Pentecost Sunday 2019
“I wish…” I say it all the time, don’t you? “I wish I could be 4-inches taller” (because I’d fit into the world) - or - “I wish I was 20 pounds lighter!” (because I’d fit into my clothes) - or - “I wish I had a nickel for every time someone told me they were coming to church, but never showed up!” (Because I’d be rich!!)
Of course, we all make wishes…
We tell our children, and our grandchildren, to close their eyes, and “make-a-wish” as they blow-out the candles on the birthday cake! How many of us have tossed a few pennies into a “wishing well?” Or, fought over “wishbones” - or dreamed of a Genie popping out of a magical lamp, and granting us three wishes? We’ve all “wished upon a star” haven’t we? After all, “when you wish upon a star… your dreams come true!” Or, at least that’s what Walt Disney would have us believe…
But, we adults know better, don’t we? Cover your ears... but nothing really happens after you blow out the candles on your birthday cake. And Genies offering three wishes as you rub their magic lamp’s just the stuff of fairytales. After all, wishes are for kids, for the naive... for the innocent who haven’t been let down and disappointed by life.
When adults make wishes, they’re usually filled with cynicism, complaints, and frustrations.
~ “I wish people were less argumentative.”
~ “I wish he would stop bringing up politics.”
~ “I wish my friends were more understanding.”
~ “I wish we didn’t live in a world that’s so hateful, and violent.”
Can you hear the frustration in such wishes?
We say things like, “I wish I had a million dollars!” - as we covet things we don’t really need. Or, “I wish I didn’t have to work so much...” knowing all the while the reason we have to work is because of all the stuff we have to keep up and maintain, our lifestyle. “I wish I could stay home today” is just a way of expressing our desire to be doing something else, something other than what we are having to do at the moment. Most of the time, when you and I verbalize our wishes we don’t really expect those wishes to come true, do we? We say these things - more or less - just to vent! We don’t actually believe anything will ever come of our wishes.
Which brings me to our scripture lessons for today. I can’t help but wonder what Moses expected to happen after making his wish. Remember his wish? “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets.” That’s a wish that certainly has some frustration behind it!
I think it’s no surprise that the Israelites were difficult lot... tough to lead… always complaining… endlessly wandering... seemingly never obeying God‘s will.
They had been complaining about all their hardships... even complaining about their blessings... and the Lord burned with anger because of their complaints.
So the people came to Moses, begging him to plead with God on their behalf, in the hopes that God‘s anger would be abated. So Moses did… and the Lord relented. But then, true to form, they were back to complaining in no time! And when Moses heard their complaints, he started complaining to God about the people! So God decided to step in and give Moses some help: “bring me 70 of Israel’s elders… And I will take of the spirit that is on you, and put the spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.”
Of course, that’s exactly what happened. As the elders gathered at the “tent” or tabernacle (the sanctuary), the Lord came down and put his spirit on the elders and they prophesied - in the sanctuary.
But something interesting also happened… Two of the 70 didn’t join the other 68 in the tabernacle; they stayed back in the camp for some reason. But the Spirit of God found those two men, and they too began to prophesy! When Moses and the 68 other prophesying elders heard about it… Joshua said, “make them stop.” That’s when Moses made his wish, “are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all of the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his spirit on them.” Of course, we have no way of knowing if Moses ever expected anything to come of it (his wish)!
But, something did happen! Not right away, mind you. In fact, the prophet Joel predicted that centuries later, Moses’ wish would come true: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will prophesy” (Joel 2:28-29).
On the very first Pentecost Sunday, Peter quoted Joel‘s prophecy in an effort to explain what was happening as 120 people with what appeared to be flames on their heads spoke the gospel of Christ in different languages. Moses’ wish had come true!
Of course, today, you and I benefit from that wish being granted. The New Testament tells us, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). In other words, every believer - including every single one of us in this Sanctuary today - have been given the Holy Spirit, so that we can participate in the Lord’s work, just like Moses had wished so long ago.
Of course, that brings us to today. Pentecost Sunday, often called the “birthday of the church.” Pentecost is the day the Spirit of Christ empowered us, the Church, God’s people, to do the work of the Lord... so it’s the starting point... the birthday... of the Christian Church. So in keeping with birthday tradition, I suppose, you and I should make a wish!
What is it that you and I would wish for our church? Besides a sermon being over!
Go ahead and close your eyes for just a moment, and make a wish for this congregation. Go ahead... do it, close your eyes. Don’t worry about what Kris or Austin or Phyllis or Tammy’s doing. Don’t worry about someone thinking you’re silly, or crazy, are off your rocker! They thought the apostles were drunk, remember? Just do it. Close your eyes and make-a-wish for our church. You may even call it a prayer. Put away your cynicism. Set aside your reasoning, and your doubts... and just make an honest wish for this church.
Okay! Open your eyes! So, what did you wish for? More money for projects and outreach? To have more people join us for worship and service? Did you wish for more kids in our youth group, Sunday school, children’s group? Some new ministry to help the needy!
Of course, maybe your wish is similar to mine: I wish… That every member of our church would be passionate about their faith… That each and every person, like the Psalmist, would be “glad when they said it to me, let us go into the house of the Lord!” And that each of us would proclaim with all of our hearts that, “better is one day in God’s house, better is one day in God’s courts, than thousands elsewhere!”
And... I wish, that our joy and enthusiasm for Christ would be contagious... that others could see our passion, and desire, and hope... and they’d long to join with us in making our world different.
Maybe, what I’m trying to say, is... I wish we could pack away our excuses (and complaints) as to why we “can’t” - and embrace the power of God’s Spirit that says “we CAN!” We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength!
That’s my wish!