“Love Always Hopes”

“Love always hopes…”
A Message on Acts 2:1-21
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
June 3, 2022
By Doug Wintermute

1 Corinthians 13:7c (NIV)
“[Love] always hopes…”

Acts 2:1-21 (NRSV)

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every people under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Fellow Jews and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit,
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

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As you have heard me point out before, I think it is very significant that of the 12 disciples that Jesus called to follow him, four of them (one-third of the 12) were fishermen. Not carpenters like Jesus himself was, not farmers, not bankers, and not even politicians. Fishermen.

I think one of the reasons Jesus chose so many fishermen to become disciples is because those who fish know about hope. They know a lot about hope.

The Jacksonville Educational Foundation Fishing Tournament was held yesterday on Lake Jacksonville as part of the Tomato Fest activities. Those fishing in the tournament knew about hope. Every time they cast their lure they had hope that a bass would hit it and get hooked, and then they would catch it.

Now I can tell you from personal experience that the “cast-to-catch” ratio is very, very low. The odds of catching a fish on any particular cast is very slim. If you cast 100 times and catch one fish, that’s a good day. Most of the time the lure comes back empty. But the person fishing doesn’t give up. They have hope. And because of that hope, they cast again, paying careful attention to the line, hoping that this time, with this cast, they will catch a fish.

Hope is what keeps them going even when they aren’t successful. And spiritually, hope is what keeps us going when we experience challenges and difficulties in our lives.

Years ago, way back in 1998 (which sounds weird to say). there was a nice little movie starring Sandra Bullock titled, “Hope Floats.” In the movie Sandra Bullock plays Birdee Pruitt, a young mother who is humiliated on a live TV show when she finds out her best friend is having an affair with her husband. She leaves the big city with her daughter and heads back to her hometown in Texas where her high school rivals gave her a hard time about her fall from grace.

When going through all the difficulties that a broken relationship has, Birdee remembers something her mother told her: “Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it is the middle that counts the most. You need to remember that when you find yourself at the beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up.” – Birdee Pruitt, from the movie “Hope Floats.”

The disciples were going through a tough time in the scripture we read today from the first chapter of Acts. They discover Jesus (or perhaps more accurately, Jesus finds them), they follow him around for about three years, and they expect great things to happen. They come to believe that Jesus is the messiah, the chosen one, who will redeem the Jewish people from the oppressive hand of the occupying Roman forces.

They have heard Jesus speak, heard him preach, seen him perform miracles, and tried to understand all those strange parables he told. And it seems the more they understand, the more they don’t understand. Nothing Jesus does seems to make sense. He talks about turning the other cheek, loving your enemy, storing up treasures in heaven instead of chasing after wealth on earth, and how the first will be last. Crazy stuff, right?

And then the disciples’ lives are turned completely upside down when Jesus is arrested, crucified and buried. The disciples hid, fearful that because of their association with Jesus the same thing that happened to him could happen to them.

And then they discover that Jesus has risen from the dead. He even appears to them in the flesh, even though they knew he was dead, which really, REALLY confuses them.

They have to be wondering what is going to happen next.

Jesus has left them some hints, though. In the Gospel of John Jesus tells the disciples, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:25-26

And in the first chapter of Acts, we find the last words Jesus says to the disciples before he ascends into heaven is about the promise of the Holy Spirit: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

But there aren’t a lot of details as to when and how this will happen. So the disciples are still trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus, they have the promises Jesus gave them about the Holy Spirit, but there are still so many unknowns in their life. And yet, they still have hope, because love always hopes.

And then, when they gather for a relatively minor Jewish festival called Pentecost that celebrates the wheat harvest, something totally unexpected happens: the Holy Spirit shows up in a big, supernatural way.

The loud sound of rushing wind, tongues of fire above the heads of the disciples, and each disciple speaking a different language, one they may not have known or spoken before.

The promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit happens at Pentecost. A minor Jewish holiday takes on a much bigger and more significant meaning. Pentecost changes not only the disciples, but the world. If you keep reading in the second chapter of Acts you find that about 3,000 people became followers of Jesus Christ just on that one day!

The Holy Spirit continues to change our world today. When we have baptisms, the pastor applies the water, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But that’s not the end. Then the pastor then lays a hand on the baptized person’s head, and sometimes family members, sponsors, mentors, and others will lay hands on them as well, as these words are spoken: “The Holy Spirit work within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

The Holy Spirit, one of three persons of the Holy Trinity, works through followers of Jesus still today. The Holy Spirit empowers us to do things that we cannot do on our own. And I believe the Holy Spirit gives us hope.

“Love always hopes…” Hope is powerful. Hope gets us through the tough times, the times when the difficulties of life seem to overwhelm us, the times when the days are dark and the nights are darker. At those times we have hope.

The Holy Spirit gives us hope. Our faith in Jesus Christ as our savior gives us hope. We have hope because we believe the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So my challenge to you today on this Pentecost Sunday is to let hope float. Let us celebrate and be joyful for the coming of the Holy Spirit not only upon the disciples, but us as well. Love is alive. The Holy Spirit is alive. Hope is alive. Love always hopes.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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