“POWER: A Sermon for Pentecost Sunday”

By Bishop Peggy A. Johnson
May 31, 2020        

Pentecost
Acts 2: 1-21

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.  Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?  Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs, in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deed of power.”  All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But 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.  Indeed these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.  No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

‘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.  Even upon my 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.’

Birthday Gifts

  • Introduction
    1. Happy Birthday Church!  Pentecost is the birthday of the Church and today we read of an amazing party that happened 2,000 years ago when the Holy Spirit came down and anointed the apostles with power.  More than 3,000 people were saved that day and the church began as a movement on this earth for the first time.  Life has never been the same since.
    2. Like any good birthday party there were presents…gifts from God. The good thing about these birthday gifts is that they are the gifts that keep on giving.  These gifts are still ours today as we continue the ministry of the Church of Jesus Christ in the world.
    3. So what are the gifts?  It can be best explained in the acronym: P-O-W-E-R!
  • Birthday Gifts
    • P – Prayers answered
      1. On the Day of Pentecost, the promise that Jesus made was fulfilled. Jesus instructed the apostles and the believers to wait in Jerusalem for the power of the Holy Spirit.  He said “This is what you have heard from me.  For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” He told them to wait and pray.
      2. Still today, God answers our prayers.  God promises us goodness and mercy.  The Lord promises never to leave us or forsake us.  Jesus promised that if we seek the kingdom and God’s righteousness first, all the things we need will be added to us.
      3. God kept his promise to give the apostles the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, but it took a while.  They prayed for 40 days. They might have wondered if it was really going to happen.  Jesus had left and waiting is hard.  God’s promises are often slow in coming to us as well but we need to trust that the timing is always right.
      4. Right now you might be praying about COVID-19 and asking God to end this terrible epidemic and loss of life, suffering, economic hardship, isolation and stress.  I was hoping we would be back to church by Easter, and then by Mother’s Day and now I am wondering if it might be the fall. We need to pray.  Keep praying and praying.  God always hears our prayers and answers at just the right time.
      5. Keep praying and do not lose heart or give up.  As we wait God has time to shape us and mold us into God’s image and prepares the way for new opportunities.
      6. God is teaching the church right now to do new things, to learn new technology, to appreciate the hard work of many we have taken for granted, to hear the cry of the poor and speak for justice, to pay attention to the environment, to listen to the hearts of people we have been too busy to engage.  Keep praying church! God is going to answer.
      7. God is faithful. God is good.
  • O – Other languages
    1. What an amazing gift this was!  These men from Galilee began talking in languages they did not know and they never had to go to class to learn them.  I wish I had that gift when I was struggling in Spanish class in 8th grade. 
    2. God gave this gift so that the people could understand about Jesus Christ and the salvation that he came to bring the world.  This gift was for everyone, not just the Jews.  God was going public with this!
    3. Still today, God wants the Good News of Jesus Christ proclaimed to all people, nations and ethnicities.  We need to strive to communicate it any way we can, be it spoken languages, or sign language, or twitter or YouTube, and the most important language of all: Love.
    4. When you speak love it doesn’t matter if you understand a foreign language.  It communicates GOD in capital letters.
    5. I thank God for a woman in Philadelphia who is working with the Deaf Community during this pandemic. Many Deaf people in the city are left out of the communication loop about what is happening and she is everywhere explaining the latest news in sign language.  She has also invented a face-mask with a plastic insert that allows people who are hard of hearing to lip-read someone wearing a mask.  She interpreters her pastor’s sermon on Facebook so Deaf people all over, even in other states and countries can understand the preached word.  This is love, love in sign language.
    6. Who can you speak love to and thus spread the birthday gift of “other languages” to the world?
  • W – Witness
    1. On Pentecost the apostles not only received the gift of other languages, they were witnesses to their experiences.
    2. They told the many people who were in Jerusalem about the works of Jesus Christ in their life and they referenced it back to the teachings of Scripture found in the prophet Joel.
    3. Your personal witness is the most powerful thing you’ve got when it comes to growing your church and helping people receive Christ as their savior.  If we would all do more of that, every pew in the country would be full every Sunday.
    4. But we are fearful sometimes, we don’t want to offend, we think we don’t know how to share our faith or we think it is the preacher’s job. 
    5. Simply tell people what Jesus has done for you.  That is why advertisers spend millions of dollars producing TV ads with people telling their real life stories in order to sell their products.  We want a witness of what that product will do for us.
    6. There is a website called “Angie’s List” that gives consumer reviews on doctors, lawyers and other professionals.  People want to know what regular people like them think of these businesses before they go to them for help.
    7. Witnessing for Christ means telling what Christ has done for you personally.  One of the best parts of staying at home is that I get to hear preachers from all over the conference on Facebook and YouTube.  There are some great preachers out there.  I appreciate so much the witness of our pastors about what God is doing in their churches and in their lives at this time.  It encourages my faith.  And pastors are reporting to me that there have been conversions and people renewing their commitment to Christ because of their witness.   
    8. But you don’t have to be the preacher to do that. Just shared your story with someone you meet at the food store at 6 am in the morning or any one the Lord lays on your heart.  Who can you witness to?
  • E – Empowerment
    1. Empowerment goes along with witness.  Prior to the day of Pentecost the apostles were a group of fearful men.  They hid in a locked room, without a stay-at-home order, expecting at any time to be arrested or even killed for being a follower of Jesus.  Peter denied Jesus and all of them fled on the night of his arrest.  Very few were at the cross to be with him as he died. This was a demoralized group but they started to pray and things began to look up.
    2. After this long time of prayer, the Holy Spirit showed up in wind and flame and gave them power to forget their fears and get in front of the crowds. They not only received the gift of other languages but they were empowered with gifted preaching skills so convincing that 3,000 joined the church at the end of the day.
    3. Still today, God empowers us with spiritual gifts to do the work of ministry: preaching, teaching, prophetic gifts, healing, helps, administration, giving and many more. 
    4. If you are a Christian you have been gifted with skills from God’s very own Holy Spirit to do the work of ministry.  Every one of you is a minister.
    5. I just read about a 10-year old girl named Britney Sadete, who is a member of a UM Church in Harare, Zimbabwe.  She has the gift of music and just before the global pandemic hit she recorded her first solo vocal album.  It has gone viral (100,000 hits on YouTube) giving hope and encouragement to people in her country during this difficult time.  What a gift!
    6. What is your spiritual gift? Where can you be using your gifts more for the Lord for the work of the Lord?
  • R – Rejection
    1. The final gift might not seem like a gift at all: “R” stands for rejection.  At the speaking of tongues some people laughed at the disciples and said they were drunk.  They looked at the holiness of God and called it something profane. They rejected the message that was being proclaimed.
    2. Still today people are dismissing the power of the gospel as untrue, weak, ineffective or worse yet as mean and judgmental. There will always be critics and they are a gift to us in that we always need to be ready to give an answer for the hope inside of us.  We need to always be on our best behavior as people are watching.
    3. When you face trials or criticisms or rejection for your faith, remember that Jesus faced even more suffering and rejection than we will ever know.  A disciple must expect to suffer but we are not alone.  Christ is with us and upholds us with an overcoming spirit.
  • Conclusion
    I hope that you continue your vibrant ministries! May you celebrate the many gifts of the Holy Spirit not just on Pentecost but every day of the year! We are gifted with: answered prayer, other languages, witnessing opportunities, empowering gifts of the Spirit and even a bit of rejection to keep us humble and keep us walking in the path where Jesus walked.

God bless you all!!