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<< Special Coverage << Pentecost

Remembering Pentecost in Preaching

  • J. Grant Swank, Jr.
  • 2000 1 Mar
  • COMMENTS
Remembering Pentecost in Preaching
Pentecost is probably the most forgotten holy season in the church year outside the more liturgical faith communities. Such is sad, for it is on that historic occasion that the Spirit first gave power to believers.
Reviving then preaching the Pentecost worship can be the sheer delight of any biblical preacher.
What can be accented to worshippers during Pentecost? By bringing a believer's attention to Acts 2, the preacher reminds the worshiping community of the sweetness of that first gathering just prior to the Spirit's infilling. There were about 120 disciples waiting upon heaven's witness, just as Jesus had predicted. Their union had tallied ten days.
So it was in that upper room conclave that followers' hearts were made obedient to the heavenly directive. In that fellowship individual souls were made transparent to glory and to one another. In the process, each individual was humbled.
So it is when we gather together. There is to be that sweetness known only to those consecrated to the risen Lord. It is evidenced in our total loyalty to the heavenly will, openness to God and one another with the divine gift of humility clothing us all.
Further, the preacher recalls for worshipers that such a ten-day prayer vigil yielded its own souls' settling into God. The variety of personalities gathered in the room would have been astounding. There were extroverts, introverts and all in between. There were followers and leaders. There were verbal and non-verbal types. There were the tall and short, large and small, young and old.
Yet in that collection of diversity there came unity in prayer. How did it occur? By each soul moving eyes off of self onto God, from hurry onto slowing down, from earth to the heavenly vision. Such is the marvel of quieting one's inner being before the Lord. Such is the reward of collective intercession. Such is the deepening that can only come upon us when we surrender the flesh to the Spirit.
Today more than ever there is needed the preaching which brings the prayer hunger. When humans move from the tangle of earthly struggles to settling into the heart of God, then the church is the church at prayer.
In addition, the preacher lifts up the suddenly of God. "Suddenly there was a sound from heaven...." Sometimes we consider God to be rather slow in what He is doing in our lives. Yet, of course, the Timeless knows how to intersect time according to eternal wisdom. That is an awareness not always grasped by human intellect. Therefore, when God decides to act, there are the suddenlies in contrast to the graduals. It was a sudden divine breath that sliced in half the Red Sea. It was a sudden stone thrust that toppled Goliath. It was a sudden "Peace!" call that calmed the Galilean Sea. And it was a sudden sound from above that brought the holy winds upon Pentecost.
How many suddenlies can the church count up in looking back historically over divine workings? And how many suddenlies in each individual believers' life? Numerous suddenlies. They all go to work the everlasting plan. God knows how to interweave suddenlies with graduals in order to craft a holy scheme often hidden from the human eye.
Moreover, the preacher shares with worshiping listeners that God's supply is full -- "... filled the whole house." Because God is God, He works completely. Satan can work only partially in order to lure followers further into the dark. God works perfectly in order to guide us into the full-orbed light.
As a counselor with addicts, I hear over and over their tales of heroin's rush. Such a high. Then they go for more opiates in an attempt to bring back the initial high. But the return is never quite enough. I pray to help those souls to realize that they are being lured by a power which cannot finally satisfy or supply. Yet, those addicts know that truth all too well; now they are begging for relief to get out of their fix.
When God carries out His purpose, He performs to the full. That is why He asks His followers to fill up their consecrations to the top. After all, God gave His all to save us; therefore, He asks us to give our all to serve Him. That is the "perfect" of Matthew 5:48. Be perfect in sweet surrender to God as He has been perfect in His sweet sacrifice upon the cross.
In addition, the preacher underlines the seen of Pentecost power. There were seen upon the 120 heads divided fiery tongues. That was heaven telling earth that He expects faith to be worked out in everyday life -- visible, knowable, accountable.
Christianity is not ethereal in the sense that it is vaporized. The Pentecost faith is heaven-come-to-earth within our own incarnational infillings with the Spirit. The family will see it. The church will see it. The workplace will see it. The world will see it. The Pentecost believer cannot hide the Spirit's presence nor would he wish to.
So it is that this presence is holy, lighted, alive with truth. It is Spirit-owned. It is burnt through and through so that all that is of self-centeredness is extinguished. All that is prostrated before the eternal throne becomes preeminent. So it is that the world around that believer is witness to the divine lordship.
This Pentecost season come into the Spirit with the assurance that He awaits your entrance. He wishes to host you into His power, His peace and His purity. Now share that with those who gather in the name of Jesus.


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