Pastor Sherry’s message for Pentecost Sunday—May 23, 2021
Scriptures: Acts 2:1-21; Ps 104:24-35; 1 Jn 3:1-7; Jn 1526; 16:5-15
In 1995, Mark Batterson and a small team planted the National Community Church in a movie theatre on the Metro line (subway) in Washington, DC. It has since grown, through prayer and sovereign moves of the Holy Spirit, to 7 locations in and around DC, and ministers to around 3,000 members. This week, I reread 2 books Batterson has written: In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and Wild Goose Chase.
In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day is based on 2 Samuel 23:20-21 Benaiah son of Jehoida was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, who performed great exploits. He struck down two of Moab’s best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.
Benaiah, a mighty Hebrew warrior, chases a lion into a pit on a snowy day and kills it. Why would anyone do such a thing? Adult lions weigh about 500 pounds. Let’s guess that Benaiah weighed about 180. Clearly he was out-weighed by about 320 pounds. Add to that the fact that a lion’s paws, claws, and teeth were better suited to combat in a slippery environment than a man with no rifle or semi-automatic (but perhaps Benaiah had a spear or club). Whatever his weaponry, Benaiah slays the lion. Now I believe the Holy Spirit must have both led Benaiah to the pit, and empowered him with the courage and the skill to overcome the lion. This feat becomes the most prominent feature of his impressive resume. He is subsequently hired by King David to lead his body guard. Later, he rises to become the commander of the king’s armies.
Essentially, Batterson encourages us, in this book, to become “Lion Chasers,” pursuing the divine appointments, the God-given opportunities our Lord provides of us. He also points out how often “lion Chasers” are rewarded by the Lord.
In his book, Wild Goose Chase, Batterson distinguishes between a wild goose chase and chasing a wild goose. We tend to think of a wild goose chase as a fruitless endeavor, a waste of our time.
But the Celtic Christian name for the Holy Spirit is An Geadh-Glas, or the Wild Goose. Please understand that the Celts meant no disrespect. (The Lakota Sioux thought of the Holy Spirit as a buffalo, upon whom their plains existence depended entirely.) Like a wild goose (or a buffalo), the Holy Spirit is unpredictable, and out of our control—and sometimes even scary. But if we chase after Him, if we follow His nudges and urges, the Lord leads us into some amazing adventures.
Given this background, let’s look at our 1st reading, Acts 2:1-21: the empowerment of the HS at Pentecost. The context of this passage is that the 120 disciples, men and women, are praying in the Temple. Jesus had told them (Acts 1:4)àDo not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised…in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. So they are being obedientàthey waited, they prayed. On Pentecost, 10 days after Jesus’ ascension, the Holy Spirit shows up! This is a theophany! A God-sighting! And He arrives with significant supernatural fanfare, or signs and wonders.
(1) 1st sign (which was heard)àSuddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind. This was no gentle breeze! Like tornados, it probably sounded like dozens of freight trains. God had done this beforeàEzekiel 37:9àGod sends the wind to raise the dry bones of Israel to life. When I was baptized by the Holy Spirit, I was at the beach with a group of friends who were praying for me. A moaning wind came up in my face. It was so strong that I could hardly breathe. Afterward, my friends denied having heard or felt it!
(2) 2nd sign (which was seen)àThey saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. Imagine if you had been there! Fire over your head, fire over the heads of your friends, no one burning up! Wow! But God had done this before, tooàExodus 3:2-5àMoses and the burning bush. The bush was on fire, but it did not burn up. God used that bush to light a fire in Moses. In Isaiah 6àIsaiah’s callàIsaiah realizes he is a sinful man called to serve as the Lord’s prophet. An angel brings a burning coal and applies it to hislips and tongue. He is purified without being burned. He did, however, get fired up to serve the Lord!
(3) 3rd sign (which was again heard)àAll of them were filled with the HS and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. They were all supernaturally empowered to do something they had never done before, speak in a foreign language. Parthians, Medes, and folks from other nationalities visiting Jerusalem heard them praising God in their native tongues—and according to scholars, with the correct accents! These foreign visitors realized something extraordinary was happening as they recognized the 120 as simple folk from Judea. Now God had done this before as wellàIsaiah 50:4àThe Sovereign Lord gave me [Jesus and the prophet Isaiah] an instructed tongue; i.e., inspired speech. I have heard of a number of incidents, especially from missionaries serving abroad, when they suddenly either spoke or understood a language they had never been taught. Peter quotes the prophet Joel,(Acts 2:28)à[The Lord, speaking thru the prophet Joel, promises],…I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
The Holy Spirit did show up, big time, on the Day of Pentecost! But why would God go to all this trouble? (wind, fire, inspired speech?)
(1) Pentecost marks the birth of the Christian Church (Big C, all Christians despite denominational differences) and inaugurates “the Church Age” (which begins with Pentecost and will continue until the Rapture).
(2) The Holy Spirit empowers us to tell others about Jesus. The disciples were waiting, praying, in the Temple, when the Wild Goose manifested in these very surprising ways. Jesus had given them the Great Commission, Matt 28:18àGo and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Now, filled with the HS, the disciples began telling anyone who would listen about Jesus. Like Benaiah jumping into the pit, they rushed out, with great urgency, to share with others what God had done for them. Like Benaiah jumping into the pit, we need supernatural help to share our faith with others. We need God-given opportunites, divine appointments so we know with whom we are to share the Good News. We need instructed tongues, so we know what to say when we do share.
(3) Empowerment to do the kinds of things Jesus did for the building up of God’s Kingdom. Through our prayers and faith, God can use us to heal others. My friend and seminary buddy, Hazel, had a healing ministry in Charleston, SC. Through her prayers and those whom she trained, one person grew back a kidney; another had their gall bladder healed. A third was healed of Bi-polar Disorder; a 4th had a brain tumor shrink to nothing.
Similarly, Agnes Sanford, the wife of a clergyman, also had the gift of healing. Her parents were missionaries to China in the 1930’s and 40’s. Agnes laid hands on a crippled Chinese man when she was 3YO and he was healed. Her parents did not understand her gift (their theology taught that all the gifts of healing ended with the Apostles), and told her not to do it again. Later, as an adult during WW2, she suffered from depression until a pastor friend released her to work in her gifting. She laid hands on injured GI’s, prayed for them, and they were healed of either their physical or emotional problems.
Graham Cooke, a present-day British Christian healer has a gift of “prophetic healing.” In other words, in the healing conferences he leads, God tells him what is wrong with a person as they are coming forward to him for prayer. He relates the story of a man who came forward suffering from a long-standing porn addiction. As the man approached him, the Holy Spirit told Graham that God intended to heal him of his addiction. Indeed,Graham prayed and the guy was set free.
Through our faith and our obedience, we can be equipped by God to do things we would never have thought possible. The 120 were waiting in anticipation, but I bet when they awoke on Pentecost, they never thought they would be evangelizing in foreign languages later that morning. I doubt Benaiah anticipated slaying a lion with only a spear or a club that day. I grew up wanting to be a mother and a teacher, then later—when my high school students kept coming to me with their problems–a psychologist. God has given me gifts of teaching and wisdom to impart to those I counseled. Yet, here I am now serving Him and you as your pastor. The Holy Spirit also gifts us for specific ministries at different times of our lives.
Moving at the nudge/inspiration of the HS is like chasing a Wild Goose (the Celtic An Geadh-Glas). It is an adventure! We wore red in honor of Pentecost today. Red reminds us of the tongues of fire. Red reminds us of one of the ways God chooses to show up. This week, be sure to be aware of how God might show up in your life. Savor your divine appointments. Write them down so you remember them. Share them with others, as God directs you.
Let’s remember this week—and always—that our God empowers us through His Holy Spirit to both tell others about Jesus and to operate in the gifts He has given us. Even if it seems as scary as jumping in a pit with a lion on a snowy day, let’s look for God-given opportunities and divine appointments. And let’s ask Him for the courage of a Benaiah—and of a Mark Batterson–the courage to do what the Lord has given us to do.
©️2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams