Ten days can seem like an eternity, or they can be less than the blink of an eye. I can guarantee you that for many Star Trek fans around North America, the last ten days before the opening of the newest movie probably seemed like an eternity of torture and waiting. Would it be good? Would it ruin the old favourite characters? Would it be the first of many more?
What have the last ten days been like for you? I’m not asking to find out if you are a big movie fan though. The reason I’m asking about the last ten days is because that is exactly how long it has been since we celebrated the day of Christ’s ascension. The ascension is a turning point in the Church year. If you remember from last week, ascension is really the time where Jesus told his disciples that it was time to take all that they had seen, most especially His resurrection, and share it with the whole world. He was saying to them that now that they had seen it, they were to share it.
And the same holds true for us today. As a church we have spent the last 2 months seeing and hearing the glorious news of Christ’s resurrection. Now we have been called to share it. So again, I will ask the question: What have the last ten days been like for you? What has happened to you since the day of Ascension? What have you been up to? How have you occupied your time? Have you been out there sharing the good news? Have you been pounding the pavement? knocking on doors? calling people up on the phone? Have you been doing the work God has called you to do? Perhaps you think these questions are just a little bit unfair. After all, It’s just now that time of year when everyone seems to be running on empty. The weather is getting nicer and nicer. No one wants to be cooped up inside any more. Week-end festivities beckon to even the most faithful of us, calling us out of doors and out of town. At work our thoughts inevitably return to planning summer vacations. How is a person supposed to fulfill all that God is asking? Especially at this time of year! As many people would say: we should be thinking of gearing things down for the summer, not gearing them up! We’ve done our work for the year. We’ve been to Bible studies, we’ve taught Sunday school, we’ve helped with the programs that needed to be done. There’s nothing left. We need a break. Motivating ourselves to do God’s work is hard enough at the best of times. At this time of year it can be almost impossible. There’s just nothing left to give.
Well if you are feeling like you are running on empty, and you haven’t really been doing the evangelizing God has called you to do; then you can take some small comfort in our text by seeing that you are not alone. It was the same for the disciples after the ascension too. Ten days after Jesus had risen into heaven, the disciples were still basically hanging out together in Jerusalem. We aren’t told of anything they did during that time. Most likely because they hadn’t done anything! They were running on empty. They had been through a three year roller-coaster ride of miracles, and teaching and confrontations with the religious leaders. They had been faced with a lot of things which had caused them to question their beliefs, and calling in the world. They had seen their teacher falsely accused, killed, buried, and somehow raised to life again. It was almost too much to bear. And then before Jesus flew off into heaven He tells them to get busy and evangelize the whole world. Yeah right! Maybe later, after a little vacation, and some time at home with family first. And so the disciples sat together in Jerusalem, doing nothing when they should have been doing so much! They were running on empty and had nothing left to give.
But then the day of Pentecost happened. You see, Pentecost was God’s answer to those worn out and empty disciples. It was his way of filling them up and getting them ready and able to do the work he had called them to do. You heard the account in our epistle reading for this morning. The sound of roaring wind, the tongues of fire dancing on their heads, the shock, amazement and confusion. But with all of these outward signs also came the most important gift of Pentecost: an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Where they had only moments before been empty, they were all now filled with the Holy Spirit. Where only moments before they had been idly waiting and wasting time; they were now given utterance by the Holy Spirit. In other words they were given a jump start. They immediately got up and began preaching the good news as they had been commanded to do ten days earlier. And what’s more, they were able, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to do so to everyone who was in Jerusalem, no matter what their native language was. The prophecy given by Joel some 900 years earlier was coming true in their midst. And nothing would be the same again.
And that Pentecost event is also God’s answer for us. For just as surely as God poured out the Holy Spirit on those men in our text, he has continued, as the prophecy of Joel foretold, to do so on men and women and children ever since. And he has done so for each of you here today. Only God doesn’t use roaring winds and fire any more. He uses instead, simple Words and Water. People are called to God, and filled with the Holy Spirit when they hear the Word of God proclaimed to them, and when they are baptized in his name. It is in God’s Word and in the sacrament of Baptism that people at the end of their resources, people running on empty, people who are spiritually blind and dead, are filled by God. On our own we have nothing to give, and never will. On our own we will never be able to live up to God’s expectations. For only once a person has been filled by the Holy Spirit can they truly come to believe that Jesus is their saviour and that all he did on the cross, he did for them. Only once a person is filled by the Holy Spirit will they be converted from doubt and fears and disbelief into faith, and hope and love. Only once they have been filled with the Holy Spirit will they be able to remain faithful to God’s calling, and even become stronger and more willing to do so.
When we are filled by God, through Baptism or his word, we are actually being filled with God himself. The Holy Spirit is God himself. It is only God himself who can overcome sin, and doubt, and give us the power to resist them too. Only God can give us the power to live a life that is pleasing to him. Only God can give us the courage to proclaim the good news of Christ to the world around us. And that is exactly what God does for us when he gives us his own Holy Spirit to dwell in us. He gives us himself.
That is what the disciples received on the first Pentecost. And look what happened to them afterwards. They were changed men. They were bold. They were courageous. They were truly alive in their faith. And with the Spirit’s help they began fulfilling what God had commanded them to do. The church grew by thousands that very same day. And the church just kept on growing. Through the proclamation of God’s word among the nations God kept on filling people with the Holy Spirit, and bringing them life and hope and courage and salvation.
And he continues to promises that each time we hear and study his Word, the Holy Spirit will be working to make us stronger and more faithful. Each time we participate in the Lord’s supper, the Holy Spirit will be there increasing our faith and giving us the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won for us on the cross. Every time we faithfully attend worship, or study the scriptures, or have family devotions, or come to Holy Communion we furnish the Holy Spirit with opportunities to come and fill us up where we were once empty. To give us an overflowing abundance of faith and hope and forgiveness, and courage to live out our lives as God has called us to do.