Will the Last Presbyterian Please Turn Off the Lights and Blow Out the Candles

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

Day of Pentecost
June 5, 2022

Scriptures – Genesis 11: 1-11 and Acts 2: 1-21

We’re in trouble, Christians…big, BIG trouble.

At one point in the past 75 years, the Presbyterian Church in American had a total membership of 4.25 million members.

Today we have less than 1.5 million.

We now total less than 2.2% of Americans who call themselves Protestants.

In 1965, over 70% of Americans said “religion was very important in their lives.

In 1978, that figure had dropped to 52%.

Today is stands at 49%.

In 2011, 75% of Americans considered themselves Christian.

Today it is 63%.

We are in trouble, Christians…big, BIG trouble.

If things weren’t bad enough, we have a broken political system that cares more about catering to their bases than getting anything done.

We have politicians who seem more like game show hosts than effective public servants.

We are trillions in debt with no plan to address it.

If things weren’t bad enough, add mass shootings and a Covid pandemic that just won’t go completely away.

We are in trouble, Christians…big BIG trouble.

We might as well turn off the lights, blow out the candles, and lock the doors.  What’s the use of even trying?

But, to quote the Jewish proverb, “it could always be worse.”

Consider the setting for Jesus and his Apostles around the year 35 A.D. or so: their beloved country was occupied by the Roman army who thought little of protecting the citizens they occupied.  The Roman army would slaughter the citizens of Israel on a whim or to “clear the streets” as Pontius Pilate often ordered.  The religious authorities constantly harped on the people to “return to God” as if following their strict rules and regulations of that return would somehow magically set everything right.  Their local leader, King Herod, was sicker in the head and more unstable than any American President we have ever had, including the ones you might dislike the most.

To paraphrase what I keep repeating, THEY were in trouble… big BIG trouble.

And that was when Jesus appeared on the banks of the Jordan River to be dunked in the waters by his cousin John the Baptist.

That was when Jesus walked among us, taught us, healed us, cast out demons, challenged the status quo, preached the Good News of a loving and forgiving God rather than a wrathful, angry God who would rather see us slaughtered than saved.  That was when Jesus sacrificed himself on our behalf – even though we were far from anything resembling deserving of his sacrifice.

And, my fellow believers, that was when Jesus sent the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to fire up his Apostles and begin to spread the church throughout the world.

Today, in our efforts to make the world a better place, we seem more like those at Babel trying to create something big and showy instead of working to make the small things, the wonderful things, the loving things of everyday life work well.  It almost seems like we are all speaking – but it’s in different languages that no one can understand…and NO ONE is listening to.

We are in trouble, Christians…big BIG trouble.  But all is not lost.  No way!

Yes, the statistics do not support our efforts in the church in America.  But as our population continues to grow, we can always make a difference, attract new members and friends and believers to our ranks because there are always new people coming into our communities.  In the days of Jesus, this was not happening.

We can make a difference today in the loving ways each of us as individuals can reach out to others; let’s forget the numbers and the statistics and the percentages; let’s forget the tragedies and the illness and the strife going on around the globe.  Despite all that, the church in the world continues to grow and flourish in many places where it wasn’t even in existence previously.  At least, the church has roots in America that go back more than 400 years…it can still grow and flourish.

Often, we continue to believe that our efforts are needed, necessary, and knowledgeable in building the church.  I think there is something to be said for that, but if we do it without the Spirit’s guidance, inspiration, and leadership, you KNOW we build in vain.  We might as well be trying to build a grand tower up to the heavens out of hand-made mud bricks.

Especially on the Day of Pentecost, it is important to remember that God is always blowing his ru-ah – his spirit, breath, or wind – over the chaos of daily life.

Especially on the Day of Pentecost, it is vital to remember that although the citizens of the world differ in their languages, they all maintain the same capacity to say and hear, “Abba, Father!” just like we do.

Especially on the Day of Pentecost, it is challenging to hear that there will not be a restoration of genuine speech and listening until the Spirit is given like the first wind that blew to give life (Genesis 1:2).

Finally, we all know that one of the primary roots of trouble in human history – whether it is today, during the Dark Ages, or in the days of Jesus – is human pride.  It hurts our pride to hear the depressing statistics that I listed at the beginning of today’s message.  But nothing in those stats needs to remain the same.   Things can improve in the world, in our country, in our area, and especially in the midst of Heritage Presbyterian Church.

On the Day of Pentecost, the Apostles had been waiting for 9 days after Jesus ascended into Heaven.  They gathered, prayed, and waited.  Once the Holy Spirit descended on them, they were fired up and became more than they had been previously.

Who’s to say that it can’t happen today?  

  • Perhaps we won’t hear a rush of wind…except in our hearts.
  • Perhaps we won’t begin speaking in tongues…but we can learn new languages such as service, mission, teaching, loving, caring in ways we have previously not spoken.
  • Perhaps we won’t suddenly become bold proclaimers like Peter or Paul…but it doesn’t take much boldness in today’s world to say “God loves you and so do I.”

We’re in trouble?  Big BIG trouble?

Don’t you believe it, Christians!

We have come through worse than this before…and we have all the tools we need to lead a resurgence in today’s church.

The Holy Spirit is our Advocate and our Friend…sent by our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  

How can we fail?