Last year my family and I were at a county fair. There were all of the things I was used to seeing at the fair, there were cows, pigs, and other livestock. There were all of the regular fair foods, turkey legs, nachos. There was a ferris wheel and rides that looked reasonably safe. And then there were the fair games set up to look easy, but we all know are really fair, but they take a good bit of luck along with a lot of skill to get a 1 dollar stuffed animal for $5. There was the ring toss, there was the one where you swing a big sledge hammer, there was the pick a duck game where you just pick a duck and hope you win something. Anyway, there was a game that I hadn’t seen before. It was just a bar about 8 feet up in the air. with a big timer over the top of it. And this was the game, you paid five dollars and you got to hang from the bar. If you could hang from the bar for 2 minutes you won $100. I watched a few young men trying to impress some ladies with them, who seemed to be in pretty good shape, hang from the bar, and after about 30 seconds their cocky smile turned to a painful grimace as they realized, this whole thing was a profit deal. None of them made it. They white knuckled it, they hung on as tight as they could for as long as they could, but pretty soon, their grip weakened to the point where they couldn’t hold on anymore, they let go, they dropped to the ground.
Today is the festival of Pentecost, which is a much more important day for us than a county fair. And it was a much more important day for the people that were gathering in Jerusalem 2000-ish years ago to celebrate this festival. People were gathered in Jerusalem from all over that region of to world to thank God for the harvest that he had given.
The disciples were not on the streets that morning they were in their room. They had been in Jerusalem 10 days now since Jesus had ascended into heaven. And while they were waiting Acts 1:14 tells us what they were doing. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
They were worshipping and praying with the followers of Jesus.
And that is when it happened. God fulfilled that promise that Jesus made to his disciples last week at his ascension, saying Go and wait in Jerusalem because God the father was going to pour out the Holy Spirit on his disciples. And just as God promised that is what happened. The Holy spirit
came to those disciples, there was the sound of the wind, the tongues of fire on their head, they were given a gift to speak in many different languages to many different people, and Peter was given this bravery to stand up in front of this large crowd of people and quote scripture to them, and as he went on to preach Word of God so that 3,000 people were converted in just one day. Pentecost marks the beginning of the New Testament Church. This wonderful holiday that we celebrate what the Holy Spirit has done for us.
It is an exciting day. It’s a day that you get to see what God has done for us. That even though Jesus ascended into heaven, he is going to provide for his church. Even though Jesus isn’t walking around with us, that the word of God has the power to change hearts and change lives. And the thing that saves us is the faith that the Holy Spirit gives to us as he works through the unchanging word of God.
This weekend will be 75 days since Nevada started its stay at home order. Thats a long time. That is as long as schools have their summer breaks. Now we are back to this. It is still a little different. 50 or less. And for many people during this time there has been anxiety, and depression growing. Even though we are putting up these online worship services, without being together it has been easy for many people to just drift a little bit away from God. It is a strange time. Being away from church can leaves us feeling vulnerable in our faith. Being away from people makes us feel alone. Being afraid of the long term effects of this pandemic physically, financially, politically, all of this can lead us to be under stress feeling like we are the ones that are hanging from a bar, white knuckling it, holding on for dear life. And what can make it worse, is there isn’t even a big clock above your head ticking down to let you know when this is all going to be over and you can rest from this struggle.
It might not even be the corona virus that has made you feel like that. Maybe this is just something that you have felt in your faith. Maybe you are just feeling: You gotta hold on tight. You are trying to overcome. You are trying to be strong to prove it to yourself, and to show those around you that you have everything under control, but as time keeps ticking on and gravity keeps pulling on you it just gets tougher and tougher.
Your God doesn’t want you to fall. He hasn’t set up some game to take something from you. He is not setting you up to fail and feel weak.
When we talk about faith and what it is we look to Hebrews chapter 11 that defines the word for us, Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Our faith receives from God of the forgiveness of sins thats grants you and I eternal life, even if we have never talked to Jesus face to face, even if we can’t physically see our sins washed away from us.
When the Holy Spirit was poured out on those disciples that first day of Pentecost there was something was clearly seen. God is with his church. Their senses were full of that. They heard the sound of the violent wind blowing. They saw tongues of fire on their heads. They were speaking in different languages that people from all over the world could understand. But what they must have felt while all that was happening is God lifting them up. He was lifting them up to be his voice to the ends of the earth. He was using them as instruments to proclaim peace and comfort to the world. He was assuring them that what they believed about Jesus and every promise that he made to them, including wait in Jerusalem and I will pour out the holy spirit on you will come true.
Our God never lets us down. Our God does not leave us hanging. Our God does not tell you to rely on your own strength and courage to just make it by. He give you his spirit to help you and lift you up.
Trust him. Because we can’t do this on our own. Just like hanging from a bar for only a couple of minutes might seem easy to some, it’s not what it looks like. Even if someone would have won the money for having on that bar for a few minutes, eventually they would have to let go. Eventually they would feel so weak that their grip on the bar would give out and they would fall -Sooner rather than later for most. And the same is true for our faith. It’s the same ego that makes us think that we are the ones holding on to God. We look to ourselves for strength. Sometimes we pray out of habit rather than actually expecting our God to do anything about our problems. Sometimes we neglect our personal Bible studies and devotions. Sometimes we let different sins get a foothold in our life and think this will
be fine, I can keep this under control while still keeping my faith. All of that leaves us feeling tired and weak.
Take comfort in the gift of the Holy Spirit that you have had poured out on you through the waters of baptism and each and every time you listen to and mediate on God’s word. He is the one that is making promises to you. He is the one holding you in his hands. He is the one that is keeping you close to his chest and letting you know, he’s got you. It’s going to be ok.
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. You are part of everyone. You don’t just have to hang in there, just ask him to hold on to you. Your strength isn’t going to get you to heaven. He did it. Your words, or arguments or logic are not the things that are going to change your heart, or change the hearts and minds of those around you. His are. Just listen to the wonders of God that he continues to announce to you.
When you are just holding on tight just fall into his hands. He has removed your sins. He is going to take you and all believers home to heaven. He is guarding and protecting his church and it will never fail. I’m happy that we are back this weekend. I’m happy that we are gathered to hear what God has done for us. Just relax he’s got you.
Praise be to God our Father, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, And the Holy Spirit who has been poured out on you. May he be and remain with you all and keep you in the one true faith until life ever lasting. Amen.