Summary: A sermon for Pentecost
"Transforming the Earth with the Power of Heaven"
The Bible begins with the Spirit or Wind of God.
We are told in Genesis Chapter 1 that "When God began to create the heavens and the earth--the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God's wind swept over the waters--God said, 'Let there be light.' And so light appeared."
In our Scripture Passage for this morning, the "family of believers"--there were about 120 of them--were waiting in Jerusalem as Jesus had instructed them.
He had told them: "wait for what the Father has promised...John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit...
...and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
And so they waited.
And we are told that as they waited they were "united in...prayer..."
And what is prayer, except for opening ourselves to God's Spirit, so that God's will can be done in and through our lives?
At the church I served in Virginia, on the first Saturday of every month, we would have a prayer vigil in the sanctuary from about 9 in the morning until maybe 4 or 5 p.m.
People would sign up before hand for half-hour shifts, and a wonderful member of our church named George would stay at the church during the entire vigil--for safety reasons--just to make sure no one was in the church by themselves at any one time.
I would often take the pictorial directory into the sanctuary with me and pray for every member of the church.
It was a transforming experience and I believe with all my heart that the monthly prayer vigil had a lot to do with the degree of spiritual vitality and growth that Parkview United Methodist Church experienced.
Back in Luke Chapter 11:9-13 Jesus says: "Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find.
Knock and the door will be opened to you.
Everyone who asks, receives.
Whoever seeks, finds.
To everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which father among you would give a snake to your child if the child asked for a fish?
If a child asked for an egg, what father would give the child a scorpion?
If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"
And so the followers of Jesus waited together and prayed.
And we ought to feel a strong identification with them because everyone who names the name of Jesus, who worship Him, who study His Word, are called to be people of worship and prayer.
Well, it's in worship and prayer that we, who are still on earth find ourselves sharing the life of heaven, which is where Jesus is.
In Acts, the constant references to prayer indicate that this is how these very ordinary, often muddled, deeply human beings, the apostles and others with them, found that their story was being bound up with the story of what Jesus was continuing to do and to teach.
The story of the Christian Church really takes place in two dimensions, doesn't it?
We live on earth, but it is through prayer and worship that we, too, can know, enjoy and be energized by the life of heaven, right here on earth!!!
It's clear from the Words of Jesus Himself that God longs to give the Holy Spirit to people, and that all we have to do is ask.
And so that is what the believers were doing between Jesus' ascension and Pentecost.
And, a few days later, sure enough: "When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place.
Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting."
And coming "from heaven" they "saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each of them.
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak."
Heaven came to earth and transformed them; empowered them and took up residence within them.
It was the beginning or the birthday of the Church, and a scene to behold.
Apparently, thousands of folks gathered when they heard this sound from heaven.
And they were "mystified" because they all heard what the believers were saying in their own native languages.
And they said, "Look aren't all the people who are speaking Galileans, every one of them?
How then can each of us hear them speaking in our native language?"
Galileans were looked down upon by these "pious Jews" as being backward and uneducated.