May 23, 2021*
By Pastor John Partridge
John 15:26 – 16:15 Acts 2:1-21 Romans 8:22-27
Have you ever experienced a moment in your life when everything changed?
It happens in our personal lives, it happens in warfare, it happens in the lives of nations, and it has happened, just a few times, in the spiritual world as well.
Often, the moment when our first child is placed into our arms changes us forever. Our goals, our direction, our purpose… everything changes.
In war, we saw moments like those at D-Day, at the battle of Midway, and Tet Offensive. Something changed in the tempo, the tide, or the will of nations, and the entire war pivoted in those moments.
In scripture we see those same sorts of pivotal moments in the Garden of Eden, God’s covenant with Abraham, the birth and death of Jesus, and on the day we celebrate today, at Pentecost. It was at Pentecost, with the coming of the Spirit of God, that our relationship with God, and God’s relationship with the world, changed forever. But before we get too far down that road, let’s remember how it all happened. Let’s start with the promise that Jesus made to his disciples in John 15:26 – 16:15:
15:26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
16:1 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.
4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
Jesus promises that after he returns to heaven, he will send the Advocate, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit of God (whichever adjective you prefer) to testify about him, to encourage us, to help us to remember what we have been taught, to prove to the world that it was wrong when they believed that Jesus was not the Messiah, and to lead us to truths that Jesus didn’t have the time to teach, and which the world was not yet ready to hear. As if often the case, the disciples had a hard time understanding what any of that meant. But whether they understood it or not, they did as Jesus told them and, after Jesus ascended into heaven, they stayed together in Jerusalem, worshiping in the temple, and praying together, until the day of Pentecost came… and the world changed… again (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 tonguesas 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.’
Throughout the Old Testament, and up until this moment in the New Testament, the Spirit of God is something that is said to “come upon” a person for a moment in time. Prophets would occasionally be filled with the Spirit long enough to prophecy, or to perform a miracle, or in the case of Samson, to lift heavy objects. But suddenly everything changes. The paradigm shifts. Jesus returns to heaven and sends the Spirit to earth, not for a moment, and not into a single person, but for every follower of Jesus, for all time. Not just the eleven disciples, but all the followers of Jesus, men, and women, probably numbering at least seventy, gather in prayer and suddenly witness fire that roars down from heaven and comes to rest on each and every one of them. And immediately, the get up on their feet, go down in the street, and tell the world about the story of Jesus in every language, of every nation, of every person that is gathered there. Some people hear the babbling of so many languages and assume that the speakers are just drunk, but Peter, the guy that denied Jesus three times, and who only days before, was practically terrified of his own shadow, stands up in front of the entire crowd and declares that these things are all happening because God is, even at that moment, fulfilling the promises made to the people of Israel through the prophet Joel by pouring out his Spirit on all people.
But, as we seem to ask every week, who cares? Why does it matter? How do the events of 2000 years ago have anything to do with us today? And in anticipation of those exact sort of questions, once again Paul writes this answer in Romans 8:22-27:
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
The story of scripture is a story of hope. God’s people always had hope. They had hope in God. And, through the prophets, they had hope in a savior, rescuer, and Messiah that would come to save them return God’s favor to Israel.
But Paul says that the whole of creation has been groaning, as if it were in labor to deliver a baby, from the time of creation right up until the present time. And even though we have faith in Jesus, and have been rescued by him, we continue to wait, expectantly, for something better. We have hope for a better future. We have hope for our resurrection and our future life in the perfect home that God is preparing for us. Our hope lies in our adoption into God’s family but hope for the future and resurrection is not our only hope. While we are still here, while we are still living in our imperfect physical bodies, the Spirit of God that lives within us helps us in all our weakness. Even when we are so overwhelmed by grief, pain, suffering, confusion, exhaustion, anger, and other human weaknesses, God’s spirit intercedes for us and lifts prayers to God when our minds fail to string words together with any sense and all we can do is groan. The Spirit knows us so intimately, that even when we don’t know what to say, or how to say it, even when we can’t form words, that spirit intercedes for us, praying to God for us, forming words from our pain, and praying our prayers to God for us when we cannot.
History pivots at Pentecost.
Throughout scripture, the hope of God’s people was distant. That somehow, someday, God would rescue them. That maybe God would send a prophet to give them guidance and wisdom. That someday, the Messiah would come.
And then Jesus came, and we had the hope of a better future in eternity… someday.
But at Pentecost our hope was multiplied.
Not just hope for the future, but also hope for today.
From the moment of Pentecost until now we not only have the incredible hope of adoption into God’s family, and not only the hope of redemption and eternity, but the knowledge and the hope that right now, in every moment that we live, the Spirit of God is active in our lives, drawing us closer to Jesus, guiding us, granting us wisdom, revealing truth to us, and even teaching us things that we couldn’t bear to hear even a moment earlier.
Pentecost was a moment that history pivots.
The world changed forever.
Not just hope.
So much hope that we just have to share it with others.
You can find the video of this worship service here: https://youtu.be/RobKQxOUi6w
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.