Fake news Acts 2: 1-21

2 On the day of Pentecost all the Lord’s followers were together in one place. 2 Suddenly there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind! It filled the house where they were meeting. 3 Then they saw what looked like fiery tongues moving in all directions, and a tongue came and settled on each person there. 4 The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking whatever languages the Spirit let them speak.
5 Many religious Jews from every country in the world were living in Jerusalem. 6 And when they heard this noise, a crowd gathered. But they were surprised, because they were hearing everything in their own languages. 7 They were excited and amazed, and said:
Don’t all these who are speaking come from Galilee? 8 Then why do we hear them speaking our very own languages? 9 Some of us are from Parthia, Media, and Elam. Others are from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, parts of Libya near Cyrene, Rome, 11 Crete, and Arabia. Some of us were born Jews, and others of us have chosen to be Jews. Yet we all hear them using our own languages to tell the wonderful things God has done.
12 Everyone was excited and confused. Some of them even kept asking each other, “What does all this mean?”
13 Others made fun of the Lord’s followers and said, “They are drunk.”
14 Peter stood with the eleven apostles and spoke in a loud and clear voice to the crowd:
Friends and everyone else living in Jerusalem, listen carefully to what I have to say! 15 You are wrong to think that these people are drunk. After all, it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 But this is what God had the prophet Joel say,
17 “When the last days come,
I will give my Spirit
    to everyone.
Your sons and daughters
    will prophesy.
Your young men
    will see visions,
and your old men
    will have dreams.
18 In those days I will give
    my Spirit to my servants,
both men and women,
    and they will prophesy.
19 I will work miracles
    in the sky above
and wonders
    on the earth below.
There will be blood and fire
    and clouds of smoke.
20 The sun will turn dark,
and the moon
    will be as red as blood
before the great
    and wonderful day
    of the Lord appears.
21 Then the Lord
    will save everyone
    who asks for his help.”
Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society
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Fake news. This term has become a popular way of saying we disagree with what network journalists are reporting. If we don’t like the news, if we disagree with the veracity of the news, we declare it fake.
I’ve been reading Ken Burns’ book about Vietnam (The Vietnam War: An Intimate History by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns). Fake news is nothing new. It was created consistently during the Vietnam era to keep the American public calm. The most exaggerated example I’ve read about is that General Westmoreland or Secretary McNamara or somebody important wanted up-to-date information on the number of enemy combatants killed by our troops. One commander reported 6 dead and another commander reported 2 dead. The numbers were added up and guess what the sum was: 62.
So, fake news is nothing new. We have lots of names for information that is false. Lies. Alternative facts. Misinformation. Misinterpretation.
Peter and the disciples were certainly accused of fake news. How could a body, an ordinary, very dead, very damaged body, escape from a tomb that was closed with a giant rock. How could a dead body get past armed soldiers? How could a corpse speak and eat and drink and walk and preach?
Fake news. Lies. Wishful thinking.
Yet, Peter and Thomas and Andrew and Mary and Joanna all knew the real truth: Jesus was alive. And more people had a chance to believe that Jesus was really alive, because for the next 40 days, he continued to make himself available for teaching and convincing people that he was the promised Savior.
But then, unexpectedly, Jesus disappeared. He rose into heaven, with the disciples watching helplessly. Now what were they supposed to do? Well, they went into hiding, because now, who would believe them? They no longer had the living, solid, physical proof of Jesus’ resurrection.
So, once again, they shut themselves in, and once again, they were afraid to leave.
It was another Jewish festival, the festival of Pentecost or Shavuot. Shavuot celebrated the spring wheat harvest and it commemorated the day that God gave the Torah or Bible to the entire nation of Israel when they were gathered at Mt. Sinai. That the Holy Spirit came on this festival day is important, because, just like Passover, many Jews from all over the Roman Empire were in town.
9 Some of us are from Parthia, Media, and Elam. Others are from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, parts of Libya near Cyrene, Rome, 11 Crete, and Arabia.
The timing was perfect for the disciples to begin, on their own, to spread the Good News, to share the Gospel with all the world.
Peter and the others prophesied that day to people who had not heard of Jesus, to people who did not know that Peter and the others had worked with Jesus for three years.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter is prophesying.
We use the term “prophesy” as a synonym for predicting. We think of the Old Testament prophets as foretelling the future. We think of modern day prophets as warning about what will happen. But in fact, prophesying, if we look at Biblical instances closely, is more about telling the truth of the present situation.
Prophesying is a way of observing and sharing with objectivity and wisdom what is happening around us. The prophet asks, “What is happening now?” and “What does this mean?” The prophet interprets current events in terms of what God has planned for us.
We watch the news to have the network journalists interpret current events for us, do we not? But the bias that inspires the difference between networks, is not to help us to understand our relationship to God. The networks, perfectly representative of the world, want us to understand their point of view.
It is not wrong to understand someone else’s point of view. But it can be dangerous to adopt it if it is contrary to God’s kingdom.
The most inspiring part of Pentecost, to me, is Peter and all the others, trusting the Holy Spirit to strengthen them for the task of proclaiming the gospel. The miracle of speaking in many languages is like a mental fireworks display. For us, it symbolizes that we can speak to anyone in our own language about our Savior, Jesus Christ. We don’t have to be bilingual, we don’t have to learn verb conjugations or feminine and masculine articles. We can just use our native language. So, what excuses do we have for not sharing the gospel?
We know that when we share the good news with our neighbor, with our friend, or on Facebook, we are not sharing fake news. We are sharing the Good News, not by standing on the front porch, preaching, but by our dedication to the Good News in our actions and in our words. I am convinced that by just being here on Sunday, we are prophesying to our communities that God is real, that Jesus is love, and that the Holy Spirit is our inspiration. But don’t be afraid to expand your prophetic talents.
Don’t be afraid to be more visible. Do you think Peter or Andrew or John was ever afraid? Do you think any of them felt awkward or decided the timing wasn’t right for sharing the good news? Pray that God may make you a prophet, a prophet who declares to the world, or at least to your own zip code, that where there is injustice, there can be justice. Be the prophet who believes that crying can be replaced with laughter, that fear can be replaced with trust, that hurt can be healed.
You know that Christ is risen. Be a prophet and show the world what that means. Amen.