“The 4 “Ps” of Pentecost”
(From Acts 2: 1-21)
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-“in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 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? But 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.
When the day of Pentecost came, the early followers of the “Way” of Christ Jesus were all gathered together in one place. Suddenly, the sound of a mighty wind came upon them from heaven. It filled the house where they were gathered. Tongues, as of fire, rested upon them; and they all received and were filled with the Holy Spirit. What an awesome and thrilling site that must have been for all who had gathered there at that first Pentecost. By the power of the Holy Spirit, each of those present was enabled to speak in another language-a symphony of many languages from across many surrounding regions, all giving glory to God for God’s mighty and powerful deeds.
The scripture lesson tells us that there were devout Jews from these many regions living in Jerusalem; and they each heard the good news proclaimed in their own native language. What a powerful testimony that must have presented, as it gathered quite a crowd around them. I believe I have shared that my New York Conference re-enacted the Pentecost Scene at one Annual Conference that fell during Pentecost Week-similar to our current calendar year. Conference members of many different ethnic backgrounds all read the scripture lesson from Act 2 in their native language-I think there were about 20 people in all. At first, as they read the verses, it sounded like a loud babble of gibberish. But, if you listened carefully, you could distinguish among the languages. I recognized English, of course, but also French, Spanish, and German. I saw people representing Eastern European, African, and South American nations, but I was not familiar with their languages to distinguish them. It was a profound experience for to me to realize that others in the room were probably doing the same thing-and hearing the message in different languages than those I had recognized-just like the day of Pentecost. It also brought me to the point of envisioning the scene of the first day of Pentecost, and I trembled at the enormity of that historic moment for all who believe in and follow Christ Jesus.
As life changing as the day of Pentecost has been for Christians down through the ages that have passed, Pentecost is more than a day of celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit to the early church. The gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost fulfilled, and so confirmed, all that God had promised and spoken to believers through the Holy Scriptures and the messages of the prophets of old. I like to refer to the day of Pentecost as the final fulfillment of the 4 “Ps” of God’s Promises, and I will now share each of them with you.
The day of Pentecost is, firstly, the culmination of God’s good purpose for humankind. It was God’s desire that we be God’s people, and that we live eternal life in God’s kingdom. God knew, however, from the foundation of our world, the nature of human beings. God understood that, although we are created in God’s image, we are frail and inclined to sin and selfishness, and to falling away from God’s ways and God’s love. In order for God’s good purpose to succeed, God needed to implement a plan.
God’s plan is known to people of Christian faith as the “Plan of Salvation”. According to God’s plan, God the Son, in the person of Jesus, would be born of a woman into the world, when the fullness of time had been completed and people were prepared for his coming. He would fulfill the righteousness of God and atone for the sin of the world to save us and seal us as God’s people. To this end, God spoke God’s message of salvation through the Holy Scriptures and the words given to the prophets of old. For example, the prophet Isaiah spoke these prophetic words hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus in Chapter 9 of his prophecy:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders, and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Great will be his authority,and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Or, from Isaiah Chapter 40, these words:
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her
that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Finally, in the words of one of our favorite Hymns, “Because He Lives”, we hear the message of the completion of God’s Plan of Salvation shared sweetly and concisely for our understanding:
God sent His Son, they call him Jesus; he came to love, heal and forgive; he lived and died to buy my pardon, an empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.
Because he lives, I can face tomorrow; because he lives, all fear is gone; because I know he holds the future, and life is worth the living just because he lives. (Gloria & Wm. J. Gaither, 1971).
It is an important aspect of our faith that we also both understand and believe that God’s plan for our Salvation revealed to us, once and for all time, God’s sovereign authority-God’s power. The words of Isaiah 55 verses 8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” remind us God is in control. God’s plan for our salvation has been fulfilled, accomplished by the one and only Son, our Lord, Jesus. So brothers and sisters in Christ, as believers, we can trust the power of God’s promises and of their fulfillment in God’s timing.
God’s final gift to fulfill God’s plan for us and for our good was the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift of provision. The Spirit is our Comforter, Teacher, Advocate, Helper, Guide, Guardian, Protector, our Conviction when we are led astray of God’s will, and the One who challenges us to reach and grow beyond the zone of our comfort and familiarity. The Spirit reveals our gifts to us and to others, and then equips us to use them well in building God’s kingdom right in this very time and place. All of these benefits of the Spirit are available to all who will believe-regardless of our circumstances of wealth, status or station in life. For it is written;
“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams…I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below…And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
Everyone, who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, for God is not a respecter of persons, as Romans 2:11 in the Amplified Bible states, “For God shows no partiality [no arbitrary favoritism; with [God] one person is not more important than another].”
All people are precious to God, and that is why God, in Christ, saved us and then sent the Holy Spirit to be with us and to help us live our lives in a for the eternal kingdom.
So this Pentecost, my prayer for you is that the Spirit guide, teach, comfort and protect you, and then inspire and challenge you to become the keepers of the peace of Christ we have read and discussed. This is who we, as believers in Christ, are truly meant to be. So, today, this Pentecost Sunday, “May the Spirit fill our praise, guide our thoughts and change our ways; God in Christ has come to stay. Live tomorrow’s life today!” (United Methodist Hymnal # 192-“There’s a Spirit in the Air”-words: Brian Wren, 1969). Amen, and let it be so.