Sunday, June 4, 2017
Scripture: Joel 2:28-32 & Acts 2:1-11, 37-42
Rev. Troy Hauser Brydon
Only 52 days ago, I wasn’t strong enough.
52 days. It’s not a very long time, but to me it’s felt like forever. So much has happened, and it’s hard to even put it into words.
I was at the Passover meal where Jesus began changing the words that we grew up using, where he called the bread his body and the wine his blood. He even predicted my own weakness while we were eating, but I just let it roll off of me. Little did I know how a few hours would prove him right.
I went with him to the olive grove on Gethsemane, just across the valley from those daunting walls of Jerusalem. My body was tired. My eyes just wouldn’t stay open. Three times I feel asleep, while my friend, Jesus, wept and prayed. I thought I was strong, but I was wrong once again.
The darkness of that night grew. The soldiers showed up to arrest Jesus. For what? I wasn’t sure, but unlike the others I tried to stay close to Jesus. But things got intense. I began to fear for my life. People kept asking me if I was one of Jesus’ followers. In my heart I knew the answer, but I was so afraid. I wanted to help Jesus, but what good was I to him if I was arrested too? So I kept getting further and further from him, until I heard it. The rooster crowed, and the sound pierced my soul like a sword right through my heart. He told me I would, and I did. I am so weak.
The next days were a blur. Jesus went through a trial. He was condemned to death on a cross. He bore that horrific instrument through the streets of Jerusalem. This kind, charismatic man received the scorn of the crowds, though he deserved none of it. They hung him there, and where was I? Nowhere to be found. Hidden away and scared. I had denied him, and I didn’t know what was next.
They told me he had died that afternoon, and that his lifeless body was already in a tomb. It was finished, and I wondered what would become of my life.
50 days ago, a Sunday, some of the women who were with Jesus over these past couple of years rushed in with the news that the tomb was empty. John and I ran off to see if it could be true. In the darkness I saw the empty tomb, but I was in no shape to believe. Not many days after that I went back to what I knew – fishing on the Sea of Galilee. My time with Jesus was like a dream, and now it was just time to get back to my livelihood and to what felt normal. Who was I to do anything more with my life anyway?
But Jesus was there on the shore. I couldn’t believe my eyes! He was alive. He came to where I would be. I dove into the water and swam to shore because I was too excited to wait for the boat. We feasted together, and Jesus restored me. Over the next few weeks, Jesus shared with us what we were to keep doing after he left.
That month was such a blessing to me – to receive back a beloved friend, the One whom I have come to know as Messiah and Lord, to get more time with him as he shared with us what was to come, words fail me. I am thankful, even though I didn’t fully understand what was occurring.
10 days ago Jesus ascended to heaven. How do I describe the indescribable? He was with us one minute and then he was gone, but with his instructions, we found a place in Jerusalem. And we waited. He had plans for all of us, but we had to wait until the time was right.
Today started just like the last few, although Jerusalem itself had hit another fever pitch. It’s the Feast of Weeks, so Jews from all over the world have descended upon Jerusalem to give God thanks for the spring harvest and to remember God’s blessings through the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. We’ve been cloistered in our home waiting on the Lord, but we can hear the activity outside.
Waiting, wondering, and praying. Waiting, wondering, and praying – when, suddenly a violent wind starts rushing through the home. We look at each other, with everyone’s eyes revealing the same question, “Is this it? Is this what Jesus told us to wait for?” Our hair and clothes were getting tossed every which way, and as we steadied ourselves, in the morning sunlight that pierced the darkness of the home we began to see what looked like flames over our heads. They looked a bit like tongues, which I know sounds really strange, but I’m just telling you what I experienced. These tongues of fire hovered over our heads, and inside our bodies we all began to feel the wind and warmth as though our souls were catching on fire.
And then we opened our mouths. Out of each of our mouths came languages that we had never learned. It was ecstatic and amazing. We knew this was the moment Jesus had told us about. Everything he had taught us began to make sense, and we knew it was time to go public with it.
So we left the house, still glowing with the Spirit’s fire, and we hit the streets telling others about Jesus, the Messiah, in their own languages. We eventually made our way near the Temple. There were throngs of people from every nation swirling near the Temple Courts. I cleared my throat and began speaking, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say…”
Untrained man that I am, I began to speak about what God had been up to throughout time, bringing us to this very moment where the Holy Spirit enlivened even a lowly fisherman like me to speak about mysteries that have been a part of God’s plan since before there was time. All of these connections from the Bible began to take on new light. Words from the prophet Joel came to my lips, explaining what we were going through in that moment. Words from the Psalms, telling of the Messiah – this Jesus – who is King David’s true heir. The presence of God in wind and fire, reminding me of burning bushes and valleys of dry bones brought to life, both Exodus and Ezekiel coming to life for me once again.
And the history of all those gathered around me! I couldn’t believe that God would choose me to share this good news with people who had waited centuries to hear it. People from Parthia, Media, Elam, and Mesopotamia, all peoples from hundreds of miles east, whose ancestors were taken away from this land 800 years earlier heard about the Messiah. People from Cappodocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, a long journey north of here heard the same. People from Egypt, Cyrene, and Libya. And Rome! The center of power in the world, even they would hear this news. Even people from Judea, Arabia, and Crete were hearing this good news. It was as though all of human history was filtered down into this moment, into my very person, and now, by this Spirit’s power, it was going rapidly into all the world – right here, right now.
As my speech was winding down, I knew the time was right for a decision. They heard all I said, and they asked, “Brothers and sisters, what should we do?” And I remembered Jesus’ words as he was leaving us – “Go into all the world and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always – until the very end of the age.” So, these words came easily to me, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s a promise for you and for all.”
I had never spoken publicly like this before, but today was different from all the other days before it. That same Spirit that dwells in me took hold of around 3,000 people that day. All of our waiting and praying paid off, and today has emboldened me to keep going, trusting that God will use me wherever God wants.
Honestly, I don’t know why God chose me, but God did. I can fish, but that’s the extent of my talent. Yet God has filled me to overflowing, and I’m going to live so God can use me – every day. I am stunned that God would select a fisherman from the backwoods of Galilee to speak of God’s work in Jesus Christ to a worldwide audience, but God did just that. I wonder what God could do with you?
So, my friends, if you consider yourself a Christian today, God has equipped you to share God’s love. You have the Holy Spirit blowing wind into your sails and igniting your souls with God’s love. Like Peter and the other disciples, God does not call you because you’re already ready for the task. No, God equips you because God calls you. It’s God’s work in you that matters. It’s the Holy Spirit at work in you who sends you into the world to be light and hope and peace for the world. After all, it’s what’s inside of you that makes a difference on the outside.
If you don’t consider yourself a Christian today, I hope you’ll hear and understand deep within yourself about God’s love for you. That the Holy Spirit would move you just like it did the 3,000 on that first Day of Pentecost. All that God has been doing throughout history matters to you today. Receiving this gift changes you forever. You’ll never be the same, but I promise you that you’ll never regret it.