First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Pentecost Sunday, May 28, 2023)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“The Power of the Holy Spirit!”
Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:1-13
Pentecost is a watershed moment in the history of the Christian Church. It was a moment of empowerment, a moment of consolation, and a moment of affirmation that we, as Christ’s followers, are not abandoned here on earth as spiritual orphans. The Day marks the giving of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Christian Church.
On the day of Pentecost, the Lord fulfilled His promise by giving the Holy Spirit to the Church. Ten days earlier, as Jesus was taken up to heaven on the Mount of Olives, He promised His disciples in Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
So when those gathered in Jerusalem for Shavuot – the Feast of Weeks (Deuteronomy 16:10; also known as the Feast of Harvest (Exodus 23:16), or penetkoste, as it was known among the Jews that spoke Greek, they knew that God was up to something amazing. For those early followers of Jesus, especially from a Jewish background, the Feast commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai and for us, as followers of Jesus today, we get to remember the generosity of God in giving us the Holy Spirit.
So as we reflect on this watershed event this morning, please allow me to underscore two lessons:
First: We Do Need the Holy Spirit
It’s been 10 days since Christ was taken up to heaven. It must’ve felt awful without having Jesus around. The disciples’ only comfort during this time of waiting was a promise that Jesus gave them. “If I go, I will send the Advocate to you”, says Jesus in John 16:7. This is not going to be a visit of God’s Spirit, it’s a dwelling. The Old Testament saints longed for this day.
On Pentecost, God poured out His Spirit upon His people. His generosity in Christ was shown to everyone. That’s what the Prophet Joel foretold a few hundred years before Christ. Joel 2:28-29, states, “After that, I will pour out my spirit upon everyone; your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days I will pour out my spirit.” In Acts 2:17, Peter quoted these words saying that they had been fulfilled today.
The first lesson we need to remember on this Pentecost Sunday is that we really do need the Holy Spirit. We need the companionship of God in this journey we call life. Jesus knew that following Him in the world is not going to be easy. There is no way we can manage life on our own. One of my favorite African American Spirituals is “Give Me Jesus!” The earliest known version of “Give Me Jesus” was published in 1845 by the Rev. Jacob Knapp, a Baptist minister from New York. It goes like this: (1) “In the morning, when I rise … Give me Jesus. Give me Jesus … You can have all this world … But give me Jesus. (2) And when I am alone … Oh, and when I am alone … Give me Jesus … You can have all this world … But give me Jesus. (3) And when I come to die … Oh, and when I come to die. Give me Jesus … You can have all this world … But give me Jesus.” God’s presence is what we need the most.
Second: We Do Need Each Other
But there is a second lesson we are reminded of on this Pentecost Sunday. Not only do we really need the Holy Spirit, but we also need each other; we need this community of believers. It should strike us that Jesus could have sent the Holy Spirit on each of the 120 followers individually when they were praying at their own homes. Instead, the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples when they were in the Upper Room praying together. There is something indescribable about “being together.”
What is striking about Acts chapter 2 is that it begins with togetherness, and it ends with togetherness. Acts 2:42 speaks of shared teaching, shared meals, shared prayers, even shared possessions. The Holy Spirit united their hearts in singleness of purpose and mission. Simply put, we cannot accomplish individually the mission God that God has given us.
A few weeks ago, I pointed out that community is at the heart of Jesus movement, and we should make it our priority to unite ourselves with the Body of Christ. I have always said that faith is a journey and it’s not meant to be traveled alone. Community is extremely important. We get fed in this community. We are protected in this community. We are safer in this community. We reach our potential in the church community. We love and we are loved in this community. We exercise our spiritual gifts in this community. We get blessed and we become a blessing to others in this community.
Friends, on this Pentecost Sunday, we are reminded of two amazing, uplifting, and transformative truth. First, we need the dwelling and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Don’t face your Goliath alone. You will not stand the battle. Let God be your refuge and strength. Second, we need each other. We need this body of believers. We journey together. We follow together. We rejoice together and we cry together. On these two important foundations, rise or fall our witness in the world. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
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