The word ‘Pentecost’ drives from a Greek word that means “fiftieth.” The Jews celebrated Pentecost on the fiftieth day after Passover. They also called it “the Feast of Weeks” (Leviticus 23:15) or “the Feast of Harvest” (Exodus 23:16). The Jews considered Pentecost the harvest festival, at which time they presented the first fruits of the wheat harvest (Numbers 28:26). We Christians celebrate ‘Pentecost’ on the fiftieth day after Jesus’ resurrection.
Pentecost is also known as “the Birthday of Christian Church” since the church in the 1st century was formed as the result of the bold witnesses of the disciples who were filled with the Holy Spirit. This morning, I’d like take you back to the Upper Room where 120 women and men received the Holy Spirit. Today’s text begins like this, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (verse 1). As Jesus told them, the apostles and other people were waiting patiently and prayerfully in Jerusalem to receive “the power from above.” These women and men devoted themselves to prayer constantly for 10 days until the Holy Spirit came. Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, describes in this way:
No one knows the exact time when the Holy Spirit comes and goes, like winds. But one thing we do know is the the power and the result of its coming!b. a sound like the rush of a violent wind:
We can imagine the sound of wind through our experience of the Hurricane Matthew or Hurricane Irma. We also remember the power of those violent winds. Likewise, the Holy Spirit comes to us with power! Luke actually said this in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses . . .” All of them who were filled with the Holy Spirit on that day began to proclaim the Good News with boldness, grace, compassion and power.c. divided tongues as of fire
What happened on the Day of Pentecost was actually the fulfillment of John the Baptist’ words. He said, “I baptize you with water, but the one who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16). In the Old Testament, fire is often a symbol of God’s presence. For examples, Moses heard the voice of God out of the burning bush. God answered the prophet Elijah’s prayer by fire at Mount Carmel and a chariot of fire took him to heaven.d. all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability.
The Holy Spirit gives us the supernatural abilities. God enables us to accomplish the things we cannot do with our own strengths. As you know, language is the vehicle of communication. The Spirit of God removed the linguistic barriers that hindered effective communications by enabling the disciples to preach God’s Words in numerous languages. On the day of Pentecost, all gathered at Jerusalem were filled with awe and amazement and said to one another, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?”
The Spirit of God restored the sense of calling, passion, unity, and hope among the disciples of Jesus. As the results, they were able to lead many people to Jesus for salvation and birthed a new community called “Church” and committed themselves in prayers, worship, learning and teaching God’s words, sharing their possessions with other believers, healing the sick and helping the needy!
Like today’s society, there were some people who made fun of the disciples and opposed their mission works in the first century. They said that the disciples were drunk with too much wine. Peter stood up with the eleven apostles and spoke to them like this. “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 prophecy . . . Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Our Bishop Ken Carter said, “our theme for the annual conference is “Remembering Who We Are!” We will worship, sing, pray, study, listen and challenge each other in a renewed attention to our mission: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” We welcome you once again to Lakeland for the meeting of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church on June 7-9, 2018. As we gather from across our state, we do so with a sense of history; this is the 50th anniversary of our denomination.
It was on April 23, 1968, that the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church officially joined together to become the United Methodist Church. This union was sealed with the words, “Lord of the Church, we are united in Thee, in Thy church and now in The United Methodist Church” as two churches became one during the General Conference in Dallas. More than 10,000 people who attended the General Conference shouted, “Amen!” Robert O. Tupper II, representing the Evangelical United Brethren, and Rhonda Renfro, representing the Methodist Church, were the two children chosen to shake hands as part of the ceremony uniting the two denominations into The United Methodist Church. Renfro, now 57, says event organizers wanted the symbolism of a black child and white child shaking hands to reinforce the new denomination’s commitment to racial reconciliation.
Today’s United Methodist Church has more than 12 million members worldwide, including more than 7 million in the United States. The church is on mission work in more than 136 countries. Our denomination provides more than $2 billion annually in charity care. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) provides humanitarian assistance around the globe during disasters. If you want to know more about our denomination, you can pick up a free “United Methodist Handbook” from our narthex.
The theme ‘remembering who we are’ is about our identity in Christ and, more particularly, our identity as United Methodists within the Body of Christ,” Bishop Ken Carter said, “It is related to our promises of baptism and membership—our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. And it is who we are at our best—a people of grace, growing in holiness, living by a catholic spirit, sharing the gospel and recalling that the world is our parish.”
Year of Jubilee
Jubilee is about reconciliation, forgiving of debts, release from slavery, and restoration of lands to their rightful owners so that all can move forward together in a spirit of peace. It seems ironic, then, that as we celebrate fifty years as a denomination that we are awaiting a “Special General Conference” this coming February to determine the fate of our denomination. Will there be a celebration of 51 years next May, or will we be unable as a body of Christ to find a way to reconcile, and find a way forward together?
In conclusion, Pentecost is about the moment the church was born. It is about what the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be. It is about the Holy Spirit bringing people together as one in spite of their differences: different cultures, different languages, different traditions, different beliefs, different interpretations, and different theologies. Pentecost is about being united in words, and in salvation that is for all people. And so we come to the end of this sermon series, “In the Power of the Holy Spirit,” and the end of “the Season of Easter.” Although none of us know what would happen to our lives, our church, and our denomination in the future, we can still move forward with great joy, and hope and continue to proclaim “Salvation” and “Day of Jubilee” for all people. Let us pray.