Held 50 days after Passover,
Pentecost was also called the Feast of Weeks. It was one of
the three major annual feasts, a festival of thanksgiving for
the harvested crops.
Jesus was crucified at
Passover time, and he ascended to heaven 40 days after his
resurrection. At the time of his ascension Christ promised to
send us a Counselor. Well today marks the reception of that
Counselor and the birth of the church.
The promised counselor, the
Holy Spirit, came 50 days after the resurrection, ten days
after the ascension.
Jews of many nations gathered
in Jerusalem for this Feast of Weeks. Thus Peter's speech,
which we read in Acts, was shared with an international
audience, and it resulted in a worldwide harvest of new
believers - the first converts to Christianity. Also in our
scripture readings today the Holy Spirit is portrayed as a
divine force, a gift from God, which descends to us. This gift
enables us to hear God speaking to us, and enables us to speak
And through our reading in
Acts you can see the power of God's Spirit at work in the
lives of those present that day. It's a story of conversion, a
story of change of mission, a story of conviction.
Joel's prophecy shapes the
church's mission. God's Spirit, the Spirit of prophecy, has
been poured out to inaugurate the last days of salvation's
history. These are no longer the days of waiting but rather
these are the day's set apart for mission. For the converting
of hearts, the saving of souls, and the transforming of lives.
God's Spirit is poured out on
the entire community gathered in order to prophesy, see
visions, and dream dreams.
It was this same Holy Spirit,
this divine force of God, which led John Wesley many years ago
to become alive and on fire with the Holy Spirit, thus
creating and leading the Methodist movement.
Wesley took the scriptures to
heart and allowed the Holy Spirit to fuel his zeal to reach
out to others, to bring God's Holy Word to the out casts and
down trodden, and to be used by God as a life transforming
agent. John and Charles Wesley spawned a movement that was
characterized by openness to the Holy Spirit.
Today many Methodists are
rediscovering that this movement was born in a revival that
emphasized holiness, evangelical zeal, and compassion for
sinners. A movement which was experiential not just
intellectual. A movement that focused on individuals being
restored to the image of God.
Wesley's message swept across
the British Isles like a raging fire, and hurdled the Atlantic
Ocean to North America, where it sparked the Second Great
Awakening in the late 1700's. John Wesley logged some 250,000
miles on horseback to preach on the American frontier and in
the British Isles. And the 18th and 19th century American
circuit-riding preachers Wesley trained; laid a foundation for
a denomination that today claims over 35,000 churches in this
Methodism eventually led to
the Holiness movement, which emphasized the Holy Spirit's
power to purify the believer. Wesley's emphasis on
sanctification also led indirectly to the birth of
Pentecostalism at the beginning of the 20th century.
But unfortunately the fire
lost its vitality. In the early and mid 1900's the Methodist
Church became so mired in liberalism that Wesley probably
wouldn't have recognized it.
But the good news is that
people are once again getting caught in the wind of revival.
The fire for Christ, which once blazed so vividly, is once
again being rekindled. God is becoming number one in the
hearts of many once again, leaving in many cases liberalism
and individualism in the dust. Folks are being led by faith,
rather than being driven by fear.
The Holy Spirit is moving
once again in the lives of the faithful just daring us to
catch this life changing flame, which once burned so bright.
Throughout his life Wesley
never sought permission for what he did, he sought the power
of God. Wesley was a risk-taker who sought people others just
simply ignored. He followed the leading of the Holy Spirit and
moved ahead with the authority of Jesus Christ. And ever
since, from its very inception, the Methodist movement has
been marked by displays of the presence of God.
I'm convinced that for the
church to move forward we too need to seek and embrace the
power of the Holy Spirit as the early church did. Placing God
above all else and seeking his will, knowing that his spirit
will lead and guide us.
Spirit-led churches focus on
following the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Spirit-led churches
make prayer an important part of their lives. Intercessory
prayer, prayer at healing services, and praying openly for one
another is a hallmark of spirit-led churches.
John Wesley reported on one
of his meetings in 1784; "After preaching to an earnest
congregation at Coleford, I met the Society. They contained
themselves pretty well during the exhortation, but when I
began to pray the flame broke out: many cried aloud; many sunk
to the ground; many trembled exceedingly; but all seemed to be
quite athirst for God, and penetrated by the presence of His
Last weekend while I was
attending the young adult retreat at Camp Manadokin one of the
older women serving as a counselor was experiencing severe
pain in her knee, to the point she couldn't sleep. She limped
out of her bedroom into the common living area where two other
women were having a conversation. She approached them and fell
into a chair next to them crying out for help.
She told the two of her
severe pain and asked them if they would pray for her. So the
two women kneeled beside her and began to pray. One woman
touched the older woman's leg and asked the Holy Spirit to
remove the pain so she might sleep.
Immediately both the person
praying, and the person with the painful knee, experienced a
trembling in their leg and arm. Then the woman felt the pain
leave her knee and the woman who laid hands on her felt the
pain go up her arm and leave her body.
The woman immediately got up
and went to bed sleeping very soundly. What a witness to the
power of prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Keeping
prayer in a position of priority is a spiritual necessity.
Spirit-led churches engage in discipleship through study and
reflection, and have an emphasis on seeking intimacy with God,
using all spiritual disciplines as a means to experience God's
grace. Discipleship, sometimes called spiritual formation, is
important because as we grow closer in our relationship to
Christ we become convicted and excited.
And let's face it when we are
excited about something we want to share it with others. Do
you know what the American Sign Language sign is for
Methodist? (rubbing hands) This is the sign because it means
enthusiasm, a hallmark of the Methodist movement.
It's in this excitement and
enthusiasm that we begin to invite others to experience God,
and before you know it the church is full, and most
importantly God's kingdom is all the larger.
In other words we need to
grow in faith to grow God's kingdom. If we take this slogan of
ours to heart, and call upon the Holy Spirit to lead us, watch
out, before to long this place will be on fire for Christ and
we will be blessed.
The symbol of the United
Methodist Church is unique and very meaningful. The cross
stands for Jesus Christ… The flame stands for the Holy Spirit,
and the flame also indicates the merger between the
Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church by
the two branches of the flame.
But the cross and flame can
be something more meaningful to us as individuals, and as
Certainly the cross stands
for Jesus Christ, … and the flame stands for the Holy Spirit,
but with the flame, I see the Holy Spirit as one branch and us
as the other. Therefore, the flame becomes the Holy Spirit
working in us to share the good news in Jesus Christ. We that
follow Christ, the Light of the World, should ask Him to "set
our hearts on fire," and to send forth His word so that we
might tell the story. In that way we point people to the
Savior, "the true light which gives light to every person
coming into the world." (John 1: 9) Shine Jesus shine, what a
Napoleon once pointed to a
map of China and said, "There lies a sleeping giant. If it
ever wakes up, it will be unstoppable."
Well today the American
church, in general, is a sleeping giant. Many pews are filled
with members doing nothing with their faith except keeping it.
We can't simply be always here and utterly irrelevant. We must
be in ministry and relevant to the community.
If we can ever awaken and
unleash the massive talent, creativity, and energy found in
the pews of all our churches, if we can mobilize the ministers
in our midst, Christianity will catch like a wildfire and
spread. Lives will be saved for Jesus Christ.
So what's stopping us?
We often times ask one
another, "Why can't I win my friends to the Lord? Why is it
that my family members don't seem the bit interested in God?
The answer may shock you by its bluntness, and it's not
pleasant to hear, but we all need to hear it.
A major reason people we know
are not interested in the living God may be because we don't
have enough of the presence of God in our life. Perhaps we are
Sunday morning saints and Monday morning sinners. Perhaps we
are in the spirit, but not filled with the spirit. Simply put,
maybe we are not living with the Holy Spirit ablaze in our
There is something about the
presence of God that makes everything else crumble in
comparison. Without it we are just as pale and lifeless as
everybody else around us. Think about it. Can't you tell when
somebody is just filled with the spirit of God. You can see
it, hear it, and you just know. No matter what we do without
his presence, we are just another somebody to those around us.
I don't know about you but I
am tired of just being another somebody to the lost around me.
So I've made a decision.
I've made up my mind that I
am going to pursue the presence of God like I never have
before. I want the flame of God so bright within me, that God
will be noticed by everyone I encounter in some way.
How about if we all become
filled with the spirit and set this church ablaze so people
want to come and know the living God as we do. Lets allow the
power of God to invade our bodies, enlarge our mind, fill our
soul, lift our spirit, and make us more than we ever imagined
You know the power of God is
incredible. The power of God can make you young when you're
old, and it will make you live even when you die. The power of
the Holy Spirit will disturb us, challenge us, delight us,
deliver us, and lift us up.
When God sends forth the Holy
Spirit the whole face of the earth is renewed. When God sent
forth the Holy Spirit chaos was changed into creation. When
God sent forth the Holy Spirit the Red Sea opened, creating a
highway to freedom. When God sent forth the Holy Spirit a
young woman said "yes," and Jesus was born.
When God sends forth the Holy
Spirit miraculous things happen: Obstacles are overcome,
Broken relationships are restored, Addictions are broken,
Races are reconciled, Cities and towns are renewed, Disease is
cured, The impossible becomes possible, Unity becomes reality,
Hope is established, People are blessed, Lives are saved And
the passion for Christ burns bright!
I encourage you to call upon
the Holy Spirit to rekindle that flame within your heart. I
encourage you to step aside and allow the Holy Spirit to step
in and lead you. I encourage you to let go, and let God. And I
encourage you to catch the flame of the Spirit and get on fire
for Christ! God is up to something in this place, so open your
hearts and be filled with the Holy Spirit!
Lets us pray God of wind,
word, and fire, we bless your name this day for sending the
light and strength of your Holy Spirit. We give thanks for all
the gifts, great and small, that you have poured out upon your
Accept us with our gifts to
be living praise and witness to your love throughout all the
earth; through Jesus Christ, who lives with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Read other messages by Pastor Wade