Sunday, 23 May 2010

In the last days

What were the Jews expecting the Last Days to be like ...the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord?

Yes ok the Prophet Joel had predicted...

In the last days God says...I will pour out my Spirit
on all people...and they shall prophesy.

But first and foremost...
the Jewish people believed the Last
would be an age to
in... by the arrival of the Messiah...

and the
Messiah would be
a messenger of peace Isaiah 53:7
descended from King David Isaiah 11:1
crowned King of the Jews and Isaiah 2:4

the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him Isaiah 11:2

This Messiah will deal to hunger and illness
with righteousness and justice… he’ll judge the poor
and needy of the
evil and tyranny won’t be able to stand before his leadership Isaiah 11:4

He will include and attract people from all cultures and nations… and the knowledge of God will fill the world Isaiah 11:9-10

Death will be swallowed up forever…
and the
dead will rise again
Isaiah 25:8 and 26:19 [Pause]

In the face of a bewildered Jewish crowd
sneering in ridicule…
others amazed and bewildered…
all asking ‘what does this mean’;
Peter announces… that the Last Days…
have well and truly

That is not was they were expecting.

The Jewish Festival of Pentecost…or Shavuot…
for which these Jews were gathered in
this festival was for remembering…
 the dawn of another age…the age of the Law
the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt Sinai …
fifty days after the Exodus... and by the first century celebrated fifty days after the Passover.

But that year according to John’s gospel… Jesus had been crucified on the day of the Passover…
a Friday on the Jewish calendar…14 Nisan in 33 AD.

And on the evening of Jesus’ crucifixion, to begin the Passover meal…the head of every Jewish household would have looked toward the rising moon.

What they
saw…what we know they saw from today’s science of astronomy…was the moon…
rising in
eclipse…lying fully in the Earth’s shadow …and blood red…for half an hour.

Earlier at midday on the day Jesus
died…because of the eclipse…the sun had been darkened for almost three hours.

And now Peter reminds the crowd seven weeks later... of the prophet Joel’s words.

before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood...and everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.

In the midst of thousands of Jews…returning to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost
there are gathered together in one place…
a hundred and twenty followers of the executed rabbi Jesus…who claim to have witnessed his resurrection

earshot and in full view of this crowd
all one hundred and
twenty… are transformed into multilingual speakers… capable of being understood by everyone present… no matter where they’re from.

And so as far as Peter is concerned…
the great and glorious day of the Lord… has

And Jesus had promised this would the last supper and again the very last thing before his ascension
you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

All the Jews gathered that day… knew the Spirit of God had turned up before
in the burning
bush…in the pillar of cloud and fire
sometimes filling the tabernacle...
coming on the
prophets in power…changing their lives and making it possible…for them to speak
the future purposes of God…into their present times.

But on this day… this day is different…the ones you hear speaking in your own languages aren’t great prophets…or even great teachers…but ordinary rag tag followers of Jesus… and Peter exhorts them to listen carefully to what he has to say.

This is about the
fulfillment of prophesy…the great and glorious day of the Lord has arrived
the new covenant has been established…
and the kingdom of God is well and truly…at

Jesus may no longer be there in the flesh to teach and to lead them…but now… by the pouring out of God’s spirit on every last one of them…they are all changed…they are all empowered to speak so you can understand

There’s a sense in which that Pentecost Day can be described as the "Birthday of the Church"
and we still
celebrate it fifty days after Easter…
after the Passover…on which Jesus was crucified.

And like the Jews gathered on that day…
here at the ends of the earth we’re still asking

 ‘what does this mean?’

And if the understanding…of Peter and the earliest Christians is right…this means we are living in the last days …the age of the great and glorious day of the Lord
ushered in… by the anointed one of God…
in whose name we
This means these are the days… in which the Spirit of God will be poured out on all flesh…
This means by virtue of our baptism in Christ…
by the Holy Spirit …we’re
all given the ability…
witness to Jesus’ life... death and resurrection

To speak in ways that
all can understand proclaiming Jesus’ saving message of peace…and his ministry…
of reconciling the whole
world to God and one another...
But this also means that the great and glorious day of the Lord is a work in progress…it is now but not yet complete Many of the prophets’ promises are still to be fulfilled.

All weapons of war are not destroyed...the world isn’t united in service and worship to one God.
People still starve and barren lands have yet to be made fruitful. And though Israel is established for the Jews…they do not experience eternal joy and gladness…
nor do their neighbours whose land they occupy.

On that day so long ago…the whole of God became available to the people of God…Father Son and Holy Spirit…

The mystery of the
Trinity which we celebrate next week…moved among them then…
and moves among us now…

And yes some of us believe… but are still reluctant or even unwilling to consent and surrender to the Spirit of God… in us… and upon us …and around us.

And in grace God waits…for our consent…

My friends... just as in the first century at the birth of the church... there is still much work to do...
and continuing conflict injustice and poverty shows we are not evolved enough as human beings...
to bring peace and healing to the world in our own strength. We
need the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

My prayer is that each of us here today will ask for a fresh outpouring of Spirit to transform change us...into effective witnesses...speaking the future purposes of God into
our community...
Please stand as we pray together