All Together Now!


Have you ever had a ‘bad’ week? Someone once said, “You can tell you’re going to have a bad week when a camera crew from 60-minutes is in the office on Monday and would like to ask you some questions.” Here are some other possible ways you can tell things are going to get hairy. The orthodontist says your kid needs braces and then asks if you think the blue or silver BMW is nicer. Your spouse gives you a ticket to Fiji for your anniversary, but there is only one, and it is one-way.

Let me suggest that when God pours Himself into your life your week is going to more than terrific, it is going to be spectacular. That is precisely what happened on Pentecost in Jerusalem.  What Jesus had promised happened. They had waited, as Jesus told them, and the Paraclete, counselor, comforter, God’s advocate was present with them, upon them, and within them.

Former Chaplain of the Senate and Pastor at Hollywood Pres., Lloyd Ogilvie wrote, “The greatest need in the church today is for contemporary Pentecost (Ogilvie 56).” That was his conclusion after taking a year to discover the great need people had for a sense of power in their lives.

At 67 I find myself wishing I this or that ability I had when I was 40. In transitioning from a home to assisted living I hear the pain caused by losing control of their lives, their future. It is very obvious with this pandemic how many of us want things to go back to being normal and we chafe under the thought that things may never be ‘normal’ again. When the world is shifting all around us it becomes difficult to find an anchor on which we can depend.

As hard as it is to ‘trust God’ in such times, the answer to our lack of control is found in Christ and his presence and power—in Pentecost. In the matter of a few minutes, the lives of 120 people were uprooted by God. A weird sound and a strange sight moved 120 people from a room into the streets. It made fishermen apostles, it made shopkeepers into evangelists, it took women and caused their voices to shout God’s praise to the street in languages they may have never heard.

Together Before

A keyword used to describe those people is “together”. “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place” v2. They were together because that’s what Jesus had told them to do, back in 1:4-5 “he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, …but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Together, describes these people, before and after the Holy Spirit comes. Before, they were together waiting. After, they were together as a force. Before, they were together but powerless. After, thousands wanted to be together with them. This wasn’t mass hysteria but a God thing. They ran into the street among the gathering crowd together but not the same. In an instant, the Holy Spirit delivered them from “the limitations of their Galilean speech (Peterson 134) so that those who had gathered at the sound were hearing God being praised in their own languages. “It was not simply a miracle of hearing: it was a miracle of speech (Peterson 134)” because they were enabled “as the Spirit gave them utterance” v4. This is what the Holy Spirit does with gifts, 1 Co 12:11 “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he [Holy Spirit] wills”.

Together After

After some 3,000 people respond to Peter’s sermon, ‘together’ is used three times.
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” Acts 2:44-47 NIV
The ESV uses ‘together’ twice. It describes their meeting in the temple and breaking bread in v. 46. Either way, they were supporting and caring for one another in a way that was unique, even in a culture that honored hospitality. Read through Acts 2-6 and you’ll see successes and tensions to this togetherness. Yet, God continually brings his people together. So much so, the summary for chapter 2 that “the Lord continued to add to their number daily those who were being saved” (v. 47).

Together Today

How can we live a together style life today? Above everything else, it comes from, is powered by, and brings glory and honor to God and God alone. Look back at verse 47, “The LORD continued to add…” their cleverness didn’t work, nor does our nifty programs. “The LORD continued to add…” it wasn’t their keeping the rules of the law, and it doesn’t happen because we are polite and don’t wear a hat in worship. The rich guy in Mark 10 asks what it takes to be saved and Jesus said you know the commandments. His response was, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth”. Yet he walks away unsaved. Why? Because it isn’t our good deeds that brings about salvation, it is God and God alone.

To be together today demands a humble spirit, to see us as God sees us. There is a story about Teddy Roosevelt that comes from a traveling companion and friend, William Beebe. He wrote,

After an evening of talk...we would go out on the lawn, where we took turns at an amusing little astronomical rite. We searched until we found, with or without glasses, the faint heavenly spot of light-mist beyond the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus, when one or the other of us would recite:
·          That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda.
·          It is as large as our Milky Way.
·          It is one of a hundred million galaxies.
·          It is 750,000 light-years away.
·          It consists of one billion suns, each larger than our sun."
After an interval, Colonel Roosevelt would grin at me and say: "Now I think we are small enough! Let's go to bed (Beebe 234)."

Beebe concludes, “We must have repeated this salutary ceremony forty of fifty times in the course of years, and it never palled (ibid.).” Their simple recitation gave them a humble perspective on life.

Does it excite you that God, who created that spiral galaxy some 750,000 light-years away, sent Jesus to die for us? Do we grasp that this same God, who sent Jesus to die, insists we do the seemingly impossible? What is so impossible about telling others about Jesus, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and loving the unlovable?

Together today must be kindled by the Holy Spirit and cause a growth in our spiritual vitality and power. Only then can the seemingly impossible be accomplished. Forget about the source of this power; grow weak; distant from others, or be forgetful about the things of God and we find ourselves alone, with no means of support, or compassion.

I was in Hawthorne Nevada for six years, two election cycles. In each of those years, one of the county commissioners made a Sunday appearance at worship. He was a good person. I think his name was Lyberger but it doesn’t matter because he was never together with the followers of Jesus. He was a good county commissioner. He seemed to be a moral and good person. But the proof he was not together with us came during a graveside service one afternoon.  Harry Kumler, the funeral director in Hawthorne and a faithful member and deacon asked, what church he attended. He told Harry, “I’m a Presbyterian.” To which Harry simply said, “Funny, I’ve never seen you there.”

God’s love, God’s Holy Spirit will continue to challenge us to be together with-others even as he moves us out into the streets and smack-dab-in-the-middle of messy lives and messy situations. He will call on us to remain together even as we stand apart from the world taking unpopular stands. The awe and wonder of it all is that God actually likes using us to do this work. Let’s pray

Works Cited
Beebe, William. The Book of Naturalists. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. Print 234.

Lloyd J. Ogilvie Acts.  Volume 28 : The Preacher's Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983), 56.

Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

Bibliography

Batterson, Mark. Whisper. Portland: Multnomah, 2017. Print.

Beebe, William. The Book of Naturalists. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. Print 234.

Brown, David, A. R. Fausset, and Robert Jamieson. A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments: Acts–Revelation. VI. London; Glasgow: William Collins, Sons, & Company, Limited, Print.

Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : V 1, p 637 Print.

Marshall, ‘Significance’, 355. Cf. G. Delling, TDNT 6:128–31, 283–98; Turner, Power, 165–69.
Lloyd J. Ogilvie Acts.  Volume 28 : The Preacher's Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983), 56.

Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

Polhill, John B. Acts. Vol. 26. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992. Print. The New American Commentary.

Salmond, Roy and Mulder, Mike "Bear the Burden". Stumbling Heavenward, 1979, LP

Wilson, Andrew. "Paul Says To ‘Be Filled with The Spirit.’ How Do We Obey A Passive Verb?." ChristianityToday.com. 2019. Web. 27 May 2020.

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