From Disciples to Apostles - Acts 2 & John 14
Today is Pentecost. It’s the day we celebrate when the disciples became apostles, when those who learn became those who are sent out. Today we celebrate the day the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Today we celebrate the day they began to spread the gospel around the world like wildfire. Today we celebrate the day the church was born!
Our reading from Acts chapter 2 this morning is set ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven. He had told the disciples to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. They didn’t really understand what it was that they were supposed to be waiting for. But after ten days of waiting patiently like Jesus told them to, they found out! That morning the Holy Spirit descended upon them like tongues of fire and they had the ability to speak in different languages and tell everyone about Jesus and His message of God’s transformative love, freedom from sin, reconciliation with God, and their mission of manifesting the Kingdom. They spoke to people in all sorts of different languages and later in Acts 2 we learn that 3,000 people were baptized that day.
Those scared, confused disciples became empowered, bold apostles. They would spend the rest of their lives travelling the world telling people about Jesus. Sharing the good news of Christ’s resurrection and of God’s unconditional love for all. The Holy Spirit gave them the ability to speak to anybody. No matter what their language, no matter where they were from, no matter what their background was. And this Holy Spirit would eventually lead them all to the ends of the earth to spread the gospel.
This same Holy Spirit that empowered the disciples at Pentecost still empowers Christians to this day. The Spirit calls us to discipleship and empowers us to be apostles too. Disciple means those who learn, and apostle means those who are sent out. Like those present on that first Pentecost, we too are both disciples and apostles, those who learn and those who are sent out. We are students empowered by the Spirit to be messengers. We also are called to learn and grow in our relationship with God, and then to share the message of God’s transformative love with others.
As followers of Jesus, we are given the Holy Spirit at Baptism. And we spend the rest of our lives becoming more attuned to the Spirit, more led by the Spirit, more transformed by the Spirit. No matter where life takes us, we know God’s Spirit is leading us, inspiring us to follow God’s calling in life.
This morning we celebrate Confirmation at the 11:00 service. Seven youth will affirm their Christian faith and take upon themselves the responsibility and privilege it is to follow Jesus. Sometimes they will feel disempowered and anxious like the disciples before Pentecost. At other times they will feel empowered and comfortable to live into their faith in daily life. Whatever the case, throughout their life God will be with them and lead them on their journey.
Confirmation class focuses on being disciples, those who learn. As confirmation students we learn, do some work, play some games like Bible Jeopardy. And then there comes a time when we affirm our Baptism, confirm our Christian faith, and become those who are sent out: apostles. But it’s not that Christians are disciples for a time and then graduate to become apostles. We are always both. From the moment of our Baptism, we are both those who learn and those who are sent out. Our walk with Jesus is a lifelong journey of learning and enacting whatever it is the Spirit calls us to do.
And it is their desire to be on this journey that 7 young adults will be confirming later today. They’re not affirming they know all the answers. They’re not saying they have everything figured out. They’re not promising they will never doubt or wonder again. What they are confirming today is that they are happy they are baptized, and because of that that they will trust the Holy Spirit as the guiding force of their lives, and will keep asking questions, keep exploring and learning, keep growing in their relationship with God and discovering what God has in store for their lives. Confirmation isn’t about claiming you know all the answers; it’s about affirming that you will keep wondering, keep searching, keep discovering God’s presence in your life.
And so Pentecost reminds us that we are all called to be both disciples and apostles. Those who learn and those who are sent out. As followers of Jesus we get to spend our lives learning and growing in a faith community like this one, and we also are called to venture out into the world to share our faith, telling others that God loves them and doing our best to be embodiments of God’s love to a world in need. We all get to participate in this lifelong journey of being disciples and apostles.
Thanks be to God for the gift of Pentecost. For the Spirit’s empowerment of Jesus’ first disciples, for the Spirit’s movement through the ages, and for the Spirit’s work in us today.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Pastor Brian, 6/5/22