First Lesson Ezekiel 37: 1-14
Psalm 139” 1-12
Second Lesson: Acts2: 1-21
Isn’t spring wonderful. It is busting out all around us. It seems that one day the trees were bare and the next they had leaves. There’s all the shades of green signifying new life. Things have been dry for a while and so the outpouring of rain from above is welcome.
Rain brings life – it is necessary for life. Much of the Middle East – including Israel is arid. it was particularly dependent on the outpourings of heaven. The Bible talks about a different kind of outpouring of heaven – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The rain pours down from the sky and gives new life to the land. It causes even the arid land to be fruitful. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is poured out giving new life that causes us to be fruitful. This is the outpouring that we celebrate today – Pentecost.
We think of Pentecost as the birthday of the church. But it wasn’t the first Pentecost. The Jewish people started celebrating Pentecost long before the Spirit was poured out on the disciples. Pentecost or in Hebrew Shavuot was one of the three annual festivals when people would make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. Shavuot was known as the feast of weeks – (or a week of weeks) starting 7 weeks after the second day of Passover. It was also known as the festival of first fruits.
It began as an agricultural festival as noted in Ex 23 and Deut 26. So that when the Israelites entered the promised land – the land promised to Abraham they would bring the first fruits of their harvest and offer them to the Lord – saying ‘I declare today to the Lord our God that I have come to the country which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.’ and then they would pray a prayer describing the bondage of their ancestors in Egypt, their deliverance and their dependence on God, who brought them to “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 26:9). Jews were also required to give of their harvest to any poor dependents on Shavuot (“the Levite, the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow”), so that the holiday served as an occasion for mercy and social equality. (https://jewsforjesus.org/jewish-resources/jewish-holidays/shavuot/)
Celebrated God’s faithfulness God’s deliverance and acknowledged their ongoing dependence on God. As they celebrated God’s blessing of fruitfulness – they recognized that the blessings were not just for themselves They were to share those blessings with those that couldn’t provide for themselves
Later there was less agricultural emphasis and more a celebration of the giving of the law – that time when the Lord had led them out of Egypt and gave them the law on Mt Sinai. Even though there is no clear biblical basis for the association of Shavuot. a number of rabbis calculated and believed that that was when the Law was given.
With time there was more and more Jews living outside of Israel in Greek speaking regions. In those areas Shavuot became known as the feast of the fiftieth day and the way you say fiftieth in Greek is pentecoste (pen-tay-kos-tay')
You may remember that the people got impatient with God and Moses during the giving of the Law and decided to make their own god – a golden calf. Moses came down the mountain and told them to repent and return to the Lord. 3000 refused and as a result died.
Over a thousand years after Moses - God poured out the Holy Spirit on the disciples while Jews from all over were in Jerusalem celebrating Pentecost/ Shavuot. The scene was wild – there was the sound of a rushing wind the Holy Spirit descended and filled Jesus’ followers. It appeared like tongues of fire were on each one. A crowd gathered - they were from many different places and spoke many different languages. And each one heard the disciples speaking in their own language. Even though it was morning they thought the disciples were drunk. Peter explained that that which the prophet Joel prophesied was happening right before their eyes. Peter’s Spirit filled words convicted them of sin and 3000 were given salvation – new life -on that day.
On Shavuot – Pentecost - ages apart the Law was given and 3000 died and the Holy Spirit was given and 3000 came to new life. Pentecost links the old and new covenants. Death and life. Law and Spirit.
Pul writes in 2 Cor 3 the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
All of our texts highlight the Holy Spirit bringing about new life. Ezekiel speaks God’s Word over a lifeless bunch of dry bones and by the power of the Spirit those dry bones come together – they take on flesh and then God breathes life into them He speaks To Israelites in exile God is the God of the God of the impossible – death -> life – fools -> children Word has power to re-create Eph 2.1 – dead in trespasses and sins. Dead ppl cannot do anything to make themselves live. Breathes life God brings life through His Word in the power of the Spirit. Preached word – Water n word – bread n wine.
Who’s doing the verbs in Ez I have spoken n I will do it. We too can experience drought despair
No matter how far we have strayed God is in the business of bringing us back to life – regenerating. NO one is too far gone Dead -> new life. The impossible being brought back. Eph 2.4 – 10 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead [i]in our wrongdoings, made us alive together [j]with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the [k]boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [l]this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Skeletons when brought to life didn’t say look what I did. God alone doing the saving the regenerating the renewing Law we r hopeless in a dreadful condition dry bones w no hope of regenerating ourselves God is in business of bringing about New life God is the God of the impossible. Don’t trust what we see – don’t see whole picture what we feel.
Trust that God by His word and Spirit is creating new life
Word Spirit and Water - Word Spirit Bread n Wine - Preached word and Spirit
God is giving new life this morning Amen
Pastor Tom Summerfield