Sunday, May 23, 2010

“Being in Mission”

Acts 2:1-22
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 1Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs — in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?" 1But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine."

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
'In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'

Romans 8:14-17
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ — if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

John 14:8–17, 25–27
Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

A Message from the Pastor
Today is a day of celebration. Today is the Day of Pentecost. It is the birthday of the church. The day of Pentecost is the third most significant festival of the church year. The first, of course, is Easter. The second is the birthday of Jesus. It is the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles to empower them to go into the world. The apostles are the foundation of the church.

As I thought about this, I thought about the sequence of seasons in the church year and how it develops our thinking. We began the church year in late November, before this mission began to worship. In that season, we considered the coming of Jesus. The Twelve Days of Christmas was next in which we celebrated that the Son of God became human, became one of us, and lived among us. Then, there was the season of Epiphany in which we recognized the light of the word was with us. We could see Jesus. With all this focus on Jesus, his coming into the world and his love for us, we realized our own human condition during Lent. We are sinful, we have shortcomings and character defects, and we are imperfect. Yet, we knew that God loved us, just the way we are. At the end of Lent, we observed Holy Week. It is the time in which we consider Jesus’ living sacrifice of himself so that we could be one with God and one with Jesus. We could be reconciled to God. Then came the joyous Fifty Days of Easter. We not only acknowledged the resurrection of Jesus, but that he appeared in his resurrected form before approximately five hundred of his followers. Furthermore, we heard about the relationship, in love, and in God and Jesus, that Jesus desires for us.

All of this occurs in the first half of the church year. It comes to conclusion on the Day of Pentecost.

So what? Is it just nice to have a relationship with God through Jesus? Is all that we considered a nice thing to consider so that we feel good and recognize that we are Christians?

What does it mean to us? What can we do about it? Well, actually nothing, by ourselves. There is nothing we can do. But this relationship with Jesus makes all the difference in the world when we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Day of Pentecost is not only the birthday of the Church, but it is the day that the Church was called to mission.

Let’s just think about the first story in today’s reading. There were twelve men who stepped out of the house to talk to the people. There were twelve men who were willing to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to those surrounding the house. The spokesman, Peter, denied Jesus fifty-three days before that day. The other eleven ran like scared rabbits when Jesus was arrested. Even after Jesus’ resurrection, they were huddled in a room, afraid of the authorities. Howeve, within twelve years of Paul’s missionary journey, there were approximately 10,000 followers of Jesus. Within the first hundred years after Jesus’ resurrection, believers traveled to Spain, France, England and Ireland. The number of Christians had grown to well over a few hundred thousand. It was all because of the power of the Spirit poured into men and women, slaves and free people, and old and young people.

When we think about it, those here in this room are not much different than those in that house on the Day of Pentecost. There were probably a similar number of people. No, split tongues like fire don’t rest upon us. No, we don’t speak in several languages. No, we’re not the disciples, reported at the end of Chapter 2, when they baptized three thousand people. But we do have the power of the Spirit.

Look around the room. Identify those who are now worshipping who answered the door when an individual was in the neighbor identifying those not connected to a faith community. It was not just the individual. The Holy Spirit called them to worship at this mission and participate in the community of faith. Identify those who are now worshipping who responded to an invitation to worship. It was just not the one inviting. The Holy Spirit called them out to be part of a community, sharing the love, care, and concern because of Christ in our midst. Identify those who are now worshipping who heard about this mission and decided to find out for themselves what it was all about. That was the Spirit calling them out to become part of a community of faith to strengthen their faith and share it with one another. Identify those who were inactive in worship and decided to participate regularly in this faith community. That was the Holy Spirit calling them to come and worship here and join in the fellowship of believers.

We are empowered by the Spirit to reach out with the gifts the Spirit has given us to share the faith that we have. There are those who wish to know and experience the love of Jesus Christ. There are those who wish to call out “Abba!” or “Daddy.” That’s what Abba means. We have a faith that knows we are children and heirs of God, and heirs with Jesus Christ. We have a faith that knows that Jesus leaves his peace with us. He gives us his peace. Our hearts need not be troubled or afraid. Through the Spirit, in our own way, we are empowered to share that with others.

I have a vision. Several months from now, I would hope that one Saturday or Sunday a month, approximately five pairs of people from this community of faith could spread out throughout the Jonesborough area, making initial calls, and identify those who are not connected with a faith community. We could reach about 150-200 in a short period of time, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I also have a hope, and I think it is one shared by you. I hope that some time soon, each Sunday a new worshipper will come to experience what we experience each Sunday. I think it is shared by you because I see the smiles on your faces and the joy you express when they come to be with us.

We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. After all, God so loves the world. Why would we want to? Because he is risen! He is risen, indeed.

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