Updated: Jan 29
Last week, I whispered before the sermon, “Happy Eastern Orthodox Easter!” Today, we are at the seventh Sunday of Easter, according to the Roman Catholic calculations. Thus, we celebrated Easter seven weeks ago, on March 27th. The Eastern Church is connected to the Jewish Passover, such that their Easter is 35 days after ours … this year … five Sundays after – five weeks.
Next Sunday we will celebrate the Day of Pentecost. Since the Greek word “pentékosté” means “fiftieth,” the capitalized version (“Pentēkostēs”) along with the word “day” (“hēmeran”) means the special day the Jews celebrated. However, if you do the math … seven weeks of seven days means today is the 49th day …
So, tomorrow should be the Fiftieth Day … the Day of Pentecost …
But it is not, as next Sunday … the 56th day is … I assume because it is recognized on the closest Sunday after the seventh Sunday?
It is confusing, but Christians in the West begin a count on the Saturday before Easter Sunday, so today is like the forty-third day, making next Sunday be the fiftieth day.
The Eastern Orthodox Church will recognize the Day of Pentecost on Sunday, June 19th … but the Jews will recognize Shavuot between June 11-13, where the Fiftieth Day is June 11, a Saturday [Shabbat] and Sunday being June 12.
The Jews begin the “counting of the omer” on the second day of the Passover Festival (8 days); but both the Eastern and Western churches begin their counts on Easter Sunday … after the Passover festival ended on a Shabbat.
So, if you are confused, it is okay. It seems everyone is.
The main point of any Easter “counting” is we Christians should be learning how to believe Jesus is the Christ … knowing full well that Jesus was prophesied all throughout the Old Testament, perfectly fulfilling that in what we read in the Gospels … than Christ fills us with the Holy Spirit and we can begin our individual ministries.
The long season that follows Pentecost – called Ordinary Time – is name that because we are ordained by the Holy Spirit. Ordinary time is then when we are called to spread the word of Jesus, so others can also be filled with the Holy Spirit.
So, be prepared. Next week summer school begins … for those who don’t make the grade as ordained priests this year.
Today is like the final exam for the 2016 graduating class.
Please don’t be dismayed if you just now realized how little you have prepared for your personal ordination as a priest for the One God … becoming a true Christian … because one of the marvels of the Easter lessons is they show us that there is still a chance to instantly be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Cornelius was a Gentile, as were his Roman soldiers; and they suddenly became baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Lydia was a Gentile, as were the women of her household who were praying by the river; and they all were instantly filled with the Holy Spirit.
Today, we learn how a Philippian jailer “and his entire family were baptized without delay.”
All of those were baptized … by the Holy Spirit .. not by water.
There were no tested to be passed … sort of.
Even Tabitha, who was a good disciple, who believed in Jesus as the Christ, she died without having been filled with the Holy Spirit. But, when Peter came and prayed over her corpse and then stood and spoke from the Holy Spirit’s voice, “Tabitha, get up,” she was immediately filled with those waters of life. She was resurrected by the Holy Spirit.
The key here, in all these stories of sudden comings of the Holy Spirit, is the Spirit came upon those who lived good, God-fearing lives, and who often prayed to God for guidance … as Gentiles of faith.
Still … in addition to that most basic requirement, faith and works of faith are not enough … they listened to the word that was spoken by an apostle AND then their hearts were opened to receive that word.
That was all they had to do to “pass their graduation exams.”
They were not asked to choose correctly from multiple choice questions about Bible studies they had never attended. No fill-in-the-blank names were asked to be identified, to prove they came to church each Sunday and listened to the readings. None had to write essays about the meaning of Easter or how to count the omer, to determine when Pentecost should be.
They just had to be God-fearing and Jesus-believing, while praying not to be lost in a world of sin … AND … they had to hear the word spoken by an apostle.
In the reading from John’s Revelation, we find Jesus’s voice – his Word – saying, “See, I am coming soon.”
Open your hearts and hear that message.
It is not a message about some distant time … as a time representative of the end of this sinful world, which has been prophesied to be the fate of others … fortunately not you.
WRONG ANSWER if you thought that! It is about NOW!
The Greek actually says, “Experience … I come speedily,” although that can be states as “See, I am coming soon.” It means, however, Jesus comes instantly …quickly … immediately … to those whose lives have been doing good works, showing love to others, and praying to God for guidance and help.
You just have to be like Cornelius, Tabitha, Lydia, and the Philippian jailer and hear the word, so it speaks to you in your heart.
Jesus said to John, “My reward is with me,” which means the value of believing in Jesus as the Christ is only seen when you are with Christ. Together … and only together … is the reward of Christ found.
Jesus then said Jesus would return soon, “to repay according to everyone’s work” … which included Gentiles who did good deeds … unselfish works … acts of loving kindness towards others. The reward of Christ only comes from proper actions … never to reward inaction.
In a way, Jesus is coming quickly at the end of your world … which is when you die of ego-driven self and become a devoted servant of God. Tabitha died in her material body and was resurrected. The jailer died figurative, by drawing his sword to end his life … but he was resurrected by the word spoken through Paul: “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”
“Jailer, get up.” was the essence of that command.
When Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end,” it means God’s Messiah has been “with” all of God’s holy servants, throughout all time. Every apostle of Christ has been one with Christ, with that union between “the Spirit and the bride,” being a resurrected Jesus. They all had to die of self and be reborn as Jesus.
It is precisely as Jesus prayed for his disciples – of which YOU claim to be one – “The glory that [God the Father has] given to me I give to you, so that you may be one, as we are one.”
Jesus then prayed, “Righteous Father, the world does not know you … [but] I will make [God the Father] known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
In the Revelation, we are told how we must pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
In return, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints.”
Sinners are not “saints.” Disciples are not “saints” Only apostles filled with the Holy Spirit become holy and righteous enough to be deemed “saints.”
Therefore, “Blessed are those who wash their [priestly – as are disciples’] robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life.”
You must graduate from being a sinful robed wannabe Christian – still a Gentile plebe – to becoming a SAINT. Alone no one is saintly. Only when with Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit can that happen.
The end of the first heaven and the first earth will bring about the new holy city of Jerusalem, which will be without a temple. That absence will be because all mortals will become the temples to God. Their robes will have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb, as only saints can be temples for the Lord.
No sinners will be allowed there, then. God will not be playing horseshoes then, where close counts. Not even “leaners” will be counted.
In this Easter season, as with all Easter seasons, it is school time with Jesus. You must learn to receive the Holy Spirit to graduate from that school.
Some see “the Day of Pentecost” as some official day when the Holy Spirit overcomes one, as if only one day a year is that miracle allowed to happen. Others, such as the group of Christians who believe speaking in tongues can be taught to believers, those who call themselves Pentecostals, there is no such limitation.
They see speaking in tongues as a mandatory tenet. Many members display that “talent” openly, during church services … year round. They stand and make babbling noises with their mouths. The other members respect that ability as a way of praising God.
However, Pentecost means “Fiftieth Day.” It is when Moses returned from the mount with the Commandments, so that the Law of God was with the Israelites. Therefore, when the disciples morphed into apostles on the Fiftieth Day, that transformation showed how Jesus Christ was with each of them … suddenly and immediately … because the Law of God had become a personal, faithful love in their hearts.
This fast, but without damage or pain.
The whole family of Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit … disciples and their relatives who followed and supported Jesus’s ministry … just as we read during the Easter Season how the households and families of Cornelius, Lydia and the Philippian jailer were so baptized.
Baptized with the Holy Spirit … not with water.
Those households became the earliest churches of Christ, meaning ALL members of those churches were filled with the Holy Spirit. That means it is a mandatory step towards becoming a true Christian.
Let me tell you a story from my younger days, when I was raised in an Assemblies of God church … a Pentecostal church. I have not told it in some time, but bear with me if you have heard it before.
The cathedral I was raised in had a room designated for prayer – a prayer room. In it, members would pray, as well as teach other members to speak in tongues. That process meant kneeling at a folding chair, eyes closed, hands raised high in the air, while repeating the word “glory” over and over and over.
That repetition made one’s tongue get tied up and that made one start making noises, rather than saying “glory.”
One weekday evening (either a Tuesday or Friday), a traveling evangelist came to our church to preach and at the end’s altar call he asked for volunteers to come and speak in tongues. Me and my friend the same age – neither having spoken in tongues before – stepped forward as volunteers.
My friend and I were doing the standard “glory” thing on the altar steps, with all the attending congregation surrounding us two, while the traveling evangelist (mic in hand still) kept the excitement level high. Then the evangelist leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Say whatever comes into your mind.”
Immediately, I began making babbling noises. He suggested and I responded. The traveling evangelist praised the Lord, as did all the congregation … including my mother … because I had spoken in tongues.
I knew I had said nothing of value; but for a while, I felt proud that I had pleased so many people. I began to tell myself, “This is easy,” and I would recreate the babbling as I walked privately … like praying … as if I had become special.
Then I realized I had been tricked.
That is, until many years after, when I realized the traveling evangelist had spoken the truth about how fast the Holy Spirit comes upon one of God’s faithful … causing one to “say whatever comes into one’s mind” … but God does not make human beings babble like idiots.
Babbling like an idiot in the name of the Lord is no different than thinking some water sprinkled on one’s head will make one a SAINT. Both are acts of misguided faith, because Scripture tells us so.
The Holy Spirit, sent by Christ to the faithful, makes Christians hear so they can preach the word of truth. That is so other ears can hear and be affected. It takes years of wanting to serve God and Christ, and years of prayer, and years of repentance, with years of good works. However, once one is prepared to serve, the Lord will come quickly.
The Holy Spirit comes quickly to those who hear the word in their hearts. The selfish have seals around that vital organ, preventing it from opening up to God and Christ. God does not come privately to human beings, so they can ignore others and gossip, snicker, and ridicule those who faithfully follow false concepts.
God does not choose people to be special. God chooses special people to be his priests.
It requires faith to misunderstand when Easter is, or when the Day of Pentecost is. It requires faith to think speaking in tongues is just as easy as standing before a crowd and making noises with your mouth. It requires faith to hear, “John baptizes you with water, but Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit,” and think, “I am saved because I was christened as a baby.”
The Acts of the Apostles is a book telling about the ordination of priests for the One God, where the first step taken by all was faith. An ordination by the Holy Spirit follows belief, which is demonstrated through good deeds. Filled with the Holy Spirit means one gladly and joyfully accepts a lifetime of service to God and Christ … doing good works, based on the talents given by the Holy Spirit.
In order to receive that task of labor, you must see, feel, and know that doing nothing – now – is selfish; and as such, do-nothings will be rewarded “according to those works” … meaning nothing holy will come to them.
Excuses are like pieces of lumber used to build a funeral pyre. The work do-nothings do … avoiding good works for others … is not God-fearing. It is evil fearing.
Thus David sang:
“The Lord loves those who hate evil; he preserves the lives of his saints and delivers them from the hands of the wicked.”
“Light has sprung up for the righteous, and joyful gladness for those who are true-hearted.”
“Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, and give thanks to his holy Name.”
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