Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, May 21, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

Sermon - 05/24/15 - A Pentecost Memorial (Art Conley)

“A Pentecost Memorial”

 

Remembering Christian Examples

The Nazi U-Boats were in control of the North Atlantic in early 1943. Without an effective anti-submarine warfare system, the Allied ships were easy prey for the German submarines.

It was during this time that the US Army Transport ship, Dorchester, carrying 900 US military personnel was traveling from NY to Europe in a small convoy. In the frigid waters off Newfoundland, a German submarine torpedoed the Dorchester at about 1 am on February 3, 1943. The torpedo knocked out the electrical system as it delivered a fatal blow to the ship. This left the ship in total darkness with many men trapped below decks. Panic set in among the men as they prepared to abandon ship.

In the middle of this chaos were four newly commissioned chaplains, representing the Protestant, Jewish and Roman Catholic faiths. The very presence of the chaplains reassured the men in the confusion. The chaplains worked together to restore calm among the men by talking to them and helping some of the soldiers into the limited space on the lifeboats.

The ship’s crew passed out life jackets to those who had lost theirs. When the supply of life jackets ran out, the chaplains gave theirs to those in need and when they could do no more to help, they linked arms, prayed and sang hymns as they prepared to go down on the sinking ship. Witnesses reported hearing the chaplains praying and singing during their last moments.

An eyewitness later wrote, “As I swam away from the ship, I looked back. The flares had lighted everything. The bow came up high and she slid under. The last thing I saw, the Four Chaplains were up there praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could. I did not see them again.”

Today we remember the Four Chaplains who were among the 674 men lost on the Dorchester. We specifically remember the Reverend George Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, the Reverend John Washington, and the Reverend Clark Poling for their heroic action.

 

Today we celebrate Memorial Day by remembering the heroic acts of men and women like the Four Chaplains who sacrificed their lives so that others could live and we may enjoy the freedom of living in this country. Our forefathers started the Memorial Day celebration shortly after the Civil War, to remember all the men and women who died while in service in their country’s armed forces. Theodore O’Hare eloquently expresses the meaning of the day in the first stanza of his poem, “Bivouac of the Dead”:

 

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;

No more on Life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.

On fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents to spread,

And glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.

 

We give thanks to God for those who answered their call to duty and gave their lives that we may live in the freedom we enjoy.

 

Preparation for Pentecost

Today we also celebrate another day of memorial, for this is Pentecost Sunday. Interestingly, this seems to be the only major holy day of the church that has not been commercialized by the secular world.

Pentecost originally was established in Old Testament times to celebrate God giving Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. The Old Testament also refers to this holiday as the Feast of the First Fruits and the Feast of Weeks.

But, we Christians celebrate this day as the birth of the church of Jesus Christ. This is the day that God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit as our advocate, just as Jesus promised. Peter told the crowds at Pentecost, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call."

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit teaches, sanctifies and justifies us in the name of the Lord Jesus. The way we live is evidence that the Holy Spirit in us, if we display love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. God has given us the Holy Spirit in our hearts as his guarantee that we belong to him and that we will receive his promises. The Law has progressed from being written on stone tablets to now being written on the hearts of God’s people.

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After the glorious Resurrection on Easter Day, Jesus came to the disciples several times over the next forty days to teach them about the Kingdom of God. On his last visit with the disciples in Jerusalem, ten days before Pentecost, Jesus told the disciples, “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

The disciples, like many of us, did not understand what the Kingdom of God was about and asked Jesus if he was going to restore the kingdom of Israel at that time. The disciples were still thinking that the Kingdom God would restore was Israel as a military power that would overthrow the Roman Empire. They did not understand that God’s Kingdom is above any one nation and is available to every individual. God’s Kingdom is ruled by love and the power of love is much stronger than any military weapon.

Jesus redirects the disciples from thinking of military power by telling them to concentrate on receiving the power of the Holy Spirit who will be given to them in a few days. At that time the Holy Spirit will empower them to be Jesus’ witnesses throughout the whole world, starting right where they were in Jerusalem.

That very day, the disciples look on, dumbfounded, as Jesus is taken up to his home in heaven. On this day of Ascension, the disciples continued to stare skyward as Jesus goes up into the air until a cloud hid him from their sight. Then suddenly two angels appeared telling them to stop standing there staring into an empty sky. The angels want them to start preparing for the return of Jesus. For when he comes again, he will rule over the whole world and judge all people. Jesus will return the same way he went, in his body and visible to everyone.

Jesus wanted the disciples, and us, to prepare for his return by being his witnesses here on earth. In our daily lives, God will give us many opportunities to share with others what he has done in our lives and God will empower us to do what he asks with the Holy Spirit.

 

The Day of Pentecost

Ten more days passed quietly in Jerusalem and Jesus’ disciples gathered on Sunday morning to celebrate the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. They were remembering a long time before when God made himself known to Moses through fire. In those Old Testament days, Moses spoke to the people for God and Moses spoke to God for the people. But now, after the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God was making himself available to every individual directly with no intermediary.

While the disciples were gathered on this special day, suddenly and unexpectedly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind filled the whole house. Just as suddenly, what seemed to be tongues of fire separated and came to rest on each one of disciples gathered there. All of the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and each one began to speak for God in a different language.

Now there were many Jewish pilgrims from different countries staying in Jerusalem. When they heard the sound, they came to see what was happening.  They were bewildered when they heard Jesus’ disciples speaking to them in their own languages, telling of the mighty works of God. Most were amazed and listened attentively to the Good News, but there were some who tried to make fun of the disciples, saying they were drunk.

Peter, who had denied Jesus in great fear less than two months earlier, was now filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter bravely stands up and addresses the crowd. First, Peter lets them know that the disciples are not drunk, because it’s too early in the morning, and then he proceeds to remind them that these signs were promised by God through the prophet Joel.

 In the last days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions; your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” Acts 2:17-18 (NIV).

Peter was announcing that the age of the church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has arrived. You and I are living in this age. We are given the opportunity to prepare for the next stage of God’s plan, the second coming of Jesus Christ. This will be the Day of the Lord and God tells us what to expect on the Day of the Lord.

 “I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Acts 2:19-21 (NIV).

Peter then assures his listeners that Jesus has indeed risen from the grave and sits at the right hand of God, the Father. Peter and the other disciples are witnesses to this fact. Given this knowledge, then we, just as the people of Peter’s time should be asking, ‘“What shall we do?”

The words that Peter responded with then are still true today, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”’

The message of Peter is clear; we need to be sorry for our sins, but this is not enough, we must accept God’s forgiveness and then live like forgiven people, by turning away from sin and forgiving those who have wronged us. To develop a relationship with God means to seriously seek out other believers for fellowship, prayer, and learning. This takes more than a brief gathering during Sunday morning worship. We must continue to be involved with Bible studies, small groups and other church activities if we want the Holy spirit to reside in our hearts.

 

Prayer

Our loving and merciful Father, as we thankfully remember the “great cloud of witnesses” that have gone before us, we give thanks for the men and women who gave their lives for our country. We also give thanks for the Christians who preceded us, for their maintaining the church of Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Help us to do our part to improve the church of Jesus Christ for those who follow us as we prepare for your coming Kingdom.

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and master, we pray. Amen.