Mt Barker Church of Christ Service for Sunday May 31
Fifty days after Passover the Jewish people celebrated Pentecost [the Greek word for the festival]. In Hebrew the word is Shavuot. That word means ‘weeks’ for this festival came 50 days (7 weeks) after Passover. It is also called ‘bikkumim’ [fruits] for Shavuot/Pentecost was a festival for harvest. At the ancient festivals, 2 wheaten loaves were offered in the Temple on the first day of the 2 day holiday, whilst on the second the choicest of the first fruits of harvest were offered. Throughout the Jewish world today the festival is still observed, though with a different meaning attached. It is now celebrated as the festival of the giving of the Ten Commandments.
Christians mostly know the term Pentecost, for it was on the day of Pentecost – 49 days after the Resurrection – that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the early Christians. Sometimes it is called the birth day of the church. In England and Ireland, for hundreds of years, this day came to be Whit Sunday. This has often been explained as happening because it was the day many converts would be baptised wearing white robes. Another explanation was offered in the early 15th century, when a monk wrote that it was called ‘wit Sunday’ because it was the day the Holy Spirit brought ‘wit and wisdom’ to the early Christians. [‘wit’ then meant more like our word ‘understanding’.]
These different backgrounds are full of wonderful illustrations of the meaning of Pentecost for us. It was a day of harvest, for 3,000 were, in the language of Acts 2, ”…added to the number of believers…”. It was a day of baptismal celebration, for those new believers were immersed into Christ. And the newly indwelling Holy Spirit guided the believers with understanding and wisdom.
So today is CELEBRATION DAY; the Risen and Ascended Christ returned to be with His followers as He promised in the form and person of the Comforter or Strengthener or Advocate or Counsellor or Helper –[ the word used has been translated in all these ways]. One translation of John 16: 7 puts Jesus words like this: “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away the Counsellor will not come.” So, dear friends in Christ, CELEBRATE for our Lord Jesus has acted to our advantage.
Welcome to this time of worship. If we were in the church building we might say: “This is the house of God and He welcomes us all here.” It cannot be different from that for God is always the welcomer, the one who has called us together. For Him distance means nothing; it is the spirit which counts. So in our distanced settings we still come together and each house is surely God’s place, just as “He owns the cattle on a thousand hills…” Let us all open our hearts to Him, praying , remembering , confessing, committing and setting ourselves afresh to follow Jesus yet more closely.
Acts 2: 1 – 21
AC 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 tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
AC 2:5 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 them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own 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?"
AC 2:13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine"
AC 2:14 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 men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
AC 2:17 "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.
AC 2:18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
AC 2:19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
AC 2:20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
AC 2:21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'
John 7: 37 – 39
JN 7:37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Jesus, we thus obey
Your last and kindest word;
Here, in your own appointed way,
We come to meet you, Lord.
Your presence makes the feast;
Now let our spirits feel
The glory not to be expressed,
The joy unspeakable.
Now let our souls be fed
With manna from above,
And over all your banner spread
Of everlasting love.
Verses 1,3,5 from a hymn by Charles Wesley.
Let us give thanks:
It is right and proper that we should always offer thanks to you, O God, for you are our creator and sustainer. We praise you, O God, that in your mercy you gave your only Son, Jesus the Messiah, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. We give thanks for His humble birth, for His life and ministry of love, for His sufferings and death on the cross, for His glorious resurrection and for the promise that He will come again. As we take this bread and this cup, draw us closer in His fellowship that He may ever live in us and we in Him. Amen.
Share in the bread and cup and give praise to Him “who loved us and gave Himself for us”. Amen.
Let us bring our thanks, praise and petitions before God;
Let us pray for all who are part of our congregation;
For the community of Mt Barker and district, especially for those who do not follow or trust in Jesus, that the Holy Spirit will impact their lives and open ways for them to hear of our loving Saviour;
Remember to pray for those Christians who are persecuted for their faith; and pray for their persecutors that they may come to see the true Lord in and through those they persecute;
Pray for CareWorks as they respond to greater need in the community.
As we read the New Testament we become more aware of the work of the Holy Spirit. On this Pentecost Sunday, let’s focus on just two aspects of the Spirit’s ministry. This reflection is not a full coverage of the Holy Spirit’s work, rather just some indicators and reminders for us all of this celebration day of the outpouring and gifting of the Holy Spirit to all believers. You might like to add verses you think of or look up to those mentioned in the following paragraphs.
First let us pay attention to the inner work of the Spirit. He comes to live within believers to make a difference in their spirit, their character, in their attitudes. We sometimes call this process ‘sanctification’. There’s a reference to this in 2 Corinthians 3:18 where we read “we are being transformed” by the Holy Spirit. Colossians 3:10 has a similar reference. This inner work of the Spirit is indicative of both the vital necessity of the Holy Spirit in our lives and a demonstration of the closeness of God’s relationship with those who commit themselves to Jesus.
Another aspect of the Spirit’s inner work is mentioned in John16:13 [and see also 1 Corinthians 2:10]. He comes to guide us into the truth. It is easy to see how much this is needed. Our world is full of deception. And the history of the church, sadly, is a history of confusion, deception and error – or at least the attempts of some to lead God’s people away from Him. So the Spirit is our great ‘truth teller’ and we need to cling closely to Him, allow Him to be our teacher, in a deceptive world.
Also, the Holy Spirit comes to strengthen our spirit and to ‘push’ us to greater faith. Romans 8:26 says “the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness”. How wonderful that we do not have to – for we cannot – deal with life’s difficulties by ourselves. And , best of all, this is an inner ministry; He is resident in our lives. Hence, always available. Ephesians 3:16 speaks of the “inward strength and power through His Spirit”. So when we are conscious of our frailty, our lack of strength, we can go straight to the Christian’s true strength; the Holy Spirit within.
There is also what could be called the ‘outer ministry’ of the Holy Spirit. The inner work is not visible to others, though the results of His work will be. In the outer ministry the Spirit is at work in our ‘doing’, in our actions and especially in our gifting. As an example notice the record in Acts 2:4 :- the believers began speaking in other languages “…as the Spirit gave them the power of utterance.” The New Testament, in a number of places, talks of the gifts of the Spirit, making it clear all are gifted by Him in some way. There is also the encouragement to exercise our gifts. When doing so, we are experiencing the outer ministry of the Spirit. This shows in the ‘works’ of our hands. Una has written the following section on this issue from a slightly different viewpoint. As you read it, continue to reflect on the ministry of the Holy Spirit – both inner and outer – in your own life.
Our Hands in God's Hands
I recently saw an article advertising something or other that said, "You're in safe hands." I immediately said, "Yes thank you Lord I am / we are in safe hands." They are the loving hands of our Heavenly Father who said in the words from Isaiah 49: "I will not forget you, I have carved you on the palm of my hand." What a reassuring promise that is for these times and always.
Ever since the Covid 19 crisis began, we have not been able to shake hands. This got me thinking about our hands and how we use them. A handshake means different things: " pleased to meet you"," welcome", "good to see you", "goodbye" etc.
Almost everything we do every day requires the use of our hands. They are essential for our daily living. The way we use our hands conveys many different messages; e.g. we can show encouragement, we can show acceptance or rejection, we can heal or hurt. Hands can be used for great good or, sadly, horrific evil.
As a carpenter, Jesus was continually using His hands to create beautiful and useful things. He then spent the rest of His life using His hands in ministry, serving others, helping them, healing them and also using His hands in the breaking of bread. For us, the hands of Jesus we most remember are of Him on the cross where His hands were pierced and He hung and died for all humanity.
As those who are followers of Jesus, we have "special" hands. They are hands gifted by the Holy Spirit. They are hands used in the service of God. They are hands reaching up to God in worship, they are hands clasped together in prayer, they are hands reaching out to support one another and reaching out to help others. We too use our hands in the breaking of bread, remembering Jesus’ sacrifice for us all.
There is a famous painting by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. It depicts the hand of God reaching down to clasp the hand of Adam and conversely, Adam reaching up to clasp the hand of God. It is a very powerful scene.
As we take hold of God's hands, our hands joined with His, hand in hand, together in partnership, there is great potential for great things to be accomplished for the Kingdom of God wherever we are.
Some scripture: we are a joyful and serving people:
From Ezra 8:22b. The gracious hand of our God is upon all who seek Him.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might.
From the Psalms. 47:1a Come, praise the Lord all you servants of the Lord. Lift up your hands and praise Him.
Ps 134: 1a & 2 Clap your hands all you people and shout joyful praises to God.
May God richly bless us all as, with our hands in God’s hands and the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit, we continue on in ministry together.
May the One who is our:
Strengthener, keep our hearts strong and ‘grow’ our faith;
Advocate, keep us before God with “sounds beyond words”;
Helper, stay close to us in troubled times;
Counsellor, keep guiding us into paths of faithful service;
And to Father, Son and Spirit be all praise, always and forever; amen.