Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 5-29-22 Sermon – “Making God Visible”

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Acts 2:1-21  Pentecost

When we celebrate Pentecost, I imagine us as a 5-year-old kid who receives a beautifully wrapped birthday present, who after removing the colorful ribbon and colorful paper the kid finds a lovely box with a $100,000 check for this kid’s college tuition. But then this confused kid with a “thank you”, puts aside the check, turns, and goes back to the wrapping in which the check for his future came in. “Wow! What a beautiful box! What a wonderful ribbon! What gorgeous wrapping! I love it! And starts playing with it and showing it to everybody.”

As the kid from the story, we must be careful not to confuse the Pentecostal gift with the wrappings in which it came in. I say this because many Christians believe Pentecost is about languages, fire, sound, and wind and miss the blessing of the fact that Pentecost is about us being the new dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit. We are Pentecost People. Pentecost is the celebration of God moving, let’s say from Star Island into our neighborhoods; God moving from the Temple in Jerusalem to us, his community. For about a thousand-year God’s presence dwelled in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was the place where God and his people met; the place where forgiveness was found thru the sacrifice system; the place where heaven and earth came together, we can say.

When Jesus died, something remarkable happened in the Temple, the curtain separating the Holy and the Holy of Holiest place was torn. God’s presence dwelled behind the curtain. Three days after his death, Jesus resurrected and appeared his disciples and others for 40 days and then he ascended to heaven, but before his ascension, he promised the Holy Spirit and asked his disciple to wait in Jerusalem for the fulfilment of the promise. Ten days later, in Pentecost when they were together the Holy Spirit came, as it is described in Acts 2, and everything changed.

Listen to verse 3, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” Two things I see here: 1- fire always represent God’s presence. No doubt, God’s presence was out of the temple where he dwelled. And 2- seems to me that Luke is telling us that the fire came as one and then separated and rested on each of them. So, that is the reason, I believe the curtain was torn, for God to come out and dwell in the new temple or temples we could say. Paul reminds us that in 1 Corinthian 6:19, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”

That is the message of Pentecost, God does not dwell in the Temple in Jerusalem anymore. He dwells in a new temple, a temple made of living stones, temple shaped and cleansed with the blood of Jesus the Lamb of God. You and I are the temple.

When king Solomon dedicate the temple in Jerusalem, besides being the dwelling place of God, in his prayer he also describes the temple as a place of reconciliation, a place of forgiveness, a place where God will listen the immigrant who isn’t from your people Israel. A place where those in need will find a place where their voices and cry out will be listen. Since we are the new temple, I invite you to read it in 1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 7.

The prophet Joel in chapter 2 spoke about the pouring of the Holy Spirit, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” Joel describes the community of the Holy Spirit as diverse, men, women, old and young, even servants. If we continue reading Acts 2, we will find that after Peter finish his sermon a new community emerge. The community described by Solomon during the dedication of the temple and a diverse community as Joel prophesied.

This is what it says, beginning in verse 42, “42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” And that is the proof of the presence of the Holy Spirit, that is the sign of us the community, the new temple of God. Those marginalized by society, can find a place with us, those in need can find help within us, those whose voices have been quiet can find a place within us.

Today we celebrate another important event in our life as community of Jesus, this event is not about languages and fire, sound, and wind, all that is the wrapping. Pentecost is about you and me being empowered and sent by God to be what the temple in Jerusalem was, to be a place or agents of reconciliation, spokespersons of a forgiven God, a place where heaven and earth meet, where his presence is made visible.

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