Sunday, May 24, 2015

If Everyone Cared


Are you prepared for what comes next?

Check out the video before we get in to the message.
When I think of the twelve at Pentecost, I go here.


Acts 2:1-21

New International Version (NIV)

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Peter Addresses the Crowd

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

We tend to refer to Pentecost as the "birthday of the church".
On this day the twelve disciples will stand on a balcony and speak to large crowd.
Out of the crowd comes three thousand people who will believe in Jesus Christ and find salvation. 

There's much about how we commemorate and celebrate this day that disturbs me.
On one side of the aisle I feel as if we put too much emotional contribution to the event.
On the other side of the aisle we don't truly realize what this moment means to us.

In community, I feel as if we miss the point altogether. 

There could not have as much emotion put into the day as is ascribed to it in our Western thought. 
As I read the account, as I try to put myself in the shoes of a person standing there, I can't help but feel bewilderment. That's the word used in the scripture. In many of our Western churches there is cheering and shouting and running through the pews. But, if I'm standing there that day, I can't help but hear silence. 12 guys are standing on a balcony. There are speaking in Hebrew, but that's not what the crowd is hearing. They are all hearing the message in their own native tongue or language. They seem to know that they men are from Galilee, there in Israel. But, they are hearing a Roman dialect. Or, an Asian one. Or, another part of Aramaic. Wherever they are from they hear their own language speaking this message about Jesus Christ from a Hebrew man on a balcony. They are all hearing their own language. All at the same time. "Why do I hear a bunch of Hebrew guys speaking my Roman dialect?" "What are you talking about? They are speaking my Persian language?" "Are you crazy? They are clearly speaking Asian?" 

The moment cannot be one of cheering and shouting. No one truly understands what is going on. 
A person who is not a sports fan does not go into a football game and instantly start cheering unless they understand the game and like one of the teams. A person does not go into a political convention and begin cheering for a candidate unless they understand the issues and believes in the candidate personally. None of these people are going to go nuts about the message and cheer wildly for the disciples unless they understand what is happening. Verse 7 says that are "utterly amazed". That doesn't commit to an overly emotional moment. If I'm standing there listening I'm not saying a thing. 

I'm just standing there in bewilderment. 

All these centuries later, I invite you to read the passage in the same tone and tense. 
Just read the passage and ask the question, "How did we get here?"
Or, maybe more accurately, "How did this happen?" "What caused it to be?"

The simple answer is - the Holy Spirit fell.
Well, that just a bit too easy. We have a tendency to oversimplify in our Western thought and practice. We don't take the time too truly analyze and understand. We find one quick thing to push the button of and that satisfies our need for logic. Yes, the Holy Spirit fell. Jesus said that Spirit would come. But, why? And, why on these guys? These guys who either didn't pay attention or care to understand these 3 and a half years they walked with Jesus. These guys who fled and ran away in Jesus' most pressing moment. These people who have been hiding out and trying not to get caught. They have misunderstood the real meaning of the coming of the Messiah. They wanted a king to rescue them from the dominion of other men. The King wanted to save them from the dominion of sin that ruled over their hearts. 

How did they finally turn a corner and make it here? 
They haven't listened or understood and, somehow, they wind up on a balcony preaching to an enormous crowd of people and baptizing most of them into the Kingdom of God. What happens when a small group of people actually come together and set their hearts and minds to a thing? What happens when people actually commit to a moment and give all of themselves to it? Acts 2 shows us the truth. 

We watched this morning a video by a rock band, Nickelback. 
The song "If Everyone Cared" is written as a love song. The guy in the story can't believe that he has found the love of his life and that he is where he is with her right now. As they watch the sky and see the world traveling by the message of the song turns to one of social justice. It turns to the world asks the question, "Why can't you all love the way we are loving each other, right here?" In a committed relationship there are two people. That's it. What if everyone cared? Well, if it's just you and me, then what if we both cared? What if we both took the time to stop and pray and commit ourselves to the moment? Actually, if we back up, it starts with one. One of the first two people has to catch the spark. One of the first two people will need to be praying already and preparing their own hearts. If we are fortunate, both people have already been praying on their own and that's how they end up coming together. The Lord brings them together in a beautiful moment of togetherness. Like minded-ness. A shared vision. A feeling of mutual fellowship and purpose. 

But, truly, it starts with one. 

In case you missed the video or it went by too fast for you to take it in, lets go back and recap the people and events. It truly is a list not to miss. 

Bob Geldof - an Irish singer and songwriter, a former frontman for the band "The Boomtown Rats" in the late 70's and early 80's get the idea in his head that what is needed is support for the hungry and hurting in Africa. It starts with just Bob. And, in a little over a year more than a billion people worldwide are helping stretching their arms of love around this impoverished and worn torn region. The event "Live-Aid" was a world wide rock concert shown on TV screens throughout the world with a total of 150 million dollars raised in one day. 

Betty Williams - in the 1970's political and religious turnoil between Catholics and Protestants was growing. In the midst of the fighting three innocent children lost their lives. Betty was a receptionist and mother of two. She couldn't stand to just sit there and watch the world go by while these children's death went unnoticed and uncared for. She obtained 6,000 signatures asking for peace. She then organized a march with around 10,000 people who went through town. Their peaceful march was disrupted by protestors who threw bottles and rocks. The next week, Betty put together another march. This time 30,000 people strong. They marched through town and ended up at the children's graves. Regardless of the turmoil and the fighting, the vision for peace was held. What started with one soon turned into a throng. 

Peter Benenson - a British lawyer.
In 1961, Benenson was shocked and angered by a newspaper report of two Portuguese students from Coimbra sentenced to seven years in prison for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom[7] during the autocratic regime of António de Oliveira Salazar - the Estado Novo. In 1961, Portugal was ruled by the authoritarian Estado Novo regime, and anti-regime conspiracies were vigorously repressed by the Portuguese state police and deemed anti-Portuguese. He wrote to David Astor, editor of The Observer. On 28 May, Benenson's article, entitled "The Forgotten Prisoners", was published. The letter asked readers to write letters showing support for the students. To co-ordinate such letter-writing campaigns, Amnesty International was founded in London in July 1961 at a meeting of Benenson and six other men.[8][9] The response was so overwhelming that within a year groups of letter-writers had formed in more than a dozen countries. - used from the Wikipedia page.

Nelson Mandela - many people don't realize that Mandela was a life long Methodist. Raised in the worn torn and segregated region of South Africa, he spent 27 years in prison as a protest to the infectious social disease known as "Apartheid". When he was finally set free in 1994 and free elections happened in South Africa for the first time, more than 19 million people voted. Mandala was elected president and set out to end the Apartheid regime.

And, now I look at twelve men in an upper room in a different light.
These twelve men who were scattered and running for their lives have come together.
Jesus told them to wait in the city until the Holy Spirit came. To stay in Jerusalem until they had tasted power from on high. Then, they would be his witnesses in all regions outside of Israel. But, not until each one of them found the resolve to focus on what Jesus was saying. Once they found that, then they came together. Then they were of like minds and hearts. Then they sought the Lord together and focused on what Jesus had taught them.

What if everyone cared?
We like to think about the whole world caring about the same thing and focused on the same issue, but that just is not true. When we speak of "everyone" it is often just the ones closest to you, gathered around you. It can turn in to a much larger movement, sometimes. But, very much so, it is those in closest relationship to us. It feels like Abraham's conversation with God in reverse. As they looked over Sodom and Gomorrah that day, Abraham asked for the region to be sparred. If God could only find 50 righteous men, maybe he would spare it? The countdown went through 40, then 30, then 20 and then 10. If only 5 could be found then maybe God would spare it?

In Sodom there was only found 1.
Very much so in our world, it is just that singular digit. One.
What if just one cared?
What if 5 cared? How many are gathered in worship with you today? 10?
What if 15 cared enough to come down to the altar and pray today?
You wouldn't be doing it by yourself. No one likes to do things like this alone.
Are there 20 who be willing to pray this morning?
How many came out in the aisle to hold hands while we prayed during the service?
Is there 30 here this morning? How about 40?

It starts with one.
Then people come together and find that God is willing to bless them in all they do.

Get ready for what comes next.

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