May 23, 2021

“God’s Promises”

(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.’

     I recently walked into a conversation two female coworkers were having about their teenage daughters. We all know how difficult the trials of teen daughters can be.  It seems that one gal’s daughter was in distress because she and her BFF were supposed to work on a school project together over the weekend, and then the friend ditched her when a better opportunity to do something more fun came along.  The ladies were bemoaning the fickle lives of teenage girls, who can change their minds so frequently that they often leave a trail of drama and disappointment in their wake.  Teens often fail to keep their promises.

                 Now, lest we are too hasty in condemning this behavior pattern common to teens, whose emotions are readily available to the highest bidder, we need to consider our own actions and the motivations we display in our daily lives.  After all, much of what our teens have absorbed and then display has come from observing our behaviors as their adult role models.  For example, how often have we made plans to do some activity only to abandon them when something better came along for us?  We put off the family grocery shopping to go out to lunch with a friend, or we develop a last minute headache or case of the flu to avoid a dreaded dinner party.  O bring this discussion back home, how often have we promised our kids a family movie night only to cancel when some “important business” arose for us.  It can sometimes be very difficult to actually keep the promises and commitments we make to others.  It is an unfortunate component of our human condition that we can sometimes be selfish and self-absorbed.  We make decisions to do that which seems most pleasing to us at the moment rather than that which is most needful and to which we have already committed.  In short, we, too, can behave in a fickle manner, and in a moment of weakness, fail to follow through with the promises we make-even those made to our loved ones that we truly intended to keep.  After all, who does not recall hearing the dreaded words, “but Mom, Dad, you promised!”

     I am sharing these stories with you today because, for me, Pentecost is about more than the gift of the Holy Spirit to the early believers in Jerusalem. The gift of the Holy Spirit is also about the fulfillment of God’s promise to all believers.  As our scripture lesson this morning disclosed to us, the promise of the Holy Spirit was given as a prophesy to the prophet Joel.  Joel is believed to have been one of the Minor Prophets during the reign of King Uzziah in the eighth Century B.C.  He foretold that in the last days, God would pour God’s Spirit upon all flesh-all people.  What a wonderful blessing it would be when believing men and women of every age and nation would see great visions of the glorious kingdom of God and learn how God’s plan of salvation was fulfilled. Joel prophesied about the gift of the Holy Spirit some 700 years before the birth of Christ.  It appears from our lesson this morning, that many people had long forgotten about the prophesy of Joel and the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. Many generations had passed since Joel’s prophetic message was revealed.  But, God had not forgotten, dear Church, for God always keeps God’s promises.  Let me repeat this critical message for you-God ALWAYS keeps God’s promises.  It may not be in our chosen time, and sometimes, it is not even in our lifetime, but God’s activity is always on time, and always in God’s time to fulfill God’s promises.  When we are led to question God’s timing in the course of human events, we are reminded of 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.”  God is in control. So, as believers, we can trust God’s promises.

     There is another aspect of the Pentecost story that I would like to share with you today.  When the day of Pentecost arrived, it came with mighty power.  It shook the earth like a mighty rush of the wind.  Divided tongues as if on fire appeared and rested upon the Disciples, so that they each had the ability to share the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus in a language of the many people who were present in Jerusalem.  Can you just imagine the power of a message delivered in so many languages?  It created no small amount of chaos and confusion among the people-God sure can do great things in a big way.  Many people were bewildered about how it could be that they each heard the message of “God’s deeds of power” in their own native language.  Yet some, the ever-present cynics and rationalizers, that were present developed a reply for those who were questioning what was happening before them-“These are filled with new wine”, they stated dismissively.  They did not recall God’s promises.

    I was told at a very young age that the truth is the truth whether or not we choose to believe it.  We can rationalize it, choose to dismiss it, ignore it, rail against it, and even deny it; but, the truth will remain the truth regardless of our best efforts to blot it from our awareness or understanding.  God’s truth will always prevail, just as God’s promises will always be kept.  The truth before all who were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost was that the time had come for God to deliver the promised and long-awaited gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus reaffirmed the promised gift of the Holy Spirit to his Disciples while he was still with them.  It was and still is God’s gift to all who come to believe the good news of God’s plan of salvation fulfilled in Christ Jesus-those who trust in God’s promises.    

   On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit instilled in Peter the boldness to proclaim to all who were present that the Disciples were not drunk, as some had rationalized the experience.  This was, indeed, the fulfillment of God’s promise made through the prophet Joel in Hebrew history some 700 years ago.  By the Holy Spirit’s power, the message of salvation in Christ Jesus had begun to be proclaimed to all flesh-all people through the events in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.  The era of the Church had been initiated.  It is an era of God’s grace offered to us through faith and accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is an era in which to build God’s kingdom right here on earth-right here in Peninsula, Ohio.  The Spirit will continue to be with us to comfort, guide, defend and challenge us to greater heights as we remain the faithful believers. This is the truth today, just as it was on the very first day of Pentecost, when believers first received the power of the Holy Spirit, just as God had promised.  God always keeps God’s promises.  Amen.

HYMN: “Spirit of the Living God”

(words and music-Daniel Iverson)

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

                          Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.  Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us. 

Melt us, mold us, fill us, use us.  Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.