Thought for the Week 11 - Sunday 31st May 2020 by Rev Peter Baxandall

(11)      31st      May            Acts 2:1-13                   Pentecost

Welcome to ‘Thought for the week’ for this week. 

Today is Pentecost Sunday and so we are going to look at the events of what I call the first ‘Christian’ Pentecost, and for our Bible passage today we turn to Acts 2:1-13.

We will come to our Bible passage in a short while, but first a prayer and then we sing together the song ‘This is the day’.

As so, let’s pray together:

God our Father, we thank you that on that first ‘Christian’ Pentecost you taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them your Holy Spirit.

Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort.

Empower us with your Holy Spirit that we may each one be equipped to serve you in our daily lives.

We ask these things through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Now let’s turn to our song as we remind ourselves of both the day of resurrection and the day of Spirit outpouring

This is the day,

this is the day that the Lord has made,

that the Lord has made.

We will rejoice,

we will rejoice, and be glad in it,

and be glad in it.

This is the day that the Lord has made,

we will rejoice, and be glad in it.

This is the day,

this is the day that the Lord has made,

 

This is the day,

this is the day when He rose again,

when He rose again.

We will rejoice,

we will rejoice and be glad in it,

and be glad in it.

This is the day when He rose again,

we will rejoice, and be glad in it.

This is the day,

this is the day when He rose again.

 

This is the day,

this is the day when the Spirit came,

when the Spirit came.

We will rejoice,

we will rejoice and be glad in it,

and be glad in it.

This is the day when the Spirit came,

we will rejoice, and be glad in it.

This is the day,

this is the day when the Spirit came.

We now turn to our Bible Passage from Acts 2:1-13 which we will now look at together.

We will need to keep in our minds throughout this ‘Thought for the week’ that there are two separate ‘strands’ running through all that we consider together – the traditional Jewish strand and the unfolding Christian strand.

In the Jewish strand, Pentecost means 50th because this Jewish feast was held fifty days after the Feast of First-fruits (Lev. 23:15–22), which falls on the Sunday following the Passover Sabbath, (which in Christian terms was Easter Day.)

At the time of Jesus Pentecost was one of 3 annual feasts for which, as far as possible, the Jewish nation was to come to Jerusalem. 

The Christian strand comes about because this Pentecost 50th day was the day on which God chose to fulfil His promise found in Joel 2:28-29 to pour out the Holy Spirit in a new and different way.

As we recall, “Pentecost” means “fiftieth” and refers to the Feast of Weeks (Ex. 34:22, 23) or Harvest (Lev. 23:16).

The ‘Feast of weeks’ was a festival that lasted for 7 weeks each of 7 days – equalling 49 days.

But that meant that the 49th day would then fall on a ‘Sabbath’ and so because of ‘Sabbath day regulations’ an extra day was added – a 50th day.

That meant that the 50th day would fall on a Sunday and as a result it became known as ‘Pentecost’.

As we consider these events there is a very clear parallel between the calendar of Jewish feasts in Leviticus 23 and an outline of the work of Jesus Christ. 

Passover pictures His death as the Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7), and the Feast of First-fruits pictures His resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20–23). 

Fifty days after First-fruits is the Feast of Pentecost, which pictures the formation of the church. 

At Pentecost, the Jews celebrated the giving of the Law, but Christians celebrate Pentecost because of the giving of the Holy Spirit to the church.

The Feast of First-fruits took place on the day after the Sabbath following Passover, which means it was always on the first day of the week. 

Jesus arose from the dead on the first day of the week and “became the first-fruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). 

From the Christian point of view, worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, had great value because on that day our Lord arose from the dead, and also it was the day on which the Holy Spirit was given to the church.

Pentecost is sometimes described as the ‘birth of the church’ because on that day the Holy Spirit filled the believers and united them into one body. 

Like our Lord’s death at Calvary and His resurrection on Easter Day, Pentecost was a once-for-all event that does not need to be repeated. 

However, we should not forget that in Ephesians 5:18 the church is called to ‘be filled with the Spirit’, and we are to seek continually to be empowered by the Spirit in our daily lives.

As we study the events of Pentecost, it is important that we consider what took place. 

The Spirit came upon the believers in their gathering, and such was the effect of what took place the crowd heard the sound of rushing wind and saw tongues of fire. 

In Acts 2:6 we read that the crowd ‘came together in bewilderment’ and such was the ‘commotion’ of all this that the crowds wanted to see what was happening.

There was not only a sense of bewilderment but also a great sense of expectation at what was taking place.

The Spirit filled all the believers, and then they spoke as they praised God in various languages. 

As with the numbers at the Passover meal, so too the number of believers who were gathered at this time may well be many more that we usually think.

Some of those who were present at the Passover Meal may well have had to return home – but at the same time there would have been may others who had arrived for the Jewish Pentecost festival present at this gathering.

Remember that Pentecost was one of the Festivals that Jewish people were encouraged to come to Jerusalem to celebrate so the city would be full of people at this time. 

In Acts 1:15 we read that there were ‘about 120 people present’ in a gathering just before Pentecost – and once the day of Pentecost arrived it could have been that number or even more.

It was into this time and these circumstances that God the Father chose to fulfil His promise and pour out the Holy Spirit upon His church.

This ‘outpouring of the Holy Spirit’ was upon all those who were present – this was a gift for the whole church and not just the leaders.

The Holy Spirit had been active prior to Pentecost and had worked in Creation (Gen. 1:1–2), in Old Testament history (Judg. 6:34; 1 Sam. 16:13), and in the life and ministry of Jesus (Luke 1:30–37; 4:1, 14; Acts 10:38). 

However, now there would be two changes: firstly, the Spirit came upon all God’s people and not just on certain people for particular occasions, and secondly, the Spirit would dwell within God’s people and His presence would be permanent, not temporary (John 14:16–17). 

Such was the effect of this outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church even the crowd were caught up in it, and  as we  read In Acts 2:12: ‘Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, what does this mean?’

Peter was empowered by the Holy Spirit and he set about letting the crowd know exactly what was taking place.

He was empowered to preach to the crowd, and then the Holy Spirit convicted the listeners so that 3,000 of them trusted Christ and were saved. 

There is no question that this ‘Christian’ Pentecost was an incredible act of God as He equipped His church for the task of continuing the work that Jesus began.

They were to take up the ‘mantle’ of reaching out into the world to help people come to know Christ as Saviour for themselves – but they were not left to do so in their own power.

That was true then, and it is still the same today.

Ours is the responsibility to reach out into the world in our own day with the Gospel and to do so in the Spirit’s power.

It is not just the task of the ministers to reach out – it is the responsibility of you and me, the church, to look into what that means in this community.

Our worship, our work and our witness should all be directed to reach people with the good news that sin can be forgiven in Jesus and eternal life can be enjoyed by all.

People need to be shown the ‘real’ Jesus – in our lives, in our worship and in every other way.

The implication of that first ‘Christian’ Pentecost has given us something to be excited about and we should be thrilled to realise that God wants to empower us in our lives and service for Him.

Ours is not just to ‘maintain the status quo’ but to look for opportunities for change and development in our worship style and to focus on a needy world with His love and care flowing through us.

As we draw this ‘Thought for the week’ to an end we turn to a time of prayer.

Let us pray

As we bring our Parish to you, Lord Jesus, we pray for the whole process of Interregnum. 

We ask that our next Incumbent might be Spirit filled and empowered to serve You in this place. 

We pray that even now You will prompt the heart of the person of Your choice. 

Help us to be open to work with the inevitable changes that this time brings and make us willing to move in whatever new direction You desire for us. Hear us, Lord Jesus, as we lift our Parish before You, Amen

Mighty God, as we are gathered together, not physically but spiritually, joined in hope and in faith, we ask you to minister to our needs. 

Send the Holy Spirit to fill the hearts of your faithful people and kindle in them the fire of your love.

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Holy God, we pray for our church leaders, that they will be guided in their ministry by the influence of the Holy Spirit and that the Church, in the power of the Spirit, may make the Gospel understandable to people of every race, language, and culture. 

We pray that the Holy Spirit of Peace may unite and reconcile the peoples and nations of the earth, bringing an end to war, hatred, discrimination and the present Covid-19 Pandemic.

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Father God we pray for your world and its peoples with all their needs, questions and longings.  

So often we struggle to understand the reasons behind things like the Corona Virus; and yet we know that in the midst of such events your love is shown in so many ways.

We continue to pray for those who show acts of bravery, selflessness and compassion especially by our health services and those in the wider communty who continue to serve our needs.

We pray for all who suffer in such dreadful circumstances and for those who are tasked with providing the medical and community support and, eventually, in the long task of reconstruction.

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Loving God, we pray for our government at this difficult time and pray for your wisdom to prevail over all decisions made.

Help us all to learn to take great care in how we live and to show real respect for those around us,

We pray for in our emergency services as they seek to deal with the situations they face day after day.

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Merciful God, we pray for the loved ones of all those who have recently died: help them to know your arms of love surrounding them through this time of difficulty and distress

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Everlasting God, on this Day of Pentecost, we rejoice in the wonderful gift of your Spirit. 

Send him afresh into our hearts, into our lives, and into our world.

Merciful father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Amen

And so we sing together our closing Hymn and pray that we will allow it to speak to us as we sing it together.

Go forth and tell! O church of God, awake!

God’s saving news to all the nations take:

proclaim Christ Jesus, Saviour, Lord and King,

that all the world His worthy praise may sing.

 

Go forth and tell! God’s love embraces all;

He will in grace respond to all who call:

how shall they call if they have never heard

the gracious invitation of His word?

 

Go forth and tell! men still in darkness lie;

in wealth or want, in sin they live and die:

give us, O Lord, concern of heart and mind,

a love like Yours which cares for all mankind.

 

Go forth and tell! O church of God arise!

Go in the strength which Christ your Lord supplies;

go till all nations His great name adore

and serve Him, Lord and King for evermore.

 


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