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May 28, 2023 — Pentecost Sunday
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Acts 2: 1-21; 1Cor. 12: 3b-13; John 20: 19-23; John 7: 37-39
Rev. Paul Wilcox
Of the three Great Holy days of the Ancient Church, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, it’s not hard to see which celebration gets short shrift. Pentecost arrives like an anticlimax, a movie epilogue for those few who haven’t left the theater when the real story was over. The life and teachings of Jesus is the real story for most Christians, which is why Pentecost can feel like a disembodied after-thought compared to the flesh-and-blood reality of the Christ. That’s why I like John’s version of the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes from Jesus. It is his Breath. It is His continuing presence with us-- as close and as necessary as our next breath. Just as God breathed into Adam and Eve the breath of life, so Jesus breaths into us the breath of new life in Him.
Luke’s version in Acts Chapter two is a much more public and miraculous arrival. The Holy Spirit enters the disciples with a rushing wind and blazing fire. The disciples break out of their fear and begin to speak to the crowds in the streets. Think of the courage it took to do this so soon after the crucifixion of Jesus! All the enemies of Jesus were still out there, looking to make examples of His followers. But the Holy Spirit fills them with confidence and courage and a message that can’t wait! Plain, uneducated folks begin proclaiming the Gospel to the crowd! Wait! No diplomas? No seminary education? Perhaps that’s why Christian Preaching has never been just a matter of education, but also Inspiration! But as the disciples speak, each listener hears their words in his or her own language. It’s like the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11) in reverse! Through the Holy Spirit the many, diverse peoples of the world are brought together into one family, into one story, into God’s story.
I heard a good Children’s sermon on Pentecost a couple years ago: The speaker brought out a remote-controlled car. The car wouldn’t go. He showed the kids the motor and the wheels and the controller—and everything checked out. Why wouldn’t it go? One of the kids suggested: “Does the car have batteries?” Opening the bottom of the car, they saw that there were no batteries. After batteries were inserted, the car took off and delighted the kids as it sped under the pews and out the door. Then the speaker said,
“The car is like the Church. God made the Church and the car to run! Jesus is the motor. He powers the Church just like a motor moves the car. But without batteries the car goes nowhere. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. She’s the power-the batteries--that moves the Church forward. Until Pentecost, the Church had everything it needed to move—the belief, the message, the people; everything except the power. But after Pentecost, the Church never stopped moving again!”
I suppose that why we call Pentecost, “The Birthday of the Church.” Pentecost is the point where the Jesus story becomes our story—where belief translates into action. John Wesley liked to talk about the work of the Spirit as the work of Sanctification—becoming Holy. He believed that when you give your life to Christ, you experience salvation through the saving work of Christ on the Cross. But at the same time, you begin the process of Sanctification through the work of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is a relative change—that is—a change in our relationship with God and others, but Sanctification is an actual change, whereby we begin to manifest in our own thoughts and actions the very mind of Jesus. We actually become more like Him! Some folks will tell you that real change in our lives is impossible and there are days when I might agree with them! But the message of Pentecost is that there is a power that can turn frightened disciples into fearless prophets and that power can change us too!
Paul Wilcox is a retired Elder in the Iowa Annual Conference, living in Burnsville, Minnesota with wife, Gayle and only ten miles from the two cutest granddaughters in the world.
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28 mayo, 2023 — Domingo de Pentecostés
Salmos 104:24-34, 35b; Hechos 2:1-21; 1 Cor. 12:3b-13; Juan 20:19-23; Juan 7:37-39
Por el Rvdo. Paul Wilcox