Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Recapturing Pentecost - Acts 2.42-47

As I think about it, I don’t believe I can recall the last time there was a double holiday weekend. The closest I have seen in the past has been when our wedding anniversary falls on Labor Day weekend. But tomorrow, as you know, Memorial Day, a day of sober remembrance of those who gave their lives on the battlefield for us. But for the average American, tomorrow is the first holiday of Summer, even though there is still most of a month of Spring before Summer officially starts.
And if you haven’t realized it, seven weeks have passed since we celebrated Easter. It has been seven weeks and a day since the Passover. So by the Jewish calendar, today is the day that starts the Jewish festival, Feast of weeks, a celebration of the harvest of the first grains. It is a joyous celebration before the Lord, a celebration where what is given to the Lord is not mandated, other than to give with joy and thanksgiving.  So I guess today’s holiday is much like tomorrow’s.
Just as Jesus was the lamb for the Passover, so today marked the birth of the church. Consider what the people saw, what they heard. First it started with wind, not the actual movement of air, but merely the sound of it. It was loud. It was heard through the streets of Jerusalem to the point that people gathered to where the disciples were staying. Then God’s presence was revealed in the tongues of fire descending upon each them, enabling them to speak the Great News in different tongues so that all who came to see heard the news proclaimed in his or her native tongue.
They started questioning it. Some were amazed. A few scoffed, blaming alcohol. Yet from there, Peter had their attention. He proclaimed Jesus as the long awaited Messiah. He demonstrated how He fulfilled Scripture and how the people rejected him and had him killed. God’s Son murdered by their hands. And they knew it. They asked what must be done.
Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins and to receive the Holy Spirit. And with these and many other words, Peter pleaded with the people to save themselves from this corrupt generation. The response was phenomenal. Approximately 3,000 were baptized and added that day.
Not only was this the start of the church, but it was something totally new. It was a newness of attitude, a newness of the heart. It was a new transformation. And look how it manifested itself beginning at Acts 2.42 and following.
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
So the question that we ponder this morning is how do we recapture Pentecost? I am not so much talking about this day as much as I am referring to what started this day.  Our passage is weeks, months, even years past this day. How do we recapture Pentecost?
1.     Devotion to Study and Worship
This past week, I had an interesting discussion about faith, the Word. The quote this person left me with, “I don't need some book to tell me how to live or know god. As if anyone has the right to tell someone else that he knows god better (than me).”  Needless to say, at that point our short conversation ended.
Yet it got me to thinking about what this person said. Do I need some book? If I want to be able to do my taxes, I need a book. As I restore my truck, I definitely need a book to tell me how. If I want to practice medicine or law, I need a book. Well I would need lots of books. Even philosophers and self-help gurus are always pushing their books so that the reader can know how to live a better life.
Basically we study books, other teachers if you will, until we've mastered the subject. But even then, living for God, following Christ's example is so counterintuitive that mastery is nearly impossible given every turn we're told that Self is most important thing in life.
Yet another conversation is that if we want to win “x”-religious person to Christ, we need to read that person’s literature and fully understand where the person is coming from. This person even used Paul in Athens where he saw the idol to the unknown god, just in case they missed one in their pantheon of worships.  But Paul stated that in his ministry, he claimed to know nothing but Jesus and Jesus crucified alone.
Just as a person who handles money for a living doesn’t take time to know the counterfeits, but instead spends time studying the real. This allows him or her to spot the fake money when it appears. So we too, are to handle the Word, to know it so fully that when something comes along that is fake, we can spot it and avoid it. This is why it is so important to be devoted to the Word, to study.
As simple as I make it seem, I know that it’s not as easy to do. This is why I need your help, this is why I come to worship with you today, so that you might encourage me in my walk, just as I might encourage you in your walk. And there is something about singing together, praying together, reading the word that unites us. The more we invest in one another, invest in the Word, the more we want to be around one another.
2.     Fellowship with One Another
We become concerned for one another. We find ourselves spending time together. Yesterday, I was trying something new at the Farmer’s Market, “An invitation to sit and talk.” A few were tempted to sit with me. Mike and Cathy did. They were believers. And we encouraged one another because we were able to unite around our common faith, and the struggles we see within our community, within our culture. Before I knew it, an hour had passed.
This is something that I enjoy each Sunday, a time of fellowship with you. Now as for congregations in this country, by comparison, we fellowship more than most. Some congregations have lunch out each week. But we have a light lunch in. But what if we were to increase that to meeting more often, perhaps if not for food, then perhaps for talking about the Word. We don’t have the Temple to meet in anymore, but we do have our buildings. We have our dining rooms. We have the place to make the opportunities.
3.     Ministering to Others
Which leads to being able to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters, and even to others. Can you imagine a time that no one has any financial burdens, that all their needs were met? Are all your needs met?
When we have a changed attitude from being in the Word, being around one another, then what we have takes a new values. God has entrusted me with this. How can I use my blessings to bless someone else? We realize that we are merely stewards of what the Lord has entrusted to us.
Some say that the key to winning someone to the Lord is to show him or her that you care. Often that might mean we meet their worldly needs before we can meet their physical needs. And as part of the Church of Arizona, we will have that opportunity soon enough.
Also this week in the news, state lawmakers and the governor passed a new law concerning public assistance. The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) will be pared down to helping individuals/families for one year and then no more, ever. With it estimated that 40% of Arizonans are on such assistance, once that assistance runs dry, where will these people turn?
Once upon a time, a person in need would turn to the Church for help. Then came the Depression and government came alongside to assist the Church in meeting needs. I am not sure when it happened that the government became a person’s first place for help and the church became last, but now history is coming back around that we will once again be in a position to help others.
And as we become the hands and feet of Jesus, sharing God’s good news, love, and grace, we might once again see God act in supernatural wonders. We will see the Church of America, perhaps at least the Church of Bisbee start to grow. As we are loyal to our calling, the God will bless us and add to us those who are being saved. Let us see the fields ready for the harvest.

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