Scripture: Acts 2:1-21
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
[ break for chaotic reading. John 3:16-17 in various languages ]
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
It’s on this day that we retell this wild story of loud wind and images of fire which symbolize for us the coming of the Holy Spirit into the world.
The Holy Spirit is certainly wild – more wild and on the loose than even the risen Jesus who randomly showed up and ate with people. The Spirit comes with full force, filling the entire house and the people in it. Causing them to do surprising and weird things. Like speak in other languages. Like drawing together and forming a community movement – the church – that seeks to share the gospel story with the world for years and generations to come.
There are a lot of similarities between the birthdays we celebrate each year and the birthday of the church.
We gather together,
sometimes there are surprising things that happen… maybe not tongues of fire and violent wind… but there usually is a cake with small candles and fire and we use our own wind – our breath to blow them out.
Sometimes birthdays cause us to be amazed…
sometimes perplexed and confused. It usually depends on the year we’re celebrating…
* * *
If you think about it….birthdays are kind of a funny thing to celebrate…
We didn’t DO anything to deserve a party.
Really, if anyone should be celebrated on our birthdays, it should be our parents and loved ones… those who waited, uncomfortable, excited, maybe fearful of the birth that is about to take place.
I’ve always wondered why birthdays seem to be future-oriented.
How old are you going to be? What’s coming in the year ahead? How’s that anxiety or fear about getting older? Being considered old?
Perhaps birthdays should be an opportunity to go back to the date of our birth and remember the story of our birth with our parents and loved ones.
This scripture text certainly takes us back.
Back to the chaotic day God breathed life into the church. We remember the wild events, the confusion, the utter excitement of this birth.
What was it like for the disciples?
We remember from last Sunday that Jesus has ascended into heaven. And right before he does, he tells the disciples to STAY PUT. Stay in Jerusalem… for soon they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire!
The disciples obey. The few verses in between the ascension text Acts 1 and todays text in Acts 2 tell us that the disciples used that time to replace Judas with Mathias as the twelfth disciple. They know what they are waiting for – some sort of miraculous event – some kind of baptism with fire.
* * *
Pentecost, the birthday of the church, is a crazy day! Ask anyone outside the church – or even in the church – and they will say that this is crazy talk. There’s no way it could have happened.
And yet, it did. This big, beautiful, magic-like moment is how God chose to send the Holy Spirit to the world, to shake us up and draw us together as one…. to BIRTH the church of Jesus Christ.
My favorite question in this text is voiced by so many:
“What does this mean?”
What does it mean that we are brought together as one – as a church for Jesus Christ?
What does it mean that we can hear and understand each other despite our differences?
What does it mean that this obscure presence – the Holy Spirit – is now among us?
Peter gives us some interpretation of these events. He looks back to the prophet Joel proclaiming that God has promised to pour out the Holy spirit on all people and ALL will prophesy.
God will show wonders in heaven and on earth, fire…. “and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Peter is telling us through Joel, that the Holy Spirit is coming so that the gospel can move. Through the church.
The Holy Spirit fills each one of us – the church of now – the living church – and enables us to prophesy, to speak the gospel, to communicate in a diversity of ways.
So that others can hear the saving power and grace of Jesus Christ. So others – nay ALL – will hear and believe.
Today we celebrate a birthday. And we celebrate the church’s unity in diversity and chaos.
At Pentecost, that diversity came through language. There were all sorts of folks from all across the region that for the first time in forever, finally understood God’s message together.
That hadn’t happened before.
Language is how we express ourselves. It’s how we understand the world around us. It’s how we make sense of pretty much everything. Language is a foundation for how we think, feel, and act.
But today I want us to go a bit further than that. If language is how we express and interpret the world, then it goes far beyond just the words we use.
Think about those moments you’ve had when you’ve said, “Man, that person just finally gets me.” That’s because someone is just speaking your language. You’re connecting.
So start thinking about those moments. About those languages. There’s lot of them.
What do I mean by this?
I come from a pretty traditional, Midwest household. That’s a language I speak. I’m someone who’s fascinated by and makes a living exploring arts and culture. Another language. I design things so I often think about how people will interact with things. Another language.
Everyone is multilingual. You might be able to speak from how it feels to be a woman in the 21st century. Or what it’s like to be Latino in California. Maybe you are a businessperson or a lawyer. Those are languages. For others, they might speak different spiritual languages because of their own tradition. Or maybe they have a specific life experience – they’ve moved a lot, they’ve been through a certain crisis, they’ve dealt with an illness. Those are all languages.
And there are countless others.
All of these languages are valuable. And we can speak and hear God through all of them.
Today we celebrate the church’s birthday. And today we are going to celebrate and decorate with balloons. Red balloons which symbolizes the fire and power of the Holy Spirit that birthed the church that day.
As we pass out balloons, think of the languages you speak. Whatever they might be. Write them down with these markers on the balloon, symbolize that those languages have God’s power in them.
Then I invite you to share your balloon with a neighbor and read their languages. If you’re so inclined, talk to each other about what that means. How have you connected with others with that language?
[ *PASS OUT BALLOONS* ]
As Dawn said… And as the prophet Joel said… And as Peter said… “All will prophesy.” That means everyone — EVERYONE — has the power to speak the gospel in whatever language is theirs. In business. In speaking to others through your own experience. In music.
You CAN and SHOULD speak to people.
The language doesn’t matter. The message does. And that message is love.