Sunday, June 9, 2019

2019/06/09 Pentecost Power

Until the atom bomb was detonated in the 40’s, TNT was one of the most powerful forces known to man.  That’s why the atom bomb is always measured in comparison to TNT… so for example, a 1 kiloton nuclear bomb doesn’t mean the bomb weighs 1000 tons…. it means it has the explosive force equivalent to 1000 tons of TNT.  A 1 megaton nuclear bomb equals the force of a million tons of TNT. 
It’s the most powerful thing created by mankind….
Nature goes beyond that – when Mt St. Helen’s erupted in 1980, the blast was equivalent to 24 one megaton nuclear bombs….  That’s 24 million tons of TNT! 
But there is an energy available to us even more powerful than a 24 megaton bomb…  it’s the power released on that first Pentecost.   It was like a bomb dropped on earth.  Not a destructive bomb – but a creative bomb.  Starting with an intense explosion in the hearts of the apostles in the upper room, it quickly blew out the windows into the streets where the shock blast hit everyone with amazement.  In the following days and weeks, thousands of people were impacted by the fallout – being baptized into the Faith.  Within years, the shock wave had spread east to India, north to Europe, south to Africa, west to Rome.  Tens of thousands were affected by the fallout from that one blast.  Many died because of the impact of that bomb – governments declared that anybody impacted should be put to death… for three hundred years hid to avoid being killed– but all the while, the shock wave kept growing…  going all the way around the world and continues even to this day.  The power of this bomb was not measured in tons of TNT – but instead, those impacted by the fallout are known by their love for each other – These people impacted by the bomb came to be known by one derogatory name:  “Christians”.  The effects were contagious – people couldn’t help being drawn to the Love they saw in those Christians – and they too became carriers of the contagion called Love.
People have died for the name ‘Christian’ continuously ever since that day – and believe it or not – more people are dying right now for being Christian than at any point of history.  Maybe not here, yet – but look at Sri Lanka – or the Middle East – the Far East – India – and several countries in Africa.  Just this week I was reading that right now, an average of 11 people are dying every day for being Christian.

The question that’s gotta enter your mind is – what could possibly make people want to join this group of people?  Why would anybody purposely join a church that could get them killed?  Why would anybody accept a teaching that says we must give up our selfishness to help others – we must give of our time, talent, and treasure for other people rather than simply worrying about our own wants?
The simple answer is the Holy Spirit;  The Holy Spirit is the bomb. Ground zero was the upper room, but the energy released in that single blast has caused a chain reaction of explosions across the earth for two thousand years.

Can you imagine what the apostles said when they ran out into the streets on that day?  How about – “here’s a new creed to believe in!”… no – doctrines are not going to touch anyone’s heart.  How about “repent!  Feel guilty for your sins!  Follow the 10 commandments!”  No way – making people feel bad about themselves is NOT the way to get them to convert to a new religion or to change their lifestyle.
No – the message they delivered was direct from the Holy Spirit.  Our first reading tells us they were speaking of the ‘mighty acts of God’.  Catch that?  They weren’t telling people how to live or what they were doing wrong or what rules they have to follow to join up, or what Doctrines they had to believe… they were telling their personal stories of what God did for ME. 

That’s such an important lesson for all of us.  Too often, we Christians are known to the rest of the world not for what we believe in, but for what we’re against.  We’re seen as intolerant, judgmental, hypocritical… why?  Because unfortunately, that’s often how we present ourselves! 
Instead – the first message we must deliver is Love.  We must love them as they are - and that love will catch their attention, because every human heart is starving for love.  We can feed them and let them know there is a source of Love which is unconditional… we cannot make God stop loving us.
We might think – BUT What about those people… stop – remember – God loves them as they are.  Until that message is accepted, Morality and changing their lifestyle is secondary.  The main message is to make sure they know God loves them.
Second - Always be ready to witness to the ‘mighty acts of God’ in our own lives.  Each of us should be ready to tell people what Jesus has done for me personally.  THAT is the story that can intrigue the world to want to take a closer look at Christianity.  And when they look at Christianity – let them see how we love one another.  Our inner change of heart is visible to the world by how we live:  Self-giving Love is attractive to people.   
What started as a gang of frightened people in an upstairs room in Jerusalem detonated into the largest charitable organization on the planet – ever.  Christians were different because they started hospitals and clinics, schools, nursing homes, nutrition centers, pregnancy support clinics.  Christians give of their own money to help their neighbor – and their brothers and sisters in other countries even.  They give their time to visit the shut-ins and prisoners, to pull weeds at their local parish, to teach, sing, decorate, clean, and help administer the business of their local parishes.  Yes – we ARE the largest charitable organization on the planet… Yet – charity is not our reason for existence….it is simply the fallout from the Love in our hearts.
THAT is the power that made Pentecost so explosive.
There’s a song by Jeremy Camp which I think sums it up nicely – I’ll spare you the singing – but listen to these words.
The same power that rose Jesus from the grave
The same power that commands the dead to wake
Lives in us, lives in us
The same power that moves mountains when He speaks
The same power that can calm a raging sea
Lives in us, lives in US
HE lives in US, LIVES IN US!!!

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