Sermon for Pentecost 2005 Acts 2:1-11
We might remember that in the Epistle reading for last Sunday (Seventh Sunday of Pascha, Acts 20:16-36), we heard that St. Paul was eager to travel quickly in order to be in Jerusalem for the Day of Pentecost. It would seem that in the early Church already they were commemorating the giving of the Holy Spirit to the apostles – an event we Orthodox have celebrated annually in the Feast of the Holy Spirit which we are keeping today in our parish.
It was God’s bestowing the Holy Spirit upon the disciples that gave them the courage and power to be apostles of Christ and to speak to the world about God revealing His love for the world through the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
2] Note in the lesson, they were speaking to JEWS from many different nations, not yet to the Gentiles. And these JEWS are further identified, they were not secular Jews, nor lapsed Jews, nor Jews in name only, but they were devout men. They were people who were conscientiously concerned about God’s laws and promises. It is the beginning of the proclamation of the Gospel to all the world, yet it begins with a particularly fine and believing group of men. Maybe that is where evangelism must always begin with the best spiritual element of society.
3] Brothers and Sisters, pray to God that He continually gives us His Holy Spirit today as well, so that the people of our times might here our message in their native languages, in languages that they easily understand. For our mission to the world, to be witnesses to God’s love, has not changed from the first day of Pentecost.
4] Remember also the reaction of the crowd to the fact that each could understand the Gospel message in their own languages. First it was amazement, but then it turned to ridicule, “They are drunk.” To believe in God means to believe not only when one is filled with the Holy Spirit, but also when one is being ridiculed. To believe in God is easy when everyone in society also believes in God, but what if everyone of your friends denied a belief in God, would you hold on to your faith?
I am sure that the apostles filled with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, expected the attracted crowd to recognize the event as God acting anew in their midst. Instead, the crowd did not see the hand of God in the disciples’ behavior, but rather mocked them for being drunk! It is not witnessing a miracle that makes you into a believer – you really have to believe in order to see the miracle. St. Peter wanted to proclaim to the gathered crowd the miracle of God they had just experienced, but found himself having to defend the inspired apostles from charges of public drunkenness at 9 in the morning!
Brothers and Sisters, we are to strive to find the Holy Spirit in life. For the Spirit who gives life to all believers, can teach us how to pray and can empower us to be faithful in the world. We also need to be prepared for how the world may react to our lives and our witness. We as witnesses to God’s saving activity in the world, also need to the patience, wisdom and humility to deal with our neighbors’ disbelief, cynicism, distrust, incredulity, and disdain.
See also my post on the Holy Spirit