Paul calls for us to celebrate. Celebrating is not frivolous, it is not juvenile or immature, but it is part of our witness, part of our calling. We are a people who celebrate the power of God within us. We are a people who celebrate who we are and who God is forming us to be. We celebrating in itself, in many ways is a witness to our world about who Jesus is. After all too many people have this dour, we don’t have any fun and we are not allowed to do anything fun and live entirely by a list of “do not’s” kind of people. When the Church remembers its call to celebrate we are showing our world that Jesus is about joy, that the gospel is a message of freedom as well as restraint. That the resurrection is something we are excited about that brings true happiness into our lives and that it gives us a reason to celebrate.
Today is a day of celebration. Today is THE day the church became the The Church. Jesus told us to wait. Jesus told us the Spirit would come. Jesus told us we would receive power. Jesus told us that we would go into all the world taking the truth of the resurrection with us wherever we go. And they did. The disciples waited, the Spirit came, they were filled with power and boldness and went out, immediately and began the work that the Church continues to this day, taking the truth of the resurrection into all the world.
The Resurrection is the heart of our belief. The Resurrection defines the primary belief of the Church. We are Christians because Christ rose from the dead. It is the most important event in all history. Then 50 days later is Pentecost. Pentecost is the day that defines the Church. The Church is who the Church is BECAUSE of Pentecost. The events that occurred on the Day of Pentecost following the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, are the events, which put in motion the very existence of the Church today. It is true that we are not the Church without the Resurrection, but it is also true that we are not the Church without Pentecost. So what is Pentecost?
Pentecost was originally a Jewish feast, a celebration. It is an harvest festival celebration God’s provision; God’s provision during the desert wanderings, when manna and quail were provided for their sustenance, and God’s continually substance of continuing to provide for them for yet another year. It is one of the seven major feast of the Jewish year. So when the scripture says, “When the day of Pentecost came. . .” It is not saying, “When the day that would later be called Pentecost came. . .” IT was the day of Pentecost, the day of this particular celebration that was going on the day that Spirit came up on the disciples. The day of Pentecost was a day the disciples would have known and would have celebrated. Pentecost takes place 50 days after Passover, which means that the events of Pentecost occurred 50 days after the Resurrection. It was a harvest festival, also known as the feast of weeks. The events that we have come to associate with Pentecost are not what the day of Pentecost was originally about, but because they occurred on this well-known Jewish holy day, we call the events that occurred that day The Pentecost. So on the seventh Sunday after Easter; we celebrate the Christian holy day of Pentecost.
Before Jesus ascended, he promised to return, which is what we celebrated and remembered last week on ascension Sunday, but he also made another promise. Jesus also promised that he would send the Spirit, that they would receive power and that they would go into all the world.
The day of Pentecost marks the day that the Church became the Church. Not only is it the day that the Spirit fills believers for the first time; but the events of this day result in the first post-resurrection converts to Christianity. This is the first time that the disciples go out and share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people who had not previously followed Jesus. The Church really truly becomes the Church when it is reaching out to the world around it and drawing others in.
The book of Act is a written record of the beginning of the work of the Church in the world. It begins with Peter and the disciples in Jerusalem and then goes on to talk about how the early church worked as it began to organize and spread. They begin to take the truth of Jesus Christ to other towns and cities all over Israel. Then following Paul’s conversion Paul begins to take the gospel to towns and cities outside the Jewish world, the church begins to have more and more Gentile Christians. But all these beginnings, which are recorded throughout the book of Acts, begin with this event, which occurs on the day of Pentecost.
Right before he ascended into Heaven Jesus, tells the disciples to go to Jerusalem and to wait for him there. And they went and waited. Waiting is not easy but sometimes we are called to wait. But they did not just wait. Act tells us, following the Ascension; they went immediately to Jerusalem and devoted themselves to prayer. They waited and they prayed. But not only did they pray, but they also did the things they needed to do to make sure that they would have leaders among them. They elected from amongst themselves someone who would serve as an apostle in Judas’ stead. They came together, prayed, waited and prepared themselves to be ready to receive the power Jesus promised. They did not sit around idle wondering when God would come. They did what they knew to do, while they waited. They prayed and prepared themselves, so they were ready when the Spirit came upon them. They were ready to receive the power Jesus had promised. Praying is a vital part of preparing to be the people God is calling us to. Whenever we begin a new venture prayer is our first step. We pray for God to be in what we are beginning to do, we pray for God to guide us and direct us, and we pray for Gods power to not only be in what we are doing, but to go before us preparing the way. We put the work and the ministry of the Church in God’s hands, we acknowledge that the work and the ministry of the Church is the work of God and that it is God who will work in us and through us in what we are about to do.
Then as they were gathered that day, they were ready, they were waiting and they were praying and the wind came, and the tongues of fire alighted on each of them and they then went out into the streets. They were able to speak languages they did not know and people heard them speak in languages they were not speaking and everyone no matter what language they spoke or where they were from was able to hear the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that day.
When they were ready, when they had prayed, when they had prepared themselves, the spirit came and every last one of them, who had been doing all these things, went out from that room. They burst forth out from that room; they flooded into the streets and shared about Jesus. They all went, not just Peter, not just Peter, James and John, not just the 12, but all of them. Acts tells us that there were about 120 of them, men and woman. Not just the ones who were good as speaking (and come on Peter never showed any skill at this prior to this day). Not just the ones who were trained, or whatever stipulation you could put on who might or might not have gone out. All of them went into the streets and spoke to all who would hear.
And because they were praying, because they were ready, because they were prepared, when the spirit came all of them went out, because all of them were filled, all of them were empowered all of them. This was not a miracle for just one or two of them. Sometimes it is easier to think about God using a special person, a person who in themselves has somehow managed to harness the true power God can give, a prayer warrior, a deeply spiritual person, a very pious priest, but this was not a miracle for Peter, or John or James, or Martha, or Mary, or Johanna. The Spirit came up each of them. Each one was empowered so that the whole could be empowered. This was a miracle for all of them. God empowered the Church. They were gathered faithfully, they were worshiping and celebrating a festival God had called for God’s people to celebrate, they were praying, they were ready, they were prepared and the power of the Spirit came up THEM. This was a miracle for the whole Church, not part of it, all of it. God promises to empower not just individuals, but the Church, all those who gather.
This means that the Spirit empowers each of us; this means that the Spirit empowers all of us. We are the Church. I am not the church; you are not the church, at least not on our own. We are the Church together and it is together the real work of God happens in this world.
I have heard people tell me that, “I’m a Christian, I just don’t go to Church.” It is popular thinking to believe that you can be a lone Christian. You can believe in God. You can pray. You can do good things. But that you do not need to be a part of the gathered body of Christ. It is popular to believe that you go at this Christian thing alone. The fact of the matter is you cannot. There is no such thing as a rogue Christian, out there trekking through the world alone just you and Jesus against the world. God calls us to the Church. God intends for us to function together. And this is most clearly and distinctly seen on the day of Pentecost. On the day of Pentecost, we do not talk about John receiving the Spirit. We do not talk about the Power James received. We do not celebrate how Peter was able to single handedly was able to speak to and 3,000 people were added to their number that day because of what Peter did.
No, we celebrate how the Spirit came up the Church that day. We do not celebrate a miracle that was performed by a disciple or even a small group of them. We celebrate the forming of the Church on that day. People call Pentecost the birthday of the Church, because it was on that the day, when the Spirit came up one them that the Church became the Church. When we celebrate Pentecost, we are celebrating that God called the Church into existence. We are celebrating that we are empowered to come together to do the work and the will of Christ in this world. We are celebrating that God does not call us to do this alone. We are not called to do it alone, we are called together. We are called to gather, we are called to worship, we are called to pray, we are called to prepare ourselves and do what we know to do to make ourselves ready because it is when we are together that God empowers us, all of us. Not just the best among us, not just the greatest among us, but all of us. That means that none of us is left out. That means that we are in this together. God empowers all of us. God has called us; God has called us to work together, to live this Christian life together. God has empowered us to BE the Church. Do work together to do the work and the will of Christ in this world. Let us come together, let us be the people God is calling us to be, let us be the people God is empowering us to be together!