This card drawn by my daughter since she felt that the Church should get a birthday card since it is, indeed, its birthday, says: Congratulations church! She asked me whether church is a girl or a boy and
we settled on it being a girl :).
And here is the sermon of last Sunday:
The Church's birthday :)
For the Jewish people, Shavuot which is a Hebrew word for "weeks" marks the events described in the Old Testament, when God came down in flames of fire on Mount Sinai and gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites seven weeks after they had escaped from Egypt. This is considered the moment
was born as a nation. Israel
What would become Pentecost for Christians was in other words a Jewish feast and it was celebrated 50 days after Passover, hence its name which is derived from the Greek word for fifty.
The apostles whom Jesus had told to go to
were on that day gathered together in a house
when a rushing, mighty wind came from heaven and filled the place. They saw something
that the Acts describe as looking like tongues of fire and those tongues of
fire separated and came down on each of them. Jerusalem
What happened next was that the Holy Spirit manifested Himself to the apostles and to the people who had gathered around them curious about the sound of the wind as they all started to speak in different languages. Every pilgrim heard the apostles speaking to him or her in their own language.
If and when all the apostles were talking at the same time it must have sounded pretty incomprehensible which is probably why some of those who were present then accused the apostles of being drunk.
The Acts continues the story of Pentecost with telling that Peter stood up and addressed them saying they were not drunk and pointing out that it was only nine o'clock in the morning. Incidentally, that of course doesn’t prove anything but it was nonetheless a fair point.
Then, Peter preached his first sermon. He interpreted the events of that morning in light of a prophecy of the prophet Joel. In that text, God promises to pour out his Spirit on all people, empowering diverse people to exercise divine power. This pouring of the Spirit would be a sign of the coming “day of the Lord.”
Peter went on to explain that Jesus had been raised and had poured out the Spirit in fulfillment of God’s promise through Joel. Peter’s speech was so powerful that the people were so moved when Peter told them of their part in Jesus' crucifixion that they asked the apostles what they should do. Peter’s response was the one we all know, which is that they needed to repent and to be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins.
Around 3,000 (!) people did and were baptized which in itself is rather impressive feat since that’s one seriously large crowd. This huge number of people becoming Christians on that one day is why the Day of Pentecost marked a massive turning point for the very first Christians. The church was born.
Before the events of the first Pentecost, there were as we know followers of Christ, and more than just the 12, but there was not yet a movement that could be meaningfully called “the church.” Thus, from a historical point of view, Pentecost is the day on which the church was started but this is also true from a spiritual perspective, since the Spirit brings the church into existence and enlivens it. In other words, without the Spirit there is no church.
What happened on the first Pentecost continues to happen to Christians throughout the world also today, although usually not in such a dramatic fashion. I don’t know about you but at least I am yet to have seen or even heard of a heavenly wind and tongues of fire from anywhere. It would be cool, though! What the Bible says and the Church teaches is nevertheless that God pours out His Spirit upon all who put their faith in Jesus Christ and become his disciples.
As God’s children we are meant to live in the presence and power of the Spirit of God. We need the Holy Spirit because it is the Spirit who helps us to confess Jesus as Lord, empowers us to serve God, binds us together as the body of Christ, helps us to pray, and even intercedes, prays, for us and guides us, leads us to live godly lives.
What is good to remember is that although the Spirit could have been poured out on the followers of Jesus when they were not gathered together God chose differently. The fact that the Spirit was given to a group of Christ’s followers highlights the central part of the church in God’s work in the world. The Holy Spirit is not only given to individuals, but also and importantly to the gathered people of God. The church is God’s temple and the Spirit dwells in the midst of the church.
The community of God’s people is central to God’s work in the world. Thus, Pentecost invites us to consider our own participation in the fellowship, worship, and mission of the church.
The beauty of the story of the first Pentecost is that it is a story about people representing different cultures and countries who are told the good news all at the very same time. This miracle reinforces the multilingual, multicultural, multiracial mission of the church. From the get go the church included everyone and not only this or that group.
As I look around this chapel I look at the church as it was when it was born and as it is always meant to be. Consisting of all, not excluding anyone; inclusive.
All are loved by God. And our job is to reflect God’s love to those around us trusting in the words of the Gospel reading today:
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. 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.
Not all are called to teach, not all are called to evangelize but all are called to love.
Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands