Pentecost Preach: Acts 2:1-15, John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15.
I have a confession to make: I probably shouldn’t be here. I’ve thought it over and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not really cut out for this. Why should I, this flawed, often ill-tempered, intolerant, eminently unqualified mother of four, feel like I have anything to say about God that might be worth listening too?
When I look at our worship team, there are big shoes to fill. I don’t have the prayerful passion and funny stories that Malcolm has. I don’t have Mike’s authority or experience, and I certainly lack the devil may care, rakish, charm of Ken. And sometimes, like last night for example, I decided that I’m just not enough.
And don’t we all feel that way sometimes? That we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. Maybe we don’t put ourselves up for things because we don’t feel worthy enough, or clever enough, or we just don’t think we’re capable enough. Maybe we’re scared, and that fear is stopping us from living a full life in Christ. Maybe.
Hold that thought. Because we’ll return to it later.
I want to talk to you about someone else who felt fearful, and unworthy, and not good enough. Let’s talk about Peter.
Peter was a Galilean fisherman, from Bethsaida. Born Simon, son of Jonah. One day when he was out fishing with his brother Andrew, a man walked up to him and said “Come follow me,” and Peter did. But despite this leap of faith, Peter is best known to us because of his lack of faith.
He doubts frequently, and it leads him into deep water, quite literally In Matthew 14, when Jesus urges him to walk on water, and his wavering faith causes him to sink.
He’s impetuous, and impulsive. He makes reckless comments, and Jesus rebukes him, “Get behind me Satan. You are a stumbling block to me.”
According to John, it is Peter who charges in, draws his sword and cuts off the ear of the soldier in the Garden of Gethsemane.
And of course, we all know about Peter’s shame in denying Jesus, not once, but three times.
And this was a man who knew Jesus, really knew him. Lived with him. Heard his voice and held his hand. He witnessed Jesus heal the blind and the lame. He saw, with his own eyes, Jesus raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead. He witnessed the transfiguration!
And still he doubted.
And yet, this man, this reckless, impulsive man, Jesus named Petros – ROCK – upon which I will build my church. Everyone, but especially Peter, must have thought, WHY? Jesus. Are you sure? Why him? Why me? I’m not worthy for this task. I don’t deserve to be here. I am not enough.
But then, Jesus had a habit of not explaining his plans in great detail.
Let’s remind ourselves of our gospel reading for today:
In John 15:26-27, Jesus says:
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”
So the disciples are told that Jesus is leaving them, but not to worry! He’s being replaced by an Advocate, who will come in his place. Later on, he goes on to say that, well there are other things I could tell you, but you’re just not ready to hear it right now.
They probably weren’t. After all, they consistently misunderstood him time and time again. They certainly failed to grasp what Jesus meant by Advocate.
What did that mean? Was Jesus sending another just like him? They could not have known what lay in store.
And so they went to the upper room in Jerusalem, on the Jewish festival of Shavuot, with no idea of what was going to happen. They went as grieving, broken people. They’d lost their Jesus, twice over now. And so they went to the place where they felt safe, where maybe the ghost of those promises resonated most fully for them. They isolated themselves, deliberately, all together in one place.
Alone. They felt comfortable there. All together, with the group of people who alone knew the truth of what had happened.
Safe. Comfortable. Temporarily at their ease.
And then Holy Spirit rushed on in, and put a stop to all that. With the roaring, howling scream of a hurricane, the Advocate of truth broke into that room, and such was the force of the din that it brought the outside in with it.
All those Jews who had traveled from afar for the Festival, from as far away as Rome, Crete, North Africa, and what is now modern Turkey. This melting pot of people with diverse languages, they were drawn by this monstrous roaring wind, came running, and heard their own languages being spoken by this bunch of Galileans. What had happened millennia before at Babel was suddenly undone. Where there had been separation and confusion, now there was clarify. There was understanding, and in a confused, often polarised, and contentious world, this was earth shattering.
And into this moment, steps Peter. Impulsive, impetuous Peter. The man who lacked the courage to walk on water. The man who cowardly denied Jesus three times. THAT Peter.
He stands up and he preaches. He boldly proclaims that the spirit that has been given to him, and has transformed him from a fearful man, will be poured out onto all people:
Young and old.
Male and female.
Slave and free.
You, the people of St Marys Wistaston.
This spirit will equip all of Gods people to be prophets, no matter where they come from, who they are, what language they speak, no matter their circumstances.
This truth is at the heart of Pentecost. The bible starts with Genesis and it seemingly ends with Revelation, but The Acts of the apostles aren’t finished yet. We’re not done here. There is so much more work to do. We are in the middle of a story that is still being written, and like those early disciples, there will be trials and tribulations along the way, that is life, but no matter how hard things are in the moment, we have hope, as they did, that the story isn’t finished yet.
And that, is faith.
When Jesus was born, God became flesh and he lived alongside human beings to show them how to be human perfectly. At Pentecost, Jesus equipped us to carry that work on for him. When he could no longer physically be with us, he passed the baton onto us, with Holy Spirit as our guide and mentor. Go forth and tell them about me.
And so they did. At the last count in 2010, there were approximately 2.2 billion Christians in the world, and around 37 million churches. Christianity is still the biggest religion.
And it all started here, in this upper room in Jerusalem. Doesn’t that make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck?
This church right here is our Upper room. It’s a place of safety and comfort where we meet with our own people. We worship God and we share fellowship.
But it’s outside these doors where the real of work of the kingdom happens. And know this: Holy Spirit doesn’t like us to feel too comfortable or too at our ease. That’s when she sweeps in and shakes us up; shifts us out of our comfort zone, and presses us to do the things that discomfort us.
She urges us to move into those places that we find scary or unsafe, to speak to those who we dislike or disagree with. This is how we tell the story of Jesus. This is how we spread good news.
So Happy birthday church. Many, many happy returns. We are all enough when it comes to the work of the Lord; it is not that whispering, insidious voice of self-doubt that snidely tells us we can’t do this. It is the roaring windstorm of the spirit of truth which proclaims for all to hear, “I equip you with the power of the Holy Spirit. I empower you. And I send you out. Go forth, and tell them all about me. Do not be shaken, for I am right beside you.”