A Breath of Fresh Air
By Rev. Heidi L. Barham | May 28, 2023
Click here to listen to the service
Read Acts 2:1 – 21 (NIV)
Today is the day that we, as the church, recognize Pentecost Sunday…
In biblical times, Pentecost took place 50 days after Passover during what was known as the Feast of Weeks or the Festival of Harvest. This was one of three major feasts that took place annually… and the focus of this particular feast was giving thanks for the harvested crops.
It is rather fitting that we celebrate Pentecost today in celebration and recognition of the birth of the church and the harvesting of souls for the kingdom.
As we look at this morning’s text in Acts 2, Jews from many nations were gathered in Jerusalem for a Day of Pentecost that was not like any other they had experienced before… Jesus’ crucifixion had taken place during Passover… and it was now 50 days since His resurrection.
It was during this extraordinary Day of Pentecost God made His presence known in a truly spectacular way… with a violent wind, tongues of fire, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And it in the midst of all this, Peter spoke to the crowd… delivering such a powerful sermon that it resulted in the first Jews converting to Christianity… probably much to the chagrin of the naysayers in crowd who accused the disciples of being drunk.
Now as remarkable as all that may have been for those who were gathered back then… God still has a way of making His presence known to us, even to this day… although it may not always be in such a dramatic fashion.
There are times when God may speak to our hearts in that still small voice like He used when He spoke to Elijah… it might be something we read, perhaps in a devotional, that highlights something from the Scriptures that speaks to our present situation… or it could even be something as simple as the blowing of a cool breeze at just the right moment… that comes to us like A BREATH OF FRESH AIR.
Now, I don’t know about you, but with everything that has been happening in the world around us today… with all the pain and heartache that people are experiencing on an almost daily basis… with all the anger and animosity that has become the norm rather than the exception to the rule… I think it fair to say that we could all use A BREATH OF FRESH AIR.
As we think about what took place on that Day of Pentecost that we read about in our text this morning… the Scriptures tell us that God’s Holy Spirit filled them all and they began to speak in other languages… and not only that… they could all understand what was being said… talk about a miracle! People coming together from all parts of the world and being able to speak to one another… and listen to one another… and understand one another… and get along with one another… that is absolutely miraculous.
If only that would happen today… that would certainly be A BREATH OF FRESH AIR.
If I am being honest, I must admit that I am beyond the point of exhaustion with turning on the news and hearing all the tragic stories that are happening… all because violence has become the first response… rather than the last resort.
It is enough to make you want to stay in the house with the windows and doors locked and the shades drawn… because there is no place that feels safe anymore.
But God did not intend for us to live in fear… all we need to do to find proof of that is to look at the Apostle Paul’s letter to his young protégé, Timothy, where he writes, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV).
Fear was not God’s design for His beloved children… and yet, we are not alone. In fact, do you know who else lived in fear?
Jesus’ disciples… the ones who walked alongside Him for three years… the ones who heard His teachings live and in-person… the ones who witnessed His miracles first hand… And the same ones who abandoned Him at the cross and then locked themselves in an upper room after He was crucified… because they were afraid that they would be next…
Now, in his book, Six Hours One Friday, author Max Lucado invites us to imagine that upper room where the disciples were huddled together. He writes:
Every head lifted. Every eye turned. Every mouth dropped open. Someone looked at the door. It was still locked.
It was a moment the apostles would never forget, a story they would never cease to tell. The stone of the tomb was not enough to keep him in. The walls of the room were not enough to keep him out.
The one betrayed sought his betrayers. What did he say to them? Not “What a bunch of flops!” Not “I told you so.” No “Where-were-you-when-I-needed-you?” speeches. But simply one phrase, “Peace be with you.” The very thing they didn’t have was the very thing he offered: peace. (As cited in The Inspirational Bible, 1995, p. 1243)
Jesus arrived and offered them peace… in their place of fear and uncertainty… Jesus came in with that calm-the-storms-of-life kind of peace.
The disciples had been hunkered down… had been filled with dread and anxiety… but Jesus was able to give them what they truly needed in that moment… He gave them His peace… a peace that is like no other.
In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
We do not have to live in fear… because we have been given the peace of Christ.
And when we combine the peace of Christ with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit… we find what the Apostle Paul says is “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) … it is a peace that is truly A BREATH OF FRESH AIR when we find ourselves being faced with trials and tribulations, hardships and heartaches, suffering and sorrow.
Now, let me say this… Jesus does not give us His peace and the Holy Spirit does not fill us with power simply for us to remain locked behind closed doors, paralyzed by our fear. On the contrary…
The peace of Christ has been given to us so we can live into our purpose.
and that purpose is to fulfill the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
And it is the power of the Holy Spirit that energizes us for the mission.
In Acts 1:8 we read, “But 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.”
It is important to note that we cannot be those witnesses to the world, and be effective, in our own strength. It is the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us that makes it possible for us to go where God would have us to go, to do what God would have us to do, and to say what God would have us to say.
Now here is the thing… when the scriptures talk about going out into all the world… that also includes the world right where we are… the people right here within our sphere of influence… including our families, our neighbors, and friends. Simply put, the mission field may be much closer than we think… as close as our own backyard.
And yet, it is not all that unusual for us to feel that we are not equipped to handle the job. But the good news is that Jesus has promised that we will not be left to our own devices.
In John 14:26, we read, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
And in Acts 4 (31) we read, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”
In other words, we can trust God to give us the words to say when we are doing what God has called us to do.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was in distress or feeling distraught and you found yourself at a loss for words… but then suddenly you said something that brought a sense of comfort and peace to that other person?
At the time, you may have had no idea where the words came from… but it was most likely the Holy Spirit giving you just what you needed to say and just what they needed to hear in that moment.
And that is what was happening on that Day of Pentecost that we read about in Acts 2. The Holy Spirit gave the believers just the right words to say that the others needed to hear…
And what is even more amazing is that not only did they have the right words… they had the right words in the right languages so they could be understood by all those who were gathered… and as a result, there were many who came to believe in Jesus.
And our mission today as disciples of Christ is to continue the work that was started roughly two thousand years ago… to go and keep making disciples… to be those witnesses to all the world, both near and far…
To offer words of encouragement that bring hope to others in the midst of difficult circumstances… to remind them that we are never alone… because God has promised never to leave us nor forsake us… which is why He has given us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us… to be the Advocate we can call on in times of need… to be A BREATH OF FRESH AIR to clear away the spirit of heaviness that so easily overwhelms us…
And for all of us who may need that BREATH OF FRESH AIR today, I want to invite you to stand and join in singing our Hymn of Discipleship: Breathe on Me, Breath of God #254.