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.

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 their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our 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?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

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 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.’

Acts 2:1-21

Thousands of people gathered in Harry Myers park yesterday to celebrate Rockwall Founders Day. Admission to the event was free for families and included a kid zone and concerts all day long. There were food trucks and other vendors as well. The Rockwall Founders Day event is a celebration of the founding of the city of Rockwall and is one of the biggest events of the year. Another festival that always occurs around this time of year is the Festival of Weeks, as it was known in the Old Testament, or Pentecost, as we know it today. In our second lesson from Acts 2, thousands of Jews were gathering together in Jerusalem to celebrate the Festival of Weeks, which always occurred fifty days after the Passover Festival. The events of the Rockwall Founders Day and Pentecost are easy to get ready for because they always come at the same time of year, but there are other things in our lives that are not so easy to be ready for. Today we will be reminded of what we need to be ready for spiritually as we look at the signs and listen to the Spirit.

The events of the first Pentecost were nothing short of miraculous. Jesus had risen from the dead fifty days earlier on the first Easter. Then, he appeared to his followers as various times over forty days proving his resurrection from the dead and giving guidance for the future of the Church. Now that the Savior had finished his work, he wasn’t sticking around. Last week our readings focused on Jesus’ ascension into heaven, which is traditionally celebrated on the Thursday before last Sunday. Today then marks ten days after Jesus’ ascension and the day the Holy Spirit came with power on the disciples. It happened like this,

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.

The violent sound came from nowhere, unlike the high winds and tornadoes that swept across the Northeast this week, which came from a storm system. Also, the tongues of fire that rested on the disciples did not come from a lighter, like the little flames burning on the candles on the altar. These were miraculous signs done in the presence of thousands of people already gathered in Jerusalem for the Festival of Weeks. These signs gave credibility to the disciples as the authority when it came to sharing the gospel and all Jesus had done as the Savior. Yet, this was not the greatest miracle of Pentecost.

With Thousands of people gathered together in Jerusalem, Jesus made good on his promise to send the Holy Spirit after he returned to heaven. In John 14, Jesus said,

26 “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Jesus had to return to heaven because that is where he will rule for eternity and where he is preparing a place for all believers. Yet, he was not leaving the Church to fend for itself because he sent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s work was the greatest miracle of Pentecost, which was allowing the disciples to share Jesus with people from all over the Mediterranean and bring them to faith. In verses five and six we hear that,

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 their own language being spoken.

After the wind and tongues of fire came, the disciples began to preach to the crowds and everyone could understand them in their own language. This was the great miracle of Pentecost, but there were still some there who didn’t recognize what was going on and,

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

It’s hard to imagine that some of the people who saw the events of the first Pentecost could not see that God was at work. A few verses after our reading from Acts 2, we hear that three thousand believers were added to the church on Pentecost, but many more did not believe. This pattern of unbelief began long before Pentecost. In our first lesson from Ezekiel 37, we hear about a vision God gave the prophet Ezekiel regarding the spiritual blindness that faced the people of Israel. God gave Ezekiel a vision of a valley filled with bones and as he walked among the bones, God told him to prophesy to them. As he shared God’s words with the bones, they began to move, flesh and skin appeared on them, but they still had no breath in them. Finally, God told Ezekiel to prophesy to them again. This time breath entered the bodies and they came back to life. God told Ezekiel that these were the people of Israel and God said,

14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.

Israel had lost hope in God. They were spiritually dead and had lost faith. They were blind to all the signs God had given his people from the 10 plagues in Egypt, to providing them with the land of Israel. They were blind to the signs, so he sent the prophet Ezekiel like so many other prophets to tell Israel that he would give them life through the Spirit.

The vision God gave Ezekiel and the miracles on Pentecost were clear signs that God was at work, but does God still give us signs like these today? Yes and no. God does still give signs of his presence and power today through his people like he did through Ezekiel and his disciples, but they don’t have the same style as a violent wind, tongues of fire or valley of bones. The signs of today are Christian love alive and at work through you.

One example of Christian love at work is generosity. Help and kindness given out to others with no expectation of return or payment is Christian love at work. We are able to be generous Christians by taking care of what God has given to us and in the United States that often takes the form of dollars and cents. A Christian who makes wise use of money, reveals a heart filled with the Spirit.

On the other hand, a heart dominated by a mind set of “but I want it,” and so I’ll just buy it…or more accurately I’ll charge it to my credit card and hope to pay it off later…is not a heart filled with the Spirit. Our society is lost in the habit of instant gratification, drowning in debt and confusing selfish wants with selfless help to others in need, but you are no longer help captive by this world. You are alive by the Spirit.

After the miraculous signs given by God on the first Pentecost, Peter told the people what the real purpose was for the sending of the Holy Spirit. Peter said,

“Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you…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:”

Peter called the people to wake up, see the signs and listen to him. The Spirit was at work and now the disciples were going to share a critical message with all the people there and for all time. Peter quoted from the prophet Joel and told them that they were now “in the last days.”

Peter’s quote from the book of Joel focuses on the “last days” or “End Times.” These are the times between Jesus’ first coming stretching from his conception to his ascension and his second coming at the end of the world on Judgment Day. The words Peter quotes sound very much like something you would find in the book of Revelation, which is fitting because Revelation is also all about the End Times. The trouble we have with books like these is that we become too focused on the details and miss the big picture. The point of Revelation is to say that Jesus wins and the devil loses. And Peter’s quote from Joel has a similar message, summed up by the final words of the quote,

21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Everyone who believes in Jesus will go to heaven, but if you don’t believe, you will die and go to hell.

The miracles of the first Pentecost fulfilled Joel’s prophecies. God said,

“I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”

The Holy Spirit came and filled the people who heard Peter with faith. Also, God said,

“Your sons and daughters will prophesy,”

Peter and the disciples shared the Word of God with the people and God allowed it to be heard in everyone’s native language. At the end of the day, the work of the Spirit is to bring people to faith and keep them in the faith. And this is done through the Word of God, which is the revelation of what God wants us to know. The signs of God’s work then are best summed up with these words of Jesus,

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

The peace alive in a believer’s heart will show itself in words and actions. They are the signs others cans see that God is at work.

There isn’t a great mystery surrounding the work of the Holy Spirit nor is his work only to create high winds or tongues of fire. Peter summed up the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s work by quoting God himself,

21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

And all people have been saved through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Thousands of people gathered in Harry Myers park yesterday to celebrate Rockwall Founders Day. The event was free and celebrated the founding of Rockwall. Thanks to the Holy Spirit’s work, on the Last Day at the end of the world, you and I will be gathered together in heaven to celebrate the nation of all believers. It’s a free event, all sins are paid for and the doors of heaven are open to everyone. I pray that you do not spend your life chasing after signs of the Spirit like violent winds or tongues of fire, but that you are a light for those around you to point them to their Savior. Remain connected to Word of God and listen to the Spirit who said, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Amen.