by Pastor Doug Stratton — May 31, 2020
John 20:19-23 & Numbers 11: 24-30
So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 25Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again. 26Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 29But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!” 30And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
CCI: This morning we have heard 3 accounts of God’s people being filled with the Holy Spirit. We opened with the sheet drama of the day of Pentecost, then we heard about Eldad and Medad, and finally we read about the wonderful refreshing breath that flows from Jesus.
Each year when Pentecost rolls around we focus on Acts 2, the day the house shook, and the fire came, and wind blew, and they spoke in tongues. It was an amazing moment that left those watching either scratching their heads, or opening their hearts. We often read the text in other languages, and sometimes even sing in different tongues. This is the day the church was brought to life. It was the day the doors of the room where they were all staying were thrown open and the 120 were released into the world! It was the day everything changed. I believed I titled the sermon one year, “The Day the Church Left the Building.”
But this year is different. This year we are still waiting for the doors to be opened so that we can gather together in our building face to face. We are waiting to be able to raise our voices together in song. We are waiting to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” We feel like our lives are on hold until we can worship together again.
But maybe not. On the day of Pentecost, the doors opened and the 120 did not go into a church, rather, left their room to proclaim the good news about Jesus. They were not waiting to get into the temple, they were waiting to go out to the people, to tell the world about the Kingdom of Heaven that had been revealed in Jesus.
And so this morning, I wanted to lift to you two other stories about the Holy Spirit. The first is a very ancient story. It comes from the period of time known as the Exodus. The people who left Egypt and traveled through the desert were an interesting people. There were skilled at many things, but the one thing they did best was grumble! They were champion grumblers. After being led out of Egypt, when they encountered a obstacle, the first thing they would do is grumble and accuse Moses of leading them out of the beautiful land of Egypt, where of course they had been slaves, to die in the wilderness. They grumbled at the Red Sea, they grumbled at Mt Sinai, they even grumbled when they got manna instead of meat. And the object of their grumbling was always poor Moses.
But before we are too hard on the people, we need to remember that whether they realized it or not, they were grieving. They were in a new setting, they had no privacy, they had been settled, though slaves, and now were nomads, they had been in familiar settings and now it was unknown. So some of the grumbling did grow from the uncertainty. But it was driving Moses crazy.
And in Numbers 11, it was happening again.
The people had decided they needed a new leader. Moses was at the end of his rope. He went out to the tent where he could talk to God and quite frankly, he gave God the business. He ended his rant with the words, “If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once—if I have found favor in your sight—and do not let me see my misery.”
God responded by offering him a group of leaders who would help him carry the load. He invited them all to the middle of the camp. 70 were invited, 68 showed up. Then God “took some of the spirit that was on (Moses) and put it on the seventy elders.” Before you ask, I don’t know what that means, certainly there is enough God to go around, but when God did this, these leaders began prophesying. It was obvious that these who were chosen were being set aside by God. Whatever that prophesying was, it could not be missed. These were God’s leaders.
But then there was a stir in the camp. The two men who had chosen not to come to the meeting, were also given that portion of the Spirit and they, too, were obviously prophesying in the camp. These two men had refused the invitation, they had not declared their allegiance to Moses, but God gave them the Spirit as well. Moses’ aids were worried. Immediately they went to Moses and warned him that the likely rebels were also prophesying. They thought they were protecting Moses. Make them stop!
And Moses replied, “No way! I wish the Lord would put the spirit on all God’s people.”
In this time of being separated from what Moses called the Tent of Meeting, this word is a word of comfort. God’s Spirit was not limited to the place of worship. Rather God gave the Spirit to whomever was chosen, and God used these leaders wherever they were. And today, when we are open to the Spirit who has been poured out, God will use us wherever we are.
This scene in the wilderness was dramatic and loud as the leaders prophesied, but the second scene we just read was dramatic and quiet.
It was the third day since Jesus had been crucified, The women had found the tomb empty, Peter and another disciple had run to the tomb and confirmed that it was empty. Mary Magdalene claimed that she had seen and spoken to Jesus who was risen. They all went back to the room that had become their safe place and there they gathered afraid of what might happen next. Suddenly Jesus was among them, and while Mary had not recognized him, there was not question this time. Peace be with you. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Dramatic, yes, but gentle. There was no rushing wind, there was no shaking of the house, there were no people prophesying in the camp, there was simply a commission and breath. He breathed on them, what a beautiful picture. He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Spirit.”
The disciples that night were not in the Temple, they were not expecting God to act in a special way, they were huddled together in fear of the Jewish Leaders. And Jesus was present.
That scene of peace is one we need today. We are grieving over 100,000 deaths in our nation, we are grieving the loss of graduations and funerals and weddings and proms and vacations. We are grieving the loss of businesses and employment and even international prestige. In addition we are grieving the racism that continues to poison our society, injustice that goes unnoticed by much of the country, the daily battles that so many in our society fear. And we are afraid.
We need the breath of Jesus that will calm our spirits, ease our fears, empower our courage, and fill our spiritual lungs with grace to forgive and love.
The old hymn says,
Breathe on me breath of God,
Fill me with life anew
that as you love, so may I love,
And do as you would do
Breathe on me breath of God
Until my heart is pure
Until my will is one with yours
To do and to endure
Breathe on me breath of God
Till I am wholly thine
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with your heavenly fire
Breathe on my Breath of God
So shall I never die
But live with you, the perfect life
Of your eternity
Pentecost is a day of celebration and fire. It is a day of wind and Spirit. It is a day of witness and baptism. And through it all, we are invited to welcome the breath of God into our lives whether we are in a church, or a room, or a tent, or on main street.
When Jesus said Peace be with you, he added, As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you. And so as we prepare to leave on this Pentecost Sunday we go in the piece of God.
~ Pastor Doug