Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Message Based on Genesis 11:1-11 and Acts 2:1-21; Pentecost 2012

Modified Readings for Pentecost Sunday are: Genesis 11:4-9; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27; 16:4-15;Acts 2:1-12

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV

LITURGICAL COLOR: RED

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I love visiting churches. On the Delmarva peninsula, in the cradle of Methodism where we have some of the oldest Methodist communities, it is common to hear that so-and-so’s grandparents donated the land to build the church building; uncle so-and-so made the pews from trees that grew on his property; someone else donated money for the baptismal font and yet another family donated the sacramental vessels; the same sacramental vessels that are still being used every time the Holy Communion is celebrated today. Every stained glass window and every detail of our sanctuaries is a reminder that we stand on the shoulders of Christians who worshiped here before us, and that we inherited an emotion-rich tradition and history from the generations that preceded us.

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Because so many of our communities have such an emotion-rich tradition and history, there is certain aspect of “holiness” and “sacramentality” {“set-asideness” if you will} to our church buildings.

Illustration: something is sacramental when it helps us to experience the presence of the Living God among us; it helps us to experience God’s presence in our lives.

We love our church buildings because they give us an indescribable feeling that “we are surrounded by … a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) we can physically feel the energy of their presence. We can feel the prayers that they prayed; we can feel bits and pieces of the sermons that were preached from these pulpits and the hymns that were sung in these buildings.

All this history and tradition make it tempting to concentrate on the buildings in which we worship; to cherish our pews and baptismal fonts; to admire our sacramental vessels and stained glass windows. All this history and tradition make it easy to forget that it was the Holy Spirit that came upon the followers of Jesus that inspired our ancestors to donate the land and to build the pews and to donate the baptismal font and sacramental vessels and to install the stained glass windows.

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I think that is why the Disciples were still in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost. That was the place where they spend their last evening with Jesus. There was a certain “sacramentality” in the walls of that room; there were memories that they were trying to hold on to and emotions that they were not ready to let go of.

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The cornerstone of our Christian identity is based in the events that took place on the day of Pentecost 2000 years ago. Our identity is rooted in the events of that day because on that day the Holy Spirit descended on the followers of Jesus and established God’s Church. When the Holy Spirit comes, things change. When we allow the Holy Spirit into our lives, things change. We tend to forget that the grandparents who donated the land, the family that donated the baptismal font and the aunt who convinced her husband to stop being a cheapskate and spring for the sacramental vessels for the new church found their inspiration in the prompting of the Holy Spirit. We tend to forget that it was the Holy Spirit that challenged those who came before us to adjust with the changing times and learn to sing new songs, pray new prayers and reach out to those for whom the love of God is a strange concept.

The same Holy Spirit that descended on the world and established God’s church at the first Pentecost still inspires his church today. The same Holy Spirit that brought new life, new energy and new inspiration on that first Pentecost has inspired every generation of those who follow Jesus, including us.

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Let us delve into the Scriptures and see what happened on that day.

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NIV Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs — we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

More than once I have heard Pentecost interpreted as the undoing of Babel.

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The story of Babel is found in Genesis 11:4-9. It is a story of people who all spoke the same language and in their pride they made a decision to …

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… “… build a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and … make a name for” themselves. Who among us does not want to better themselves and to reach prominence in our chosen profession or among our neighbors? Who among us does not want to be respected and make a name for ourselves? We have a lesson to learn from what happened at Babel. God confused their language so they could not communicate effectively. Then God scattered the inhabitants of Babel all “over the face of the earth.” People who knew and understood the awesome power of God were sent all over the world.

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Now let us see what happened at Pentecost. Prior to Pentecost, the Disciples received the commission to go into all the corners of the world to make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world. At Pentecost God equipped his followers with the gifts and abilities that they needed to do that. At Pentecost, God gave the followers of Jesus the gift of being able to communicate with others in such a way that they were understood. At Pentecost the Church was energized, inspired, given maps and itineraries, and they were sent on their way.

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God used the situation in the city of Babel to accomplish the same outcome that God accomplished at Pentecost. In both cases, God sent the people who experienced God’s awesome power into all the corners of the world so that the Good News could be shared with all; so that new relationships and communities could be formed; so that those who think that they don’t need God can see clearly what God can do in their lives, if only they let God in.

Pentecost is about asking the Holy Spirit to grant us the creativity and the courage to enter into the spirit of experimentation and of invention. We need creativity to help us think outside the box and courage to not give in to our insecurities or to the insistence of others that we can’t change because “we’ve always done it this way.”

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Today everyone of us will walk out with a gift; all of us will receive a small card that looks like this {see slide}. It is a prayer and it reads,

“Lord, as I enter the water to bathe, I remember my baptism. Wash me by your grace.
Fill me with your Spirit. Renew my soul.
I pray that I might live as your child today, and honor you in all that I do.”

{Illustration}

May the spirit of Pentecost renew our church, renew your souls, fill you with energy of the Holy Spirit, and challenge you to open your hearts to God’s leading and guidance.

{Q/A – Open Chancel Rail}

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One response to “Message Based on Genesis 11:1-11 and Acts 2:1-21; Pentecost 2012

  1. Pingback: Notes for the Sunday Message; Pentecost 2013; May 19, 2013 | Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

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