E 100 – June 4, 2017

“A Surprise Gift” – Acts 2

Pentecost Sunday (Confirmation) – June 4, 2017


  1. A surprise gift

Have you ever gotten a surprise gift? One that you weren’t expecting? One that you’d always hoped for, but thought you’d never get? Maybe it was a gift for your Birthday? Or at Christmas? Or Valentine’s Day? Just because, with no special day? Part of the wonder would be the actual gift. Part of the wonder would be the surprise factor. Part of the wonder is who it’s from. What makes something a great gift? Maybe it tastes good. Maybe it’s useful. Maybe it is something that you expect to last for more than a few hours or days. My sister-in-law always said, “The essence of a great gift is that it is something that you wouldn’t get for yourself.”


The day we are considering today wasn’t a birthday or Christmas or Valentine’s Day… it was Pentecost.

Leviticus 23 informs us that Pentecost (also known in the OT as the Feast of Weeks) was a harvest festival, 50 days after the Passover Sabbath. (We still celebrate it 50 days after Easter, but there’s no harvesting going on at this time of year in Canada.)

Normally you would bring your gift of grain, bread, lambs, goats, and a bull to God on Pentecost. But on this Pentecost, God was the giver, and the gift was His Holy Spirit. It was a surprise gift, an unknown gift, something that Peter and the other apostles couldn’t even have imagined considering for themselves. And it wasn’t actually so much for themselves; on that day it was really for the sake of others. The Holy Spirit filled them, gave them the ability to speak in all the languages spoken by the people who had gathered in Jerusalem for that Jewish festival, and gave them a powerful message that demanded a response.

Three weeks ago, I went to hear the MercyMe concert in Abbotsford. They have a lot of great songs out on the Christian radio station and we sing a couple of their songs here at Hope. One song they sang I hadn’t heard before. It’s about God’s surprise gift for us. It’s simply entitled “Ghost.” Let’s listen to it…

Ghost (San Diego video?) by MercyM

There’s a ghost  There’s a ghost inside of me

Not like those drips in old bed sheets  Saying “trick or treat”

Different  Oh, this ghost is different

Not one that leaves me scared to death  But one that puts my fear to rest

Oh, holiness keep haunting me  Oh, you’re my hope, you’re my peace

Ironic in a way  I’m no longer afraid  And the ghost is to blame

There’s a ghost  There’s a ghost inside of me

Not something from some campfire story  Where I’m terrified to sleep

Opposite  This ghost is quite the opposite

He came just like a welcomed friend  And I was comforted

Oh, holiness keep haunting me  Oh, you’re my hope, you’re my peace

Ironic in a way  I’m no longer afraid  And the ghost is to blame

I’m not afraid  I’m not afraid  No longer…

Lead me through the darkness, lead me through the unknown

Oh, lead me, Holy Ghost

The song lyrics describe some aspects of the work of the Ghost, the Holy Ghost of God: puts my fears to rest; is my hope; is my peace; is a welcomed friend; makes me feel comforted; leads me through the darkness / unknown. That’s a wonderful, surprise gift – that lasts not just a lifetime, but an eternity.


  1. An undeserved gift

Now as Peter, filled with that Ghost, that Holy Ghost, spoke to the crowd of people on Pentecost Day, he spoke about another gift, one that preceded that Ghost gift. He spoke about Jesus of Nazareth who, although He performed works and wonders and signs among them, was killed by lawless men. Peter implicated them in Jesus’ crucifixion, and by extension he also implicated us, for we are all sinners who deserve nothing but God’s anger and punishment. But crucifixion wasn’t the end of the Jesus story. Peter goes on to say, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” The fact! Not a story! Not a legend! Not a hoax! The fact that Jesus was raised from the dead! And then Peter delivers his concluding and most compelling statement: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ!”

There was a jab of the law there, reminding his hearers (and us readers) that we are all responsible for Jesus’ death because God’s justice requires Him to punish sin. Our sins made it necessary for Jesus to die. But there is a gift there, too – an undeserved gift. The risen Jesus is Lord and Christ. Lord… Lord of the world, Lord of the church, Lord of us. Christ… the long-promised Saviour and Redeemer, who crushed Satan’s head and purchased our salvation – not with silver or gold – but with His own precious blood.

When the Pentecost listeners were “cut to the heart,” when Peter’s law jab hit home for each one of them, they asked, “What shall we do?” Peter’s response unwrapped another undeserved gift: “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” For the forgiveness of your sins… whether your sins are lies, or cheating, or ignoring God, or hatred, or jealousy, or using God’s name carelessly, or vengeance or whatever – the name of Jesus Christ, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, brings God’s free gift of forgiveness to those who repent and believe. That undeserved gift of forgiveness is called Grace – God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

Oh, and Peter said one more thing… “you will receive the Ghost, the Holy Ghost, as a gift, an undeserved gift!” A gift, as MercyMe sang, to put your fears to rest, to be your hope, to be your peace, as a welcomed friend, to comfort you, and to lead you through the darkness and the unknown.

  1. A mind-opening gift

Besides that, we learn from Acts 2 that the Holy Spirit is a mind-opening gift. Actually Jesus said that and began to do that with the disciples already after His resurrection. Luke 24 says that Jesus opened their minds so that they could understand the Scriptures. Remember, for them the Scriptures were what we know as the Old Testament. They were the ones who would be writing parts of the New Testament in a few years. So, Jesus was giving them clarity into what the Old Testament really meant, what its system of sacrifices and offerings really meant, what the prophets really meant, and how it all pointed to Jesus, Himself.

On that Pentecost Day, that gift of Scripture understanding was evident because Peter shared his insight into God’s Word. Peter applied the words of the prophet Joel – “I will pour out my Spirit” – to what had just happened!! The sound of a wind, the tongues as of fire, the speaking in other languages were all signs that God had indeed poured out His Spirit upon them there in Jerusalem that day. And the last words from the prophet Joel were compelling: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Everyone – from every one of those 15 nations represented in Jerusalem for the Festival of Pentecost. Every one – every individual who calls on Jesus for salvation will not be disappointed.

One aspect of the mind-opening gift of the Holy Spirit was the ability to understand God’s plan. Before this, the disciples just couldn’t seem to get it. They were found arguing about who was the greatest. They couldn’t believe that Jesus was supposed to suffer and die. Even in Acts 1, just before His ascension back to heavenly glory, they were asking when Jesus was going to restore the glory days to the Kingdom of Israel. But now, with the guidance of that Holy Spirit, it was all making sense. It was like they were putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle and they could finally tell what the completed picture looked like.

During your Confirmation lessons in these last two years, the worksheet often asked you students to identify the BIGIdea of the lesson, what you really learned. Then at our last lesson ten days ago, I asked all of you – both first and second year students – to identify what you thought was the BIGIdea of all of your confirmation classes, of the whole Bible’s story. What was it all about? Here are your answers. Then I asked all ten or twelve of you to collaborate and narrow down your answers to five or six, maybe even three or four, and I gave you second year students VETO power – the power to say “No, that’s not one of the BIGIdeas.” When all the VETOing was done, this is what we ended up with, really just two BIGIdeas: you said one of the BIGIdeas was the Ten Commandments, and someone identified that as the Law, and then  you said the other BIGIdea was wrapped up in God’s love for us, Jesus’ sacrificial death for us, the forgiveness of our sins… kind of John 3:16 stuff – “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” And someone identified that as the Gospel. You ended up the BIGIdea of all your confirmation instruction being the Law and the Gospel – our big sins, but God’s even bigger grace!!

I would say that that understanding of God’s plan in the Bible came from the mind-opening gift of the Holy Spirit for you. I mean, you need to be in God’s Word, in the Scriptures, but it will be the Holy Spirit who helps you to get it, to understand it, to believe it and to rejoice in it – the ‘it’ being God’s saving you through the crucified and risen Jesus, who is Lord and Christ.


  1. A powerful gift

Finally, the gift of the Holy Spirit is a powerful gift. After Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples were afraid, so they hid out in the upper room for a while. They were afraid that, because of their association with Jesus, they, too, might get arrested, unjustly sentenced, and innocently crucified. But on Pentecost Day, with the sending of the Holy Spirit, their boldness quotient registered “Extreme!” This was the same Jerusalem as Jesus was crucified in, yet Peter spoke publicly about Jesus to a large crowd of people that could very well have included some of those who were responsible for Jesus’ death. In Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested for healing a lame man, were commanded not to teach about Jesus but courageously replied, “We cannot help speaking of what we have seen and heard.” In Acts 5, some disciples were arrested a second time, and again told not to teach in the name of Jesus. Daringly they responded, “We must obey God rather than men!” In Acts 6 and 7, Stephen was arrested, but spoke so boldly about Jesus that he was stoned to death. The Holy Spirit transformed these men from fearful followers to daring disciples.

If you, like Peter, could speak to a large crowd about Jesus, what would you say? What would you tell them? Oh, I guess we’re going to hear that from you confirmands – in just a few minutes.

Not only was Peter’s message on Pentecost Day full of insight and understanding, bold and courageous, it was also effective. The Holy Spirit gave him just the right words to say, full of passion, so that the people were “cut to the heart,” and so that when Peter told them what was an appropriate God-pleasing and faithful response, they accepted his message and were baptized – 3000 of them! The Holy Spirit was working on both ends – working in Peter who was sharing the message of Jesus as Lord and Christ, and working in the hearts of those who were listening, so that they did repent and believe.

We can be confident that that same Ghost is inside of US, for Peter said “the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” He is inside of us to put our fears to rest, to be our hope, to be our peace, as a welcomed friend, to comfort us, and to lead us through the darkness and the unknown. He will also make our words effective in leading people in our world to meet Jesus and to put their trust in Him as their Lord and Christ.


The Holy Spirit – a surprise gift, an undeserved gift, a mind-opening gift and a powerful gift for you, for all of you! Amen.




2 songs




Acts 2:1-41




Pastor: Let us pray.

O God, send us the Holy Spirit, who cuts us to the heart with the Word of God, who opens our hearts to hear the language of Your love, and who enters our hearts that out of them may flow streams of living water; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

People:            Amen.




Confession & Forgiveness


P: When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said,

C: “What shall we do?”

P: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the Holy Spirit.”


P: Let us, like the people in Jerusalem on Pentecost, repent and make confession of our sin in humble repentance.


(Silence for meditation and self-examination)


Pastor: Most merciful God,

People:           we confess that without You, we are in the darkness of sin.  Cleanse us from the filth of our sin.  Refresh us from the dryness and lifelessness of our spirits.  Thaw our frozen hearts, unable to love.  Bend our inflexible will and foolish pride to Your will.  Guide us who are so apt to stray from Your commands.  Fill us, Holy Spirit.  Forgive us, Lord Jesus.  Gift us, heavenly Father.


Pastor: The promise is for you and your children, for all whom the Lord will call, and the promise is full and free forgiveness of all of your sins, given for the sake of Jesus Christ. Receive the promised forgiveness with joy.  To those who believe in Jesus Christ, God gives the power to become children of God and bestows on them the Holy Spirit.

People:            Thanks be to God. Come, Holy Spirit.


2 or 3 Confirmation essays – Erika, Erin, Michael (sound byte)


Numbers 11:24-30 & John 7:37-39


2 or 3 Confirmation essays – Ryan, Miranda


Hymn # 783


Rite of Confirmation



Pastor: Filled with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, let us pray for the needs of all.

O Holy Spirit, whose ways are mysterious and mighty, guide Your Church into truth, wisdom, compassion, and zeal for Your Word, and for all who need it. We pray,

People:            Come, Holy Spirit.


Pastor: O Holy Spirit, who convicts the world of righteousness, work among the leaders of our nation, province and communities, that our nation may be a place where the most vulnerable – the poor, the not-yet-born, and the elderly – may be provided for and protected. Bring winds of change to the nations of the world where oppression and violence reign. Turn the hearts of our enemies toward peace. We pray,

People:            Come, Holy Spirit.


Pastor: O Holy Spirit, comforter of the weak and oppressed, come to the aid of all who are in distress:
those who are in the hospital,

those who face life-changing illness . . .

those who struggle with unemployment . . .

those who mourn . . .

those who are dying . . .

For these and others known to You alone, we pray,

People:            Come, Holy Spirit.


Pastor: O Holy Spirit, who intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, hear our prayers for those who come to the Lord’s Table today. May those who come be cut to the heart with genuine repentance for their sins, but may they also come with genuine faith that, in Jesus’ very body and blood, they receive forgiveness for those sins. Fill us all with joy in Your fulfilled promises. We pray,

People:            Come, Holy Spirit.


Pastor: O Holy Spirit, who leads many to faith, we thank You for leading these five young people to publicly profess their faith today. We pray that, where the promises they make falter, Your promises would sustain them and never falter. We pray that, where doubts may creep in to their lives, Your own certainties would be their firm foundation.  We pray that, when sin becomes great in their lives, Your grace would be greater still. Bring them, through Christ, to Your eternal Kingdom. We pray,

People:            Come, Holy Spirit.


Pastor: O Holy Spirit, who appeared to the disciples in tongues as of fire, work on us to purify our hearts and minds through Christ, that we may be renewed for our task of loving others as Christ has loved us. We pray,

People:            Come, Holy Spirit. Amen.




Holy Communion

P: All thanks and praise to You, Holy Lord, almighty God.

Your Holy Spirit hovered over the deep void, You spoke, and the beauty and wonder of creation came to be.

Your Holy Spirit guided Noah and his family and preserved their lives in the midst of the flood.

Your Holy Spirit led Moses to stand up to Pharaoh and to trudge through the sea.

Your Holy Spirit inspired the prophets to speak Your judgment and grace.

Your Holy Spirit came upon Mary and she conceived and gave birth to our Savior, Jesus.

Your Holy Spirit hovered over Jesus at His Baptism, accompanying Your mighty declaration that He is Your beloved Son.

Your Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost on the apostles and Jesus was proclaimed in many languages.
Your Holy Spirit comes to us through Your Word, in Baptism, and in this Feast of Christ’s body and blood.

All thanks and praise to You, O Lord, for You have not left us alone, but You have poured out upon us Your Holy Spirit, who will one day guide us, along with Noah, Moses, the prophets, Mary, the apostles, and martyrs, to join all the company of heaven in praising and thanking You forever and ever.

People:            Amen.


Words of Institution


Lord’s Prayer




Post-Communion Prayer

Pastor: God of mercy, in this Holy Communion, You lift us up when we are downtrodden, You forgive us when the Spirit convicts of sin, and You gather us together as the body of Christ. Nourished by Christ’s body and blood and made bold by the Holy Spirit, send us out as Your renewed people, so that the words of our lips and the actions of our lives may declare Your mercy to the world around us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

People:            Amen.





Pastor: People of God, you have drunk the water of life today. The Spirit is upon you to go out into the world and invite those who thirst for real life to come to the Water of Life, our Lord Jesus.

People:            Thanks be to God.

Pastor: People of God, having clearly heard again the Good News of Jesus, you believe in Him. God has promised that out of your hearts will flow rivers of living water to our parched world.

People:            Thanks be to God.

Pastor: As you go, filled with the Spirit,


Pastor: The Lord bless you and keep you.

The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.

The Lord look upon you with favor and + give you peace.

People:            Amen.




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