Summary: The Bible shares with us two different fires - the Fire of the Holy Spirit and the Fire of Hell. This sermon shares four different ways they are both similar and yet vastly different. It is a way to use the metaphor of fire in a sermon on Pentecost.
Theme: Pentecostal Fire or Hell Fire?
A few years ago, the story goes that a certain pastor asked his congregation as rather particular question on Pentecost Sunday. He asked all those sitting in the sanctuary, “How many Pentecost cards did you receive?” 1
The crowd no doubt looked around and wondered what their pastor was asking them. After all, no one that they knew had received any Pentecost cards in the mail. In fact, I am sure many had never heard of anyone even creating or making a Pentecost Greeting card. However, did you know this morning there are Pentecost Greeting cards that you can buy and then send to your friends? All you have to do is go to http://www.printeryhouse.org/ and for around 15.00 they will send you a box of 10 Pentecost Cards that you can then give to your family and friends. Each of the cards has a wonderful picture on the front of the Holy Spirit falling down upon the 120 disciples.
You would think at some point the church would have made it a tradition to send cards. It seems like it would have been a great way to promote the season of Pentecost. After all, where you are aware -
Americans purchase approximately 6.5 billion greeting cards each year. Annual retail sales of greeting cards are estimated between $7 and $8 billion.
The most popular Everyday card-sending occasion by far is Birthday, followed by a number of secondary occasions that include Sympathy, Thank You, Wedding, Thinking of You, Get Well, New Baby and Congratulations.
The most popular Seasonal cards are Christmas cards, with some 1.6 billion units purchased (including boxed cards). This is followed by cards for Valentine’s Day (145 million units, not including classroom valentines), Mother’s Day (133 million units), Father’s Day (90 million units), Graduation (67 million units), Easter (57 million units), Halloween (21 million units), Thanksgiving (15 million units) and St. Patrick's Day (7 million units).
Women purchase an estimated 80% of all greeting cards. Women spend more time choosing a card than men, and are more likely to buy several cards at once.2
So while we annually purchase over 1.6 billion Christmas cards we can rest assured that there are probably only a few thousand Pentecost Greeting cards that are actually purchased sent across our world.
I wonder why that is the case? I wonder why industry has not attempted to commercialize Pentecost like it has Christmas or Valentine's Day? Perhaps, it because Pentecost is difficult to market. Just think about it, how would you go about marketing the season of Pentecost?
1. Would we give out little stuff little toy doves as gifts or attempt to sell pictures of a dove coming down upon the 120?
2. Or would attempt to sell "fans" - promoting those that could really move the air like the wind of the Holy Spirit?
3. Perhaps you could market "rose petals" as the ancient church made use of to apply to symbolize the tongues of fire? Could you market Holy Spirit roses?
4. Perhaps you could market "Pentecost Matches" that would light up your life?
It would be silly. Seriously, however, I think the most difficult thing to market would be first of all the idea of Pentecost itself. There are so many people that just do not understand what the season of Pentecost means or its importance. Even in our age of knowledge there exists a great deal of confusion, misunderstanding and lack of understanding about Pentecost.
So, let's do some review then:
+ Historically, Pentecost has its roots as Shavu'ot. Shavu'ot, or what we call Pentecost, was an annual Jewish feast that was to take place some 50 days after Passover. Usually it was a weeklong celebration that was also called the Festival of First Fruits (Hag ha-Bikkurim ). Pentecost came during the beginning of wheat harvest and was a time when people would come and present their first-fruits to the LORD in thanksgiving and praise. Before they would partake of any of the harvest themselves, they would come and make sure they had honored God.
And Pentecost for the Jewish disciple was much more than just a harvest festival. It was a time when the people of God celebrated the giving of Torah at Mount Sinai, and is also known as Hag Matan Torateinu (the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah). (See Exodus 19ff)
One can find all the rituals and regulations about Pentecost by simply reading Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28. Rabbi scholars are quick to point out that it is the giving of Torah that is celebrated, not the receiving of Torah. It is their belief that we continually celebrate the receiving of Torah every day of our lives. But during the week of Pentecost we celebrate the giving of Torah. For Torah is a gift from YAHWH Himself. It is the gift of GOD that redeemed the Jews spiritually from their bondage to idolatry and immorality.3