Sermon Options: May 28, 2023

April 17th, 2020


ACTS 2:1-21

Before our Lord's ascension, he promised explosive and expansive power (dunamis) for the church's life and ministry through his Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) . That power was delivered on Pentecost. The church was empowered for people with a purpose.

I. God Gives Power for People (vv. 1-13)
The Holy Spirit's power swept up people into the unity desired by the psalmist ( Ps. 133) and expected by our Lord among people who claim him as saving Lord (John 17). Only God's Holy Spirit has the power to move people from what separates them (e.g., language, socioeconomics, race, parochialism) to who can bring them together (Jesus!).

I experienced the unifying power of Christianity while serving as an interim pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Toledo, Ohio. At the beginning of my first sermon, I said, "God doesn't like black churches. God doesn't like white churches. God doesn't like red or brown or yellow or any kind of church that prevents people from coming together through him. He didn't live and die and resurrect himself to keep us apart from each other. His purpose was to enable us to experience existential and eternal unity through him."

It wasn't long before that formerly African American congregation became rainbow-colored. When asked how black and white and rich and poor could come together in life and ministry, I'd reply, "It's easy for people to come together through Jesus. People who are attracted to Jesus alone and not some kind of cultural or parochial prejudice will be attracted to each other. Color doesn't matter when we see each other through the eyes of Jesus." The Holy Spirit's power draws people together in the name of Jesus. It happened on Pentecost. It happened in Toledo. It can happen anywhere.

II. God Wants People with a Purpose (vv. 14-21)
During a race in the Special Olympics, all of the contestants stopped just before the finish line and waited for the fellow who would have finished last. When he caught up, they all crossed the finish line together. Nobody wanted to win at the expense of others. The church was empowered on Pentecost for people with a purpose. That purpose remains to invite everybody to experience the good news through faith in Jesus. Our Lord doesn't want anybody left behind. That's why he came in Jesus and continues to come through his Holy Spirit. He wants us to cross the finish line together.

That purpose prompted Peter to preach, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (v. 21). Everyone is invited and included through faith. It doesn't matter who, what, where, or when. That's the church's good news. That's the purpose of the church. That's why our Lord gave power to his people. (Robert R. Kopp)


JOHN 20:19-23

Molly was upset with her teenage son, Jack. He'd done something that hurt her deeply—in fact, cut her to the core, stabbed her like a dagger in the heart. She wept and then she waited. Only God knew where he was then. She was not God. She could not appear before Jack to tell him of the peace that was coming back to her after their quarrel. As she prayed, her strength returned and grew, and she had a vision. She saw Jack's room filled with balloons that she would and did blow up. Balloons from floor to ceiling, spilling out around the sign across his door that said, "Welcome Home!"

She prepared that place out of the inspiration and the abundance of new life and hope the Spirit had poured into her. And when it was ready, Jack came. And from that place they began again. But so much stronger and wiser, so much forgiven and with the great generosity of spirit that comes from receiving such gifts.

Every mother knows you always get your "second wind." Mothers have to know that, or they would have stopped dead in their tracks centuries ago! John the Baptist saw it coming to the disciples in a very special way. John had said, "I baptize you with water for repentance, but...[Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matt. 3:11). So here is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, who will come soon—in the Acts story—by fire.

I. Sometimes Life Takes Your Breath Away
The disciples had found out what the world does to God. If God came and lived here, what would happen to God? That, for them, was no longer a hypothetical question. They saw. It was hideous. It took away all their courage, hope, and peace. Their heartrending experience of Jesus' humiliation and death had left them lifelessly limp in body, mind, and spirit. Their self-knowledge of their denial and abandonment of Jesus was enough to leave them drowning in awful awareness of their sin forever. How could they recover from all that? The only thing to do after all that is to lock yourself in and throw away the key. Both the world out there and the one in you are far too dangerous to risk being at large again.

II. God Wants to Give Us a Second Wind
There he is! Suddenly, unaccountably, through those locked doors, he "came and stood among them" (v. 19). And he said, "Peace be with you." He said it twice. He showed them the still clearly visible signs of the terrible injury the world and they had done to him. But he came back to them, filled with peace and palpable new life.

He told them they were to go back out again, too. He'd been sent out in the first place by God, knowing what he was in for from the start. They should not be caught mummified in the webs of humiliation and despair. There were peace and empowerment that did not depend at all on what the world did. They could have both from him, just as he had both from God.

The God who originally "breathed into [that dust] the breath of life" (Gen. 2:7) could do it again, and did, and does. But that was their second wind. The new birth carried with it not just physical breathing, but the Holy Spirit, who sanctified the life by reviving it consciously and so lifting it to a higher level of awareness of the gift.

III. God's Second Wind Brings New Power for Living
To be forgiven in that way, by the God you have denied outside and inside yourself, who nevertheless came back to revive you again! Ah, that is the second wind that will blow up balloons forever. After the pain of all our usually inadvertent (not knowing what we're doing) attacks on God's goodness subsides a bit, God is back. Standing in our midst, despite all obstacles, this God assures us that there will eventually be enough balloons to lift us all and that the blowing of second winds will definitely continue until there are. (Kathleen Peterson)

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