Summary: A sermon for a baptism service held on Pentecost Sunday.
Sermon for Pentecost/Baptism Sunday – May 23, 2010
Today’s Scriptures speak of birth. Of new life, of spiritual belonging, and of supernatural events that brought about the beginning of the church. And they speak of baptism, which of course today we gather to celebrate. William, Dylan, Kirk, Mary and baby Aries will all be baptised today.
And around the world today Christians of all stripes are remembering and celebrating this day, which was the fulfillment of a promise by Jesus, the promise that when he left planet earth He would send a comforter, a counseller.
Jesus had told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem; to wait for power to come upon them from on high. Pentecost Sunday is the celebration of the birthday of the church. It began with the Holy Spirit, who came upon the followers of Jesus with power.
They had gathered together in great expectancy. They had good reason to be excited. They had been through the dark, dark day of Jesus’ crucifixion. All their hopes and dreams had been squashed.
A few days later, Jesus rose from the dead and showed Himself to the disciples and then a great many others. The resurrection of Jesus turned the disciples around. It altered history; changed everything, really. And just before Jesus ascended to the Father, He had told them to hang out in the Holy City.
So there they were, waiting, hoping for some sign from God, anticipating that God would do something, something big. Something big enough to enable the Apostles and the early followers of Jesus to do what Jesus commanded them to do.
Jesus had said: “…Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
That was a big command, quite beyond their ability to do in the natural. These were, none, of them, particularly impressive folks.
The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1: 26 Brothers (and sisters), think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.
And as they were together, the Spirit of God showed up in power, filling each of them so much that they couldn’t contain their joy. Their joy spread from one to another that day, and since that day the joy of knowing Jesus and the revolutionary new way of living that Jesus began has not stopped spreading.
Sometimes it’s spread like wildfire, sometimes in slow motion, as if from candle to candle. Always it has spread person to person, as each Christ-follower has lived the Way of Jesus and demonstrated the radically different values of the Kingdom of God in the here and now.
So the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was huge. That’s why 2000 years later we still celebrate it.
And something else happened that day that we just heard just a little bit about in our reading. Peter, having been restored by Jesus after he denied knowing Jesus three times…Peter was among those waiting in Jerusalem. And when the Holy Spirit came, he was filled with a new boldness, and new fearlessness.
And so Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke to the people and reminded them of a prophesy in the book of Joel that was about what was happening that very day:
Acts 2:17 (from Joel) "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
Then Peter spoke about Jesus having come, sent by God. How he was among them and was “a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know”.
But Jesus was crucified – dead and buried.
Peter continued: 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him…36 "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."