05.24.15 Faith that Dares to Believe Acts 2:1-21 Sermon Summary
We’ve entered the season of seeing the world through the eyes of faith. Pentecost shows us how.
- Various meanings of the festival of Pentecost
- The Christian meaning of Pentecost
- The Lord’s Supper as a covenant renewal
- How Peter exemplifies Christian faith
- Baptism as the foundation of the Christian life and renewal in the church
The festival of Pentecost has various meanings, all of which contribute to the church’s life. Originally it was a harvest festival, called the Feast of Weeks, following fifty days after Passover. The word “Pentecost” comes from the Greek for “fiftieth day.”
In the centuries before Christ, Pentecost came to be considered as a renewal of the covenant between God and Noah. There, after flooding the world and saving those in the famous ark, God placed a rainbow in the sky as a promise never to do that again. Perhaps the association between harvest and spring rains and rainbows led to this additional commemoration.
Within the Jewish community, in the decades after Jesus Pentecost became a renewal of the covenant between God and Moses. There, while leading the ancient Israelites to freedom, God gave them the Law and specifically the Ten Commandments. These are defining characteristics of the Jewish community.
In the Christian church, Pentecost is seen as the time when God gave the Holy Spirit to the church. It is sometimes celebrated as the birthday of the church. We might also see it as the renewal of yet another covenant, one made prior to Moses and Noah; the covenant with Adam.
God’s covenant with Adam is the original covenant, and was really made with all creation. Culminating the creative enterprise with the formation of Adam, the first human pair, God gave them stewardship over the whole creation. It is a covenant of communal life, a covenant that includes men and women, sons and daughters, young and old, even heaven and earth. This is the insight offered by Peter when he quotes the prophet Joel in his Pentecost sermon.
Just as the Spirit hovered over the first creation, so again at Pentecost that same Spirit appears again, establishing a New Creation. This new creation was inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ, and it is sustained and accomplished by the Spirit.
This central message of Christianity, that God has redeemed the world in Christ by the Spirit, is something we need to remember more than just once a year. This is why Christ gave us the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and why we need to celebrate it each week. The Lord’s Supper is a renewal of the covenant of the new creation.
At the table, grain and grapes of the old covenant are transformed into the bread and wine of the new covenant. And our host is none other than the resurrected Lord of the new covenant. It is a festive occasion, signaled to us by the accusation at the first Pentecost that the participants were merely “drunk on new wine.” And that is why we should always celebrate with wine—the symbol of the new covenant and new creation—and not just grape juice.
Peter was at the first Christian Pentecost. He was one of those Galileans accused of being a drunk. But Peter saw something new. He was “standing with the Eleven,” a phrase that alludes to his being a witness to the resurrection (in Greek, “stand” became synonymous with “resurrection”). From this perspective, Peter saw not just a festive celebration with wine but the new covenant; he saw the beginning of a new life.
As a result, Peter, who only weeks before denied even knowing Jesus, becomes the most effective preacher/evangelists of all time. He breathes in the Spirit and proclaims the divine word. He says that his audience is, in fact, in the “last days.” As God has poured out his Spirit upon all flesh, there is no need to look for any more signs and wonders. The new covenant, the new creation has begun. By the presence of this Spirit, all flesh has the power to live now and already in the Kingdom of God.
Today we recognize that all have received this Spirit in baptism. We have become something new, and we see all things anew, and we behave in new ways. This is the definition of ministry—to become, see, and do things according to the Kingdom of God, and it applies to all of us.
So the presenting question for all of us in the church is: What new things do we see in the church, and in our own lives?