Haygood has an intern this year. We have welcomed Sangeon Kim to our staff. He’s a student at the Candler School of Theology. He’s helped lead our worship these past few weeks and delivered his first sermon ever in the United States! We were in my office two weeks ago and I asked him.
“Sangeon, how would you compare our worship at Haygood to other churches you’ve been a part of?”
He said, “In my previous Methodist church, they are a little more…how do I say it? Pentecostal.”
I said, “Really? What do you mean by Pentecostal?”
He said, “They raise their hands.”
I said, “Well, ok. We could do that.” Alright congregation, let’s see if we can be Pentecostal this morning. Let’s raise our hands high!
I said, “What else, Sangeon, do they do that makes them Pentecostal?”
He said, “They holler out and sometimes yell”
I said, “We could do that. We can holler.”
Right congregation? Let’s try it. Give me a Hallelujah. You see, we can be Pentecostal.
I said, “Sangeon, what else about that other church made them Pentecostal?”
He said, “Their worship services last a minimum of two hours.”
I said, “We can do that. We can have a 2 hour service.”
Come to think of it, we might not be Pentecostal.
But friends, today is Pentecost in the church. If we define Pentecost by hand raising, shouting and long services, we are not a Pentecostal church. There is a diversity of worship styles. Pentecostal, Liturgical, Revival, Modern to name a few. We celebrate them all. But I do believe we can be Pentecostal as we define the church by some of the aspects of that first church in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost.
Let’s give some background. Jesus has been resurrected from the dead. He appeared to the disciples for forty days before he ascended to heaven. Before he left disciples, he told them to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would give them power to be his witnesses in Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). If you add that timeline, it’s fifty days since Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. That’s where you get the word “Pente” which means fifty. It was also a Jewish celebration that commemorated Moses giving the Ten Commandments. Jewish people from all across the world were gathered for Pentecost. There are three aspects of Pentecost that happened that give shape to the mission of the church. A Pentecostal church relies on the power of the Holy Spirit, amazes the community and proclaims the good news about God.
Let’s start with the first. A Pentecostal church relies on the power of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1, Jesus tells the apostles to wait for the promise of the Father. (Acts 1:4). That promise was the promise of the Holy Spirit. They were not to chart out on their own power to begin their ministry. They prayed for the power of the Holy Spirit to be given to them. After 10 days of prayer, the Holy Spirit filled the room with a power that is compared to wind and fire. The Holy Spirit gave them the power and ability to speak. Even though they did not have the education and training of others, the Holy Spirit gave them the ability.
This is true for today’s church. This is true for your personal life. The Holy Spirit is what gives us power to carry our calling in life. It gives us the power to make it through the good times and the hard times. If we attempt to carry out the mission of the church or our own life callings on our own, we will grow exhausted. As many of you know, our church recently went through an eight month process for developing a master plan for our campus. Our team that led this effort made a commitment to pray. We wrote out a prayer that we repeated every time we met. Part of that prayer said, “Help this vision not be our vision. Help this vision be your vision God.” We prayed for God’s power and guidance every time we met. I personally witness that this process unified our congregation and we believe in the outcomes of it. It was fueled by the Holy Spirit.
The same is true for our own lives. When we get in a bind or are confused, we grow exhausted and sometimes seek out our own answers. As you think about your own life, have you stopped long enough to ask for God’s direction and power to help you? What if you took a pause for a few days, wrote a prayer and prayed every day asking for God’s guidance?
Let me give you a quick metaphor. I remember when Blair and I were on our honeymoon in Jamaica. One afternoon, we decided we would go sailing. The resort had these small sailboats. I asked the life-guard, “Do you have to know what you’re doing to take one of these out?” She said, “Oh, anyone can do it.”
I lugged that sailboat to the water. Blair hopped in and off we went. The wind was blowing us pretty good. We were trying to make it a mile or so. About halfway to our destination, the wind just quit. We stopped. We sat there for ten minutes without moving. There were motor boats and jet skis zipping by us. We didn’t know what to do. A man on a jet ski came by. I said, “Well, we’re stuck. What do we need to do?” He said, “You can either pay a lot of money to have one of these boats to tow you back. Or you can pray for the wind.”
I looked at Blair and I said, “Let us pray.”
Pray for the wind. Thankfully, the wind did kick back up and we made it back to shore. Wind is powerful. It’s no wonder the Holy Spirit is compared to wind and its force. Maybe in your own life, you feel stuck. You’ve tried everything you know. My invitation to you is to pray for the wind of the Holy Spirit. It’s what directs our life and gives us the power as a church. As a church and an indiviuals, we are called to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. That makes us a Pentecostal church.
A Pentecostal church amazes the community. When these apostles began to speak, a crowd gathered and they were filled with awe and amazement. The people were hearing in their own languages. They were amazed because they knew these Apostles were simple and uneducated Galileans. They were astounded! There are some traditions who believe that to be a Pentecostal church means you need to speak in other languages by speaking in tongues. I respect that belief. But for today’s purpose, I don’t want us to focus on the language aspect as much as I do the community.
The presence of the Holy Spirit found a way to stir up this group of gathered people in the area. It’s my belief that a church that is on fire with the Holy Spirit will stir up the community. The community will notice. Because the Holy Spirit has a mission. The mission is to get the news out to the people who need to hear it.
That’s part of our hope here at Haygood. We believe God has called us to stir up this community. Make them notice that God is up to something. God is not bunkered inside the building. God is trying desperately to help people experience the good news about Jesus. The Holy Spirit wants people to find forgiveness and redemption. This is why we do a Parade on Palm Sunday in the neighborhoods and invite our neighbors to join us. It’s why we offer a Live Nativity so that our neighbors can witness the story of redemption at Christmas. It’s why we offer a community Christmas concert that helps bring together people who normally would not step foot inside this church. When the Holy Spirit is present it stirs up the community.
Lastly, a Pentecostal church has a message. A Pentecostal church is about making a claim about God. In today’s scripture we have normal people like you and me declaring the good news about God. There were no ordained preachers in this mix. There were no rhetoricians. They simply made themselves available to God and the Holy Spirit helped them speak for God. Some of you might not feel holy enough. You got baggage!
Well, think about Peter. Peter had denied Jesus three times during Jesus’ most trying hour. But Jesus forgave him. When the Holy Spirit is poured out on Peter, he is given a new courage to share the gospel with this crowd. Now, I know some of you are nervous about telling others the good news. But the reality is that people can’t come to faith in Jesus unless they hear about it. That means Jesus needs us. You can share the good news in your own way, but share it we must!
During the Pandemic, many of you helped us share an encouraging Bible verse with our community. We had these yard signs that said, “Walk by Faith…Keep Walking” which is from 2 Corinthians 2:7. So many of you put these signs in your yard to encourage people to keep walking and to keep their faith in the midst of the Pandemic. You saturated the neighborhood with God’s word. God would get us through it. A few months ago, I received an email from a neighbor named Mary Ann Downey. Some of you may know her. She expressed how appreciative she was of seeing these signs. The signs inspired her so much that she wrote an article about it for a large Quaker publication.
Thank you for your signs at the church and in our neighborhood with the message ‘walk by faith…keep walking’. I’m a neighbor and often walk by your church with my husband. We are members of the Atlanta Friends Meeting and I was inspired by this sign to write an article for the Quaker publication “Friends Journal” about my spiritual journey guided by scripture. Walk by Faith…Keep Walking was just the message I needed the first time I saw it, and it stayed on my mind. I felt directly spoken to by God. It offered inspiration and encouragement, and I sent the words to family and friends. It was during August and the Delta variant was increasing. The number of people dying from COVID-19 was increasing and the number of children filling hospitals was increasing. We were wondering where we could find the strength and courage to go on. Here was my answer.”
Friends, let’s keep relying on the Holy Spirit for our power and for direction. Let’s keep stirring up the community. Let’s keep walking. Better yet, let’s keep telling the good news!
Can you do that Haygood? If you can do that, will you raise your hand? Better yet, can I get an amen? Wow. You sound Pentecostal!