Summary: Called to continue his ministry, Jesus empowers his disciples with his Holy Spirit so that they can accomplish his will.
Acts 2:1-21 “Empowered for Ministry”
There has been a lot of talk lately about the end times. In May we had the group that thought that Judgment Day would come on May 21st, and plastered the country with billboards with that message. (I now understand that because of a mathematical error the date for the Judgment Day has been moved to October.) There is also conversation about the Mayan prediction that the world will end in 2012. Some Christian groups are obsessed with the end times are drone on endlessly about the increase in wars and plagues that is supposed to be a precursor t Jesus’ return.
Most of the time we brush off these conversations and comments with a smirk and a shake of our heads. Such reactions might harden our hearts to one indisputable fact, though. Jesus has promised to return. He will return sometime. The writer of the book of Acts records Peter quoting a passage from the Prophet Joel. Hundreds of years before the Day of Pentecost Joel prophesied that the Holy Spirit would be poured out in the last days.
The writer of Luke doesn’t speculate on the day of Christ’s return, but he does tell us how to live in the last days.
WIND AND FIRE
The second chapter of Acts is filled with symbols. On the Day of Pentecost the Spirit came with the sound of a mighty wind. The word “spirit” literally means “breath” or “wind.” The word for spirit is the same word that is used in Genesis to describe God breathing life in to the lump of clay named Adam. The same word is used to describe the wind that fills the sails of a ship, and the wind that is produced in violent storms. God’s children live in the reality of God’s gift of life and power during these last days.
Tongues of fire are seen on top of the disciples’ heads. Fire is always associated with the presence of God. God displayed his presence to Moses in a burning bush. The Lord led the people of Israel out of Egypt by a pillar of fire call the Shekinah glory. When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, a cloud and fire descended upon the mountain. God’s children live with God’s presence. God is with his people; he is not separated from them.
The gospel message is spoken in the language of the people. Many scholars see the Day of Pentecost as the exact opposite of the Babylon Tower experience. Instead of separating humankind with different languages, the barriers between people are overcome. There is a new unity, in that all people are able to hear the gospel that Jesus died for everyone. We live in the end times stressing the reality that we more similar to people than we are different from them.
THE SPIRIT MOVES
The Spirit is upon us. The Spirit is God’s presence and power in our lives, and also the force that unifies us into the people of God. The Spirit is also moving in specific ways in and through us. Martin Luther, in his explanation to the third article of the Apostles’ Creed, writes that the Holy Spirit calls, gathers enlightens and sanctifies.
• Calls: In the gospel message that Jesus died and rose again so that we might have victory over sin, death and the devil, we hear God’s invitation to live our lives in relationship with him. We are also called to be disciples of Jesus Christ and servants of a living God.
• Gathers: The Holy Spirit not only proclaims the love and grace of God to us, but also enables us to respond to this good news in faith. The Spirit gives us the power to believe. We are not only gathered into the body of Christ, we are also gathered into a congregation where we can worship, be nurtured in our faith, and serve God with our talents and abilities.
• Enlightens: As we walk in a relationship with God, and read and study the Bible the Holy Spirit gives us knowledge, understanding and wisdom. The Spirit does this when we open our lives to him in our private devotions, in Bible studies and small group sessions, and in worship.
• Sanctifies: While walking with Jesus the Spirit is at work in our lives molding and shaping us into the image of God. The Spirit uses our struggles and failures along with our triumphs and successes to form us into God’s image.
We live in the last days aware that the Spirit is moving in ways that we don’t see and in ways that we do. It is the Spirit’s movement that gives us hope.
LIVE IN GRACE
Peter ends his sermon by stating that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Another way that we could say this is that we live each day in God’s grace.