“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.”
Today is the day of Pentecost. Here we are, all together in one place. What do you expect to happen? Is the Spirit here? Will the Spirit come? Will we be filled with the Spirit?
“Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability, speaking of God’s deeds of power. And the people were amazed and astonished.”
When the Spirit is poured out on us, when we are filled with the Spirit, what will that look like? Will it be as dramatic as the first Pentecost? What will we do, what will we say, what will we be? And will people be amazed and astonished?
Today is Pentecost. What does this mean?
We could talk about what Pentecost meant to the early church. But we didn’t gather here today for a history lesson. The more important question is what does Pentecost mean for us. What does it mean for us today to have the courage to pray “Come, Holy Spirit, come”? What do we expect to happen when we pray these words?
For the early church, for those hundred and twenty disciples who were gathered together, Pentecost was first of all, surprising. Not that it was a total surprise. Jesus had promised them that the Spirit would come upon them and that they would be his witnesses to the ends of the earth – but it when it actually happened it was still a big surprise.
Are we ready to be surprised by the Spirit? Every Sunday we talk about the power working in us that can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. How serious are we when we say those words? Sounds pretty disruptive to me, sounds like the Spirit might change the way we do things, might even reset our priorities? Are we ready for the Spirit?
For the early church, Pentecost was expansive. Barrier-crossing. The first act of the Spirit is to break through the language barrier, enabling the disciples who had been gathered together to speak in many languages, enabling them to communicate and connect with people from the ends of the earth who have gathered in Jerusalem. This is expansive, this is going beyond the barriers that limit us.
Then, when Peter speaks, the next movement of the Spirit is to inspire him to preach a text from the prophet Joel, a prophecy that foresees another expansive movement of the Spirit. Listen to it again:
“In these last days, God declares,
I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh”
Got that? All flesh! Not just a group of insiders, not a particular tribe, not just one religious group, not just the leadership, not just the 120 people gathered in that room, no, God will pour out the Spirit on everyone. And when that happens,
“your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
and your young ones shall see visions and your old ones shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit.”
Everyone is included: all genders, men and women, young and old, every social class, every orientation, every language, every ethnicity, every geographic origin. All will receive God’s Spirit; they will all see visions and dream dreams. What are your dreams? What is your vision?
What does the Spirit do? The Spirit builds community. What sort of community? Community that is expansive: diverse, inclusive, open, barrier-crossing, welcoming and visionary.
And that day, we are told, about 3000 people were baptized and added to the community. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, and to eating and praying together, moving from house to house.
The Spirit is expansive in the way she builds community.
Are we ready to be expansive? To be expansive is to leave our comfort zone. When the Spirit comes upon us, will we cross barriers, will we go places we’ve never gone before, will we welcome people that we’ve never welcomed before, will we dream dreams and see visions? Are we ready for the Spirit?
For the early church, Pentecost is empowering.
The disciples gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost were swept up by a sudden force of great power, and they were transformed, exploding from the room, praising God in every language imaginable. Empowered.
Then Peter, the fisherman, does something he’s never done before. He steps forward and addresses the crowd of thousands. No notes, no preparation. Empowered.
Then thousands come forward and are baptized, on the spot, that day, no baptism course, no godparents, no need to book an appointment. Empowered.
And this new community of over three thousand starts worshiping, praying and eating together, and all who had possessions and goods would sell them and distribute the proceeds to those who were in need. Empowered.
Are we ready to be empowered? To catch the wave that we talked about last Sunday? To go places and do things that we’ve never done before? Are we ready for the Spirit?
Sometimes I wonder whether those first disciples ever thought about when their lives would return to normal.
There are times in my life that I wish that the Spirit of God would come upon me as a gentle breeze, comforting me, helping me to return to normal, solving my problems.
Maybe that happens sometimes. But the story of Pentecost suggests that the Spirit of God is more likely to come upon us as the rush of a violent wind, propelling us forward at breakneck speed, calling and sending us into a new and perhaps unsettling reality. The Holy Spirit doesn’t always come to solve problems in our lives. Sometimes, she creates problems and empowers us to move through them. She sends us out into a new reality. And when that happens the return to normal just isn’t an option.
Because the Spirit doesn’t just empower us for the fun of it. The Spirit empowers the church for mission. We are people who are sent. To break down and overcome the barriers that divide us. To reach out to others and especially those in need. The community of Pentecost doesn’t just exist for itself. It is a missional community, empowered for God’s mission, empowered to be Jesus’ witness to the ends of the earth.
That’s what Pentecost meant for the early church. When the Spirit came upon all those who were gathered together in one place it was surprising, expansive, empowering and missional.
Today is Pentecost. We are all together in one place. We pray come, Holy Spirit come. And when the Spirit comes upon us, expect it to be surprising, expansive, empowering and missional.
The church is called to be a dynamic community of people following Jesus, filled with the Spirit, carrying out God’s mission of healing, liberation and joy, for the sake of the world.[i]
Empowered by the Spirit, this community becomes a movement. A movement that brings connection. A movement that brings grace. A movement that brings hope. A movement that is diverse and inclusive. A movement that is life-giving and that witnesses to the truth that God is with us and that God loves us. A movement that is Spirit-filled. And nothing can stop a movement that is empowered by the Spirit.
May the church be that movement. May we be that movement.
Come, Holy Spirit, come.
Homily: Yr C Pentecost. June 5 2022. Trinity
Readings: Acts 2.1-21; Psalm 104.24-34, 35b; Romans 8.14-17; John 14.8-17,25-27