"What a Wacky Way to Start a Church"


A Pentecost sermon based upon the 2nd Chapter of ACTS

(Acts of the Apostles 1:3-9 and 2:1-42)

The day of "Pentecost" (a Jewish harvest festival) came fifty days after Passover (or, as Christians like to say, fifty days after Easter). The disciples and other followers of Jesus were hiding out together, not sure of what to do, where to go, whom to trust... Waiting, just waiting, in Jerusalem.

Waiting was (after all) what Jesus had told them to do (in Luke 24:49): "Wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon you. Wait until you are clothed with power from on high..."

They didn't know what that actually meant. They didn't know who, or what, the Holy Spirit was -- but they knew that they weren't supposed to head for home until the time was right. So, they waited... probably thinking "this is not the way I would start a church!"

Easter was already seven weeks behind them. The amazing experiences that they had had of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection were powerful, memorable; but how to keep the momentum of his ministry going was a different story!

Should they elect officers? … do "Bible studies"? Should they come up with some doctrines? Should they start a school… and call disciples of their own, like Jesus did? Or, should they just start telling the story... the stories of Jesus?

But if they did that, who out there would listen to them, this common lot of Galileans!? Moreover, who would believe it?

Eleven of the original 12 disciples were there. Only Judas was missing (for he had killed himself). Among the others gathered in the Upper Room were the faithful women (such as Mary and Martha, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and her sister). And Jesus' brothers are most likely there… certainly his brother James; probably Lazarus, too, who had been raised from the dead -- and formerly-blind Bartimaeus. And there are others named by Luke, who are otherwise unknown to us: such as Matthias & Joseph-Justus, who (we are told) had followed Jesus from the time he was baptized in the Jordan... to the end, when Jesus died on the Cross. (!) Of course, by now, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea have both come out publicly as followers of Jesus, inasmuch as those two Sanhedrin rulers had helped to bury Jesus’ corpse.

This morning’s readings from the bulletin insert introduced us again to Nicodemus – the man to whom Jesus said that the Holy Spirit is like the wind: you can feel it, you can hear it, and you can see its effects as it passes… but you don’t know where it comes from, nor where it is going to, and you certainly cannot control it! The Holy Spirit moves at its own direction, in its own time, utterly invisible… except for the turbulence it leaves behind.

At Pentec