The Day of Pentecost
Romans 8:22-17; John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15; Acts 2:1-21
Wow. When the Holy Spirit moves, she really moves. Fire, sound of violent wind, unprecedented styles of communication. When the Holy Spirit is poured out, she brings visions, dreams, prophecies; blood, fire, and smoke. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord is saved.
If we were to read on to the conclusion of Peter’s sermon here, we would see that because of this outpouring of the Holy Spirit, 3000 people were baptized in one day. Wow. When the Holy Spirit moves, things happen.
Do things like this happen today? I’ve never heard of any followers of Jesus standing up at the United Nations and preaching a sermon that everyone understands in their own native language. I’d settle for one person preaching in Spanish and one person understanding it in English.
I’ve never heard of any church service anywhere that included a sound like the rush of a violent wind, tongues of fire over everyone’s heads, and sudden boldness in faith. The closest I’ve seen is when the wind rattles through the cooler vents during a Christmas Eve candlelight service.
I’ve never heard of 3000 people being baptized at once because of one sermon. Though I’ll admit I dream about it!
So I guess my question is this: Is the Holy Spirit moving now? I think most of us would say, “yes.” And that’s fine. I wonder how many of us who say would say that do so because we’re supposed to. It’s part of our doctrinal language to speak of the power of the Holy Spirit of God. It’s part of the faith we are taught that the same Holy Spirit from Pentecost is still at work, doing amazing things. We feel sacrilegious or blasphemous if we say otherwise.
So we chalk some things up to the power of the Spirit. A new insight, we say the right thing at the right time even though we didn’t know it. A prayer for someone we hadn’t thought of for a long time. And those probably are the Holy Spirit at work.
But where are the big things? Where are the public things? Where are the 3000 new members waiting to be baptized in order to become part of this congregation?
I don’t know that I have an answer to that though I wish I did. It seems the Holy Spirit moves wherever she wants, doing whatever she wants, whenever she wants to do it. The disciples in Acts on that day of Pentecost weren’t looking for this. They weren’t praying for the Holy Spirit to come. Of all the things they were hoping would happen as they cowered in their room, the events of that day probably weren’t on the list. But for whatever reason, the Spirit of God moved in a powerful, public, and obvious way. Peter preached, people listened, and even though some made fun of them, 3000 others were baptized. You cannot control the Holy Spirit any more than you can control the wind.
For us, the only thing I can point out is that when the Holy Spirit moves, things generally don’t go the way we expect.
Consider Peter. He wasn’t planning on 3000 baptisms. He wasn’t planning on preaching to thousands more who were gathered in Jerusalem for the festival. He wasn’t planning on being heard in at least 15 different languages at once. All he did was move with the wind of the Spirit, breathe in the breath of the Spirit. He wasn’t responsible for the languages nor the baptisms. Just breathing and moving and speaking. The Spirit did what she wanted.
She cannot be controlled, manipulated, or predicted. What the Spirit does in one case is completely different than what she does in another. Virtually the same sermon was preached at least twice more in Acts with vastly different results. Peter and John together preached it again in Acts 3 and instead of 3000 baptisms, they were imprisoned. Stephen preached it in Acts 6. No multiple languages; instead he was stoned to death.
Some might say this means you shouldn’t preach someone else’s sermons, but I think it might be more than that. I think it indicates that the Holy Spirit does whatever she wants, whenever she wants to do it.
So why doesn’t she bring 3000 people in here for baptism today? Well, in the first place the day isn’t over yet. But in the second place, the Holy Spirit is doing other things among and through us.
Perhaps our prayer shouldn’t be for 3000 people to come in seeking baptism, but that we would breathe with the Holy Spirit, move with her, and speak as she prompts. I believe the Holy Spirit does move now. Is moving now. Right now. I also think we don’t always want to see her activity. At least not on her terms. If the Spirit of God isn’t doing what we expect, perhaps it’s because we’re expecting different things. I also wonder if the miracle of Pentecost wasn’t the tongues of fire, the sound of the wind, the languages, or the baptisms; but rather that these disciples, who never got anything right, stood up and spoke. If there’s power in the Spirit, perhaps it’s that she got these disciples to breathe and move on her terms rather than theirs.
May the Holy Spirit never do what we want or expect! May we see the miracle of Pentecost among us—not necessarily the fire or wind or languages. But a gathering of people that are moved by the power of the Holy Spirit to breathe and move on the Spirit’s terms. Who knows what that will be.
Come, Holy Spirit!