Scripture: Acts 2:1-21
Our community is filled with diverse and unique people. Our stores are filled with people from pretty much every corner of the earth. I have worked and still work with individuals from Mexico, Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Jordan, England, India, and even Texas. People from nearly every continent. I have helped customers who have made their bodies into a canvas of works of art that rival many great artists. People who mimic the actions and looks of cats, people who can cause others to lose themselves in music, or can take someone to the other side of the universe through the use of language and grammar.
Many of us look at this colorful picture of humanity and get nervous. We do not understand what they are saying, we do not understand why they would purposely have a needle rapidly fire ink into their skin, and maybe we do not quite get why someone would want to walk through life with whiskers attached to their faces. We label them as unworthy of our friendship, cast them out into the fringes of society, and then sit and wonder why they do not wish to attend a meeting for worship.
For centuries humans have been pushing each other away, and gathering those with similar attributes together into clans, tribes, and nations. The ancient Hebrew writers described this when they tell the story of Babel, where the languages were confused and people were scattered throughout the world from the cradle of civilization between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Since that moment people have tried to achieve wealth, power, and influence over other. They have struggled to invent or find something that would give them an edge over their enemies.
One nation out of countless was chosen, was given favor over the others. The nations looked down on them out of jealousy and greed. What gave them the right to say that they were chosen, favored over the rest? Nothing except they came from one man who chose to trust God, to follow His leading instead of listening to the voices of the cultures. The favor of the nation of Israel only drove the division between the nations deeper. Persia thought they were pretty awesome they claimed their ruler as the king of kings and lord of lords. Romans thought their leader emerged from the loins of the gods, yet this one little nation claimed that they were the chosen nation the light to the nations. There was one thing though this tiny nation was on the kingdom highway, they held the territory that connected every empire of the world. Every eye was on Israel because if Israel was strong the other nations were weak. When Israel was weak then one of the other empires was at the top of their game. Yet this nation never fully fell from the pages of history, their continued existence is one the greatest examples of the reality of God.
The truth of the matter is that there is no one race or nation greater than another. No nation exists just because they hold a golden ticket that gives them a free ride on the trains of time. Israel was chosen for one reason to be the instrument through which the redemption of the universe would be revealed. They were chosen to show that a relationship between the creator of the universe and humanity could be a reality.
The day of Pentecost is a day that remembers, it remembers that God cared enough about humanity that He spoke words. First He spoke them to a nation, they recorded them, lived by them, worshiped them. These words were practical words of hope, words given to extend life and maintain order, they were words that told the world that there is more. That life is greater than nations, politics, and races. Life is about love and the restoration of Eden.
Every known people group was represented that day 2000 years ago. Just look at the list, there are people from the east and west. They were there in the City of God because they wanted to remember that God revealed Himself to humanity, and because of that they had hope. At one point in history the nations were scattered, today they were reunited. They heard the good news, not in a foreign language but in the one the had heard spoken since they were in the womb.
It caused a sensation. Everyone present stood there listening. They could not explains what was happening. It was a total up turning of the ancient traditions. Not only were they speaking to every known people group, Jewish and gentile, but they did so in common terms. The acceptable practice was to only speak of God in Hebrew. The prayers and liturgy were in Hebrew. Scripture was both written and read in Hebrew. It was a way to restrict access to God only to and through this one chosen group. This was not God’s entire plan.
God called the nation of Israel out to be the light to all nations. Yet this was interpreted as meaning the honored by all nation. They were set apart from the others to live a lifestyle quite different. One that respected other equally, giving the same civil rights to natives as well as the alien. One that required justice, mercy,and honor for the slave as well as the free. A nation where the poor were to be taken care of justly, women protected from objectivity, and children were to be educated and encouraged to a better life. Israel was to be a beacon of hope in all nations, an example of justice in an unjust world. Through the entitled interpretations access to God became restricted to those who were born into one culture, or to those who could afford the time and money to learn under a rabbi. On this day the tables of religion were over turned. It was beyond the riot caused by Jesus over turning the tables of the money changers in the courts of the temple. Today the very Word of God was freely given to all, not in a temple but on the streets, not just to one or two other groups allied with Israel but to every nation known to the Empire.
It is no wonder those most affected by this tried to discredit the disciples of Jesus by calling them drunkard, they had just lost their grip on the world seeking a relationship with the one true God. Throughout history this same thing has happened countless times among various groups, the Society of Friends is just one of those groups that wished to take the gospel of Christ out of the traditional box and take it to the streets.
Just imagine for a bit as we sit here in our padded pews thinking highly of ourselves for being so righteous. Imagine if we were to go out speaking the language of the people of our community? Imagine if we were to walk out of here able to speak to the tattooed masses, the high school kittens, or the immigrant hoping to find a life here that could not be an option in their war-torn homeland? Imagine if all of those people were suddenly moved to worship God in their own way? It might scare us at first because what if the religious community we want to respect us see that we are accepting those people?
I say who cares! Those people are God’s people. I can tell you right now that if you were to be uncomfortable for a short time hanging out with those people, you would have more fun and more of a chance to share your faith and change lives, than if you spend three years in this meetinghouse. A few years ago Kristy and I took a trip by train to Pittsburgh, PA with college art students. I enjoyed every minute of that trip, I spoke about my love for God every day, and was accepted by them. I was not accepted because I veiled the truth of the gospel, but because I accepted them as who they were and encouraged them to consider something else. Did I see any lasting life changes? Not at the time, but it was only a few days.
We live in a time of great opportunities. We live in a land rich with culture and ideas, there are countless ways we can share the gospel of Christ to our community if we are willing to speak the language and go out into the streets. I challenge each of you to consider one thing outside of religion that you get excited about, think about your interest in that and your faith in God. Now consider if there is a group of people there that you interact with? How often has God met you in the excitement for video games, hockey, or academics? Has that excitement spilled into the relationships you have with those around you?
This passage ends by saying…”In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This means that things are about to change, everything that we used to hold fast to will be overturned and a new order will emerge. This does not necessarily mean the end of all time, but instead an end of a time. Our world has had this happen several times over, and we are about to see it again. We live at the end of one era and the start of something new. We are walking into an era where relationships mean more than knowledge, an era where there is such a strong hunger for acceptance people are looking for it where ever they can. Let us be the ones to accept the world in the love of God. Let us embrace them as we embrace to Spirit’s leading. Let us live the love of Christ with them. Not so our meeting will grow, instead because they are people for whom Jesus died. They are people lost in darkness longing for Light.
Let us be the first to lay down the judgment and lift up people in love, just as Christ has loved us. Let us now join together in prayer and meditation as we commune with God in the silence. Let us listen to His urgings and act on His leading. If you feel a need to speak please do. If not let us sit in God’s loving embrace.