Sermon for June 12, 2011
Holy Spirit, Rain Down
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
June 12, 2011
Not wanting to disappoint those of us who have heard this every Pentecost Sunday of our live, Happy Birthday. I say that because the traditional view in some realms of Christendom has been that Pentecost Sunday was and is the birthday or the start up day for the Christian church. We’ll look at that in a little more detail. This is, by whatever means you see it, a day of celebration. It is another day when we experience the fulfillment of another of God’s promises, that God would never leave us or forsake us. We experience once again that God will comfort us and guide us. God will strengthen us and embolden us to fulfill the callings God places on our live. God will provide for us a helper and an advocate. God gives us today a way-maker when there is no way in sight and a joy-maker when all we see is sorrow. And so, my sisters and brothers, let us experience this time, even these few minutes of preaching, as a day of celebration all over again for the wonderful ways God provides for us; God’s people, God’s children. Would you pray with me.
God, we thank you for this time that we have to share in a few moments of your glory. We thank you that you make a way for us when there seems to be no way. We ask you, Holy Spirit, to rain down on us. We need you. We want you. We invite you to be powerfully present in this place. So, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing and acceptable to you, O Holy Spirit, God. AMEN.
The word ‘Pentecost’ means 50th day. It was originally a Jewish Harvest festival which Christians later adopted and changed to meet their liturgical needs. Some churches have called Pentecost Sunday Whitsunday, referring to the Anglo-Saxon word “wit” (meaning wisdom), referring to the outpouring of the spirit of Wisdom which we see in Ephesians 1: 17 and 18, where the writer says, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints.”
All of these observances; Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost are there to remind us of the life and teaching of Jesus, and of the formation of the early Jesus movements. Following Pentecost is a long season of “Ordinary Time” where the focus is on the Church continuing to reach out, thrive, grow, and be relevant to and in the world. So Pentecost ends the first half of the liturgical year and begins the second half.
In the Book of Acts, Pentecost is the day when worshippers had a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit and were then empowered to be the outreaching, life-giving, world changing Body of Christ. Some theologians have equated Pentecost with the parousia or “second-coming”, suggesting that the mission and ministry of Christ continues as the spirit-filled church acts as the continuing presence of Christ in the world.
In Acts, Luke (remember those books are from the same writer or writers) has Jesus Ascending to everlasting significance, and the spirit of God descending to enliven and equip the disciples and thereby the church, which then reaches out to make a difference in the world. Pentecost then, for Christians, has become a time to focus on spiritual power, gifts, and mission.
Is Pentecost actually the birthday of the church? Maybe. I want to suggest to you that by the day of Pentecost the church was already alive and well. Jesus’ ministry is what gave birth to the church. Experiencing Jesus was, and by the way can be for us, so mesmerizing that people left everything behind to follow him. Knowing Jesus emboldened those who experienced him to go out and tell their friends and family members, and their co-worker, and government officials about a better way of living. They went two by two and their numbers grew. Some of them experienced a loss of faith at the time of the Jesus unfortunate assassination, and then he rose again on the third day. He appeared to them and at first they did not recognize him, but then he spoke their names….Barbara, John, Linda, David, Dottie, Mary, James, and immediately they knew that this was Jesus, the Son of the living God, their Messiah. So, I believe the church already existed and that the day of Pentecost was the day when the church received Divine power and Divine wisdom, and Divine courage which would empower them for the mission to which they had been called.
Why do I believe that? I believe it because we read from the prophet Joel, that 17‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, not just some flesh, but all flesh, insiders and outsiders, men, women and children, Americans and Asians and Iraqis and Iranians, Muslims, Jews, Hare Krishna’s and many others. And ALL your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. I hear a word of prophesy for us this very morning saying “Dream your dreams, see your visions, God is showing us what God can do. Dream big! Visualize BIG, in Jesus name, knowing that we are empowered to live into God’s dreams and visions for us. Joel continues, “The Spirit will be poured out even upon 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.’ Glory, hallelujah, what an amazing word of prophesy. What an amazing dream. What an amazing visualization and I want to let you know something.
I stand here in agreement with Joel this very day. I know God is pouring out the Holy Spirit on us; on you and on me. I know God has plans for us and I’m here to tell you again, I expect great things from you. I do not accept spiritual lethargy. I do not accept Spiritual complacency. I do not accept thinking that often says, “Let somebody else do it.” I accept the call of Jesus for each and every one of us to be plugged in, for each and every one of us to share all three aspects of our time and our talent and yes, our money, too. Not because I set it up that way, but because that is the mission to which God has called us so that all of us can personally be involved in the mission to Spread the message of God’s inclusive love with Gainesville and even in parts yet unknown to us.
Are you dreaming the dream? Are you seeing the vision? Are you experiencing the call of God today to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who will empower you for anything and everything that God has called you to do?
You know how much I love the work of Buddhist Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh. He will surprise you today. He writes, “The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove, penetrated him deeply, and he revealed the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Jesus healed whatever he touched. With the Holy Spirit in him, his power as a healer transformed many people…I [feel] that all of us also have the seed of the Holy Spirit in us, the capacity of healing, transforming, and loving. When we touch that seed, we are able to touch God…”
I agree with him because I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that with the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we too have the capacity for healing and for transformation, and for equality and justice and for loving.
Again I say, “Holy Spirit, Rain Down, let your power flow, let your voice be heard, come and change our hearts as we stand on your word. Holy Spirit, rain down, rain down….”
God bless you. AMEN
(c) James Edward Merritt, 2011.
24So Moses went out and told the people the words of God; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 25Y Then Yahweh came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again. 26Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 29But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all God’s people were prophets, and that God would put the spirit on them!” 30And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.
2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14But 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. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o”clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17‘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. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’