Joel 2:21-32, Acts 2:1-8, 12-17
Pentecost, May 27, 2007
The prophet Joel wrote his Old Testament book about 400 years before the time of Christ. It may well have been during the time of the Persian Empire, though scholars say it’s hard to tell for sure.
Joel, whose name literally means “the Lord is God,” told the people about a time that was coming when God would “pour out his spirit upon all the people.” That term “pour out” always denotes a pouring out of a large vessel. In other words, “God will pour out in a large quantity his spirit…” (Verse 28) He continues, and “Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the servants in those days I will pour out my spirit.” That’s how major this pouring of the Spirit will be!
Peter recognized that that time had come. The very thing Joel wrote about four centuries before was now happening. So as he addressed the crowd on the day of Pentecost, those are the words he quoted.
Now, let me ask you. Do you think they knew those words? Do you think they thought about them as they lived their lives under the occupation of the Roman Empire? I’m sure they thought about a lot of their prophetic writings, especially the ones that told about the restoration of Israel! The were very keen on that! And there are a lot of those kinds of thoughts in this chapter! “Be glad, O Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication…” (verse 23) “You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I the Lord, am your God! And my people shall never again be put to shame.”
In those days, I’m sure they thought about those kinds of passages all the time. And I don’t know if this verse about the pouring out of God’s spirit would have been readily on their minds or not. But certainly they longed for a different world, a world in which they would finally be redeemed. Many hoped Jesus was the one who would do that. But for many, that vision went away, or so they thought.
Peter saw the events around him that day, and he knew that the time Joel wrote about had come! He knew that this was the time when God was pouring out his spirit. And as we look at the book of Acts in the next few weeks, we will see just that. As God started this great movement in history called “the Church,” his Holy Spirit was moving in powerful ways, and it was impacting the lives of many people – young and old. As I said last year, the title of this book might have been be better if it were called, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” rather than “The Acts of the Apostles.” But I guess I’m a couple thousand years too late.
God was pouring out his Spirit on all the people, and the world would never be the same! And this is the day we celebrate that. And I have to tell you. Doesn’t it sometimes seem like our attempts to honor that event fall a little short? One time in my home Church they held a “birthday party for the Church.” It was complete with balloons, banners, and of course, a birthday cake! And I remember thinking it just seemed kind of “corny.” Maybe you’ve done that around here. But this is the great outpouring of the Spirit of God on all people! And somehow cake and candles just doesn’t do it. (Maybe it would work if we had little candles in the shape of the apostles with little flames on their heads?)
I want us to know today that this day, Pentecost, is the day the world changed forever! And it changed because God’s people were changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. And as we celebrate Pentecost. I want you to hear from me clearly that Pentecost isn’t over! God still changes us! The Holy Spirit is still being poured out on God’s people.
Oh, there may not be all of those “manifestations” of the spirit happening as there were in those early days. There isn’t a lot of speaking in other languages and prophesying these days – though some Christian traditions preserve those things in certain ways. Nevertheless, the change is still happening. The Spirit is still being poured out on God’s people. The world is still being changed. And I want you to think about how is it being changed. And I want you to think about how we are being changed.
At our Session meeting last month, Jo-Ann Oschman offered as a devotion this little piece called “World changers – a different kind of Christian.” I had Donna print it on the back of your bulletin. And your assignment is to take it home with you, and stick it to your refrigerator. And leave it there and read it often. For now, turn your bulletin over and follow along while I read it. I also posted a version of that in my page on the Church web site.
[Read text from the bottom of this page]
The reason I wanted everyone to see this is that when I first heard it, my initial response was, “That shouldn’t be a different kind of Christian.” What I mean by that is, this is the way every Christian should be! Every Christian should be a world-changer! Shouldn’t they? Are you a world- changer?
Think about that. How do we do that? Do we become “this kind of Christian” by deciding to be? The answer to that is “yes” – but only to a certain extent. We can decide to follow Christ in this way, but then we have to look to the Holy Spirit to be the means by which we are changed, and so change the world.
That’s what happened on Pentecost. And I know, that sounds too easy! Our lives are complicated, and so many things get in the way of that! There are many voices that in our lives that compete with the still, small voice of God. There are concerns and heartaches that threaten to quench the spirit in our lives – before it has much of a chance to take hold. We get overwhelmed by life, and when we are, our faith can seem so small. Being a “fully committed follower of Christ” can be a daunting task that seems more “laborious” than “glorious.”
However, let me say that it never will happen at all if we haven’t started it, either consciously or unconsciously! We still must choose to follow Christ. But then we need to learn to trust God, and to seek the transforming power of that same Holy Spirit. But let me warn you. As think about being that kind of Christian, we need to ask the question, “is this what we really want?” For some people it’s not. For some people the minimum of faith is all they really want.
I would challenge us this Pentecost Sunday, to step up and be world-changers. I would challenge us to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, so that we might have that same power transform us and conform us to the image of God and of Christ, our Lord. As we close, I invite you to talk to God and to say those things to him. Tell him you want to follow where ever he leads. Ask him to make you the kind of person he wants you to be. Tell him you want to step up, and be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit!
Eternal God, as your spirit was poured out on the people of old, pour that same spirit on us as well. Help us to be on fire for you, eager to share your love and to tell of your grace and your steadfast love. Help us by your power to move forward in our faith, so that we will be conformed to your image from one degree of glory to the next. This we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
A Different Kind of Christian
A world changer is someone who is committed to doing just that, changing the world. A world changer is not someone who blends in. A worldchanger sticks out! A worldchanger stands up ready to make a difference. A worldchanger goes beyond the usual expectations of Christianity.
A worldchanger finds the most intense demands that Jesus places on Christians and doesn’t shy away but goes after them passionately and does whatever it takes to get the job done! He or she is not just doing it because his or her parents make them or because the youth pastor bribes them. A worldchanger has been radically, completely, and totally changed by a relationship with God!
For them Christianity is not some boring thing that a person halfheartedly commits to just because they have been in church their whole lives. They are not hanging on to their parents’ Christianity. A worldchanger had found Jesus for them – not just for mom and dad or just for the pastor. And because Jesus died for them, they are ready to give their lives for him. For them, Christianity… is not just lip service. World changers have a fervor to seek God with all of their hearts, and to do everything they can to let the world know that God is real and that he is alive!
World changers are not stuck in a bunch of boring rules and regulations. They have the fire of the living God burning inside them, and they just can’t keep it inside of them! World changers are serious about learning the word of God and then taking that word and applying it to their lives. World changers are constantly changing and becoming more and more like Jesus.
Worldchangers develop a vision for their community and do everything they can to take the living Christ to a lost and dying world! World changers are sick and tired of a watered down, mamby-pamby Christianity. They want the real thing and don’t care how hard it hits them or what parts of their lives they have to change.
They are sick and tired of the attitude that “lukewarm” Christians bring into the church, and they are ready to do something about it! They are especially ready to attack attitudes in their own lives! A worldchanger “loves the Lord with all of his/her heart, soul, mind, and strength and loves his neighbor as himself.”
Remember that scripture. Write it down and carry it with you! Begin to pray over what you have just learned you too can be a worldchanger. (Author Unknown)