The following is a condensed version of a sermon delivered on May 23 by the Rev. Carroll Bundy, pastor of New Hope United Methodist Church.
As Christians, today is the day we celebrate the Pentecost. The day Jesus’ disciples received the Holy Spirit in a powerful and mighty way. We will read this story from Acts 2 as written by Luke.
According to Acts 1:4-5, while they were eating together, Jesus ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “This is what you heard from me: John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Traditionally, Trinity Sunday is the day we would talk specifically about the three sides of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But actually, we talk about that every week. When we declare together our Affirmation of Faith, we are declaring our belief in the Trinity of God, the three in one.
As a child, and even sometimes now, it sometimes seems strange to pray to Jesus, or to pray to the Holy Spirit, or to pray just to God the Father. I’ve heard pastors switch it up even during a prayer. But the truth is we are praying to one anytime we pray to either of the three.
Recently, someone asked me how I separate being a pastor on Sunday from being a manager on Monday. And the truth is, hopefully I don’t. Reality can be far from that, because I am human, and not God. I struggle and fail just like everyone else. I am a pastor, and a manager, and a father, and a husband, and many other things. When you speak to me, you are speaking to all of me, even though your question may be specific to just one side of who I am.
I believe in the same way, but differently, that God is the Father, the creator of all things, the holder of all knowledge, the author of life, the one who is, was, and always will be. The great “I am.”
God is also Christ Jesus. He’s God in the physical form, come to earth to give us an example of how He would live as a human. He’s the perfect example of love and life. Our deliverer from sin and death. The one who came to show us the love of God for us, and the contempt God has for Satan and sin in this world. The one who explained Scriptures, who called for repentance from sin, in order for us to live in the Kingdom of God, Heaven, here on this earth. The one who healed, and fed, and cared about humanity. He is Christ is action. When we go and do God’s will, we become Christ’s hands and feet, Christ in the physical realm on this earth.
God’s will. How do you know God’s will? We receive power and spiritual guidance from the Holy Spirit. When we are in the Spirit and the Spirit is in us, we know our calling; we can feel God saying, go and do this. We can feel God’s will. But more than that, the Holy Spirit gives us the courage and power to take what is on our conscience — our Godly thoughts and feelings — and become the hands and feet of Christ in this world.
In one of the commentaries I listen to each week, a pastor recently talked about his knowledge of Pentecostals. Growing up he went to a Baptist church. When he was in grade school he met a family of kids who were Pentecostal. He remembers them because each of the children had been born with an extra finger on the side of their hands, that had been surgically removed shortly after birth. As small kids they were only too proud to show their scars and tell their stories to the other kids.
This pastor went on to say that for many years he thought Pentecostal meant you had an extra digit. As a young pastor he found some humor in how most “normal” church folks think there is something very strange about Pentecostals, even if they only had five fingers from birth.
Growing up in our church, I was taught to be quiet, sit still, and not fidget. I also was taught to listen. We didn’t raise our hands. We didn’t sway to the music. Coming to the altar was something we only did during communion, or it was seen as something is very wrong in your life. You were alone at the altar; maybe the pastor would come pray with you. But we didn’t lay hands. There certainly wasn’t anyone running down the aisle and falling at the altar. No one speaking in tongues.
I watched pastors on TV heal people week in and week out. People would come in with their illnesses and the pastor would slap them on the forehead, and the person would fall over, pass out, or be shaking with the Holy Spirit. By and large, I didn’t believe it. I thought they were all fakes, set for TV. Because I never witnessed it. Never really felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Our church was full of good people. The preaching was good preaching. But I didn’t expect to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I didn’t come prayerfully, anxiously awaiting an anointment. I didn’t spend time in prayer. Maybe as I sat on the bench I was more concerned about what Mama was fixing for dinner, and about when the service would be over so I could get out of my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and play.
We are a people who believe in the Trinity of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Oftentimes we go out into the world with the knowledge of the Father to do the work of the Son, but we go without the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I looked up the word “Pentecostals” this morning. It didn’t say, “People with a sixth appendage.”
Pentecostals include Protestant Christians who believe that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit are alive, available and experienced by modern-day Christians.
Jesus talks about the coming of the Holy Spirit in John 16:8: “When he comes, he will show the world it was wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment. He will show the world it was wrong about sin because they don’t believe in me. He will show the world it was wrong about righteousness because I’m going to the Father and you won’t see me anymore. He will show the world it was wrong about judgment because this world’s ruler stands condemned.”
The Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:18-22, “I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice — it was the choice of the one who subjected it — but in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now.”
In our Acts text, Peter quoted from the Old Testament Book of Joel: “In the Last Days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: ... I’ll pour out my Spirit On those who serve me, men and women both, and they’ll prophesy.”
The Holy Spirit is a gift for everyone. Christ had to leave His disciples so they could receive the Holy Spirit. There are many beliefs about the “last days.” People say “surely these are the last days.” Look at all the evil in the world. I believe the last days started when Christ ascended into heaven. The last days of Satan’s reign over our lives.
We, as Christians, must be Pentecostal. We must believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. This world is ready for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is ready to give birth to a new day, a new life, a new leader. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Here and now. Accept Christ as your Lord and Savior today. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.