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

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Day of Pentecost; Acts 2:1-21

Scripture for this Sunday is Acts 2:1-21

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 & ESV}

Supplemental Scriptures can be found here: {CLICK ME}

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Today most followers of Christ across the world celebrate the Holy Day of Pentecost. Because today is the Holy Day of Pentecost our altar is specially decorated.

Although the Day of Pentecost is a defining moment in our shared Christian story, the Holy Day of Pentecost is not as popular as Christmas or Easter. We don’t buy special outfits for Pentecost, we don’t gather with our families for a special meal after church, and there are no Hallmark cards “Wishing you the best Pentecost ever”; I checked. Before going through the process of theological education I remember pastors working themselves into a tizzy on the day of Pentecost, while I sat in the pew wondering what all the excitement was about. We all know the story that is told in Acts 2:1-21; it is difficult for us to relate to or to grasp what it means to us as we live our daily lives. Normally the Holy Spirit does not fall on our heads like a fireball. When we speak English, people hear English, not their native language. To put it in other words, we have no frame of reference to relate to what happened on that day, and because of that the Holy Day of Pentecost is so misunderstood.

Every week, at the end of the service, you hear me say “Understood and Forgiven by God the Father, Redeemed by God the Son, Led and Transformed by the Holy Spirit, I bid you to go and I bid you {fill in the blank}.” Then we hold hands, we sing “Blest be the tie that binds” and the whole congregation says “AMEN” to close out the benediction.

1) Understood and forgiven by God the Father

On Christmas God made a choice to come and live among us so that our Holy God could make sense of what it is like to live in our mortal bodies. God came as a baby so that God could understand our frustrations of growing up, what it feels like to deal with the responsibilities of adulthood and how to negotiate interpersonal relationships as we live our daily lives in a Fallen World. In other words, God wanted to experience what it feels like to live in our skins and to walk in our shoes. Most importantly, God came to live among us because it is hard for us to relate to abstract concepts like omnipotent, omnipresent and invisible Holy God, among other things. When we hear these words, our eyes glaze over and we begin wondering when the service will be over and what we will have for lunch. Our finite minds cannot fully grasp our infinite God.

In other words, God came to be with us so that God can relate to us on OUR level and so that we have a chance to understand and relate to God that is infinitely larger than anything that we can comprehend. That is who Jesus is: God came to dwell among us so that we can have a relationship with the Holy. That is the meaning of Christmas.

“Understood and Forgiven by God the Father” refers to the Christmas portion of our Christian Story.

2) “Redeemed by God the Son”

Jesus lived among us. With every breath and every day of his life, Jesus gave us examples of how to interact with our Holy God.

When the time was right, Jesus willingly gave himself up to be crucified by misguided people so that our fallenness was redeemed. “Redeemed” is one of those church words that we use every Sunday. Unfortunately, it is difficult to explain what “redeemed” means in vernacular, in such a way that a five-year-old would understand.

Jesus’ death coincided with the Jewish High Holy Day of Passover when lambs were sacrificed on the Temple altar to make amends for people’s sins before God.

Before God became flesh, blood and bones in the person of Jesus, before God was one of us, God’s human children (our ancestors) knew about God (just look at the depth, significance and impact of the Holy Scriptures of the Hebrew Bible). Humans tried to interact with God but there was no method, no framework, no way to reconcile ourselves and to relate to the Grace of God. All we had was the annual animal sacrifice at Passover.

By giving himself up for death on the Cross, God demonstrated that God cares about us, and since we had no frame of reference to understand the Holy, God himself had to die on the Cross to make amends for our fallenness.

In order for something new to come into our lives, something has to die to make room for that newness. Old ways will not open new doors. To open new doors, we need new ways. To make room for new ways something can die physically, something can die spiritually, but in order for something new to come, something has to die. By dying on the Cross, God prepared the way for a different relationship with God’s human children. New life means change, and it is change, as much as we don’t like it, that brings vitality and renewal to our lives and churches.

“Redeemed by God the Son” means that there is a way for us to interact with the Holy on a personal level. “Redeemed by God the Son” refers to the Easter portion of our Christian Story.

3) “Led and Transformed by the Holy Spirit”

The Holy Spirit was not a new concept at Pentecost ([1]).

  • We see the presence of the Holy Spirit in the story of David (see 1 Samuel 16:13-14 – David was anointed and the Holy Spirit was upon him and 2 Samuel 23:2 – The Holy Spirit spoke through David).

  • In Judges 6:34 we learn about the Holy Spirit coming upon Gideon.

  • In Deuteronomy 34:9 we learn about Joshua being anointed by the Holy Spirit to lead the Children of Israel

  • In Nehemiah 9:20, we hear that God gave his Holy Spirit to guide the Children of Israel.

What was new at Pentecost is that each one of us now has a direct connection to and relationship with God, and that connection is the Holy Spirit of Our God living in our souls. It is up to us to allow that Spirit of Our God to mold, shape and direct our thoughts, our actions and our lives.

Our Christian story started with Creation, continued with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, Leah, Joshua, Tamar, Rahab, David, Bathsheba, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and with Jesus God started a totally new chapter in that story.

Jesus called the twelve Disciples, and in previous sermons in this series we saw how nuanced and complicated their stories were. There are 14 lights on the altar today: one for each of the original disciples, one for Matthias (the disciple who was chosen to replace Judas) and one for Paul.

Prior to being anointed with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Disciples wanted to go “back there,” to the life that they knew, to their place of comfort. After being anointed with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we see the Disciples going everywhere.

All these men and women who came before us, who struggled with what God meant in their lives, they are the “cloud of witnesses” that surrounds us and comprise what we call the Christian Tradition.

“Led and Transformed by the Holy Spirit” is about the Pentecost in our lives.

There are generations of Christian men and women who make the “Cloud of Witnesses.” These fourteen lights also remind us about what they mean to us: these are our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, until eventually we get to Noah.

All of us have experienced Pentecost times in our lives. We experience Pentecost in our lives when we recognize that our Living God is the God of renewal. If we want to discover new horizons or to accomplish something that we have never done before, if we want to open new doors and explore new paths, we need to try different things. Our personal Pentecost is that moment of realization that there are new doors and opportunities waiting for us, and by God’s Grace we have the ability to reinvent ourselves and when we are with God all things are possible.

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[1] For more references of the Holy Spirit in the Hebrew Scriptures check https://bible.org/seriespage/2-putting-pentecost-perspective-part-1-holy-spirit-old-testament-acts-21-13

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