Introduction

C. S. Lewis talked about the different ways someone can come to believe in the gospel of Christ. He said it was like taking the train from Paris to Berlin.

Some take the train from Paris to Berlin at night. They get on the train, take a seat, look out the window, and go to sleep. They wake up in Berlin. It feels like they arrive instantly.

Some people take the train from Paris to Berlin during the day. They get on the same train, they take the same track, and they look out at the same scenery. However, they see the signs change. They see the mountains and countryside change. Now I see the sign for Luxembourg; now we are in Frankfurt, and now I see a sign for Berlin. Now I have arrived.

Same trip, same train, same destination. Different experiences. Both true. Both valid.

When we read this passage, we tend to judge our experience against it, or we judge our experience against someone else’s experience. Am I a legitimate Christian if I do not have that type of experience? What if I do not have this soul-piercing, mind-altering epiphany of my sin and my need for salvation? Am I less than?

I would like to suggest to you that this passage describes what can happen, not what must happen. How can you tell God how to act? (Just ask Nicodemus.)

For instance, it is nowhere detailed how these 120 became Christians. We know a bit about Peter, James, John, Matthew, Philip, Andrew, and Thomas’ experiences, but that leaves 113 unaccounted for, yet here they are preaching the gospel, giving new hope to people, and being used for unimaginable good.

Some of us had an epiphany. We heard the gospel and it came into our lives and it was life-changing. Some of us grew up in the church and we do not remember NOT being a Christian. That’s a gift! Both are gifts and God should be thanked by all.

What I want to do today is to talk about the place the Spirit of God has in your life – regardless of whether you took the train at night or the day, or you are just now getting on the train or taking your seat.

The Spirit has always been at work, both in the world and in people. The point of the passage is not that this is the first time the Spirit is introduced. This is what the Spirit can do and we see a glimpse of what the Spirit continues to do in our life.

The Spirit opens doors

The Spirit opens doors. There are times when the opportunity is right and we need the encouragement or the push to go and act.

Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection for 40 days. He told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for power from on high. They did. They would also pray, share meals together, and go to the Temple for worship.

This passage takes place on Pentecost. Pentecost is Greek for the fiftieth. It occurred 50 days after Passover Sunday. It was a major feast that celebrated the first wheat harvest. Since it was a mandated festival, it always drew tens of thousands of devout Jewish worshippers.

The worshippers had migrated throughout the region over time, but they kept anchored to their faith through local worship in their synagogue and by taking these pilgrimages to Jerusalem three times a year.

There are at least 15 people groups mentioned. These are Jewish people who have migrated to Africa, Libya, up to the Baltics, through Turkey and modern-day Syria and Iraq, and westward to Rome and other parts of Europe.

It is a mass of people and the streets would be flooded with the sounds of friendship, prayer, and conversation. Suddenly, over the loudness of the crowd, the sound of the mighty rushing wind was heard.

It draws everyone to a house. Inside that house is 120 disciples who have been praying and waiting. They have no idea what God wants them to do. They just know they love God and they want people to know the story of Jesus.

There seem to be sparks of fire over everyone’s head. Remember after Easter how the disciples were in this house with the door locked because of fear?! Now, they are empowered. They are confident. They are called. Now, they open the door and go out.

The Spirit often calls us to wait. The Spirit puts desires in our hearts. Sometimes we have to wait until the moment is right, or until we are right and able. The Spirit puts within us gifts, passions, and skills that we can use to help others.

The Spirit Opens Mouths

The Spirit gives us the ability to speak the truth. Here, they tell the truth about God in uncertain times. God gives us the ability to speak of God’s love, to simply invite others into this generous and kind community.

They are empowered to preach in other languages that were not their own. The trade language spoken by most people during this time was Greek. Think of it as English. You can do business all over the world while only speaking English.

These devout, God-loving people likely spoke Greek, but they also had their own at-home dialect.

Thousands and thousands of people from all over the region and multiple continents. They see 120 people leave this house where they just heard a spectacular noise.

Wait, is that country girl from Galilee speaking Arabic? Do I hear Kurdish? Is that teenager from Galilee speaking Latin? Persian? Wait, says someone else, they are talking about a man named Jesus in my momma’s language – Berber?

I hear them speak in the language my momma taught me, but what is everyone else hearing?

Peter explains, “What the other 119 disciples are doing is they are telling them what this person told you. They are talking to you about Jesus the Christ. What is happening is what was promised by God in Joel 2.”

In Joel 2 the people have misbehaved gravely over a long period of time. God sends the prophet Joel to warn them of upcoming judgment, but offers them hope, “If you call on the name of the Lord in that hour, you will be saved!”

Joel says that God will pour out the Spirit on all flesh, young and old, all genders, all ages, with no distinction. And the end goal is that those who receive the spirit will worship God honestly.

Before Peter, there are all genders, people of all skin colors, various dialects, young and old, slaves and free persons.

Peter says, like Joel’s audience, you have made a terrible mistake. God put in this very city Jesus who was proven to be the Christ through miracles, powerful deeds, and signs. Yet, less than 2 months ago, the religious leaders handed Jesus over to the Romans to be killed.

They killed the Messiah. Even so, God raised him from the dead to vindicate him, to free him from death. We 120 bear witness to this fact, so we are letting the whole of Israel know with certainty that God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.

You are here, you are growing in your faith, and you have a sense of faith because the Spirit worked through someone else to tell you, to teach you, to invite you. Some of you were simply prompted. What you heard years ago drew you here. That is the work of the Spirit of God.

Thank God the Spirit worked in someone else’s life and opened the door by giving them the opportunity to share with you. Thank God the Spirit worked in them and through your words so that you are here!

The Spirit opens doors. The Spirit opens mouths.

The Spirit opens hearts.

The people ask, similar to Joel’s audience, “What must I do to be saved?” Peter doesn’t say, “Too late. Too bad. You have to live with this for the rest of your life. This will be the defining mistake for you. You need to grovel and live in shame.”

The answer is, “Repent.” We live in a culture in which if you hear someone say, “You need to repent,” it is usually an argument. That’s not so, here.

What do we need to do? We can’t go back in time.

This passage crystallizes the plain message of grace. You ready?

You can’t go back. Precisely. Repent. The Greek word is “metanoia” which really means, “change your mind.” Change your mind and let the message change your life.

The logic of the passage is this: two months ago you didn’t think Jesus was the Messiah. You’ve now heard new information. You are convicted. Your heart is wounded. You sense this to be true. You didn’t believe it, but now you do. Let that belief change how you live.

They are reasoning this out. So, at first reading, this sounds like they are taking the train at night. They just, Bam, become followers of Jesus. But they are reasoning it out as if they are taking the train by the day. Either way, they are in process as the Spirit works in them graciously.

Conclusion

Want to know a secret? This is where I’ve written three ends to this sermon. I can’t preach all three. You’ll have to wait until next year!

This is the choice I made, believing the Spirit has opened this door of opportunity for me and has opened my mouth.

You are not here by accident. Those 120 people, men and women, and children were not in that house by accident. Peter says that even Jesus’ death was not by accident.

You are not here and you are not part of this faith community by accident. The Spirit of God works God’s will in our lives. The Spirit formed you in your mother’s womb. The Spirit guided you and has always been with you.

The Spirit put someone in your life who influenced you in your faith. A handful of people were born and raised in this church, but most of you came here because God opened the door and someone opened their mouth and invited you.

Then you came and the warmth of God’s love that you feel through the kindness and friendship of others captivated you. It made you feel seen, heard, appreciated, and safe. So you kept coming. That’s the Spirit at work.

Hidden. Sometimes small things. Often slowly, then all at once.

By the end of the year, new worshippers will be gathered here and will be among us and then they will be a part of us. When someone visits us, when someone comes through these several doors, it’s not an accident. They are here for a reason. The Spirit has been working in their lives.

We want to be a church community like this: where we do not shame. Peter didn’t shame. His message was, that with God there is always a new beginning. If you want forgiveness, you simply need to state it and it is given.

We want to be patient and we want eyes to see the opportunity. We want to use our mouths to invite others and to treat them with kindness. We want to not live in fear, but to trust God as we talk with others.

We want to hold up in front of us all the story of Jesus Christ, which tells us of God’s great love for everyone. Everyone. No matter who they are. No matter where they are from. No matter where they will go next. No matter where they are in their faith.

And we will continue to trust that the Spirit is given to all people.

If you’d like to join the church, that’s a great next step. If you want to talk about baptism, that’s a great next step. Next week we have a family joining the church. Others have stated their interest. Would you like to join them?

Whatever it is, we trust you are in the guidance and care of God.

May God bless you and keep you and may God always give us open hearts to hear and live out the message of Jesus Christ.


This is the text of a sermon preached on Pentecost Sunday. It is the text from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C). Through this sermon idea and bible study, I hope to offer insight, inspiration, and encouragement. 

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