A Pentecost Sermon: Uniting Some Biblical Strands

 

“When the Day of Pentecost arrived…”

Pentecost….from the Gk meaning 50th.  50th what?

50th day after Passover.

In the OT it is called The Feast of Weeks (Shavuot).

A national holiday of rest, offering and celebration of the harvest (Lev. 23).

 

Now that’s interesting.

On the day of rest and offering and celebration:

On the one hand liberation and exodus from tyranny in Egypt.

On the other, the first fruits of the harvest in field and herd in the land.

 

The disciples were all together, 50 days after Jesus’ death and resurrection;

Just a few days after Jesus had ascended to the Father (Acts 1).

With final instructions to bear witness to Jesus, here, there and everywhere (Acts 1:8).

OK, Ok, but first they needed to replace Judas; and Mathias became an apostle.

What did Jesus mean when he said we would be clothed with power? 

Anyway, until then….

We’ll get through Pentecost and after that we’ll work out our strategy.

We’ll make a decisive plan of action, a road-map, a blueprint, a scheme.

Now these guys had leaned to be surprised by God; Surprised by Jesus.

And then the rushing wind and fire came and the Church was born.

Happy Birthday church.  What’s going on?

 

For sure, Peter’s sermon in 2:17ff quotes the prophet Joel’s famous words:

“In the last days God declares, I will pour out….

Blood, fire, smoke, darkness – apocalyptic language to mean one thing!

That God has come, and he is coming back!

The Day of the Lord has happened and it will happen (2:20).

And in the meantime, anyone who calls on the name of the Lord, will be saved (2:21).

This will be for the old guys, the youngsters, the men, women, boys and girls.

There will be prophesy, visions and dreams – all because of the Holy Spirit being here!

 

Why does it happen like this?

Before Genesis 3 and the Fall, the world was in perfection of holiness with God.

Before the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, there was an Original Goodness of a good God.

The earth and the universe were God’s Holy of Holies:  God dwelt there!

After Gen. 3 there’s a retraction; a withdrawing; a diminishing of God in the world.

Scripture shows us, on page after page how God begins to right this wrong.

Through Abraham and the Patriarchs, the formation of a people, Israel.

With Kings and prophets and Temple and Priesthood.

Uniquely made to be with God, and God to be with them.

 

 

  •  The Burning Bush

 

Remember Moses in Exodus 3.  

Just before the plagues and Passover; redemption and rescue.

This ‘God-in-the-Fire’ tells Moses to do something:

“Take the shoes off your feet, and come closer: the ground you are on is holy.

As he does so, he neither gets hot nor burnt by the flame – neither does the bush!!

 

This episode is saying many, many things.  But here’s one of them:

Why did Moses have to take off his shoes?

His leathery shoes made from the skin of a dead animal.

Because God wants us.

He wants our feet, our flesh to touch the holy ground He has made.

No middle man (so to speak); nothing in between; no skin off a dead animal.  Humanity.

God doesn’t wait for us to be holy.  We can’t and God knows we can’t.

He makes us holy by drawing us to Himself.

This Moses story is a sign of things to come.

 

 

  •  Tabernacle and Temple

 

In creating a people called ‘Israel’ God establishes certain specifics.

What not to do, and what to do.

To establish right praise and relationship with a Holy God.

The Tabernacle and Temple had a specific design: public and private places.

From the outer to the inner: Increasing in holiness as the circles drew in.

From the outer court to the inner court, to the Holy Place to the Holy of Holies.

 

This episode is saying many, many things.  But here’s one of them:

God is slowly but surely re-establishing his reign and rule of holiness on earth.

Where once it was everything and everywhere; 

Now it is somethings and somewhere.  It is very specific.

 

 

  • Kings and Prophets

 

The Kings and Queens of Israel and Judah come and go.

Most of them are hideous parodies of Monarchy; 

A small few are OK.  Nevertheless, God had to send prophets to call people back.

Back to relationship; holiness; love; covenant fidelity.

 

This episode is saying many, many things.  But here’s one of them:

The prophets spoke of many things, among them this repeated line:

“I will be their God and they shall be my people!”

God seems pretty determined to be with us.

It can’t be because we’re adorable, or good or because he needs us!

I wonder what it could be?

 

During Habakkuk’s existential crisis!

“God where are you?” 

“God what are you doing?”

“God why are we surrounded by beastly Babylonians?”

“God why are we surrounded by beastly Coronavirus?”

 

In his 2nd chapter, when God told him to be faithful and wait for the vision.

Even if it seems slow (which it always does); Holy waiting; patient waiting; Trust.

The vision comes for Habakkuk and what is it?

A series of wrongs in the world that God will put right.

One Woe oracle on top of another.  Why?

Because Habakkuk’s Holy God sees.  He sees and judges.  He sees and makes holy.

Then this, in the midst of the Woes:

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

This is the goal of all creation.  The earth will be filled with this poured out and holy God.

 

 

  •  Crucifixion

 

This episode is saying many, many things.  But here’s one of them:

Now think about the Cross of Jesus.

The Second Exodus.  The ultimate Redemption.  The Day of atonement.

When Jesus dies, what happens in the Temple?

The curtain separating the Holy place from the Holy of Holies rips from top to bottom? Why?

Does the manufacturer need a slap for shoddy work?

Was the stitching made with inferior materials?

Was it just wear and tear?

 

No.  But it was tear.  Tearing from top to bottom.

Watch out world.  The God we just killed on the Cross is breaking out from the Holy of Holies.

This is the first sign that Habakkuk’s prophecy and Joel’s prophesy and all the others;

Is coming true.

 

As Philippians says Jesus emptied Himself, He poured himself out for us.

Paul says the same thing in 2 Tim. 4:6

“I am already being poured out…”

Now remember the story of Luke 15 and the Prodigal Son.

When the son returns, what happens?

The Father rushes out – in relief and joy and tears and pure love.

Sure the silly boy needs to be set right in the family, but let’s party first eh?

The son had entered the holy ground of the father, as a beggar but made a Prince.

Why?  Because that’s what the Father is like!

 

Let’s stitch this all together:

We have a holy creation made unholy by rejecting God’s Kingship.

But God is nothing if not determined to get us back.

He sets a bush on fire without consuming it and Moses’ feet stand on Holy ground.

God establishes the ways and means through priest, prophet and king to relate with him.

Covenant is central to all this.

And the people who know this and see it the most are of course the prophets.

Then the Messiah is born.  He teaches.

But because his teaching wasn’t for the faint-hearted;  It wasn’t quaint stories about nature!!

What I heard someone call “Coffee & Cocoa Christianity” or “Soft Devotional Christianity”

The powers and authorities are never threatened by this!!

Jesus was crucified. Dead. Buried – not for saying reasonable things; but for saying radical things.

Because it wasn’t quaintly irrelevant –  the Powers are never threatened by this, they encourage it!

Jesus was crucified. Dead. Buried. He rose again. Promised power to all who believe.  In radical defiance of the Powers that oppose Jesus and His Church.

Then he commanded the disciples to take the Gospel to all people everywhere.

Then he ascended to the Father.

 

It was on the next Pentecost.

The next big Hebrew party; The next big festival. The next big feast.

That the disciples experienced their Pentecost.

 

This Gospel story is saying many, many things.  But here’s one of them:

That when the Holy Spirit, the presence of God breaks out; pours out is given.

When The Holy Spirit fills and empowers those who call on the name of Jesus;

Guess what? You become the holy of holies.

The dwelling place of God.

Guess what? Everywhere you place you feet in service of the Gospel;

You claim the ground, like Moses approaching the Burning Bush, as holy.

Guess what?  Everywhere your feet tread, is the holy of Holies.  

In the one who trusts in Jesus, through you God is breaking out & pouring out in the world.

Guess What?  Through those who say yes to this God; Trust in Jesus and meet the Father who runs to them in love and joy;

Through you, and by the impossible work of the Holy Spirit, 

 

“…the earth is being filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

 

AMEN

You can watch the sermon here, or listen to it here.

 

Prepared and Preached by Richard Matcham at Taunton Baptist Church on Sunday 31st May 2020

 

3 thoughts on “A Pentecost Sermon: Uniting Some Biblical Strands

  1. Awesome 🙂 It was a thorn bush on Mt. Sinai (which I think means ‘thornbushes’) too – so the earth becoming full of the knowledge of the glory of God means no more curse as well! Thanks for this 😀

    • Thank you very much. I think you’re right about that. I remember going to St Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai in 2001 & 2006 and there is a bush which grows within the grounds of the type most likely associated with “The Burning Bush” and I think I remember it had thorns. What a great insight – Thanks.

  2. Wow! This is phenomenal. I am blown away by your bit about why Moses had to remove his shoes in front of the burning bush. No animal skin. God wants to make man holy so that the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea! He truly is glorious!

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