Posted by on May 29, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Uncharted Territory

Welcome to Pentecost Sunday, 2020. It’s a different type of Pentecost celebration this year than in the past. However, that doesn’t detract from the importance of celebration this day for the disciples in Jesus time…and for us in our time.

Dear Lord…speak to each one of us as we consider your words today. Guide us and direct us, just as you did for the disciples. Thank you for the gifts you give us…for the love, grace and protection you provide. We are your disciples. Amen

The Bible reading for today is from Acts 2:1-21. This reading is the extension from Luke’s gospel as he was moving his writing from the actions and teachings of Jesus in the world to the works of the disciples as they moved out to fulfill the commission Jesus gave them.

Let us consider the meaning of Pentecost first. Pentecost means “50”. This was a day that was fifty days after the completion of the harvest. This was the day that was fifty days after the celebration of the Passover. It was also fifty days after Jesus crucifixion including the 10 days after Jesus resurrection.

The celebration of Pentecost in the age of the disciples took place in Jerusalem. Remember that Jesus wanted the disciples to return to Jerusalem to wait for the Spirit to be given to them. The disciples had been worshiping in the temple after they had witnessed the ascension of Jesus. Yes…there were people who were still there following the completion of the Passover celebration as well as the celebration of the end of the harvest.

Luke states that there were about 120 people gathered in the court of the temple, the disciples were in the room where they had seen Jesus. While they were celebrating, a sound like a strong wind came through the people and filled the area. I would expect we could equate the sound to that of an oncoming tornado.

That wind caught everyone’s attention. In addition to the wind, tongues of fire appeared on each one of the people and everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit. What significance does wind and fire have? Fire has always indicated the presence of God, since the events of Mount Sinai, when God gave the Israelites the law. In Jewish history, the wind indicates the power of God and the fire indicates the presence of God.

Not only did the disciples and people there have tongues of fire on their heads, they began to speak in other languages…as “the Spirit gave them the ability”. (verse 3) Notice that the sound did not go unnoticed. People from every nation were living in Jerusalem and experiencing this happening. In fact, they were a little concerned about the noise and wondered if the people who were speaking had been drinking a little too much wine.

Peter begins to address the crowd as a teacher and prophet and explained to them that this was a fulfillment of the event written in Joel 2:28-32, which was God’s fulfillment of the giving of the promised Spirit.

Let’s look at a few interesting aspects of this event. First, there were Jews in attendance at this event that were from all countries. They heard their own language being spoken. Normally, the word used for the “speaking” when the Spirit was given to the people was that they were speaking in tongues. However, they were speaking in languages that could be understood by those in the crowd.

These foreign languages provide us with a sign of the beginning of a new era in the plan of redemption of the people of God’s world…or a new mission. No one was excluded from receiving the Spirit. The gift of the Spirit was not done in a “normal” way. It was given in a way that the people at that time would recognize. This also signals the beginning of the Spirit bringing power to all nations. Peter emphasizes this is the beginning of the work to bring the gospel to all people and nations.

What do you think the disciples were really experiencing on this day? Yes…there was excitement and joy. Yes..there was awe and surprise at what they were experiencing. But, then, suddenly, these feelings gave way to, now what? Now where do we go? I imagine they were suddenly thrown into a time of considering uncharted territory looming over them.

As you all are aware, Ron and I were to go to Rochester on Memorial Day for an appointment at Mayo for Ron on the following day. We have been to Rochester so many times for the past 13 years and look forward to specific places to visit, to eat and to shop. Well, in our present situation, I became a little “leery” of what these places would look like and what we would be able to do or not do. In other words, I felt like we were going into uncharted territory in a place we knew well. This subject of uncharted territory became one of my prayers before we left.

As it was, there were significant differences…but knowing where to go and how to work through the changes was not an issue when we got there. We couldn’t do what had become normal for us, but all was well. We were able to move through the two days so that the territory was no longer uncharted. The spirit was helping us acclimate to the changes.

I would expect it was the same for the disciples. We don’t know what they actually did…but we can sense that they knew that they would be accomplishing something different from what they had previously been doing.

Later in the same chapter, we see that they stayed in Jerusalem for awhile and helped with the questions that those who were from other nations had. They were teaching the people and baptizing those who believed. Their mission had begun. I can just imagine that the disciples were busy enough that they were able to realize what Jesus had been teaching them and the question of “uncharted” soon left them. I’m sure that as they moved out of Jerusalem, they had these same unsure feelings…but they called upon the gifts they had been given to guide them.

In I Corinthians, Paul gives a listing of the gifts that the Spirit gives each one who follows him. These gifts are for the common good and help answer the needs of those that the disciples were ministering to. The gifts come through God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to answer the diverse needs of those members of God’s kingdom. They are not of our determination, but the Spirit’s.

OK…what does that mean for us now? We all know that we are moving through uncharted territory right now. Things have been rather “similar” for the past 2 ½ months and now we are considering making some very noteworthy changes. How and when will we be able to worship
together in our church building? What will those changes look like? How will the variety of “openings” of businesses look? We know the businesses are nervous about whether they will be able to stay in business. What will the rest of these months before us look like?

What we do know, is that we are not alone in this journey. We have the gift that the disciples were given that special Pentecost day. Yes…we have the Holy Spirit guiding us. God sent the Holy Spirit to all people for teaching, guidance and for comfort in doing the work God calls us to do. This gift is not something we keep to ourselves…but rather we use it to remake the world. It’s part of the commissioning Jesus gave to his disciples…and to us….to spread the Gospel to the world.

What can Pentecost say to us? It’s a comfort…it’s an inspiration…it’s a call to action…and a reminder that God is always present in our lives. What can we say to the world? It appears to me that knowing God is always present in our lives can make a HUGE difference right now. We can utilize the gifts He gave to us to make changes for the better in our world and help formulate what we will soon call, “the new normal.”

Gracious God…thank you for the gifts you have given to each of us to use in your world to make a difference in our lives as well as in the lives of the people we meet. Thank you for the strength to carry out your mission. Thank you for the forgiveness we need when we don’t follow your words. Be with us as we work to make the world better at this significant time in our lives. We are no longer living in an “uncharted” territory…as you are guiding us all the time.

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