The Ministry of Wow
June 09, 2019*
By Pastor John Partridge
John 14:8-17, 25-27 Acts 2:1-21 Romans 8:14-17
Have you ever watched the fireworks on the fourth of July?
Have you ever opened the newspaper and seen the mayor and a bunch of city officials at an important ribbon cutting or groundbreaking?
Have you ever seen the evening news report on a new freeway, tax cuts, or some other big news story about our local, state, or federal government?
Sure, you have. Occasionally, our government does something that is very public and splashy. But most of the time, day in, and day out, most of our government’s employees, whether they are employed by the federal, state, or local governments, toil away at computer monitors, check in on endangered children, teach school, clean streets, repair streets, fix leaks, and make sure that many things that we take for granted are so regular and reliable that we can take them for granted. You rarely see stories in the newspaper or on television about the people who showed up and did their jobs, every day, for thirty or forty years doing ordinary things.
And although God often works the same way, daily caring for our wounds, watching over us, and being so ordinary and predictable that we allow ourselves to take his presence for granted or forget about him entirely, he isn’t always so invisible. Occasionally, God does something splashy and noticeable. Sometimes God heals the incurable, moves mountains, or raises the dead. Sometimes God does things that make us say, “Wow.”
Pentecost was one of those moments.
Some time before his crucifixion, Jesus spoke with his disciples and explained that after he returned to his father, he would send the Spirit of God to be with them. That gift… would change everything. (John 14:8-17, 25-27)
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Jesus told his disciples that the words that he said, and the miracles that he performed, were being done because of the father that lived in him and was doing his work through him. And then he goes on to say that because he is returning to his father, anyone who believes in him will do the same kinds of works that Jesus was doing, and even greater things. Because Jesus was returning to his father, and because he was sending God’s Spirit to be with us, and live with us, we would do these things, and God would be glorified. And, not only would the followers of Jesus Christ do these amazing works, but because of the presence of the Spirit of God living in us, we would also receive the gift of peace.
Fast forward to a few weeks after the crucifixion to the day of Pentecost and we find this story from the book of Acts 2:1-21.
2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Remember that I said sometimes God does splashy things?
This isn’t only a splashy thing, but a whole pile of splashy things.
A sound like a violent wind comes down from heaven, tongues of fire pour into the room where the followers of Jesus have gathered to pray, the fire separates and come to rest on each and every one of them, and then, speaking all the languages of the known world, these men and women go out into the streets and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. The people in the streets either heard the sound of the wind or the sound of so many people speaking different languages, but whatever they heard, people came from all over the see what was going on.
Those that came were shocked because the people who were speaking foreign languages were Galileans and, you may recall that Galileans were thought of as uneducated, country hicks. Remember that even one of the disciples, when he first heard about Jesus, said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Not only that, but remember that just a few days earlier, these same people were meeting in locked rooms with the windows bolted shut, because they were afraid that the Pharisees would have them arrested because of their association with Jesus. Not long ago, Peter had been so emotionally destroyed that he went back to his fishing boats and was beating himself up over his public denials of Jesus.
But no longer.
Suddenly, their fear and doubt are gone. Suddenly they are speaking languages that they had never learned. Suddenly, instead of hiding behind locked doors, they were speaking in public and Peter raises his voice and lectures everyone on the meaning of the scriptures.
This moment is entirely unexpected, exceptionally public and splashy, and totally transformational for both the disciples and for us. In that moment, the disciples were changed. Their fear was gone, they were filled with an urgency to tell the world about what they had seen and heard, and they went out into the streets to do it. And, as they went, God, through the power of the Holy Spirit that now lived within them, began to do exactly what Jesus had described. Suddenly they were doing something miraculous. Suddenly they were doing the work that Jesus had been doings, and even things that were more surprising and unexpected than some of the things that Jesus had done.
But if all of this was not enough, Paul’s letter to the church in Rome describes yet another amazing gift that the church received at Pentecost. (Romans 8:14-17)
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Paul says that the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost was also the symbol of our adoption by God and because we have been adopted, then we are heirs, co-heirs with Jesus so that we will share in both his suffering and in his ministry to all of the world.
Not only was Pentecost a splashy, headline news moment, the effects were not something that wore off and were forgotten. Instead, the gifts that God gave to the church at Pentecost, were gifts that were passed on from generation to generation. God’s spirit entered into the followers of Jesus as tongues of fire at Pentecost, but today still enter into each one of us as we are baptized into the service of Jesus Christ. Two thousand years later we still receive the gift of adoption, and fearlessness, and still we are empowered by God, through the Spirit that lives within us, to do the work of Jesus Christ in the world around us. Sometimes that work is ordinary and almost invisible, but all of us, working together, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, are doing amazing things as we answer his call on our lives.
Let us continue, with God’s help, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, speak for the voiceless, stand up for the oppressed, comfort the afflicted, heal the sick, and all of the other things that Jesus did, and calls us to do.
This was the call of the church two thousand years ago and it remains the call of the church today.
And we press on…
…with God’s help…
…through the power of the Spirit that lives within us.
Sometimes we are called to the ordinary, but sometimes, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are witness to the ministry… of Wow.
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