Mother Tongues & Tongues of Fire

5/23/2021 Pentecost

Post-preaching reflection: I rewrote this sermon three times. When I first started, it was very academic and focused on ‘facts’ about the Spirit. The irony of not speaking spiritual truth about the Spirit on Pentecost was not lost on me. I took more time to spiritually reflect and the sermon adapted…. and adapted again. I used a mixture of the Ignatian Contemplation method, “manuscripting”, and word studies to see the bigger picture.

I will show you two versions of my sermon below and also the recording which became a ‘no notes’ sermon.

Message Title: Mother Tongues & Tongues of Fire
Theme: Holy Spirit
Main Text: Acts 2:1-21
Scripture Reading: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
RCL Scripture:  *Acts 2:1-21 or Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Focus: The Holy Spirit is poured out on Jewish believers.
Function: To open our eyes to the movement of God and consider the small ways we could be part of the Spirit’s work.
Other Notes: PENTECOST


FIRST: John 15:26-27 26 “When the Companion comes, whom I will send from the Father—the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 You will testify too, because you have been with me from the beginning.

SECOND: John 16:4b-15 4 But I have said these things to you so that when their time comes, you will remember that I told you about them.“I didn’t say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I go away to the one who sent me. None of you ask me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Yet because I have said these things to you, you are filled with sorrow. 7 I assure you that it is better for you that I go away. If I don’t go away, the Companion won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will show the world it was wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment. 9 He will show the world it was wrong about sin because they don’t believe in me. 10 He will show the world it was wrong about righteousness because I’m going to the Father and you won’t see me anymore. 11 He will show the world it was wrong about judgment because this world’s ruler stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, but you can’t handle it now. 13 However, when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in all truth. He won’t speak on his own, but will say whatever he hears and will proclaim to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and proclaim it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine. That’s why I said that the Spirit takes what is mine and will proclaim it to you.

Version 2 (the version before this was lost in the edit)

PENTECOST INTRO: Welcome to Pentecost, the day we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit to all peoples and the birthday of the church.

  1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: Ever been impatient waiting for God to answer a prayer? Ever prayed a prayer and gotten mad when God didn’t respond in a blatantly obvious way?
    1. There’s a Garth Brooks Song that romanticizes this: Unanswered Prayers
  2. If I’m honest with you, I can rush God. I can try to extrapolate spiritual wisdom from scripture in a condensed period of time. Or hard focus on the scholarly details that I forget to take time for the spiritual message. There’s a joke that reminds me about the importance of slowing down and paying attention in order to hear from God.
    1. Joke about us not listening:
      1. God, flood, news, boat, helicopter
      2. “God why didn’t you save me?”
      3. “I sent the news, a boat, and a helicopter.”

TRANSITION: I will be the first to admit that I can be dense. I can totally miss God working until it’s already happened and I’m looking back on the moment. In our text for today, we will see the miracles of God unfolding and people struggling to believe their eyes and ears.

This is a longer passage; I encourage you to read along on the text behind me or in your own Bible. Let’s see if we can notice what they almost missed:

SCRIPTURE: Acts 2:1-21 When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. 4They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

 5There were pious Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered. They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages. 7They were surprised and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all the people who are speaking Galileans, every one of them? 8How then can each of us hear them speaking in our native language? 9Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; as well as residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the regions of Libya bordering Cyrene; and visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), 11Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!”

 12They were all surprised and bewildered. Some asked each other, “What does this mean?” 13Others jeered at them, saying, “They’re full of new wine!”

14Peter stood with the other eleven apostles. He raised his voice and declared, “Judeans and everyone living in Jerusalem! Know this! Listen carefully to my words! 15These people aren’t drunk, as you suspect; after all, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! 16Rather, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams. 18Even upon my servants, men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19I will cause wonders to occur in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and a cloud of smoke. 20The sun will be changed into darkness, and the moon will be changed into blood, before the great and spectacular day of the Lord comes. 21And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.


  1. Background: what has been happening just before this passage?
    1. After Easter/Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples for 40 days and provided some last instructions.
      1. Ascension Day (10 days ago)- Jesus commissioned his disciples and ascended into heaven.
    2. Judas died by suicide
      1. The 11 cast lots to replace Judas- Matthias was added.
    3. Jewish Festival of Pentecost
      1. 50 days after Passover (so 50 days after easter)
      2. “Festival of Weeks – holiday for harvest & giving of the law
      3. Typically celebrated by reading the story of Ruth (harvest plays a big part of her story)
  2. Recap:
    1. Where were the disciples before this point?
      1. “all together” – likely in “the upper room” where they had the last supper & Jesus appeared to them.
    2. The Disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and that manifested in speaking in known languages, that they did not know before.
      1. A crowd gathered
    3. Audience Engagement:
      1. What was the response?
        1. How do you know my language?
        2. Are you drunk?
        3. How is this possible?
        4. We are hearing the works of God!


  1. Walk with me through their reaction:
    1. I’ve made a pilgrimage for my faith. I’m not in my native land.
    2. WAIT! Someone is speaking my language! Many us travelers are ALL hearing our language!
    3. They’re speaking of the wonders of God!
    4. How is this possible? How could these rural fishermen know MY language? Or ALL of these languages?
  2. Peter responds by finding common ground: Hello fellow Jews! We may be of diverse cultures, but we are of one faith.
    1. You are hearing this message in your own tongue but don’t need to be surprised. Our scriptures spoke of this day!
  3. Take a moment to recognize the beauty of what Peter says: All peoples will receive the Spirit
    1. Your gender doesn’t determine your worthiness to receive the Spirit
    2. Your economic status doesn’t determine your worthiness to receive the Spirit
    3. Your cultural heritage doesn’t determine your worthiness to receive the Spirit
    4. Your age doesn’t determine your worthiness to receive the Spirit
  4. All peoples will receive the Spirit. Our differences don’t hold us back. BUT God didn’t remove all these differences and make everyone the same. Instead, God built bridges between the cultural gaps by enabling the disciples to speak in these languages.
    1. Our differences are not something to get rid of or ignore. Our differences enrich our faith rather than distract from it.
  5. Jesus had commissioned his disciples, the Holy Spirit equipped them, and immediately started speaking the truth of God.

APPLICATION: To open our eyes to the movement of God and consider the small ways we could be part of the Spirit’s work.

  1. Though the disciples were given the Spirit, the language, and the words to say. There still was confusion in the crowds about how to respond to the message.
      1. Does anyone in this room enjoy calls from telemarketers?
      2. What about ads on television or facebook?
      3. If you’re looking to make a big purchase, where do you turn first? Ads ?
    1. Tricked into Listening to a pitch -Yes, we trust our friend’s opinion most when it comes to trying something new BUT that relationship has to be rich for the opinion to hold weight.
      1. We’ve all had that friend add us on Facebook that we haven’t talked to in forever. We’re excited to hear from them AND then we learn they are working for some multi-level marketing company and want to give you their business pitch.
      2. Nothing more frustrating than using a friendship to make money. Even if it is a great product! It doesn’t work. Right?
    1. We all feel this way about advertizements… imagine how non-Christians feel about us talking about Jesus, church, or salvation?
  2. Successful Missions- from the people who “get” us
    1. Church statistics say that evangelism is most successful when a relationship has been previously established AND is also more successful/well received when you share a similar context (culture/language/profession)
    2. Acts 1:8 “Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
  3. Mission of the Church: To share the hope of Christ with the world, nurture new disciples, grow the family of God.
    1. Different denominations disagree about how the Mission of the Church is best carried out
      1. Track Ministries
      2. overseas missions
      3. Evangelists- Street or Television
      4. (Jehovah’s Witnesses & Mormons coming door to door)
      5. Revivals or big events
      6. Weekly Invitationals
  4. The Holy Spirit does grand things like speaking in tongues but also small things like keeping someone in your mind or prompting you to admit when you’re wrong.

CONCLUSION: Back to the intro: I can try to rush God or over fill my schedule so that I don’t have time to slow down and listen. Our Wednesday night bible study has really revived that need to slow down in me.

Version 3 (my preaching “notes” that i ignored while preaching)

  1. intro
    1. prayers & impatience
    2. Joke
    3. I can rush God & miss the message
  2. transition: a story of God working unexpectedly and people almost missing it
  3. Scripture: acts 2:1-21
  4. Background:
    1. Pentecost (50 days) after Passover
    2. ascension (10 days ago)
    3. picking a replacement for judas –> Matthias
  5. Interpretation
    1. reaction of the crowd
    2. can you blame them?
      1. how would you know my language?
    3. MLM companies, mission stats, & evangelism
      1. evangelism is most successful when less cultural divides exist
  6. Application:
    1. God can work in ways we donn’t understand or expect.
    2. so frequently we expect god to answer prayers in grand/miraculous ways and then discredit the small ways God can work.
    3. yes, God can work through fire & storm and the gift of languages BUT God can also work through an apology or a casserole.
    4. This group was surprised that God worked through their native language–
    5. i can struggle with seeing God move when i’m tired, stressed, or impatient. my emotions don’t mean God has left, it may mean my spiritual radar has turned down.
  7. Conclusion: For Pentecost this year, let’s look for the little ways God works and be part of those little movements.

Version 4 the recording – you’ll notice my sermon changed significantly from version 2 to the recording in version 4. Even now, I can hear God pruning that sermon if i were to preach it again.

This posting shows in greater depth writing my sermons. Do I think my previous sermons were bad? No, but they were a little like a spaghetti bowl. Unfortunately, a spaghetti bowl of thoughts can overwhelm your congregation rather than give them peace. Learn from my experience. Yes, take time to practice and edit your sermon, but also leave space for the Spirit to work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s