2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14But 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. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, 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. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of YHWH shall be saved.’
Who is feeling the mighty rush of violent wind blowing through here this morning? It is indeed a great day. The day of Pentecost, this miraculous story of growth rings true. Our backyard is blooming- my friends, the Spirit is moving through this place! And although there may be no need to say that out loud, like Peter on the day of Pentecost- someone's got to preach.
Don't worry, I won't be be nearly as lengthy. Them message is simple today and it's simply this. The Holy Spirit, though it may have arrived with a loud sound, much wind, and tongues of fie, ushered in a new understanding of God, and a new way of being believers.
Even without Peter preaching, they were beginning to understand God in a different way. Where their old mindset was that God spoke to God's people, and through God's people- and there were rules and ways you could be closer to God, there were steps one had to take to be clean enough to approach God, laws keeping Galileans and their kind, on the margins... speaking on behalf of God was reserved for the holy of holies- the worship of God was ordered, and formulaic- celebrations were ordered and calendered.
Actually, the day of Pentecost was a Jewish feast, "that celebrated new life and new crops by offering a gift of first fruits in gratitude and praise." (1) . There were Jews from many nations in Jerusalem for Pentecost- and when they heard the disciples speaking in their own languages, they were of course, shocked! How are these Galileans (and please don't miss the sarcasm- Galileans was a stereotype, like we would hear rednecks, or country hicks) speaking like this- in ways that we can understand?
For the crowd gathered that day, to hear an undenieable message of God through indeniable, the most unlikely of vehicles- left and undeniable mark on the spirit. Now interestingly, they acted much like we do when something undeniable happens that broadens our understanding of God... some are amazed, and some can't take it- so they find a way to explain away the spirit's movement before their eyes- they pick on the character of the messengers... they're drunk, that's all. And sorry, Peter, but no amount of preaching is going to silence that voice- yet, despite all of that, the Holy Spirit had her way... God moved- people's hearts, minds, and lives were changed- God's message of love was accessible to everyone- and made understandable to everyone- everyone!
Which brings me to the second thing I want to mention today. Did you notice that no one did anything in that room for the Holy Spirit to come like am mighty wind? There was no one calling out, or trying to force tongues of fire to fall from the sky. No one in the crowd was doing anything but going about the business of the day. And remember, this was a festival- in a very big city. This was like being in the middle of times square on the morning of new years eve. There were all kinds of people there- from all walks of life. And people were celebrating- shopping, eating, laughing, playing... and it's funny... the Holy Spirit makes a move on the crowd, and yet there were no barometers, there was no judge present saying- you can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, but I'm sorry, you can't. Um, looks like You're good enough, prayed enough, gave enough, you're white enough, straight enough, male enough... and I'm sorry, the rest of you... wait outside until you can clean up your sins of doubt, or fear, or poverty, or being a person of color, or gay, or god forbid a woman...
Instead The Holy Spirit fell on everyone- the Holy Spirit brought understanding to everyone- the Holy Spirit brought opportunity to communicate and intersect- to everyone. And you know what else? No one had to change anything about themselves in order to get the message. No one had to change anything about themselves to be included. No one had to change anything about themselves to be accepted. God's love is for everyone- exactly as you are.
Now, that being said (it almost feels like I've said that before, doesn't it?) once the Spirit falls, and we are given this amazing gift, we are given an opportunity, as the Peter remind us to, dream dreams, realize visions- and we have the chance to embrace all or part of what that means for our lives... to choose to accept the gift of new understanding, of rebirth... or to find some snarky way to walk away and discount what God is trying to do in our lives and in the church. It's the same opportunity we have every day since the Holy Spirit fell on Pentecost. To accept or reject God's presence in our lives.
And believe me, this is not so easy. Because accepting that God is present and working in my life, means that I have to believe that God would WANT to be present and working in my life. And while I make a decent first impression, after a while, ask anybody who is in it with me for the long haul, I can be annoying... (stop shaking your head, John Pepe) . But really- I can't make my self like me some days. Yet, the ruler of the universe, who put the ruach breath of life and spirit of creation inside of me at birth, the one who knows everything about me (even on bad days) would want to be with me, and even use me... well that may take more than one tongue of fire to speak that truth. It's that rejection of myself that keeps me from experiencing the God who wants to be involved in every part of my life. Surely I would have to change something, right? Even just being nicer some of the time? Less snarky?
Let me tel you- you don't have to change one single thing about you for the Holy Sprit to work in you. That being said, the Holy Spirit is not going to leave you the way you are either- look what happened at Pentecost- the whole world changed- the church, the Jewish faith, was reborn- it went from exclusive to inclusive, went from 'who's in' to "Everybody's In!"