Pastor Sherry’s Message for May 28, 2023
Scriptures: Acts 2:1-21; Ps 104:24-34; 1 Cor 12:3-14; Jn 7:37-44
Isn’t it interesting that sometimes what you thought you heard may not necessarily have been what was said? Or even if you heard what was said accurately, the words used conveyed something different to you depending on your background and experiences?
For example, there is…
“an old joke that used to be popular around the Pentagon that the different branches of the Armed Forces have trouble operating jointly because they don’t speak the same language.
For example, if you told Navy personnel to “secure a building,” they would turn off the lights and lock the doors.
Army personnel would occupy the building so no one could enter.
Marines would storm the building, capture it, and defend it with suppressive fire and close combat.
The Air Force, on the other hand, would take out a three-year lease with an option to buy. “ (Illustration borrowed from www.sermons.com, 5/25/23.)
This joke is such a good example of how the same word can mean something different to different groups of folks. The word Pentecostal is another such word. To most, the noun, Pentecost, refers to the day we celebrate today, the anniversary of the day the Holy Spirit was given to all believers in Jesus, and the day the Church (capital “C”—Christians of all denominations) was born. It also marks an ancient Jewish religious feast day. It commemorated the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest—the Spring Harvest season. Thus it was one of the 3 times per year a Jewish man was expected to journey to Jerusalem (The other two times were for Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles).
But consensus breaks down when the adjective form, Pentecostal, is used. This could refer to a Christian denomination, for example Pentecostal Holiness. A good number of folks associate it with speaking in tongues—and some Pentecostal churches believe you must speak in tongues to demonstrate you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit—though nowhere in Scripture is it stated that all spirit-filled Christians must speak in tongues. It could also mean charismatic—a person who believes in and moves in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Our readings today are all Pentecostal, or refer to some aspect of the Pentecostal power that manifested that Day.
A. In our Acts 2:1-21 lesson, we are reminded of the supernatural power the Holy Spirit can and does demonstrate when He shows up. (1) There was the sound of wind rushing. In this case, it was like the sound of a tornado, but without the wind damage. That sound is like 5-6 locomotive engines rushing by. The Holy Spirit came on with such a loud sound that folks rushed out of their homes to see what had produced it. Prior to moving off to seminary, I asked a group of my friends to pray for me to receive the Holy Spirit. We had gathered on the beach at night for that purpose. A very strong wind came up and blew in my face as they were praying. I felt I could hardly breathe. Afterwards, I asked them what they made of that wind. No one else in the group had experienced it! We knew then that the Spirit had indeed come over me.
(2) There was also the curious sight of a larger flame in the air separating into smaller flames. Stranger still, the smaller flames come to rest over the heads of the 120 disciples gathered in that place. Like the bush Moses saw aflame as he was shepherding sheep, these flames did not burn anyone or anything.
(3) There was also the sudden, unexplained ability of all to speak in tongues/languages they had never been taught. Apparently all 120 disciples present were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. This power enabled them to do things they had never learned nor expected to be able to do.
Wouldn’t it be marvelous to instantly speak another language without the tedium of memorizing sounds, vocabulary words, and grammar rules, let alone another alphabet like that of Greek or Hebrew? These were not just a nonsense languages, gibberish, but actual languages and dialects recognized by the many nonbelievers who were there. People said, “Hey! Aren’t these men and women from Galilee?” In other words, “How do these “backwoods” folk know our native tongues?”
(4) Additionally, Peter—who had been unwilling to admit his association with Jesus just some 53 days earlier—is emboldened to preach to Jews (vv.14-36) about Jesus and 3,000 were so convinced by his sermon that they agreed to be baptized that day (v.41).
Miraculous, wonderful things happen when the Holy Spirit demonstrates His Pentecostal Power!
B. The key verse for us in Psalm 104:24-34 is verse 30 When You send Your Spirit, they [meaning humankind and all animal life] are created, and You renew the face of the earth.In this tribute to the creative power of God the Father, the Holy Spirit manifests this divine creative power. God may have efficiently used similar designs—apes have physical characteristics similar to humans—but He formed them all out of nothing. The originals were adults of two genders, so they could reproduce.
Each living thing is a manifestation of Holy Spirit power—remember, at the creation of the world, the Holy Spirit was hovering over the waters (Genesis 1:2). In a sense, we could say Pentecostal power was present at Creation.
C. In our 1 Corinthians 12:3-14 passage, Paul lists 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit (He has two other gifts lists in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:28-31.) These are each supernatural abilities bestowed on certain believers—not for their own entertainment or to puff up their egos—but (v.7) for the common good. They are meant to build up the body of Christ, His Church. They include (vv.8-10) wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophesy, distinguishing spirits (evil ones from good; angels from demons), speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Each believer is given at least one spiritual gift; some are given more than one. For example, sometimes when I pray for healing for a person and lay hands on them, my hands grow hot. The person I am praying for also feels those “hot hands.” The heat means the Holy Spirit is at work, healing them. I do not generate the heat and I do not experience it each time I pray for healing. This has led me to believe the gifting can come and go. Sometimes I have it and sometimes I don’t. It’s up to the Spirit when to apply it. And, again, the purpose of the gifts is to edify the Church, not the person who has the gift.
Think about it: What is (are) your spiritual gift(s)? You have been given Pentecostal power with which to help others.
D. In John 7:37-44, Jesus makes one of His I am statements. Remember, to the Jews, Yahweh or Father God was and is the Great I am. By saying, I am, Jesus was admitting He is equal to God and that He is God. Just prior to this chapter in John 6, Jesus states that He is the manna from heaven; He is heavenly food. Some turn away from Him then, misconstruing is metaphor as a cal for them to consume Him as in cannibalism. In John 7, He says He is living water to drink. Jesus is in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles (Ingathering, Booths, the Fall Harvest Festival). Believing Jews were to sleep in tents, booths, or tent-like structures meant to remind them of God’s provision for them during their 40 years of Wilderness Wanderings. For the 7 days of this national holiday, they were to do no work. They would worship the Lord at the Temple, daily, to seek forgiveness for their sins and to thank God for their harvest. Otherwise, they were to celebrate, feast, and visit with family and friends. On the eighth and last day of the Feast, the priests would pour water on the altar of sacrifices, dousing the flames and asking God to provide rain for another year.
According to John (vv.37-38), on the final day of the Feast, perhaps just as the priest poured water on the altar Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. He was saying, “I, God, give you what you need to sustain life.” This is the same living water He promised the Samaritan woman at the well. This water is a metaphor for a relationship with Christ that is life-giving and life-changing. John goes on to explain it also refers to the life-giving Spirit (v.39) By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Jesus gives us what we need—life giving, flowing-not-stagnant, living water—by gifting us with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit empowers us to live a life pleasing to God, and to love others, as Jesus commanded us. Just as in chapter 6, His words caused confusion about His true identity among those listening.
But we are not confused, are we? We have the gift of the Holy Spirit, one of whose jobs is to reveal all that is true to us. You know, if you watch the news on TV and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what is true, you can begin to know who lies and who speaks truthfully. We know, through the supernatural gift of faith, that Jesus is indeed the Christ. We also know He has imparted to us the Pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit.
As we walk out this next week, let’s try to remember…
(1) We worship an all-powerful, creative God;
(2) His Son, Jesus, has given us the powerful, power-filled Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and direct us here on earth.
(3) The Holy Spirit also gift us—according to His will—with supernatural abilities meant to benefit others. Ponder what those are for you. Consider how you have used them in the past and might use this Pentecostal Power even more fully in the present and in the future. We want to be believers in and practitioners of God’s Pentecostal Power.
©️2023 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams