Today, we continue in our series: Empowered, working through the book of Acts—the formation and empowerment of the church. Building up to our text today in Acts 2:14-41 remember all the Jews from across the Middle East have gathered to celebrate Pentecost (long-running tradition), when it is transformed– there was a raging wind, tongues of fire, and the Gospel of Christ heard in the native languages of all who were present. In the aftermath, people were left searching for answers, asking big questions– “What’s happened?” “Why did this happen?” Some thought they saw the hand of God at work others were certain they saw the wine of man at work and so it was in uncertain times that Peter, an apostle of Christ, rose to his feet, ready to calm the storm and answer the questions.
In fact this is a familiar pattern: hours after Challenger exploded with school aged children watching all over the country, President Reagan sat at his desk in the oval office, looked directly into the camera, and spoke to the emptiness which filled the minds and hearts of many who were asking the question “WHY did this happen!” In the years that followed the Russians blasting Sputnik into orbit, seemingly eclipsing us, John F. Kennedy boldly rose to the podium, answering the question-“Where do we go from here” provided a vision, not of decline or fear, but one of a future that involved man doing not what was easy but was hard, walking on the moon. After September 11th, 2001, with our nation reeling from attack and in a state of disbelief the words of New York mayor Rudy Giuliani were broadcast all over the country and world—offered a consistent voice of calm in a state of chaos. In fact, speeches in the aftermath of highs and lows of history have provided comfort or crystallization, acted as memorial or monument.
By looking at the first sermon in the New Testament church, Peter provides the vision beyond the vexing questions of the day into the future starting with the work of an:
Inclusive Spirit— In an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech, he captured the sincere human desire to belong: “I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification – one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
Despite the imperfections of our society, the injustice of racism or prejudice, we find that the Spirit of God laid out a reality in the face of mankind’s dream by starting to make low every hill or mountain, straighten out the crooked places, to reveal the Lord: (Acts 2:15-21) 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.’
Instead of being drunk passing out—Peter reveals it is the divine playing out! Explaining that what appeared chaotic was in fact prophetic. What is amazing, is 800 B.C., almost 900 years before Pentecost, Joel told of the coming inclusive nature of the Spirit. Unifying old and young, slave and superiors, male or female, rich or poor come together not based on the color of their skin but based on the Spirit inside their hearts.
If you look around at different clubs, groups, and organizations you might ask yourself what makes the church distinct. Recently, I met a nice guy trying to convert me—he wasn’t from another religion but rather from Cross-Fit! He talked about the diversity of people who do it, the great community it brings, and the results it brings! You might think—Joel, Peter, Scripture—aren’t these just words on a page! The uniqueness of the church is an inclusive spirit developed on two simultaneous principles: MISSION and MESSENGER! We are united to one another, we are united to Christians all over the world, we are united to believers of other ages by our Mission, and yet lots of organizations have mission statements, but then we add a messenger—it is with the Holy Spirit that we take purely a human gathering and make it divine—finding that our diversity does not divide us! Instead our purpose unites us!