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Of Dreams and Visions

by Frank Schaefer

based on Acts 2: 1-21

(Walk down to the floor between the pews as you speak, praising God excitedly in different languages: "Toda gloria sea al nombre del Senor!" "Praise God Almighty for the gift of the Spirit!" "Preis den Herrn!" "Hallelujah!" etc. Then proceed to preach as Peter preached to the people at Jerusalem):

Fellow people, all of you who are gathered in this service, listen carefully and get this story straight. I am nor drunk as some of you suspect. Nor is our worship leader here. We haven’t had time to get drunk--it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. What you are witnessing is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters;

Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams.

When the time comes, I'll pour out my Spirit

On those who serve me, men and women both, and they'll prophesy.

I’ll set wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below,

Blood and fire and billowing smoke, the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,

Before the Day of the Lord arrives, the Day tremendous and marvelous; And whoever calls out for help to God, will be saved!"'

Fellow people, listen carefully to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, following the deliberate and well thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you. And you pinned him to a cross and killed him. But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him.

. . . Jesus is the Messiah, whom God raised up from the dead. Every one of us here is a witness to it. Then, raised to the heights at the right hand of God and receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he poured out the Spirit he had just received. That is what you see and hear today.

All Israel, then, know this: There's no longer room for doubt--God made him Master and Messiah, this Jesus whom you killed on a cross."

Change your life! Turn to God, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. And then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children, but also to all who are far away--whomever our God invites.

This is in essence the message that Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, as found in the book of Acts chapter 2.

Some theologians say that the events surrounding Pentecost really began a few thousand years before: at the building of the tower at Babel. Remember the story of how all peoples of the world came together to make a monument to themselves, to build a tower that would touch the heavens. And God swooped down to confuse everybody’s languages--the beginning of multiple languages, according to Genesis.

At Pentecost, of course, God reversed what happened at Babel: miraculously people understood the words that came out of the mouths of Peter and the disciples each in their own native language.

Consider for a moment two similar and yet so different congregations--the one gathering at Babel and the young church at Jerusalem.

Both congregations had gathered in harmony with a common purpose. Both of these congregations had lofty goals. Yet the gathering at Babel turned out to be a failure, while the one at Jerusalem turned the then-known world upside down.

Both congregations were reaching for the heavens. The people at Babel wanted to do so in order to make a monument for themselves. But the people gathered in the upper room at Jerusalem stretched out their hands to heaven in prayer. The first group of people were relying on their own power, the second group of people were waiting for power from on high--God’s power. The first group ended up with tremendous communications barriers, the second group found that through the power of God, language barriers break down.

In a sense these two stories tell the tale of the fact that humanity needs God to be in control. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit," says the Lord.

The Egyptians mustered their mighty army,

but Moses stretched out his staff in faith and God gave the Hebrew slaves victory.

The Amalekites drew their swords, but Moses lifted his arms to heaven and Israel was saved.

Midian mobilized tens of thousands of foot soldiers, but Gideon gathered 300 Israelites full of faith, and God gave them victory.

Goliath put on the strongest armor around in his day, but David picked up three pebbles and fought in the name of God and won.

Not by might, nor, by power, but by my spirit says the Lord.

What about us here gathering this morning? Have we gathered today expecting the power and glory of God to come down, or are we here because this is the thing we always do? Or because our friends are here? Or because someone twisted our arm to be here?

Do we realize that the prophecy of Joel is for us as much as it was for the early church? God still pours out His Spirit upon people--the gifts of the holy Spirit are available for all. There is so much in store for us. If we would only start to reach out, stretch out our hands and ask for it and . . . receive it.

God wants the power of the Holy Spirit to be manifest in and through our lives, for some of us to speak in other tongues, to prophesy, to be instruments of divine healing, to have visions and to dream dreams. Not to build a monument for ourselves, but for the work of God here on earth.

Not that I am where God wants me to be spiritually, but my experience has been that whenever I have started to become serious with God, whenever I have started to take God up on his promises, whenever I got down on my knees and expected the power of God to show up in my life--extraordinary things happened. God never lets anyone down who takes Him up on his promises. Keep in mind that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost came after the disciples had locked themselves away in the upper room to pray, and pray, and . . . pray!!!

Let us be reminded why are we here this morning. We are here because the Almighty God is in this place, we are here to worship the One who is in charge over our lives and to seek his power. Let us become serious with God once again. Let us get down on our knees as the disciples did, and let us pray for our own Pentecost experience that will so fill us with excitement about Jesus that it spills over into our neighborhood. Amen.

 


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Frank Schaefer, for JavaCasa Resources and the Desperate Preacher's Site, 1999