Sermon for Pentecost Sunday 2018: “The Gift of Courage”

Reading: Acts 2:1-21

Sermon for Pentecost Sunday 2018: “The Gift of Courage”

Back on April 27th I had the pleasure of taking 12 of our High School Youth to the opening night of the new Avengers Movie.

Now I am not here to spoil the movie, but let’s say no one predicted how the movie would end.

And boy let me tell you, coming out of the movie, the Youth were quite emotional!

Some were saying, “PJ we need to talk!”
Anna Haskins yelled at me. She said, “How could you make us watch that?!”

But in their moment of distress I was able to give them some good news:
The next sequel comes out next summer.

And you should have seen their faces!
“They made a fourth one already?!”

And this morning I want to talk about sequels.

People love sequels.
They love to see where the story goes.

By the way, sequels are not just a movie phenomenon:

In literature, you have: (make it a game)

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy that followed The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Through The Looking Glass followed Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
The Mysterious Island followed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne)
Paradise Regained followed Paradise Lost (John Milton)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn followed The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain)

And today, we get to read and hear from the book of Acts, which is a direct SEQUEL to Luke’s Gospel.

Acts continues the story of God’s mission here on Earth.
And even though Jesus is still the star of the book and the Gospels,
The main characters in Acts are the disciples,
who now are no longer students but the teachers, the preachers, the church-planters
In other words: Apostles.

In our story today, the Apostles are given two incredible gifts by The Holy Spirit.
The first gift is language.
They are able to speak in the different languages of all the people who have gathered in Jerusalem.
So that means the Gospel can now be shared and told in different languages and the kingdom of God can continue to grow.

And speaking of growth: In addition to language,

The Holy Spirit gives these people another gift, and it’s the one I want to spend the rest of my time talking about, because it is the same gift we have been given.

The gift of Courage.

After the believers start to speak different languages, the first reaction of the crowd is that these followers of Jesus are drunk out of their minds.

It’s not the first time this accusation has been made in the New Testament.
It was made towards Jesus back in Luke 7 where crowds called Jesus “a glutton and a drunk” (7:34).

The disciples are used to people criticizing them.
Back in the Gospels they were called out for their breaking of Sabbath laws.
And many of the followers of Jesus were criticized based on their disease, their gender, or their social status.

In the Gospels, whenever critics would make these accusations it was Jesus who would stand up for the disciples, or for the sinners and outsiders,

But in Acts, look who stands up to the critics:

Peter.

My first reaction: Peter?!

Think back to the Gospels and the places we hear Peter speak.
At times, Peter sounds like the eager student.
Some would call him the teacher’s pet.
Answering the hard questions asked by Jesus like “Who do you (the disciples) say I am?”
And Peter’s answer: “You are the Messiah.”

But even when Peter scored points with Jesus, he would then do something wrong and even stupid to get those points erased.

There was the time Peter rebuked Jesus in an attempt to keep Jesus from heading to Jerusalem to face certain death.
Then there was the time Peter swore he would never deny Jesus.
And yet, there is Peter denying Jesus three times after Jesus is arrested.

But if we pause and think about Peter,
His life and actions as a disciples mirror OUR LIVES as disciples as well.

As disciples,
We have good intentions.
We have good days where we follow God’s law and gospel.

And then there are the days we mess up.
We lie.
We cheat.
We slander.
We judge.
We wish harm on others.

In other words: We sin.
We fall short.
Just like Peter.

BUT

God continues to call on us.
Just like he called on Peter.

After the Resurrection, in John 21,
Even after all the sins and mistakes Peter made,
Jesus still looks to Peter to be a leader.

Jesus gives Peter his new call.
Feed my sheep. Tend to my lambs.

And now Peter is stepping up big time.
And then he makes a bold statement:
What the crowd is witnessing IS SOMETHING NEW.

“We are not filled with new wine.”
“We are filled with the Holy Spirit.”
“God is running through our veins.”
“We are filled with courage.”

Peter starts to connect the prophets of old to Jesus.

At that moment, after all the miracles, all the teachings, after the Resurrection, Peter and the people finally GET IT!
And once they get it, their world changes.
And their call changes.

Why is Joel important?
Because in Peter’s eyes the crowds criticisms are a fulfillment of prophecy.
And it is Joel who said that in the last days there would be an outpouring of the Spirit on everyone (Joel 2:28-32).

This sets up the Sequel.
The Sequel to the Gospels.

And in this sequel:
God still has business to attend to.
It is a story of a man, a disciple, who steps up and becomes the leader.
It is a story of the followers who are now the Witnesses, the Teachers.

They are the ones charged with taking the Word to the people.

They are the ones with the courage to spread the Word.
Spread the Good News.

Proclaim.
Heal.
Invite.
Engage.

Today is Pentecost Sunday,
And we celebrate and recognize the day that God lets us know that God still has work to do.

And that work continued through the Sequel we call Acts.

And now, today, that Sequel continues…

With a new chapter:

And in this chapter
We are the main characters.

We are part of the story.

We are not just reading the story,
We are telling the story,
We are actors,
We are witnesses
We are proclaimers

Different people but the same God and the same Holy Spirit.

pouring out in our lives.
Sending us out.
Calling us out!

And filling us with the same Courage that instilled Peter that first Pentecost.

Courage that will be important as we as a congregation begin our sequel.

This sequel features
New characters
New staff

Connie as a Music Associate
And hopefully soon a Youth Coordinator.

New members.
Visitors each and every week!

This is a great time to be at St. Paul’s.

Now there is work to be done.
And there are dreams to dream.

We need the courage to face the future.

The future that includes
Full staff
Over 50 active ministries with many new opportunities to serve.
New ways of reaching out; new ways of welcoming. New ways of listening for God’s call.

Every sequel has a story
A plot

And today I want to share that with you.

I call it my vision for what God is calling us to do:

While some churches are cutting finances,
Cutting staff

We are adding staff

Because we believe God has a dream for us.

In this dream: God is calling us to have the best worship experience through Celebration and Tradition, with good hard-working leaders and wonderful volunteers who play and sing each and every week

We also believe that in God’s dream God is calling us to have a strong Children’s Ministry: one that covers the life of a child:
Providing teaching,
Group missions,
Outreach
So that each and every child has a solid faith foundation.
And that all parents know that their child is loved and cared for in this environment.

And a strong adult Ministry featuring relevant bible studies and fellowship events.
And I believe strong small groups of many interests like sports, home devotionals, dads, moms, you name, it we can do it.

And in this Dream, God wants us to continue to reach out to the community through the meals we offer the homeless, the meeting places for those battling addiction
And to be a place that Welcomes all to the Kingdom

And speaking of Welcome
Let me tell you about another dream I have:

I dream of a welcome center
Where people come in
They see bathrooms (how many times do visitors ask where the bathrooms are?)
The see a new nursery
They see people with smiling faces welcoming them
And then they can be pointed to the back doors which lead to the ramp and steps and into worship and in their new church home.
Our church home.

Is it a crazy dream?
Not really.
I think it’s a getable dream.
It’s a possible dream.

And it’s a dream that WE can make into reality.

It takes courage.
Courage to say yes
And courage to say “I want to help.”

I tell you these things now because I want you to think about that vision
I want you to pray and ponder how God IS working in this church

I want you to think of YOUR vision
YOUR dreams
YOUR ideas

And then in the fall, when we all return fully refreshed from vacations,

I want us to be ready to make the commitment to
Step up our time and our giving

I want you to use the next few months to look over how you give to the church
And then make a commitment to increase that giving

We are going to have the Courage to face tomorrow knowing that our God is a God of abundance, a God of resources, and we are a people who answer the call the dream God has placed before us.

Thanks for letting me share that with you.

But I hope you understand we are part of something very special here.

Right here.

And we are part of a very special story.
A special sequel.

To step up like Peter,
Like the disciples,

To be bold and courageous!