Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pentecost and the Transformation of Peter

Today we hear about Pentecost in Acts 2:1-21. At the end of this reading, Peter quotes from the prophet Joel. This is not something we are used to hearing from Peter who has stumbled and bumbled his way through the earlier gospels. The transformation of Peter from simple fisherman to fisher of men has occurred thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit.

In an old sermon, "The Effect of Pentecost" by Joseph Parker (1830-1902), we get a full exposition on this transformation as he preaches on the verses of Acts that follow those included in today's reading. I have chosen a few excerpts to give you a taste of preaching and teaching the likes of which you are unlikely to hear today.
This is a full length portrait of Peter himself. If we see clearly the effect upon Peter, we shall have a true idea of the effect of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the entire church... 
...Peter is not an egotist in this case, but, so to say, the passive instrument through which the Holy Spirit delivers new and gracious messages to the church. Fix your minds therefore upon Peter in the first instance. We know what he has been up to this time-ardent, impulsive, unbalanced, enthusiastic, cowardly. Since we last saw him, during the days of the bodily-present Christ, he has been the subject of Pentecostal influence. We have therefore to look on this picture and on that, and upon the change discoverable between the two pictures you may found your estimate of the value of spiritual inspiration.
 ...Already therefore in the mere matter of eloquence, we discover a wonderful change in the man who denied his Lord with an oath. He was always an ardent man, but now he bums as he says the elements themselves will one day "burn with fervent heat." 
...Who had ever known Peter before as a reader-who was aware until this moment that Peter ever opened the sacred Book and perused it with a student's curiosity and eagerness? We had never thought of Peter as an expositor; an errand-runner, a zealous, not always well-balanced friend, a crude thinker, an incoherent speaker-under these terms we may have formed some conception of the apostolic fisherman, but certainly it never entered into our minds that he had been a reader, a student, an inquirer into the deep decrees and hidden things of the sanctuary-yet in a moment he opens the prophecy of Joel, and reads it in the language and tone of his own day, and then he searches into some of the richest psalms of David, and quotes from them enough to establish the continuity and solidity of his great argument,
...We have in Peter a standard whereby to measure ourselves. When the Holy Spirit falls upon us we shall go to the Bible with a new reading power, and we shall see wonders where before we saw nothing because of our spiritual blindness. There are portions of the Bible with which we are nominally familiar, but what do we know of its inner meanings, of the minor prophets, the out-of-the-way histories, the deep things of God? Under the enlightenment of the Spirit we shall see that everything grand in thought, thrilling in poetry, tragic in experience, noble in heroism, is in the Bible. This is the Book out of which all other books are made. All science is here, all history all fiction, all philosophy, all poetry, even the best titles of all books are in the Bible. There is nothing in any literature whose root is not to be found in the inspired volume. This is the Book out of which all other books are made, as the earth is the quarry out of which all its palaces have been dug, and as there are grander palaces in the rocks and woods than have yet been built, so there are more glorious visions in the Bible than we have yet beheld.

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