Back to Index

Hear It Again
Pentecost, May 18, 1997

ACTS 2:1-21

Have you heard the gospel in your own language? In your heart, in the depths of your being, down inside you where the real you lives (not the one you show the world), down there where values, beliefs and life style are determined, have you heard God speaking to you, in words, in language the real you can hear and understand?

On the Day of Pentecost, Jews had gathered in Jerusalem from all across the Roman Empire to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. This feast was held fifty days after Passover. Greek speaking Jews called it Pentecost, because the word Pentecost in Greek means fifty. Because of what happened that day, Christians now use the word Pentecost to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit fifty days after Easter (counting Sundays). When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples with tongues of fire and the sound of a rushing wind, they immediately left the comfort of the small room in which they had been praying and hiding. They went outside, onto the streets of Jerusalem and began speaking to the visitors.

The amazing thing is that the visitors heard the disciples speaking in their languages. The disciples had received, not the gift of tongues which is a prayer and praise language, but the gift of communication by which they were able to communicate the gospel in languages the hearers could understand. Following Peter's sermon, 3,000 people were converted and were baptized. The church was born. 3,000 people heard, comprehended, and responded.

Have you heard the gospel in language you understand? Each of us has developed a filter system which filters words as they travel from the ear to the brain and to the heart. Words mean different things to different people. Look at the books being written now to explain why men and women have difficulty communicating. For example, according to John Gray, in his book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, when a wife says, "We never go out," she means, "I feel like going out and doing something together. We always have such a fun time, and I love being with you. Would you take me out to dinner?" But when she says, "We never go out," her husband hears, "You are not doing your job. What a disappointment you have turned out to be. We never do anything together anymore because you are lazy, unromantic, and just boring." All she said was, "We never go out!"

Each of us has a filter system that distorts and confuses what we hear from what is said. The word father to many means a loving, supportive benefactor and provider. And when we pray the Lord's Prayer which begins with Our Father, we understand God to be our loving, supportive benefactor and provider. But, to women who have been physically and sexually abused by their fathers, Our Father conjures up all kinds of horror, fear, and anger; so they cannot hear the gospel. The word father means something so awful and horrible to them, they have difficulty understanding and relating to God our Father, a God of love.

How you were raised or messed up has affected what and how you hear. Two brothers, ages 13 and 14, young teenagers, were arrested for beating a dog to death. They were charged with Cruelty to Animals. Where was their mother while they were beating the dog to death, you might ask? She was watching! How do messed up kids hear and understand goodness, kindness, justice?

Those of you who were raised in good homes and in the church also have a disadvantage. You have heard the words so often you are tempted to take them for granted. Sometimes the words of Jesus, the sermons you hear, the Bible you read, goes over your head, past your ears because you've heard them so often they have lost meaning. Your heart may be starved for the word of God, for the power of God, because your filter system is preventing the words from getting through. You are clogged up! When your furnace filter gets full of dirt, your furnace starves for oxygen. Likewise, your inner life starves for nourishment when you hearing filter gets clogged up. Have you heard the gospel in language your heart can understand?

Years ago a conscientious homeowner wrote to a manufacturer of cast iron pipe, telling them that when he pours pure hydrochloric acid down the drain, he immediately opens the grease-clogged pipes. He asked if there was any way in which the acid might be harmful to the pipes.

The plumbing manufacturer wrote him back saying, "Thank you for your letter. The effect of such acid upon ferrous-constructed materials is certain to be deleterious. We therefore strongly urge you to cease such activity in the interest of the future of your plumbing." He read their letter and responded, thanking them for their letter, telling them that he was relieved that he was doing the right thing by pouring acid down the pipes.

Another letter came from the manufacturer: "We fear that there may have been some miscommunication in our correspondence. Acid, of that density, applied to cast iron pipe, is certain to have dubious results. Therefore, please desist from your current practices." The homeowner read the letter, then wrote back, thanking the company for its response, telling them that he, once again, was delighted that he was doing nothing to harm the pipes.

Finally, an exasperated manufacturer sent a telegram to the homeowner that read simply: DON'T USE ACID. IT RUSTS THE HELL OUT OF THE PIPES!

Sometimes in the church we use language people have difficulty understanding. Let me be simply clear this morning. Listen to the gospel. Hear it again. Clean out the filter. Wipe away the cobwebs. Cut through the maze of feelings you have about how you were raised. Cut through the variety of unresolved issues you might have with your parents, or the church, or preachers. Hear the message again as the visitors in Jerusalem heard it on Pentecost.

In Acts 2:21, Peter quoted the prophet Joel from the Old Testament. It's the same message in the Old Testament as in the New Testament. From cover to cover, the Bible has one message, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. That's it. Did you hear it?

Everyone. Not just those who look, act and smell like us. Everyone. Even those who are messed up, even those who have never had a relationship with God, even those who feel unloved and unwanted, even those who have never heard clearly the words, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Everyone who calls. You have to do something. You just can't sit there, and think it works like osmosis. You must be involved in the process. You must call. Call out, ask, reach out, whisper or shout the name of Jesus. There's power in the name. In Bible days, it was believed that the name of a person captured the essence of that person. When you knew someone's name, you knew something very intimate and revealing about the person. When you call on the name of Jesus, you are not just speaking his name, you are claiming his power. If you don't know how to pray, a powerful prayer is to repeat Jesus, Jesus. If you're not sure what to believe, begin with the first statement of faith in the New Testament, Jesus is Lord. Lord means ruler, master, teacher, benefactor and provider.

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. I've been on a trip! Ellie and I spent a wonderful week with Don and Audrey Robinson in Portugal. All over Portugal you see roosters, pictures and ceramic tiles of roosters. Legend has it that in the ancient days, the king sentenced a man to death. The condemned man stood before the king. He was asked if he had any last words. The condemned man pointed to a dead rooster lying on the ground, and asked, "Your Majesty, will you spare my life if the rooster crows?" Surprised, the king laughed and said, "Sure!" And, the dead rooster crowed! The condemned man was saved.

The word saved is from the word salvation. To be saved is to be rescued. In Portugal the rooster is the symbol of salvation. To Christians, the cross is the symbol of salvation, and the flame is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, the power of God to enter your life right now and save you. Perhaps you are not being condemned to death, and do not need a rooster to crow, but perhaps you are condemned to a life of bad habits, or condemned to a life of addiction where you have no control, no power over yourself. Perhaps you are condemned to relationships with other people that are demeaning, humiliating, and destructive. Perhaps you are condemned to a life with no future, condemned to a life of boredom, repetition, hopelessness. The Bible word is hell. If you are in hell, you need to be rescued, and you can be saved.

Hear it again! Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

© 1997 Douglas I. Norris