May 31, 2020: Pentecost Sunday
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Today we start a new season of the church year. This is the season of Pentecost and this being the first Sunday of Pentecost we celebrate the actual event we’ve come to know as Pentecost.
I like to call Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian Church. Because prior to that day “Christ was risen” but there was no one saying “He is risen indeed.” The disciples knew the truth, Christ is Risen…they had experienced the phenomena, Christ is Risen…they celebrated the victory, Christ is Risen but they weren’t proclaiming it to all the world. Not until that fateful day of Pentecost, when God poured out his Holy Spirit on those frightened disciples, did they go into all nations making disciples and baptizing and teaching and proclaiming Christ is Risen!
Once that happened the motely crew of former fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, and prodigal sons became something marvelously different and truly transformed. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, they became speakers of truth. Through the strength of the Holy Spirit, they became proclaimers of hope. Through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, they became witnesses of the resurrection. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they overcame their societal fears and personal frailties and forged ahead into a hostile and fallen world to bring light and love, forgiveness and salvation in Jesus’ name.
That is something important! That is something to celebrate and commemorate! Too many people think celebrating the birthday of the church is blasé. Our society goes all out to celebrate the birth of Christ but not the birthday of his church! When’s the last time you heard of a store having a “blow out” Pentecost sale? Just because our society doesn’t get, it doesn’t mean we as Christians should overlook it.
Truth be told, it’s not just non-church folk that overlook the birthday of the church and the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. We, good Lutherans, have a tendency to do the same. Perhaps it’s because we look at some Christian communities like the Pentecostal communities who seem to us as folks who ALL they LOOK at is the Holy Spirit! They’re so focused on the Holy Spirit and being filled with Holy Spirit and calling forth the Holy Spirit that they’re handling snakes, rolling in the aisles, and speaking in tongues. And Lutherans, we look at that and are like “I want no part of that!” Uh Uh!!
If you feel that way, I’m not going to argue with you, in fact I’m mostly going to agree with you. I will caution you not to disparage your brother Christian Pentecostal just because they enjoy and are drawn to that aspect of the Holy Spirit. God’s spirit is mighty, God’s spirit can envelope you and overtake you. I believe all that! However, as a Lutheran I believe God’s Spirit is much more than an entertaining side show circus of speaking in tongues, handling snakes, and rolling in the aisles on a Sunday.
When I talk about celebrating the birthday of the church, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit I’m thinking of much more than WOW factor. I’m thinking of the HOW factor. How the Holy Spirit each and every day can make a difference in our life and in our world?
Now you might ask me, “Pastor Mike, you say the Holy Spirit makes a difference in our world everyday, how do you know that?” You’re in your cars with your phones- some of you are right now on your phones…lets put them to good use to prove the Holy Spirit is making is still making a difference in this world.
Get your calculator app on your phone we’re gonna do a little figuring. Let’s say that Pentecost happened 33 years after the birth of Jesus, after his death and resurrection. He was born 2020 years ago (put that in) subtract the 33 years of his life (-33) equals 1,987. Now on that day of Pentecost Acts 2:41 tells us the Holy Spirit brought 3,000 people to faith in Christ. So that’s pretty impressive back then but what’s the Holy Spirit been up to since?
Let’s take that 1,987 years and translate it into days (How many days in a year? 365) that’s roughly 725,255 days between that day and today. So, if the Holy Spirit has been working day in, day out, year after year… what do you think the total number of folks coming to Christ would be? Let’s just say 3,000 people per day from that day to this was just all in a day’s work. Let’s times 725,255 by 3,000… what do you get? My calculator says 2.1 Billion. Do you know how many Christians are in the world today? You can google it… 2.3 billion!! Apparently, the Holy Spirit is an over achiever, or has been taking advantage of some of those leap years!
That’s great for the world but what about us? Its fun to celebrate on a global scale but I’m really concerned about the individual level. Does the Holy Spirit really matter on an individual level? First off, how many of you believe in Christ? If so turn your headlights on. That’s the Holy Spirit working on an individual level. (the light of Christ shining forth in each one of these cars) Let’s go a step further, how many of you would say you’ve had an encounter with the Holy Spirit? If you’ve had an experience in your life where God intervened, where you or a loved one experienced a miracle- the only explanation was God- God helped you in a time of need-turn on your hazards to affirm God’s Holy Spirit helped you in a time of need. Do you see that- the Holy Spirit alive a well in a Lutheran worship service!
This is what we celebrate today- the birthday of the Christian Church. To say we have a God who did much more than create a wonderful universe billions of years ago. We have more than a God who visited our planet two thousand years ago. We have a God who is with us each and every day of our lives, right here, right now. Keep those engines running and lights going for just a bit longer because I want to point out something else very important about the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It’s the gift of community. The Christian community is founded on the gift of the Holy Spirit. Too many people think when we talk about church, that we’re talking about a building, a location, a structure. This might explain why the celebration of Pentecost is so overlooked by our society. Who wants to celebrate a building, a structure? But the church is not a building, it’s a people. You know you can find my sermon’s online, right? You don’t have to be here to get today’s message. Yet so many of you have come because you know church isn’t a building, it isn’t a pastor, you can’t find church until you find the people of God gathered together by God’s Holy Spirit. Amen?!
You want to know something fun… the Holy Spirit has been having a field day with this COVID 19 chaos. I love the cartoon I saw that had Satan talking to God saying “I’m gonna use this COVID 19 to shut down everyone of your churches. God’s response was “That’s ok I’ll just open one up in every home.” And that’s what’s been happening. People have been using home computers for not just googling and gaming but for gaining and listening to the gospel of Jesus Christ more so now than ever before!
Here’s more fun facts about the Holy Spirit working in our world and on an individual basis and a local level right here at little ol’ Greenford Lutheran. You want to prove the church is not a building- look at this parking lot! Do you know according to the comment cards turned in we’re averaging nearly 100 worshipers, up from 75 prior to COVID 19! If that’s not the Holy Spirit I don’t know what?! More Fun facts, because of the Holy Spirit’s working in and through and among us we’ve enjoyed having more guests and visitors worship with us than we have in nearly three years. Last week we had 20 nonmembers join us for Drive In worship at little ol’ Greenford. That’s not just “Thank ya, Jesus, That’s thank ya Holy Spirit!”
Today’s Pentecost. Let’s celebrate! We’re not celebrating the blasé birthday of a church building. No, we’re celebrating the people of God who are worshipping and serving a resurrected Lord. We’re celebrating the Spirit of God that is alive and well among us helping us in the midst of COVID chaos to know God still cares, God still loves, forgives and lives. We’re celebrating that we’re no longer frightened believers but on fire disciples filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to go into an intimidating dark world and bring the light of Christ. Look at this parking lot, remember those hazard lights and those headlights represent we have the light of Christ in us and among us. That’s great, you can turn off your hazards and lights now.
Just don’t forget you have a powerful advocate in you- God’s Holy Spirit. You are not alone ever. You don’t have to do this all on your own, ever. During this pandemic you have a personal advocate that gives you a direct line to God almighty. So don’t panic, pray! Don’t allow Satan to slip you into depression, allow God to lift you to his peace. When your outlook gets dark remember you are part of the body Christ, you have the light of the Holy Spirit in you. Remember the light in this parking lot, the spirit of gathering with God’s people and then “let your light so shine before others that they can see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.” Happy birthday, Church! Go in God’s Spirit. Amen.