May 28, 2023

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit

Passage: Acts 2:1-21

Prayer for Illumination

Spirit of God, You came down and filled Your disciples so they would have a helper and a guide at all times. Holy Spirit, we ask You to be our helper and guide as we listen to and try to live out the Living Word. We seek to understand and to be transformed in Your word, oh Lord. Illuminate our hearts with Your Spirit. Amen.

A small Inuit reserve up north-east of Nunavut territory called Pond Inlet was full of problems.. drug addiction, pornography, sexual abuse, family turmoil, gambling, drinking, and suicide, and all different crimes were rampant - sadly, very common problems in many Indigenous reserves in Canada.

In the middle of the bitter winter of 1999, a group of Christians in an Anglican church began to pray for revival…crying out to God for deliverance. They had been praying for the community, especially for the young people, on a regular basis.

On Feb 28th, 1999, believers gathered for a week of revival meetings. In the middle of the revival meeting, while they were praising and pounding the heavens in prayer, a few people noticed a small noise. The noise became louder and louder and it sounded like a jet. The minister turned off the main volume of the sound board, thinking that the sound was from the sound system.

Regardless, the thunder-like sound filled the building and it started shaking everything and everyone in the building. A supernatural phenomena swept through the place and every single one of them was engulfed with the powerful presence of the Holy One so intensely.

It was probably the most dramatic event marking revival in Canada's Arctic, but it was neither the beginning nor the end of a movement that swept across the North, touching communities and transforming lives in a way never seen before.

Today we gather together on this special day of Pentecost Sunday, a day that holds great significance in the life of the Church. It is a day when we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the early disciples, empowering them for the mission of spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. Also, Pentecost signals the beginning of the church age.

V 1 of today’s text says, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” Pentecost, which is one of the Jewish festivals, is fifty days or seven weeks after Passover. The word “Pentecost'' literally means ‘50’ - the 50th part of something.

The Jews had been observing Pentecost for generations. In the Old Testament, it was the Feast of Harvest, which commemorates the first fruits of the wheat harvest.

However, the day was not only the Feast of Harvest but also the birthday of the Torah. On that day, 50 days after the Passover, which was also the Exodus from Egypt, God gave Moses the Law at Mt. Sinai. On that day, the true covenantal relationship between God and the Israelites had been established, and the Israelites officially became the people of God.

Jesus died on a Friday during Passover on the Day of Preparation for the Sabbath.  After He resurrected on Easter, He appeared to His disciples over a period of forty days. And then He ascended to heaven.

Before Jesus was taken up, He commanded His disciples, “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift I told you about, the gift my Father promised. John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  “When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The Bible says that they stayed in Jerusalem and joined together constantly in prayer as Jesus had instructed them. Ten days after His ascension, on the day of Pentecost, the believers were all in one place as usual. Then, suddenly, there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole place. It was not a real wind, but a sound like the blowing of a violent wind filled the entire house.

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated, and it sat upon each of them. Again, it was not a real fire but something like tongues of fire came to rest on each of them.

And then, being filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to talk in other languages. It’s like you suddenly start speaking Korean, Chinese, Italian, Turkish, Bengali, or Egyptian Arabic - the language you’ve never learned before. They were literally immersed in the Holy Spirit.

As the disciples began speaking in different languages, Jews from various nations who had gathered in Jerusalem for the festival heard them speaking in their own languages. Imagine the awe and wonder that filled the air as people recognized this supernatural phenomenon.

Some were amazed, while others doubted and mocked the disciples as being drunk. How would you have responded if you were there - amazed or made fun of them?

As the crowd was still in confusion, Peter stood up with the Eleven. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he addressed the crowd and explained that what they were witnessing was the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy.

God said: “I will pour out my Spirit on everyone. Your sons and daughters will prophesy; your young men will see visions, and your old men will have dreams.” The signs in the heavens and on earth, as described by Joel, were being fulfilled, underscoring the urgency and significance of embracing the message of Christ.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was not limited to a select few. It was for all people, regardless of age, gender, or nationality. This sign was a powerful testament to God's redemptive plan for the world, breaking down barriers and uniting humanity under the cross of Christ.

Peter also fluently explained who Jesus was; His ministry on earth, how the Jews put Him to death on the cross, and how God raised Him from the dead. It was a time of salvation, forgiveness, and restoration for all who would call upon the name of the Lord.

The effect of the sermon was powerful. The listeners were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) and those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. The narrative concludes with three thousand souls being added to the fellowship.

This is the birth of the church and the beginning of a whole new age. A new thing was begun on that day of Pentecost that had never been known before.

Some say that these kinds of phenomena never happened after the day and would never happen again. Some argue that the gift of “tongues” and miracles ceased with the completion of the New Testament canon.

But you may be surprised to know that a lot of fascinating miracles, signs, and wonders still happen nowadays in various mission fields. Just like what happened in the small village in the Nunavut territory. However, what is more crucial here is not really what kinds of phenomena happened, but why the Holy Spirit came down and filled them.

Again, why did God send the Holy Spirit and have us see visions, prophesy, and dream dreams?  So that we can be powerful witnesses for our Savior, Jesus Christ in this world. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not for us to enjoy some extraordinary phenomena. The gifts are to be used to build other brothers and sisters up and to share the message of the Good News of Salvation to those who don’t know Jesus.

On this very day, God chose to pour out His Spirit, not only to fulfill His promise but also to initiate a new era—the era of the Church. The Holy Spirit came with power, transforming the fearful and uncertain disciples into courageous witnesses, equipping them to proclaim the message of salvation to all nations.

Pentecost Sunday is a day of celebration and reflection, reminding us of the profound impact of the Holy Spirit's outpouring on the early Church. Through this event, God empowered His followers to carry the message of salvation to the world. The same Holy Spirit who indwelt the disciples is available to us today, equipping and empowering us to be effective witnesses for Christ.

Compared to the experience of the disciples on the day of Pentecost, how would you describe your initial experience with the Holy Spirit? Quite different but just as real? Something you can’t explain? OR rather tame? Actually, it doesn’t matter how you first encountered the Holy Spirit as long as you believe that the Holy Spirit has dwelt in you since the moment you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Then, how would you describe your experience or relationship with the Holy Spirit now? When have you experienced an empowerment from the Holy Spirit to witness about Christ? Remember, the Holy Spirit is very creative and works in numerous ways - sometimes like thunder or fire, sometimes like a gentle breeze or warm light, and sometimes like a still small inner voice.

I am sure all of you have experienced the prompting of the Holy Spirit. What I want to encourage you today is that let us try to be sensitive to the work and movement of the Holy Spirit, remembering why God sent us the Holy Spirit.

Brothers and sisters, God wants us to proclaim the message of the Good News, to see visions, to have dreams, and to prophesy. God wants us to be empowered by the Holy Spirit and share the light. The call is not for only selected people but for everyone who believes in the powerful Name of the Lord. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to fill us and empower our church. Let Him release the power in your life today.

Almighty God, Thank You for pouring out Your Spirit upon each of us. Empower us so that we can open our mouths and proclaim the name of Jesus, our Lord, and Savior without worrying about what other people might think of us. Raise us, Your church, up to share the Light of Love and Hope with our community. In the name of Jesus, we pray.