Monday, May 20, 2013

my sermon from yesterday: pentecost

We're going to be in Leviticus 23 and Acts 2 this morning. 
So let’s pray together.
Merciful and heavenly Father, we praise you for incorporating us into the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ, and making us heirs thorough him of your everlasting kingdom. Help us this morning to see this gift more clearly and to give ourselves over completely to the work of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Long ago,

after rescuing the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt,

God gave a series of feasts to help them commemorate

and remember how great their deliverance had been,

but also to be a picture of what he would do thousands of years later.

These pictures are prophetic. 
So you're a person in first century Jerusalem.

You've wandered around with Jesus for the last year.

You're one of the 120 that comprise the broader group of disciples

at the time of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem on the Sunday before Passover.

You're an observant Jew,

so, looking at Leviticus chapter 23 verse 2

you keep the Sabbath.

You don't work on Saturday and you go to synagogue on that day. 
Second, you keep Passover.

Verse 5,

In the first month,

the very month that God delivered the people out of Egypt,

on the fourteenth day of that month,

as the sun is setting,

the Passover begins.

That's when Jesus celebrated the meal together with the twelve.

Then on Friday,

as hundreds of lambs without blemish were being slaughtered in the temple-

-imagine the noise and the stench,

the blood running down the altar

into the stream the runs underneath the temple and out into the city—

at that very moment

Jesus hung on the cross

and his blood flowed down.

The fifteenth day, verse 6,

is the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Not only does your bread not have any leaven

but there isn't even any in your house.

If you are a woman

you have scrubbed every inch of your house

and washed every single solitary piece of clothing

to keep the commandment to get rid of the leaven.

Why?

Because leaven is a picture of sin.

A little bit goes a long way,

spreading itself through the whole loaf.

Jesus is the unleavened bread,

he is without sin.
So then you have to rush around

and prepare to keep the Sabbath

because from sunset on Friday

to sunset on Saturday

you can't do any work.

You don't want to anyway

because Jesus' body is lying in a tomb

and you're exhausted with grief.

What comes next?
The feast of first fruits is next.

So way back in the early spring,

if you are a man and you hadn't been following Jesus around,

you would have planted all your crops,

barley and wheat especially,

and around the time of Passover,

the first barley shoots would be just ready.

Verse 11,

You cut them

and bring them tied into a loose sheaf

to the temple that Sunday,

after the Passover Sabbath.

What does Jesus say about his death before he dies?

John 22:24 Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies,

it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Inevitably, necessarily,

the grain that falls into the ground

will rise out of the ground.

The loosely bound sheaf of barley is a guarantee of the harvest to come.

Jesus walked out of the grave

on the day

that the sheaves of barley were brought into the temple.

Paul writes in first Corinthians 15:20

'But in fact Christ has been raise from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man, Adam, came death, by a man, Jesus, came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all day, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Jesus, the first fruit,

risen,

is the guarantee of future harvest,

in this case,

of us rising again when he returns in glory.

It is inevitable. It will happen. 
So then what happens?

Verse 15.

You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, that's Resurrection Sunday.You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath, that's another Sunday, today, the day of Pentecost. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to The Lord. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as first fruits to The Lord.

This is the Feast of Weeks,

called Pentecost on the New Testament,

the celebration of the wheat harvest.
So now let's look at Acts.

The whole group of disciples, numbering 120,

are altogether in one place.

The place is probably the house that has the upper room

where Jesus celebrated the Passover.

Everyone in Israel

is bringing their two loaves commanded in verse 15

to the temple.

The disciples are praying and singing

because this is the forty ninth day after Jesus rose again.

And that day has changed everything for you.

Ten days ago, on a Thursday,

Jesus left you again ascending into heaven,

shouting down from the cloud that everything would be fine,

just wait for the Holy Spirit,

which was very confusing.

But because he told you to go wait that is what you've been doing.

Every day, in the temple and in each others homes,

with the other believers, waiting. 
So then, on the Feast of Weeks,

which we call Pentecost,

as you're all praying and singing,

there is the sound of a mighty wind,

like a hurricane force gale.

The sound of a mighty rushing wind.

The wind during the Exodus drove the water back all night

so that the people could pass through the sea on dry land.

Ezekiel was told to prophecy to the breath,

the wind,

and say,

let these bones live,

and the valley of dry dead bones was filled with living people.

Jesus spoke with a Pharisee very late at night,

and said, 'the wind blows where it wishes and you hear it's sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with the spirit.'

Nicodemus, likely standing in that room,

should have heard the sound and known what was happening.
Then the tongues,

as of fire,

descended on the heads of each of the disciples.

The Lord spoke out of the fire to Moses

to call him to work to free the people of Israel.

He appeared as a pillar of fire at night to lead them through the desert.

Here tongues,

as of fire,

alight on the heads of those in the room,

all the believers in the whole world gathered in one place.

No one is excluded.

All see and receive the sign.

This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised in Acts 1:9.

So, then

verse 4,

they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues,

as the spirit gave them utterance. 
So, in short order three amazing things have happened.

There has been the sound of the wind,

the appearance of fire

and now they are all speaking in other languages as the Spirit leads,

and here it becomes a little unclear in the text

but it seems like they are propelled out onto the streets of Jerusalem

because Luke describes the various people who are out there, verse 5.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem, devout men,

that means men who fear God and who are paying attention,

Devout men from every nation under heaven

and at the sound they all came together

So they heard the sound and it drew them

and then they were bewildered,

confused,

because each one was hearing them,

that is the 120 disciples,

speak in his own language
Let's pause for just a second and clarify under what circumstances the Spirit came. 

What were the disciples,

the 120, doing when the Spirit came?

they were together worshipping.

Did they know and perfectly expect how and when and what was going to happen? 

Did they play any kind of big organizational roll?

No.

the Holy Spirit came to them when it was the right time

After thousands of years of preparation.

They didn't summon him by the excellence of their prayers.

They were obediently waiting and he came when he was ready..

I am belaboring this point

because I think sometimes we get confused about the Spirit.

We know God the Father and Jesus don't depend on us to do their work,

but when we come to the Spirit

we think it depends on us praying in the right way

or being in the right place at the right time

Then we somehow get the Spirit to give us what we want

knowing that the Father would never give it to us.

Suffering with Jesus,

but glory with the Spirit.

But that's not true.

The work of the Spirit and of Jesus and the Father is the same work—

the redemption and sanctification of human beings for the glory of God.

The Father wants you to be saved and to be holy

and so the Spirit brings it about

through the work of the Son.

They all have the same end goal because they are One, they are God.
But the Holy Spirit does his part of the work in three stages.

First, he regenerates you.

He brings you alive where you were once dead.

We see this in John 3.

You are first born of the Spirit which allows you to see the kingdom of God.

Then you submit yourself to Jesus in faith

and the Holy Spirit comes to live in you.

The technical word is 'indwell'
For some,

the point of being indwelt by the Spirit isn't particularly experiential.

I don't even know the exact moment this happened for me.

Matt, on the other hand,

can tell you a whole story about what it was like for him.
Which brings us round to the third stage of the Holy Spirit's work

and to the word 'fill'.

Those who were all together in one place were 'filled' with the Holy Spirit.

It implies that they weren't before.

To be filled, there has to be a lack,

there has to be some room. 
The Holy Spirit moved in to your dark cold stone like heart

and set up his little fire there to burn

and try to shed some light on the subject,

that is you,

he's in there, that's called indwelling ,

but he could take up a lot more room.

He would like to fill you.

So

often,

at the initial point of faith

some big things that are killing you

need to go right away.

But after that,

his work is much slower.

One room at a time,

one dirt pile at a time.

And this is where you cooperate with him,

this is where the filling comes in.

Sure, he is going to have to pry some things out of your vice like grip,

but other things you're going to give him

and then you'll have more room for him,

more room to be filled with him.

And as he fills you,

guess what kind of experience it is?

The best word to describe it is the dreaded word 'Submission'.

You submit,

you yield,

you give in to the work of God in the person of the Holy Spirit.

It is an experience of joy and forgiveness and letting go of grief and hurt,

but it is also an experience of doing some things

you might never have done before,

or doing some things you don't feel like doing,

or doing some things that seem really beyond you.

Why? Because it’s not just you doing them,

it's the Holy Spirit doing them in and through you.

You can make it harder by not cooperating,

or you can give in,

cheerfully doing what God calls you to do.
The birth of the church,

this moment where the disciples are spit out into Jerusalem

in an amazing rush,

preaching the gospel so that everyone understands,

people of so many languages

who are going to go all over the world with this news.

What is being fixed here that was horribly broken?

Remember, at the Tower of Babel,

how language was confused?

Now the confusion is made into understanding.

Now all the languages speak to the glory of God.

So they rush out and the church suddenly becomes huge.

They baptize 3000 that day.

You think you're tired now,

doing whatever it is God has given you

to make the Kingdom of God real to this city?

Imagine if 1000 people walked in and we had to do hospitality,

coffee hour

integration into mission groups

discipleship

and then also cleaning the kitchen floors

and the bathrooms.

So let's tie in the harvest and the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost.

Remember the barley first fruits were brought in bound in loose sheaves,

but not so the wheat harvest.

At Pentecost, the birth of the church,

the wheat is picked and beat out for the grain

and then the grain is pounded,

milled into flour

and mixed with water and leaven,

that's right, guess what there is in the church?

Sin.

There is sin here.

It's being gently removed but it’s here.

And then heat is applied

and the grain is forged into a loaf of bread.

All warm, and comforting,

bread,

except when you think about the pounding and the mixing and the heat.

And it's being all together in one loaf.

This loaf is also called Jesus' Body.

A body where everything is connected.

Your decision to sin affects everyone else

just like my decision to sin affects you.

It's not Easy. Sometimes it's very Hard.

But, Jesus says, 'nothing is impossible with God'.

He can and he will make us holy.

He can and he will spread the gospel through us to the world.

He can and he will make us alive together in himself.

But he's not a battle ax.

He brings light to you and woos your cooperation.

He wants to fill you with himself.

He wants to use you to build up his kingdom.

He wants to use you to bring healing to other people.

He wants to use your prayers,

your conversation with him,

to bring about his plans and his desires.

He wants to be with you.

And he wants you to be holy. 
Just like the first fruits,

the resurrection of Jesus is a guarantee,

this harvest,

the gift of the Spirit,

is a guarantee, an inevitability.

Paul explains in Ephesians 1:13-14,

in him, that is Christ, in him you alsowhen you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spiritwho is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Sure, there's the beating out of the grain

and the pain of the fire

as we are forged into a loaf,

a body through the one Spirit

with Christ as our head.

And it's messy

because the leaven is all mixed in,

but this isn't the ultimate harvest.

We are still planting seed.

We can work and be filled up because we have the guarantee,

the Spirit,

alive in us.

……………let us pray.


1 comment:

Tamara Murphy said...

Thank you for sharing this, Anne. I wanted a better understanding of the Jewish Feast of Weeks turned Pentecost. I've been learning the Anglican liturgy for a few years now but Pentecost is where I'm least learned. Thanks again!
Tamara Murphy