Sermon for Pentecost

Text: Acts 2:5-8
There were Jews living in Jerusalem, religious people who had come from every country in the world. When they heard this noise, a large crowd gathered. They were all excited, because all of them heard the believers talking in their own languages. In amazement and wonder they exclaimed, "These people who are talking like this are Galileans! How is it, then, that all of us hear them speaking in our own native languages?

When God speaks

When travelling in non-English speaking countries, signs that have obviously been literally translated into English for visitors can be often confusing and amusing. Here are a couple of examples.

From a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo, "When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn.  Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigour."

On the office door of a doctor in Rome, "Specialist in women and other diseases".

In a Greek tailor shop, "Order your summers suit.  Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation".

Making a good intelligible translation from one language to another is hard work and can be very difficulty but for the disciples on the Day of Pentecost there was no problem at all. Normally the disciples with their thick Galilean accents would have had difficulty speaking to those gathered in Jerusalem from all over the world of that time. The language barrier can be quite a difficult one to deal with. This was brought home to us when we visited the parents-in-law of our son. We arrived on their doorstep in a small village in France – we didn’t speak French and they didn’t speak English. It was hard work communicating using hand signs and thumbing through a dictionary. What a difference it made when their son arrived who could speak both French and English.

The amazing thing on Pentecost day is that the disciples didn’t need dictionaries or people to translate to find the best way to say something in a foreign language. We are told, "All of them heard the believers talking in their own languages. In amazement and wonder they exclaimed, "These people who are talking like this are Galileans! How is it, then, that all of us hear them speaking in our own native languages?" (Acts 2:7,8).

There are 3 words that describe what happened that first Pentecost Day. Heard, saw and spoke.
Firstly, those present heard a sound – they heard what sounded like a mighty rushing wind.
Secondly, they saw – they saw what appeared to be tongues of fire which spread our across the crowd and touched each person there.
And thirdly, after hearing and seeing, they spoke. They preached. They testified to the great good that God was doing among them. Jesus had said that he would send to them his Holy Spirit who would be their helper and stay with them forever.

The crowd out in the street scoffed saying, "They’re drunk!" The mob couldn’t imagine that God Almighty would use ignorant and unlearned people from the backwater of Galilee to speak the languages of those present with such skill and precision. In spite of the mockery, Peter gets up and speaks about Jesus. His sermon is recorded in The Acts of the Apostles. It’s not all that long. And yet three thousand people heard and believed and were baptised that day. The account of the Pentecost coming of the Holy Spirit concludes with the reaction of those believers. They continued to learn from the apostles, took part in fellowship meals, shared their belongings with those less fortunate, prayed together, and praised God (Acts 2:42-47).

There is a dynamic here, a powerful movement that is at the heart of the Bible’s story about who God is, who we are and what we are doing here.
The first thing we notice is how God reaches down and speaks to us. Our God is a relentlessly, unceasingly self-communicative God. There is something about God that loves to speak us, reveal his heart to us, and demonstrates a determination to get through to us with words that
express his untiring love for us,
his sacrifice for us in his son Jesus,
his dedication to rescuing us from our sinful ways,
his commitment to making sure that all people hear about the free gift of forgiveness that he offers to everyone.
Our God is one who just wants to speak to us.

A sure sign that two people are in love is that they long to be with one another. More than that, they way to talk with one another – the telephone, email, whatever – hours upon hours of talking. The talk is so important because our speech is our primary way of expressing ourselves, of sharing ourselves, giving to and receiving from others.

Every time we gather here for worship, we gather under the promise that God will speak to us. This is an important aspect of our worship services. The large part of our worship is listening to what God is saying to us.
His word of reassurance of the forgiveness of our sins,
his Word to us from the Scriptures,
his Word to us through the sermon,
his Word to us through Baptism and Holy Communion,
his Word of blessing as we leave here and face whatever the week ahead will bring.

God spoke to those gathered at the first Pentecost and he speaks to us again and again at the weekly celebration of Pentecost here at worship. We hear him speaking to us and being filled with his Spirit. What God says to us places us under the power of the Holy Spirit.

That leads me to ask then, what difference does God's Word and his Spirit make in our lives? What are the characteristics of people under the power of the Spirit?

Spirit-filled people are people who know God's love, they know they're not perfect, but they know they have forgiveness through Jesus Christ. And they are able to pass that forgiveness to those who sin against them. Spirit-filled people know they have God's power to help them and he will remain faithful and always love and care for them.

Spirit-filled people are growing people. They are continually growing in their faith, from the time of their Baptism to this day. They seek out every opportunity to discover Christ, and what it means to be children of God. They can’t get enough of hearing God speak to them.

Spirit-filled people are changed people. Through God's Word and the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit wants to bring a change into our lives. He wants to come into our lives to bring light into our darkness; to turn our death into life; to change our lives from sin-filled to Spirit-filled. Every day Spirit-filled people try to live in their baptism. Daily they listen as the Holy Spirit reminds them, woos them, and persuades them through the Word of God. When the Word of God is heard the Holy Spirit draws us closer to God, brings us to repentance, to an assurance of the love of God for us and turns our lives around. He changes our direction!

Spirit-filled people have a new language. I don't mean they go around speaking pious sounding words all day or use the name of Jesus in every other sentence. What I mean, Spirit-filled people speak words that heal and restore and make people happy and build people up instead of tearing them down. They speak a good word to our world, the good news about a crucified and risen Saviour.

Spirit-filled people are moved to love those around them. They are given a new outlook on the problems and the needs of other people and are happy to help and care for others. Spirit-filled people reflect the love of God into the lives of the people around them. This is how Paul described Spirit-filled people and how he saw the Spirit active in our lives. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Spirit-filled people want to share what Jesus means to them. The news about Jesus is too good not tell. This is something we can do on our local scene, as we go about our work, or talk to our neighbour over the back fence, let's not be afraid to let people know that Jesus is someone special to you.

Spirit-filled people are concerned about the concerns of God.
Is God concerned about the way we are destroying our world? Spirit-filled people are!
Does God care for the starving, the dying, the homeless, the sick? Spirit-filled people are!
Is God concerned about those who don't know of his love? Spirit-filled people are!

Spirit-filled people are praying people. Paul encourages us, "Pray on every occasion as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray for all God's people" (Eph 6:18). It is the Spirit who gives us a child's confidence to go to our heavenly Father in prayer. It is the Spirit who "helps us in our weakness … and intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words." It is the Spirit who enables us to pray the most unlikely prayers in the face of suffering, on the battlefield, here in worship and at the kitchen table. Spirit-filled people "take everything to God in prayer."

Spirit-filled people are worshipping people. In Philippians we read, "We worship God by means of his Spirit…(3:3). We have been saved by Jesus our Saviour and daily we experience the blessings of the Holy Spirit as he leads us to change the direction of our lives and assures us of the love and forgiveness of God. Spirit-filled people join with fellow Spirit-filled people of the body of Christ to give thanks and praise to the God who has done to so much for them.

Spirit-filled people are praising people. There is nothing more that we could ask of God. We haven’t done anything to deserve it but he has given us everything.

As you have listened to God's Word to you about the Spirit-filled life, I’m sure your response is much the same as mine.
God has spoken but I haven’t been listening.
God has been giving me directions but I have chosen to ignore them.
God has kept on speaking, speaking and speaking to me about his love and his plan for my life and I still I don’t get it.

The longest word in the English language is "pneumono-ultra-microscopic-silico-volcano-coniosis," which describes a lung disease caused by breathing in particles of volcanic matter or a similar fine dust. An even longer word, nearly 100 letters long, was used by James Joyce in his book ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ (1939). He created it to describe a thunderclap at the beginning of the story: (not even going to try to say it) bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuvarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk."

The words that God speaks to us are much simpler than that. "You are my child. I have sent you my Son and given you my Spirit that you may believe and have eternal life".

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
15th May, 2005
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, revised Australian edition 1994.
All material written by Vince Gerhardy is copyright.  
Permission is freely given for personal use and use in worship.  
If printed for distribution or used in public worship please let me know.