Windsor Community United Methodist Church
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Mike Turgeon “Rise Up. Elevate your faith: Prophesy” June 12, 2011
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? In our own language we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?"
But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine."
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.
Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning.
No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: '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. Acts 2:1-8, 12-18
“...and they shall prophesy.”
Prophesy is a confusing word, but a most important one for our faith. On Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit caused the apostles to prophesy. A verb. And when we prophesy from our true hearts, it is an action word of the highest power. Now, make no mistake, prophesy does not mean ‘to tell the future.‘ If you want to hear someone try to predict your future is to go to a fortune teller. We are not in that business.
Another thing that makes the word prophesy confusing is the word prophet. That image from the the Old Testament of a bearded man warning the Israelites to change their
behavior or else is one that still lives today. We saw a version of it play out but three weeks ago when the end of the world was wrongly calculated--again. I’m telling you, go see Madam Cleo, or maybe consult a weather forecaster, you might have better luck. Still, that’s not the business we’re in.
We are in the hope business, and if there ever was a time when our business was needed, it is now. Our task is still the same task those 11 apostles had, led by Peter. You remember Peter, the Jesus deny-er; the one whom Jesus likened to Satan himself--that Peter.
The simple task we share with him? To prophesy--to go out into the world to speak about God’s deeds of power in us.
And when we do speak about God’s mighty deeds in our lives, we should sometimes even use words. Words are important but words are tricky. Words are the construction material of life; words build bridges or they build walls.
In the time of Noah, after the great flood, the people who had survived the flood were fearful that they would be scattered and what they had clung to so tightly would be lost. Because they all spoke the same language, they had the bright idea to build a walled-in city on the plain of Shinar. The most glorious feature of this city would be a great ziggurat, or tower,
that would reach with its top all the way into heaven. This was a bad idea, not what God had in mind.
God’s plan was that the people would fill the earth and form many cultures and languages. God jump started the plan by confusing the peoples’ language so they could not understand each other’s words. In other words, what they had was a ‘failure to communicate,‘ a BABEL as that city came to be known.
This morning’s Pentecost event signifies God’s preferred use of language. Peter and the eleven became bridge builders with their words, not ivory tower builders. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the words of the apostles touched the lives of friends and strangers, their words finding a receptive home. Babel to Pentecost took 2000 years. God is patient, though we may not be.
Words work as bridges
Words work, but now that Jesus sent the Spirit, we prophesy as much with our passion as we do with our words. How we are is as important as what we say. The power of God’s deeds in your life and mine are meant to be lived out, not only talked out.
A preacher once told me some sage words. He said: “Nobody cares what you know until they know that you care.” I must admit, even in our bumper sticker culture where we prize anything that can be put into 140 characters or less, that is good counsel.
The power of the Spirit behind the words of those apostles was getting through to those ‘devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.’ The words built bridges and the passion of the Spirit crossed over.
“...now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart.” Acts 2:37
The Spirit lines up your head, your heart, your hands, and your tongue. the Spirit gets them all moving in the same direction. The streets of Jerusalem are experiencing a re-alignment caused by the explosion from the Upper Room where Peter and his friends had been gathered in fear.
Church, we still sit on that explosive power to prophesy, every minute of every day. What words and actions will come out of you? Make sure you let the Spirit line them all up.
Because if I carry out all good works, but I’m mean and grumpy while I do it, how’s that goin’ over?
If you leave here today on fire for the Lord and then cut someone off in traffic on the freeway, you missed the point.
If you levitate out of this room on a Sunday at noon, carried along by the Spirit’s wind, and then by Monday at noon you’ve got amnesia about Jesus, guess what--that’s not a Holy Spirit thing.
“Rise Up. Elevate your faith”
The Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ is not a solo act. It is by the Spirit’s power that my heart for ministry aligns with your heart for ministry, just like for Peter and the eleven. Are you available for ignition and take-off? Are you ready to let the Spirit do a number on you?
The final count of those who responded to Peter’s prophesy that first Pentecost numbered in the thousands. It was the Spirit that broke the apostles open from being locked up and hidden to being unbound and visible. This was the biggest attitude adjustment ever. And since it’s in the Book of Acts, can we just go ahead and call it an ‘Act’-itude adjustment?
The streets of Jerusalem were full of those gathered for the Feast of Shavuot, or the “Feast of Oaths.” It was a festival celebrating the covenants God made with Noah after the flood, Abraham and the Israelites concerning a new homeland, and Moses on Mt. Sinai. It was a time to remember God’s faithfulness.
Peter and the apostles passionately prophesied on those streets and neighborhoods. Their passion fueled the faith by leaps and bounds. The gathered masses converted to the higher purpose of God as they let the Spirit invade deeper into their souls.
But does it always have to be this noisy? There’s a lot of noise here; the rush of a violent wind, a collision of languages, a cacophony of street noise. But, you know, I’d compare our babble to their babble any day. Everybody has something to say but nobody has time to listen.
I want to salute and express my gratitude to the politicians and the celebrities of American culture today. We owe them a lot. They have absolutely proven time and again how people tune out empty words. The world is desperately in need of hope, but a hope born of authenticity. We are at risk of the words of faith becoming so much ‘blah, blah, blah.‘ Or as they might say in Texas, “those who call themselves Christian are at risk of being all hat and no cattle.”
Hope, remember, that is our business. The world is saying show me the power, show me the God that you know. Don’t just tell me about that God, show me what that God has done in you.
Babel to Pentecost took 2000 years. Pentecost to now, another 2000. What will the next 2000 years bring in God’s kingdom of heaven on earth? You and me, this church, we’re a part of that.
What would an ‘Act’-itude adjustment look like in your life?
I came across a prayer this week that I have never prayed, and maybe you have not either. It is a gratitude prayer, thanking the spirit for its gift. It goes like this:
“Thank you, God, for dirty dishes, for they mean we are well fed.
Thank you for the mortgage payments and rent notices, for they mean we have a roof over our heads.
Thank you for our piles of laundry, for it means we are clothed and warm.
Thank you, God, for scuff marks, crayon marks, and smelly tennis shoes, for they mean our children are healthy and active.
Thank you for loud stereos, for they mean our teens are safe at home.
Thank you for notes from school, for they mean our children have teachers who care.
Thank you, God, for speeding tickets, for they mean our police are making the streets safe.
Thank you for morning traffic jams, for they mean we have jobs to go to.
Thank you for doctor’s waiting rooms, and deductibles and co-pays, for they mean we have access to health care.
Thank you, God, for his or her snoring, for it means he or she is safe beside me.
Thank you, God, for ordinary days made extra-ordinary by your Holy Spirit.
Gratitude changes our attitude.
“...your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.”
I want to leave you with a letter from a 9 year-old girl from the Rohnert Park United Methodist Church. Sara Woods is her name. She sent an email to our Sunday School teacher. Becky had asked the children in church the week before: ‘what is the greatest gift?‘ She responded this way.
I have been thinking long and hard about the ‘greatest gift of the Spirit’ lesson you gave during children’s time. I truly believe that the greatest gift can not be wrapped up or put into a bag. I believe that the greatest gift we receive and that anyone could give would have to be the gifts that come from the hearts of people. Love, kindness, friendship, loyalty, truthfulness, maybe even their life. But most of all just being themselves and doing their best. I might only be 9 years old but everyone around me has given me these things and I will pass them on.”
This is why the church lives.
Happy Birthday, church! Stand by for take-off.