Sunday, June 9, 2019
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
A certain church celebrated Pentecost Sunday in a unique way. They had the young children process down the aisle while carrying large cardboard flames to symbolize the Holy Spirit. However, as in most children’s programs, not everything went smoothly. One little boy got upset when he realized he had forgotten his flame. Not having a piece of cardboard to carry, he ran up and down the aisle flapping his arms, then stopped and screamed in the typical kid drama way, I’ve lost my flame! A little girl ran up to him and tore off a piece of her flame and handed it to him. No, you haven’t, take this.
When she saw how happy it made the boy feel, the little girl decided that this was the gift that keeps on giving. So, she walked up and down the aisle, tearing off more pieces of her flame and passing them to everyone.
That little girl understood the real meaning of Pentecost, didn’t she? She wasn’t going to keep the awesome power of the Holy Spirit to herself. She was going to share her flame with everyone.
Today we celebrate Pentecost, the day the church was born. This is also National Family Month which is observed during the five-week period between Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June. That’s why I titled this message All in the Family. You and I are part of many families. Today I want to center your attention on two, the nuclear family represented by the home, and the family of God personified by the church. Both play an enormous role in our lives and both are based on extraordinary love. We can learn some lessons from our celebration of Pentecost that will, help us build stronger families.
Forty days after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, His followers were together praying and waiting for the gift of power, the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, that He had promised them. As they prayed, the Holy Spirit came roaring down and filled the whole house. It appeared as flames of fire above the heads of those present.
Suddenly, these ordinary, uneducated men were able to speak in multiple languages and tell the wonders of God to the crowd of people around them. And the power of the Holy Spirit wasn’t just demonstrated in roaring wind and flames and preaching in other languages. It also resulted in great courage and love and unity and selflessness among the disciples. They created a new kind of gathering, one that had never been seen before. It consisted of people from every race and social class, of men and women and slaves and slave owners. And all these people worshiped side-by-side and shared all they had. This was evident by the overflowing praise and radical love for one another.
I think it’s appropriate that the day we celebrate as the Day of Pentecost falls during the season in which our secular culture is celebrating the family. On the Day of Pentecost, God created a new and awesome spiritual family, the Church. And we can learn a lesson on building stronger families as well as stronger church families from the message of Pentecost.
The first lesson we learn is that of communication. Notice what happened on the day of Pentecost. Luke tells us that, all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: Aren’t all these who are speaking, Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?
What an amazing miracle. Notice that these are not “unknown” tongues, but “other” tongues. People were speaking other languages, but each was hearing his or her own language being spoken. What a statement about what God wants for this world, that we should communicate with one another.
Communication is so vital to successful living. Women seem to be more conscious of that than men. Years ago, a popular women’s magazine polled over 30,000 women and only one problem ranked above differences over money, “poor communication.” “Although many women chose their partners based on sex appeal, research shows that if they had to do it again, they said the ability to communicate is much more important.”
Men are notoriously poor communicators in the home, or should I say listeners. I'm sure that’s why most of us value our mothers so much. Mothers are usually better listeners and listening is, after all, the crucial area in successful communication. Listening is an art, a ministry and sometimes a chore, as any mother of small children will tell you.
A mother was driving home with her four small children, the family dog, and several bags of groceries. On her face you can see a combination of tension, frustration, anger, and near hysteria, as the steering wheel begins to vibrate under her ever-tightening grip.
Behind her all four small children are talking at the same time. Listen to the conversations they are having: “Tell Billy to stop waving at the car behind us.” “Daddy’s good hat is back here and Dolly’s standing on it.” “Which bags are the lollipops in?” “Blow your horn and make that police car get out of the way, Mom.” “Janie just dropped the ketchup bottle on top of the prune juice, and the bag’s leaking.” “Drive faster, we’re missing a good program on TV.” “Stop bouncing the car, I can’t read the message on the cereal box.” “It’s cold back here, sitting on the frozen food.” “Who put the fingerprints on the back window?” “Why’d you turn the radio off?” “Jimmy’s opening the cookie bag.” And finally: “You don’t smile very much when you drive, do you Mommy?”
None of us could make it with children in a home or a car if we couldn’t “tune out” every once in a while. But there’s no greater ministry at home or in a church than that of really listening to other people. The first principal contained in the story of the first Pentecost is that of communication.
The second lesson contained in the story of the first Pentecost is commitment. I don’t believe the Holy Spirit would’ve come upon the early church if God hadn’t known that they would do something with it. God called them to turn the world upside down. In fact, they were called to such an intense commitment to the world and to one another that it would cost most of them their lives.
The gift of the Holy Spirit wasn’t for their enjoyment but their empowerment. If we’re not experiencing God’s power in the church today, it may be because we’re not as committed to God’s work as they were. Why give us the power only to see us squander it on little goals that we set, goals we know we can achieve by our own power? The crisis in the church and the home today isn’t only one of communication but also one of commitment.
It thrills me to meet someone who is really committed to his or her church. Some of you fall in that category. I know I can count on you to be here, a few of you every time these doors are open. I know that you’ll speak a positive, encouraging, uplifting, word for your church whenever that word is needed. I know that our church is in your thoughts, your prayers, your budget, as well as your schedule.
Usually people who are truly committed to the church are also committed to their family, these two go together “hand-in-hand.”
Some of us need to renew our commitment to our family’s and our church. A very busy man of God said recently, I have a date with my boys just like I have an appointment with anyone else; and when something tries to break in on that, I say I have an appointment. Here’s a man whose priorities are in their proper order.
Communication, commitment, but one final big “C” and that is compassion. Compassion, the ability to “feel with” another person. The church that came out of Pentecost, was a compassionate church. They set up one of history’s first welfare programs for widows and orphans, for those who couldn’t provide for themselves. They wouldn’t have grown in numbers as rapidly as they did, if the common person hadn’t been able to say, they care about me, they understand what I am going through, I really do matter to them. The ability to “feel with” other people has always been the church’s greatest asset.
That’s a great asset in the home as well. Some of us need to take a second look at our spouses, our children, our parents and ask ourselves, Do I have any understanding of the experiences that have brought him or her to this place? Is there anything that I can do to make his life or her life a little easier?
Communication, commitment, compassion. Those are the keys to better families, whether it’s the family in the home, or the family which is the church, or the entire human family. God wants His people to live in community. So, He gave us the ability to communicate with one another, to commit ourselves to one another, to “feel with” one another.
Isn’t this a good day for each of us to make a new commitment to the family, this family, the Church, or to our family at home if we have one, and to the greater human family of which we are a part? Communication, commitment, compassion; simple ingredients that shows love within the family.
God brought us all together. That’s true in our families. That’s true in our church family. And we’re thankful and blessed and humbled when we have hope in our families: Hope that comes from the guidance and wisdom of a loving God. Hope that comes from a courageous, selfless faith. Hope that comes from the unity of the Holy Spirit. It’s only this power that draws us together and makes us a powerful witness of God’s presence in this world.
All based on the gift that came from Christ’s hand and His promise to send us His Spirit.