Sermon for Pentecost

Text: Acts 2:17-18

"This is what I will do in the last days, God says:
I will pour out my Spirit on everyone. You sons and daughters will proclaim my message; your young men will see visions, and your old men will have dreams. Yes, even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit and they will proclaim my message."

Hearing and Speaking

There have been numerous books written on the difficulty that men and women have in communicating. It has been estimated that women say something like 6,000 Ė 8,000 words a day and that men utter 2,000 Ė 4,000 words a day. At the end of the day the man has spoken his 4,000 words and doesnít want to communicate any more. He simply wants to sit quietly, watch TV and go to bed. A woman most likely wonít have spoken her 8,000 words for the day yet. She may have 2-3,000 words to go and uses them to share every event of the day.

This conversation may sound familiar.

Wife: Hi darling Öitís good to see you home. How was your day?
Husband: Good.
Wife: I heard that you were going to finalise that big deal today. How did it go?
Husband: Fine.
Wife: Thatís good. Do you think the boss will give you a raise?
Husband: Maybe.
Wife: Hey! Today I found out that Iím pregnant.
Husband: Thatís good.
and so onÖ and then she goes on to tell everything that happened in her day.

Communication can be difficult at times. There are communication gaps between genders, between the poor and the rich, between those with a basic education and those who are well educated. There are communication gaps between people of different races, nationalities, and social classes. What hope is there for us ever to understand one another?

Remember the Genesis story of the Tower of Babel, that time when the original "one language and few words" of humanity was disrupted forever by the profusion of languages and speech? We are told that the language of all the people was mixed up, and because they were unable to communicate they were scattered over the earth. It has been held that this Pentecost story is meant to signify a gracious reversal of Babel.

On the day of Pentecost, we are told, that "there were Jews living in Jerusalem, religious people who had come from every country in the world." Here are all these people from every nation of the world talking in their own languages. Luke, the writer of Acts, provides a lengthy list of places where those people came from. You might say that those people gathered together that day represented the whole world. Amongst that group of people there were differences in race, economics, class, language, and nationalities that cause a communication headache.

What a sound they must have made as they all spoke different languages trying to be understood. How on earth will they get together? How can they hope to hear one another? How on earth will they be able to hear about Jesusí life, death and resurrection and God's unfailing love for them? How will they be able to communicate?

Then they heard what sounded like a rush of wind, and saw tongues of fire "which spread out and touched each person there." They were filled with the Holy Spirit and given the gift of speech and of hearing. We are told, "They were all excited, because each of them heard the believers talking in his own language."

When Peter stood up to speak to the crowd he quotes the prophet Joel.
"This is what I will do in the last days, God says:
I will pour out my Spirit on everyone. You sons and daughters will proclaim my message; your young men will see visions, and your old men will have dreams. Yes, even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit and they will proclaim my message."
He is saying that the Spirit of God will descend upon
- old men and women Ė pensioners in their own homes, those in retirement villages, nursing homes,
- young people students, some with work, others unemployed, young parents with families.
- successful and wealthy middle-aged business people,
- plain and ordinary people, happy with their small but adequate incomes.
- people who never get their picture in the paper or in magazines for some kind of special accomplishment,
- people who are never asked to speak before a crowd.

The Spirit of God descends upon all these and they speak and hear.
Do you believe that? Not, do you believe that such speaking and hearing happened back then, but do you believe it happens today? Is the Holy Spirit powerful enough to overcome those barriers and deep boundaries that frustrate our speaking and hearing?

"Yes!" says the church. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to overcome the things that divide us, to open our ears to what God has to say to us.

Look at us this morning. All of the factors which divide any gathering of human beings divide us.
We come from all kinds of backgrounds, born in different countries and places in Australia.
Some grew up in loving and close families, others whose childhood memories only bring hurt and pain.
We come with all kinds of life-experiences, and hang-ups.
Some are happy, others are depressed and sad.
Some are healthy, others are suffering.
Some are young, others are old.
Some are frustrated and angry, others have experienced joy and happiness in their families or at work.

If we could analyse this congregation here this morning Iím sure we could fill a book with the amount of diversity amongst us.

Yet, in the great grace of God, we are all here together, and we do hear. One of the reasons why people keep coming back to church is that they hear something here that cannot be heard elsewhere. Things are spoken here which you donít hear anywhere else in the world. That's the Spirit. Like the crowd that first Pentecost Day, we come here with all of our differences, and yet we are still able to hear what God is saying to us. The Spirit of God has descended upon us as we gather and we hear his Word as it is applied to our own particular situation.

The readers may read the Bible readings eloquently and clearly, or stumble across the words as they read. The preacher may use language that is picturesque and lucid or drone on without expression. Yet in every instance this is the Word of God Ė the Word of God through which the Holy Spirit speaks to us about God's love and forgiveness. You come to church, and despite everything, you hear the voice of God.

Sometimes itís so tough for us to hear. We come here filled with anxiety and worry, or upset and depressed, and these block out what God is saying to us. We come here almost tone-deaf to the gospel. We are like those who listen to music through earphones. While they have earphones over or in their ears, attuned to the music, they canít hear anything else until their ears are free to hear other things.

But in some way we do hear. We may not all hear the same thing, and we may not all hear the same message. Itís always interesting to hear what people get out of a sermon for instance. The messages received can be quite diverse, even one that the preacher hadnít even intended. Regardless of all this the Spirit speaks to us through God's Word and we take with us a message to help us cope with the week ahead. The Spirit applies the Word of God to our particular need at that time. Like the crowd gathered at the first Pentecost, the Spirit opens our ears to hear, just as he opened the ears of that diverse group of listeners to Peterís sermon that day. We are told that 3,000 people were baptised and added to the church that day.

But not only did the Spirit help people to hear God's Word at Pentecost but also gave the disciples the ability to speak it. God says, "I will pour out my Spirit on everyone Ö and they will proclaim my message." He doesnít say, "I will pour my Spirit out on pastors and preachers". He says, "I will pour out my Spirit on everyone" and young and old, male and female, rich and poor, black and white "will proclaim my message".

We gather here on Sundays and we hear God's Word so that we might get the courage and conviction to leave here and speak to the world. You learn, in our Sunday worship, the joy of hearing the truth about how great and wonderful our God is and what he has done for us in his Son Jesus. Then you go out into the world, into your every life, into your neighbourhood, amongst your friends and workmates and speak to them in word and deed about what Jesus means to you.

Surveys taken among people who recently joined a church indicate that they have joined because of their contact with Christians. They may have witnessed a neighbour or friend live out his/her faith in everyday life and have been invited to come to worship or some other congregational activity, like home groups, childrenís ministry and so on. Yes, it takeís great courage to bring the truth to others no matter what the consequences.

On Pentecost, God's promised Holy Spirit descended on all. At our baptism God's Spirit descended upon us. The love and grace of God came into our lives. We were made part of his family and assured that we would have life forever in heaven. The Spirit came into our lives and we received the power to speak, to tell the whole world, starting with family, friends and neighbours what Jesus means to us.

May God's Spirit guide and help us as we go out from here today and give us the courage and power to speak his Word to others.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
30th May, 2004

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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.  
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