Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May 24, 2015 Dreams & Visions of Excellence

Dreams & Visions of Excellence 
Sermon given at United Church of Beloit, May 24, 2015-Pentecost Sunday

Romans 8:22-27 (NIV)
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Acts 2:1-21 (NIV)

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 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.”

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.’

Pentecost in Jewish tradition...
there are 3 big festivals -Pasach or Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.
Shavuot (Shah vu aht) Hebrew name. Pentecost in Greek, which was the common language in Jesus' time.
Shavout or Pentecost in the Jewish tradition, is counted 50 days, 7 weeks, or 7 sabbaths, from Passover.
This is a festival of first fruits. -given to the Lord, because God deserves the very best!
50 days after passover. Historically, it celebrates the giving of the Torah  at Mount Sinai―the giving of the word of God to the people...
Passover freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavu'ot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage to idolatry and immorality

So the people were gathered in Jerusalem for this special holiday! The reason for the emphasis on all the places the people came from is to say that the people had indeed come from far and wide, from north and south, east and west of Jerusalem, even from as far away as Rome!

Giving the first Steve reminded us last week God is a God of excellence who expects that we give excellence as well. And our gifts should be right off the top...the first fruits..this is what this festival was about..harvesting, giving and enjoying the first harvest!

dreaming of excellence...visions and dreams...
Peter quotes prophet Joel.

Joel was a prophet about 800 years before the time of Jesus. His prophecies came when there was a terrible plague of locusts, causing a famine. And he reminded the people that God was indeed still with them, but they needed to shape up! This plague was not the final judgment, but it was symbolic of the end...and that in the end times, ALL kinds of people -not just men in positions of authority in the Temple...would have visions and prophesy. Peter reminds the people there that this prophecy- that the Holy Scriptures state clearly that the Spirit of God would be poured out on all people....

and Peter reminds the people of this prophecy!

Good old Peter, who only 7 weeks before, said oh Hey Jesus I am with you all the way....and hours later said, Nope not me, I don't know him....But later Jesus reinstated Peter..specifically saying to him, Tend my sheep! And then 7 weeks later, suddenly Peter is preaching with power!
As the Romans passage says, God's power helps us in our weakness!

Now...elsewhere in the Hebrew scriptures was a story about how to hear the voice of God. Elijah, one of the great Hebrew prophets was fleeing for his life and the Lord spoke to him...not in a torrent of fire, NOT in a rushing wind...but in a gentle whisper...a “still small voice.”
and here, we see God's presence in rushing wind, with tongues of flame?! How can this be?

Could it be that God needs to remind us that God is not bound by OUR our expectations? That God exceeds our expectations? We may get comfy and think we 'Know” about God but then something completely unexpected happens! And I think God wants to challenge us, to help us grow and to dream . To think 'outside the box' dream big...God-sized dreams.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” Often it seems that God is far away, judgmental, but over and over scripture says something like this...Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. The word in the original Greek for Saved is a great means to be saved for all eternity, it also means to be rescued from danger and to be healed, to be made WHOLE...

Finally, there were certain celebrations and sacrifices and offerings which were prescribed in the Law for the day of Pentecost. On Pentecost, the High Priest was to take two loaves of freshly baked bread was made from the newly harvested wheat. The priest would take this bread and offer them before the Lord..

As the High Priest would hold up that bread-imagine the disciples and Jesus' followers there.. They would envision Him take a few loaves of bread, giving thanks and then hand them out to to feed thousands of people! They would hear again Jesus say I am the Bread of Life! They would remember that night just 7 weeks before as He said, Take and eat, this is my body given for this in remembrance of me....'

Dreams and visions can honor the past while looking ahead to the future. Dreams and visions that are from the Holy Spirit remember..and Honor our Lord while moving forward to a bright future.

It's no coincidence that our churches came together when we did. It's no coincidence that during our merger process, both of denominations did a vision process and began to implement a new structure with a new vision for the future! A future in which people from far and wide, from west and east and north and south see and experience the Love of Christ, because we in this church and our sister churches.. care for others in His name. Because WE have called upon the Name of Our Lord Jesus and we have found Saving Grace. Because of this, we reach out to our community, to all of our community in His name. Because we serve God to the very best of our ability to honor God's excellence.  

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