But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: “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. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” ‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know – this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him, “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover, my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” ‘Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, “He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.” This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’
One of Manchester’s more famous residents, Professor Brian Cox, has made a name for himself with popular science programmes. However, Prof Cox has had a previous spell of fame as the keyboard player in 1990’s pop band D:Ream. You might remember one of their more popular songs, “Things Can Only Get Better”, being used as an anthem for New Labour in 1997.
But in later years the famous cosmologist has said that this song is, scientifically speaking, actually inaccurate. According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics things can only get worse as entropy ultimately increases in the universe. In lay terms this explains why apple cores rot, our cup of coffee gets cold, our car rusts, and why we might feel our age in our bones.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics can be used as a metaphor to illustrate spiritual decay too. We all have to content with this spiritual decay – or poor spiritual health – in some way or form. This is occasionally referred to as spiritual stubbornness on our parts (Ex 32:9), but we are strongly encouraged to be honest about this spiritual reality (1 John 1: 8). Maybe this is why we sometimes feel a little bit iffy in our soul.
This is why today’s reading is so powerful. We find Peter standing before a crowd of onlookers, fighting off allegations of an early morning booze-up, confidently proclaiming that spiritual decay has been arrested. The risen Jesus has conquered death. Jesus has defeated entropy. And while we lesser mortals are still subject to the laws of nature, we will grasp the grandeur of this scene and its implications for humanity. Through the motivation of the Spirit, we will share this message to our communities too.
This is the message of the Gospel – things don’t have to get worse, but can get better. The gift of grace we receive gives us a living hope. This motivates us to confidently play our part in making a little bit heaven on earth.
Creator, who stretched out the stars of the universe and takes notice of our lives; we look up at the night sky, we feel alone and insignificant. We feel unable to turn back the tides of decay. But you have done this – you have defeated decay; this gives us hope. May your Spirit fill and motivate us. May we share this message of new life and contribute to making heaven on earth. Amen.
The Rev’d Daniel Harris, Minister with Rochdale, Bury and North Manchester Missional Partnership