Summary: blessing is the gift of the Holy Spirit not only renewed their bodies and spirits to carry on the mission of Jesus but now gave them the last thing needed to carry on the work of Jesus, the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Now they are complete to b
Communion with God
We’re in a series looking at the Holy Spirit and how you can have a more intimate relationship with God. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles is really about the Holy Spirit’s interaction with the Apostles. The beginning of that story is the Day of Pentecost. But to understand Pentecost and our Scripture today, you have to understand its context. The Festival of Weeks or Shavuot in Hebrew occurs 7 weeks after the Passover. It is one of 3 High Holy Days for Israel where attendance was mandatory. Thus, Jewish pilgrims from various nations would travel to Jerusalem for this Festival. It was a joyous time of giving thanks and presenting the first offerings from the summer wheat harvest in Israel. The celebration also focused on the giving of the 10 Commandments. Jews believe that it was exactly at this time that God gave the Torah to the people through Moses on Mount Sinai. While Passover freed the Jews physically from bondage, the giving of the Torah redeemed the Jews spiritually from their bondage to idolatry and immorality. So Shavuot symbolizes the "completion" of the people of God. What was understood in the physical realm of the Torah and the wheat harvest was made manifest in their lives. The early fruits have come in but imbedded in this celebration was also the implicit promise of a later spiritual renewal of Israel. So imagine the pilgrims walking out of the Temple having just celebrated the physical blessings of God and seeing the disciples receive a spiritual blessing unlike anything they had ever seen before. That blessing is the gift of the Holy Spirit not only renewed their bodies and spirits to carry on the mission of Jesus but now gave them the last thing needed to carry on the work of Jesus, the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Now they are complete to begin the mission of Jesus. So what do we learn about the Holy Spirit from the Day of Pentecost?
First, the Spirit comes in community. That seems to fly in the face of our American culture of rugged individualism where we think faith is a private matter. When you’re born in the faith, you are also born into the body of Christ. When you receive the Spirit, it is in the body of Christ. The Spirit is not just given to one individual but to all the disciples who were gathered there. Why? We’re better and stronger together than we are by ourselves. God’s Spirit always comes into community. You now have what the Apostle’s Creed calls “the communion of saints.” God knows we can’t do Jesus by ourselves. This is why we need community. So to be a part of Christ, I have to be connected to you and you have to be connected to me. I can’t do it alone. Say it with me, “I can’t do it alone. If you are connected to Christ then you’re connected to the body of Christ. It is in this community of faith where you are to be nurtured.
When God gives the Holy Spirit in community, there is always a diversity of people present of different tribes and tongues. “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.” When God’s Spirit was poured out on both men and women, young and old, slave and free, without distinction, each received the Spirit of God. Philip Yancey writes, "As I read accounts of the New Testament church, no characteristic stands out more sharply than [diversity]. Beginning with Pentecost, the Christian church dismantled the barriers of gender, race, and social class that had marked Jewish congregations. Paul, who as a rabbi had given thanks daily that he was not born a woman, slave, or Gentile, marveled over the radical change: ’There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’"One modern Indian pastor told me, ’Most of what happens in Christian churches, including even miracles, can be duplicated in Hindu and Muslim congregations. But in my area only Christians….mix men and women of different castes, races, and social groups. That’s the real miracle.’ Diversity complicates rather than simplifies life. Perhaps for this reason we tend to surround ourselves with people of similar age, economic class, and opinion.” One of the problems with Christians is that they change churches like they change clothes. Most people try to find a church that thinks and believes just like you. The problem is that if you find a church like that, you will never grow in your faith. We need people in our lives who are different from us and thus are going to challenge us, pull us and stretch us in our faith. We need a diverse community of faith. Yancey puts it this way, “Church offers a place where infants and grandparents, unemployed and executives, immigrants and blue bloods can come together. Just yesterday I sat sandwiched between an elderly man hooked up to a tank puffing oxygen and a breastfeeding baby who grunted loudly and contentedly throughout the sermon. Where else can we find that mixture? When I walk into a new church, the more its members resemble each other—-and resemble me-—the more uncomfortable I feel."