Sermon: Unleashing the Power of God

Acts 2:1-11

So Eva is going to Peru.  In a sense we are going to Peru as well.  We send her off.  We pray for her.  We communicate the love of God for all people through her.  She is going to hear a LOT of Spanish.  She will look for ways to cross the communication barriers.  She will find out what she and her new friends have in common, as well as what they can teach each other.   It is a Pentecost trip for Eva because it will open her eyes to a new culture, deepen her understanding of God’s people in a different part of the world and give her chance to share her love for Christ.  The whole experience is a powerful work of God.

What if we adapt this Acts passage from v. 7 on like this—if I mention the place you identify with as your roots, stand up!:   “Look, aren’t all the people who are speaking English speaking Americans, every one of them?  How can we each hear them speaking our native language?  We are from Myanmar and South Korea, from Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon, from the Philippines, Germany, England and Scotland, from the Dominican Republic, Haiti and many other nations!  We hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!”  It is a miracle of understanding, people suddenly empowered to testify in a way they never had before.  The Holy Spirit was working.  The Holy Spirit made it possible for them to get the word out about the great, mighty, powerful works of God.  We translate the mighty works from a Greek word that is literally  mega-works—the biggest, the grandest, the overarching, the most important works of God.  If you are into scientific measurements, you know that mega means 1 million times—megawatt, megaton, megahertz.  We use it in other ways to really mean supersized.  Like a mega church which is huge, often serving as the large umbrella organization collecting many smaller groups within it so people can know each other.

So what were the mega works of God which were miraculously communicated on that Pentecost day?  Perhaps the mega works included some of the personal experiences these disciples had had while Jesus was with them…. Maybe the amazing ones like the calming of the turbulent sea or the feeding of a mega crowd with few resources.  Or maybe they were telling about the conversations they had with Jesus late at night, when they asked question after question and he answered with more questions for them to think about.  Or about the way he cared about people as individuals.  All are powerful ways God worked in the form of a human being known personally to them as Jesus.

And most definitely their declarations about God’s mega-works included the awful and glorious experience of watching this man die and then be raised from the dead in a way that only God could do.  They must have described their growing trust in God who sent Jesus first, and now had sent an empowering Holy Spirit.

The content of their  message described God’s mega-works.  God’s mega-works were also communicated in the manner of delivery of the message.  This is not a letter read aloud.  Not a single sermon for many to listen to.  Not a book to read.  Multiple recipients from multiple nations gathered in one place each heard their own language in what must have been a cacophony of voices all at the same time.  The Spirit is working, blowing, energizing like a dancing flame.  It is the power of God unleashed, roaring like a wind.

The Spirit worked through a small group of men and women huddled in an upper room in the midst of a Jewish festival in Jerusalem.  Earlier in Acts we learn that there were certain women with the disciples after Jesus was taken up to heaven.  God communicated through women and men from the very beginning of the church!  Once the crowd had settled down to at least a murmur, Peter speaks to the crowd, picking up the words of the prophet Joel–  God declaring that mighty works are coming: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy… your young men, your old men, male and female slaves will prophesy.” The Spirit works in anyone and everyone.

As you read further in Acts, the Holy Spirit is identified as the power source, the inspiration, for Peter and John to answer back the Roman authorities who were trying to quash this baby church.   But trying to stop the power of God unleashed is like trying to get ketchup back in the bottle.  The Spirit has been poured out.  And then the Spirit is the power source for newly committed believers to speak with confidence about God.  There is no taking it back.  God’s power is unleashed in the world.

The Spirit works, giving voice to a tongue tied people, calling out to those whose ears have been plugged.  The Spirit works in imperfect, messy, tired, busy human beings who often do not get it right, who often struggle with our God-connection.  The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, wrote:  the Spirit helps us in our weakness, interceding for us when we are not sure what even to pray.  Speaking for us, on our behalf.  Speaking through us to God who searches the heart.  The Spirit is working.

Today the mega-works of God still need to come tumbling out of the mouths of believers, spilling down the steps, dripping through the cracks, breaking communication barriers.  Languages of different nations create barriers.  But so do languages of different generation.  Sometimes young people feel they can’t communicate  or don’t speak the language of older people.  The same is true the other way around.  We feel inept, out of practice, frustrated at not being able to speak the same language.

The Spirit is working, lighting a fire under us in this city of Baltimore. We know we are surrounded by young people who need role models, support, and encouragement beyond their own families.  Some are here with us today.  Your session has made a commitment to provide spiritual nurture to children and youth at HRPC through fostering relationships between faithful adults and children or youth.  Could the Spirit be enabling YOU to be a spiritual mentor to a younger member of our family?  You do not have to be young to talk to a high school student.  You do not have to be a grandparent type to talk to a kid.  You can be who you are.  If you take your role as a disciple of Jesus Christ seriously, you communicate that even if you feel you don’t “speak their language”.  I believe the Spirit will empower you to cross any communication barriers and allow you to get the message across that you care and that God cares.  You speak their language when you talk to them at eye level, when you treat them with respect.  You speak their language when they can understand that you have seen megaworks of God. You can speak their language because the power of God is alive in you.

But let’s go beyond the members of our church family.  Right here in our building this summer lies a simple way for you to get involved in the lives of young people.  Summer camp runs 8:30- 4:30 every weekday beginning June 22.  There will be 30-40 elementary school children in and out of our building every day.  Plus about 10 high school youth workers who need encouragement, training about the world of work, and even just about life!  You could make a weekly commitment to create a book club with some of the summer campers this summer.  Or to teach them about flower or vegetable gardening.  Or photography.  Or music.  Or building with wood.  Can’t make it weekly?  What about just bringing in a special surprise snack one day—cut up watermelon or something you make—to share with the summer campers and staff?  Neither kids nor adults forget that kind of generosity and kindness.   Maybe it is not a mega-work, but it is a work of the Spirit through you.

That’s not me, you say.  Maybe not on a regular basis.  Maybe not recently.  Remember, the Spirit of God produces boldness and confidence.  The Spirit empowers and enables you to do surprising things.  You just might be able to connect with someone of a different generation who speaks another language.  The Spirit is the power of God unleashed—in you and through you.

Here is an even easier step to take…. This Friday afternoon between 3-4 pm, 5th grade students at Thomas Jefferson have asked for permission to have a rally to stop the violence in Baltimore in our parking lot.  Wouldn’t it be great to have multiple church members to join them in the rally?  Take a late lunch from work.  Get off early.  Bring your children.  Come and lend your support in a peaceful action planned by students.  Promoting peace is a language we all share.

There are multiple ways the Spirit can work.  Some you might expect.  Some can be very surprising.  But all of them burst out into the world, unleashing the power of God, touching you, touching others, empowering us to share the megaworks of God!  Amen.

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