A Mighty Wind: Thoughts on why Pentecost is so important!

A Mighty Wind

Acts 2: 1-21

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.

5 Now 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.’

14 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. 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.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
   in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
     and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
   and signs on the earth below,
     blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
   and the moon to blood,
     before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Have you ever noticed that the colors of the chancel linens change from time to time?

The colors change with what we call the ecclesiastical calendar.

The colors are assigned to each season and to particular church celebrations.

And while Matt and I don’t necessarily follow these customs, we have stoles that match each season as well.

There are four different colors.

We use white for what might be called high holy seasons like Easter and Christmas and also the days we celebrate the sacraments.

Purple is used for the seasons of Advent and Lent which lead up to Christmas and Easter.

Green is the most common color we use.

It is for what is called “Ordinary Time”.

Most of the calendar is actually “ordinary time”.

The time between the high holy seasons which is – well – ordinary.

But there is one other color.

Red.

Red chancel linens and red stoles show up on only one Sunday in the ecclesiastical year.

Pentecost!

Why red on Pentecost?

Red is said to symbolize joy and the fire of the Holy Spirit.

And this one and done day of red is what kind of bothers me about the way we celebrate Pentecost.

The purple of Advent and Lent gives us the feeling that “something is coming”.

A sense of anticipation.

In Advent, we have weekly candle lighting, a Christmas concert and dinner, a pageant, and finally candlelight services.

In Lent, we have Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and finally three services on Easter Sunday.

After Christmas, we keep the white for a few weeks to celebrate what is called “Christmastide”.

After Easter we keep the white for a few weeks we call “Eastertide”.

It all sort of keeps the celebrations going.

And why not all this anticipation and celebration?

We certainly want to celebrate the incarnation and the resurrection for as long as we can, right?

But what about Pentecost?

No purple linens and vestments for a few weeks in anticipation of Pentecost.

No continued red for a few weeks after to continue its celebration.

Just one day.

Just one.

It’s easy to miss.

What this tells me is that we don’t really give Pentecost it’s due.

And trust me, Pentecost is a big deal.

Here is why.

If we are true to our trinitarian theology and heritage, we need to honor all three persons of the trinity.

We honor God as the creator of all things.

That is kind of what ordinary time is all about.

Even when there is nothing special going on, we come to church to honor God who has given us this time of ordinary life.

Creation.

We honor Jesus in the ecclesiastical seasons surrounding Christmas and Lent.

Incarnation, redemption and resurrection.

But what about the Holy Spirit?

One day.

Pentecost.

And we often fail there, too.

Many churches celebrate Pentecost as the “birthday of the church”.

There are balloons and cake with red icing.

But that misses the point.

Pentecost is not the birthday of the church.

Pentecost is when the Holy Spirit descends from God to comfort and counsel disciples of Jesus – forever.

It is the day of inspiration!

So, let’s give the Holy Spirit a little respect and try to understand what happened on Pentecost and how it affects us today.

Let’s get started with a bit of Pentecost history.

Pentecost is a Jewish celebration.

It is called the Festival of Weeks, and has been celebrated by the Jews since the Exodus.

Shavu’ot.

It is celebrated 50 days (or 7 weeks) after the first day of the Passover.

It commemorates the time between the exodus from Egypt to the giving of Torah by God to the Jews.

What did that day look like?

Torah came to Moses in the clouds and thunder and fire and lightning and the sound of the horn on Mt. Sinai.

It was an experience of the divine.

And it is Torah that counsels the Jews on how to live with each other and revere God.

And it was during a Pentecost celebration that the Holy Spirit was given to us by God.

What did that look like?

a lot like the arrival of Torah.

 The disciples were together in Jerusalem, probably for Shavu’ot.

And the Spirit showed up.

Noisily in wind and fire.

Like God on the mountaintop.

This too was an experience of the divine.

And it is now the Spirit that counsels us on how to live with each other and revere God.

So, the coming of the Holy Spirit is no less than the descent of divine counsel.

God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit.

A coming of the divine into our world and into our lives.

So, let’s look at our text.

What must that have been like in Jerusalem that day?

Disciples together as the Shavu’at crowds fill Jerusalem.

Then a sound from heaven.

The sound of a violent wind.

Have you ever heard a tornado?

They say it sounds like a freight train coming fast.

Maybe that is the sound they heard.

Certainly, a sound that got everyone’s attention.

Tongues like fire on the heads of the disciples?

Have you ever seen beams of sunlight shining down from the clouds?

Maybe it was like that.

Were they quaking like Quakers?

Were they jabbering like Pentecostals?

We are not told where they are, but we know where the disciples went next.

To the Temple.

That’s where all the Jews are.

The Jews from all over the world who have come for Shavu’ot.

These Jews from everywhere understand as the Apostles declare the wonders of God.

In their own languages!

How can this be?

Some laugh and say the Apostles were drunk.

Maybe that is what they looked like.

Peter, maybe with a nod and a wink to the crowd, says, “Come on, it’s nine in the morning. Who gets drunk then?”

Maybe some more laughter.

Then Peter gets serious.

And tells them what it all means.

So, what does it mean?

It means the disciples have become prophets.

Like the prophets of old, they have been touched by God.

These with wind and fire.

So, now they speak for God, just like the prophets of old.

Luke does not tell us what they are saying exactly but we do hear Peter’s explanation of the message.

Peter says this is all the same as the prophet Joel’s description of the outpouring of God’s sprit that inaugurates the “last days” of salvation’s history when everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

So, does this mean that Pentecost inaugurates the “last days”?

Yes, it does.

According to Peter we are living in the last days of salvation’s history.

The beginning days were the days before Jesus.

Creation.

Then came the days of Jesus.

Incarnation.

Now come the days of the Holy Spirit.

Inspiration.

There will be no more after this.

These days are the last.

How long will these last?

Wed don’t know.

So what are we to do?

Call on the name of the Lord.

Be saved.

Receive the counsel of the Holy Spirit.

And follow.

Where does the Spirit lead?

To those who need it.

The Spirit urges disciples to go to those who need to call on the name of the Lord.

To those like these we read about in Acts:

The Ethiopian Eunuch.

Cornelius.

The Philippian guard.

To those who we read about in Paul’s letters.

Thessalonians.

Corinthians.

Philippians.

Galatians.

Ephesians.

Colossians.

Romans.

And most importantly:

You.

Me.

And all that started at Pentecost.

Wouldn’t it have been nice to have been there?

To experience the arrival of God.

To hear the wind.

To see the fire.

You bet …

Now I don’t know about you, but I never heard the wind.

I never saw the fire.

Why not?

Maybe because I was not called to be a prophet.

I was called to be a disciple.

To follow.

The same is true of you.

Why don’t we feel the Spirit’s presence?

Maybe it’s because of what scientists call Sensory Integration.

Our brains filter out sensations that might overwhelm us.

For example, as you are sitting here listening to me, you don’t feel your clothes.

Continually sensing our clothes would overwhelm us.

This sensory overload would distract us from what we are or should be doing.

If we constantly sensed the presence of the Spirit there might be such a sensory overload that we could not actually do what the Spirit compels us to do.

So we filter it out.

But just because we don’t feel our clothes, does not mean they aren’t there.

In the same way, just because we can’t feel the Spirit, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

We still do what the Spirit encourages us to do.

Love God.

Love each other.

To counsel us in how to live the Jesus way!

Even if we can’t feel it.

We know the Spirit moves us when we see its good fruits.

Take a look at us!

VBS

Family Promise

The Christmas Affair

Mission trips to Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Washington DC, Chiapas

Our partner church in Malawi – Chigamula

Produce to People

SHIM

Duquesne

The Heifer Project

World Vision

Our PCUSA offerings

Children’s church

Youth group

Kids club

Pre school

Flood relief

Bible study

The garden

The orchard

Bonds of Love

Communion at Bethel Senior Living

Our music ministry

Our elder care ministry

Fellowship with people just like the rest of us, with the same joys and concerns.

You get it.

Do we do all this because we are good people?

Not really.

It’s because the Holy Spirit pushes us.

The presence of the Holy Spirit makes these things instinctive.

The Spirit of God becomes part of us.

And we become part of it.

We are a community of the Holy Spirit!

We are the wind.

That still rushes.

We are the fire.

That still burns.

Whether we feel it or not.

The Spirit is right here.

Take a moment and just think about that.

And when you do, maybe you will understand why Pentecost is a truly holy celebration.

The Spirit has come.

Thanks be to God!

Amen.

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