that will help us stay connected with one another and help us reach more people with a positive message that will impact their lives so they can make a positive difference in the world. And we are all reborn with a fresh sense of how important our faith and fellowship and outreach are to all of us and our community.
Parallels between the Pentecost story and our current situation
Let us take a moment to remember what that first Pentecost was all about. Pentecost, an annual Jewish celebration, drew devout people from all over the world to Jerusalem. Jesus had ascended told the disciples to wait and see what God would do next. We can relate, we’ve been waiting. Waiting for normalcy, an end to a pandemic, kids back in school, to breathe easy again, to be with family and friends. Waiting to be back in this moment in worship. We are still waiting to get further along in the pandemic so that more people will be able to join us.
On the day of Pentecost, there was a sudden outpouring of the Spirit. There was the sound of a mighty wind. Tongues of fire flickered around the disciples and they breathed in the Holy Spirit in their lives and it transformed their lives. Previously they had been a bunch of scaredy cats, terrified of their own shadows. When Jesus was arrested in the garden, his friends fled like rats from a sinking ship. But now, their hearts were on fire. They grew bold, despite their fears that Herod might crucify them for being associates of Jesus, they rushed out into the streets to tell everyone who would listen to the good news that God was active in the world, that God’s purposes of love and reconciliation and peace march on.
When the Spirit gets hold of you you realize God’s got you and you can move out. Get out of fear. Move out of the boxes other people put you in. Get out of the restrictions you put on yourself. Move out of the limitations you assume. When the Spirit gets hold of you you can move out to risk being happy, risk making a difference, risk being successful, and realize your potential. Let the spirit grab hold of your heart and never be the same.
God’s Amazing Deeds of Power
The scripture says the disciples spoke of God’s amazing deeds of power they experienced in Jesus. It is appropriate to take a minute to reflect on God’s amazing deeds of power that we have seen over this year.
Let us acknowledge how God worked through teachers and parents faced with seemingly impossible tasks. And the spirit collaboration that brought the vaccine, that gave courage to medical workers, essential employees, and all those who sacrificed for a larger good. Let us celebrate the God of comfort who surrounds the bereaved with compassion. God is that spirit that helps people rise and connect whether they call it God or not. I think of the support for healthcare workers with car horns honking, blue light displays, neighbors looking out for each other, seniors terrified of technology who learned how to Zoom and communicate in new ways.
And one of the ways God was amazing to us is through the musicians at Bay Shore Church. Julie, Robert, Michael, David, Shannon, and Genie. These people and our Chap, video tech and Dana our custodian, and Pastor Susie, and a whole team brought it every week. Sixty-two weeks in a row they showed up and bringing us the message of faith in hard times that bolstered us and kept us going and growing closer to God at the time we needed it most. They all knew how important it was to you and they worked so hard week after week because they believed there was something powerful God could do through their efforts for you. I’m so proud of all of them.
If you believe God worked through them to touch your life and the lives of others during all of this, please stand and show your appreciation for their work on God’s behalf.
Like the disciples, we can rush into the streets and testify to God’s amazing deeds of power. God didn’t stop acting at the close of the New Testament. God gives us hope, courage, a community to help us get through whatever we may face.
A Spirit of Holiness
Now we don’t have dramatic rushing wind and dancing flames, but we do have the spirit. The literal translation of The Holy Spirit from Greek is “a spirit of holiness.” Listen for the difference between “The Holy Spirit filled them” and “They were filled with a spirit of holiness.” Do you hear it? That is how most of us experience the spirit, not through the spectacular, but through a sense of unity, of sensing the sacredness of each one. A spirit of holiness fills us when we share a reverence for God, for life and each other.
I believe a spirit of holiness is enveloping us this morning. As the old song says, “There is a sweet sweet spirit in this place.” I know there is this shared attitude of gratitude that we’ve come through something extraordinarily hard–together. We are people who go through hard times, look at the ruins and have dreams and visions of what can be. We move out of our fears and open ourselves to what God has in store for us to do to make a difference in the world.
There is a sweet sweet spirit in this place, a spirit of holiness. Watching you enter this hallowed place again, greeting each other, praying, is powerful, holy stuff.
Speaking the Language of Love
When the disciples rushed out to tell people the good news of God in Jesus Christ, people from foreign countries were able to hear them in their own languages. Everyone marveled. We aren’t able to replicate that exactly, but for our time and our place we are learning to speak God’s truth in new languages. We are learning the technology language so we can carry the message around the globe. Did you know that we have regular viewers of our services in Thailand, London and exotic places like Canada? We are learning to communicate to a new generation of young people to learn their values, their priorities and we are spreading a message of positivity and love.
We may not be able to speak in tongues, but everyone understands the language of love. We show God’s power best when we act in loving ways, not just toward each other, but to the outsider, the people who are not like us. In our time and place, let’s not get hung up on languages we cannot speak supernaturally, but let us concern ourselves with igniting the fire in our bones that makes us reach out to a hurting world in love. I’m so impressed with how so many of you reach out in love to the immigrant children at the convention center, and how you prioritize reaching out to the less fortunate. How you stand for justice and a better world. Love is the language God calls us to speak in our time and place.
Isn’t it Good Mahogany Wood?
Last Pentecost I talked about how in the pandemic some are suffering more than others. I quoted a meme that said we are not all in the same boat, but we are all in the same storm. We look around and have a sense of reverence and respect for what people have been through. The first symbol of the church was a boat because the disciples were fishermen and Jesus calmed the seas when they were afraid. Many sanctuaries, including ours, resemble an upside-down ship, with the hull as the ceiling.
Long-time member Ray Smith told me that the beautiful Philippine mahogany panels on our sanctuary walls were originally ballasting in cargo vessels. Rev. Gabrielson, notorious for looking for an inexpensive material, had the vision to repurpose it into the beautiful walls we see today. Ballast is the stuff in the bottom of the ship that helps its stability. I don’t understand it, but I know that there is something special about this place that helps us with our stability in life. And now we all know that it’s not the building but the spirit, the sweet sweet spirit of generosity, kindness, reverence, and humility that we share together that gets us through whatever storms we may face on this incredible voyage of life. Truly there is a sweet sweet spirit in this place and among us whoever we are, wherever we are physically or on life’s journey. Amen.