Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pentecost - What is happening here

BIG UP's to Rob Bell for the Erev Rav thoughts

A Story…
As a kid we were asked to draw a picture of this scripture in RE – I miss heard what was being said so instead of tongues of fire I just drew a picture of the disciples being licked by giant tongues… did not warm myself to the RE teacher who thought I was tacking the Mick – oh if she could see me know… TONGUE SLIDE
It seems to me though that confusion is one of the underlying themes of this biblical story.
The events that happen are beyond comprehension so much so that event those who experienced it were hard pressed to describe what was happening. In 2:12 we see that the crowd gathered were Amazed and confused – do much so that they had to keep asking each other what had happened here…. This is weird stuff
So much so that the only possible explanation from an on looker is Ah Yes – They must be drunk.
So as we explore this scripture this morning the question, “What does this all mean?” is probably an appropriate place to start…

So in getting to the heart of what this means we need to realize that Pentecost is not a word that was invented by a denomination to describe a type of worship that involves speaking odd languages or waving your hands around in worship.
Pentecost has a back story and like so much of the Jesus story its roots lie in the Exodus of Egypt
For the people of Israel this back story of the Exodus shapes their very identity and existence in the world.
While we are not Jews their back story is our heritage – its shapes whom we are without it the Stories of Jesus are monochrome and often difficult to understand. When we come to terms with this back story it’s like someone has taken a palette of color and repainted the Jesus story – it brings it life, depth and significance.

When it comes to Pentecost though there is not just one back story but many
Acts 2 is like a convergence of many ways in which God has acted,
Many promises God has made
It’s the fulfillment of Prophecy
And in the establishment of the Church we have God’s instrument for building his Kingdom made alive, breathed with Holy fire
So what does this all mean?
Well firstly the word “Pentecost” designates the 50th day after Passover.
It’s one of three Pilgrim Festivals in the Jewish calendar
Feast being significant ways of remembering the God story in the life of the people of Israel –
There are three pilgrim festivals Passover, Pentecost and Feats of Tabernacles in particular helped them remember
- who they were
- how they were created
- and how they were redeemed
And in light of all this then the festivals helped reestablish their identity showing them how they were to live at God’s People
At Passover they remember who they were gathered out of Egypt in the middle of the night and rescued
At Tabernacles which is like an end of year celebration they remember the 40 years in the wilderness and the establishment of the temple.
Pentecost – literally means fifty days, fifty days after Passover
In Hebrew they call this – Shavuot SHAVOUT SLIDE
-it’s a Festival with a double barrel meaning
Firstly it’s tied to the giving of the law – The ten words on two stone tablets at Mount Sinai
– Exodus 19 if you like was the first Pentecost.
In the giving of the law God establishes a covenant with his people
– If they follow his law he will be there God, they will be his people.
God has rescued them out of Egypt but it’s only in the giving of the law the establishing of the covenant if you like that they truly become God’s people.
If you remember the story of Moses – the Pharaoh ordered the killing of the boys of Jewish women but the girls were allowed to live.
I guess there are two ways to quash a nation of people:
- You can put them all to death by the sword
- Or you can dilute and pollute their blood lines.
In killing the boys that is precisely what Pharaoh intended
When the sons of Jacob, the sons of God’s promise came to Egypt they were God’s people
Over time that got diluted so much so that as they exit Egypt the writer describes them in Exodus 12:37+38 as 600,000 men not including women and children and others…
The 600,000 we might call people who had stuck to a pure blood line
The others, were people of mixed blood – not true Jews but not Egyptians either – somewhere in between in Hebrew
a mixed multitude
People who aren’t really Jewish but wouldn’t fit with the Egyptians either, God fearers, immigrants, half castes we might call them a Motley Crew
Prior to the Giving of the Law they were a collection of odds and sods - loosely related to each other descendents of Abraham but also a mixed race
At Mount Sinai in the giving of the Law – the Covenant was established - they became one people, one race
God united them under the Law –
Law being rules to live by –
Rules that say you are God’s people regardless of whether you mother or Father was Egyptian – the Motley Crew, the EREV RAV are know God’s People.

As they waited around the foot of Mount Sinai
A cloud appears, trumpets blasts, everyone in the camp trembled.
The whole of Mount Sinai was covered in Smoke because God had come down on it as Fire…
Sound Familiar…. Is this our back story????

But Wait there’s more because SHAVUOT – Pentecost is also about Harvest –
The Fifty days prior being the time of the Grain harvest – SHAVUOT SLIDE
Which is related to the word Sabbath is what follows – time when the land rests…
What would happen is that on this day an offering by each farmer of two loaves of bread would be made in the temple….
While there as he offered the bread he would remember the story of his people
Deuteronomy 26:5 –
Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians ill-treated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labour. Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey;
Harvest is an important occasion in establishing themselves as a people – the reason they ended up in Egypt in the first place was because the harvest failed they had nothing to live on and so were forced to submit to an enemy people in order to survive.
At Sinai they become once again God’s People they are to be brought into their own land the harvest is not because they grow crops wells
- it’s a sign of God covenant with them,
- his care for them
- God is the source of their prosperity
Without God’s covenant they are not a people but an EREV RAV a Motley Crew,
Without God’s Covenant they have no land – the harvest will never be their own.
For the Israelites despite the fact they would wander around in the wilderness way longer than they had to through SHAVUOT they are moving to Sabbath – rest from wandering – for them it’s a cause of celebration – a feast, a party…

So In the City of Jerusalem there were Jews from Jerusalem and religious men from all over the world gathered…
Ready to give thanks to God for making them One People – his People.
Ready to re establish their identity as God’s people once more
As they Gathered around the temple expecting to hold up a couple of pieces of bread and give thanks to God for making them a people God breaks in
– like he did at Mount Sinai

As they remembered there story – a historical story of how God had once upon a time revealed himself to the People of Israel, of how in smoke and fire and noises from heaven, the rescued reestablished people of God had become God’s People.
God Moves again
He enlivens their story
But He does something new as well…
Where around the Mountain the work of God was contained – the people were warned DO NOT Cross the boundary of many will die, now God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit is blowing wild…
The building cannot contain it PENTECOST SLIDE
The people who are touched by the Spirit cannot contain it either,
The Spirit draws them out into the town square where they tell of the amazing things God has done.
Where at Babel the people were scattered because God confused their language – here on Pentecost morning – the motley Crew from the ends of the earth here these things in their own languages
The curse of Babel is reversed.
Sinai is back in business,
God is moving again drawing in the immigrants,
Reaching out to the half castes,
And as this motley Crew grow in number, this EREV RAV enter into a new relationship with God

On that morning the Church is born, HOT COALS SLIDE
A New Covenant is established -
With the rule of the Holy Spirit written on the hearts and lives as opposed to pieces of Stone
Under the High Priesthood of Jesus – who has become our once and for all Sacrifice
A New Tribe is established –
Not born of Flesh, but born of Spirit
Not Born form direct family lineage to a wandering Aramean who went down into Egypt way back in history. But gathered out of all the nations of the earth an EREV RAV a motley crew of half castes and has beans from the unpronounceable places of the earth.
A New Homeland is established –
Where once the people of God had a specific, geographical, piece of dirt, they called their promised land. Now everywhere is a potential land of promise.
As we pray and act in the name of God in this world, then his new Kingdom Comes.
It’s not bound by geography or location but by the gathering of people in God’s name,
Through the work of the people in God’s Name.
A New Place of worship is built
The Journey of God’s people led them from a mountain, to a temple, to an upper room to the Street.
Where the Temple was central to all that God’s People did in worship, through Christ the curtain has been torn the street, the market place is as much a potential place of worship as the grandest cathedral.
As the Stories Converge…
The Holy Spirit, “the shy member of the Trinity" reveals himself, breathes life into the dead bones of the religious observance of God’s people.
There are new beginnings
New Possibilities for God’s Mission
And New Life
In Acts Chapter one a group of Individuals went up to the room and waited upon God –
In Acts Chapter two the same group of people became the body of Christ, one body, joined by one Spirit
Individuals went up and the Church came down

In a Moment as we gather round our Communion table and lift up Bread and Wine, just as they would at SHAVUOT
Then we are going to remember our story – not about being wandering Arameans,
But about, how on the night before Jesus died he gathered in an upper room with his friends
And in doing that we will be reminded that once we were far off but in Jesus we have been brought close to God. Where once we were EREV RAV now we are the people of God
And in doing this we reestablish who we are and that just as God has called u out of many places he has called us to be his Body in many different places too.
And as we do this we will ask God to breathe life into our remembrance to make us one people, one body filled with one Spirit

As you come forward to receive we would invite those who would like pray to linger at the front, if you want a fresh touch of the Spirit than indicate to the prayer team.

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