Summary: A sermon for Pentecost
By: Rev. Kenneth Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
Acts chapter 1 describes several appearances of the risen Christ that occurred between the first Easter and the Day of Pentecost—or the birthday of the Church.
In one appearance, the disciples asked Jesus: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
They, of course, meant an earthly, political kingdom.
Jesus replied to their questions by telling them: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…”
Jesus was talking to them about a completely different kind of power while they were still thinking about earthly, political power.
They expected Jesus to conquer with the power of an army…instead—He conquered with the power of a willing, dying Savior—emptying Himself---giving His life for sinful humankind.
In the movie Jesus Christ Superstar, the zealots sing a song about their idea of what power is to the person who plays Jesus:
“There must be over fifty thousand,” they coo, “Screaming love and more for you.”
“Everyone of fifty thousand would do whatever you asked them to.
Keep them yelling their devotion,
But add a touch of hate at Rome.
You will rise to a greater power.
We will win ourselves a home.
You will get the power and the glory.
Forever and ever and ever.”
In reply to this, the Jesus character sadly sings:
“Neither you, Simon, nor the fifty thousand,
Nor the Romans, nor the Jews,
Nor Judas, nor the twelve,
Nor the priests, nor the scribes,
Nor doomed Jerusalem itself,
Understand what power is,
Understand what glory is,
Understand at all…
Understand at all…”
He goes on to finish by singing:
“To conquer death, you only have to die….
You only have to die.”
Obviously, God’s idea of what real power is and the world’s idea are in complete contrast to one another.
We see power in military might.
In bombs and nuclear weapons.
Early in life, on the playgrounds, we interpret power in terms of muscle.
Later, power is associated with good looks, money, and worldly wisdom…in order to get one-up on other people—in order to lift ourselves up by tearing others down.
None of these things mean a thing to God. This is not power. Instead, to rely on these types of things for our power source is the most weak and cowardly thing we can do.
The Greek word for ‘power’ that Jesus uses in reference to the power which comes from the Holy Spirit is dynamis.
We derive our words dynamite, dynamo, and dynamic from it.
And Jesus is saying we shall receive this sort of power when we accept the Holy Spirit into our lives.
Let’s take Peter as an example of the Holy Spirit’s enabling power.
Before Pentecost, before he had received the Holy Spirit, he was by Jesus’ side and he made all the right sounds, “Lord, I will follow you even unto death.”
But Peter could not live out his promise.
In the Garden of Gethsemane he slept.
When the soldiers came he lashed out in anger and then fled into the night.
Then when a servant girl accused him of being a follower of Jesus, he cursed and swore he never knew the man.