The Day of Pentecost
Romans 8:14-17; John 14:8-17; Acts 2:1-21
When 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 the Lord shall be saved.’
I have a new respect for what these disciples experienced on that Pentecost Day. They endured the chaos of the Holy Spirit. They hung in there despite their uncertainty and confusion. Instead of trying to keep things the same–safe, orderly, and predictable hidden away in their room–they kept their heads down and went with whatever the Holy Spirit was doing, however they got dragged along. The Holy Spirit comes, chaos often ensues.
Think about their life now that Jesus was ascended and they couldn’t see him anymore. They were unsure. They felt like they were kind of on their own, even though they weren’t exactly sure what to do or how God was calling them. But they could have meetings and prayer sessions and conversations about it. Sounds like some of us here.
On the other hand, now that he was no longer with them, things had finally calmed down a bit. There was some order and predictability. They had time to think, to pray, to consider their next moves. They were still disciples of Jesus. They had followed him, listened to his teachings, believed him Son of God, believed he was raised from the dead. Sounds like some of us here.
So they met together, prayed, read some scripture, shared meals, and tried to figure out God’s direction. Sounds like some of us here.
They were trying, but just weren’t sure what all this meant for the world–what their part in God’s redeeming work actually was. So they kept talking and meeting and asking and trying to figure it all out. Sounds like some of us here.
I’m pretty certain that prior to Pentecost these disciples had spoken to others about Jesus. I’m sure they had shared news of his death and resurrection with any number of people. They were there; they saw it all; he was their good friend and teacher. Wasn’t that enough? There was no blueprint for what this whole discipleship thing was supposed to look like.
But suddenly something happened. I’m not sure they were fully aware of it, and I’m not sure they liked it very much. At least not at first. These verses in Acts are the only mention in scripture of the tongues of fire and the violent wind at the coming of the Spirit. In John, Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on them. In Paul’s writings, the coming of the Holy Spirit is evident through one’s faith. Only Luke describes it this way, this radically. That leads me to believe that these disciples weren’t thinking, “Tongues of fire? Alright! Now the Spirit of God has filled me! Sound of a violent wind? OK, now I am equipped to proclaim Jesus! Hey, everyone, I’m speakin Japanese! And French! And Mesopotamian! If only my Spanish teacher were grading me today! Finally the Holy Spirit has come. Watch what happens when I preach now!”
No, I’m convinced they didn’t know what was going on. This was just chaos. All they could do was what they had been doing, trying to be faithful, trying to figure this out, sharing their story. Because when you read this account, the disciples aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary. The Holy Spirit, however, is.
Thousands of people didn’t gather outside of the house because of the disciples’ newfound language skills. They certainly didn’t gather because of what the disciples were saying about Jesus. No, the crowd gathered because of the noise of this wind that was coming from the house. Even then they weren’t listening to what the disciples were actually saying; they were only hearing that their own native languages were being spoken. They aren’t believing in Jesus. No, just like the disciples, the crowds are trying to figure out what’s happening, too. The scene is simply chaotic. Wind and fire and languages. No one has the first clue as to what’s going on.
“Aren’t these Galileans? How can we be hearing them in our own languages?” The crowds are just as confused as the disciples. The best explanation those outside can come up with for these uneducated fishermen speaking fluently in foreign languages is that these disciples are drunk. Really? That’s the best they’ve got? Apparently they don’t have much experience listening to drunk people.
It wasn’t anything the disciples were doing, it’s what the Holy Spirit was doing. On her own. The Holy Spirit blows where she wants to blow, and accomplishes what she wants to accomplish. Not because of our efforts, but sometimes through them. It’s not explainable, not orderly, not according to our priorities or expectations. Wind and fire and languages. The Holy Spirit makes noise, and chaos ensues. Whether we like it or not. Whether we put forth effort or not.
We are a congregation that puts forth a tremendous amount of effort. We are healthy, creative, adventurous, caring, diverse, focused, authentic, involved. We are, in a lot of ways, what many congregations strive to be. We’ve had things pretty good here for quite a number of years. I kinda like that. It’s calm and rational. We can take time to evaluate, to ponder, to discuss, to gather input before we make a decision and move forward. That’s what we do. That’s the way we operatate. That’s LCM going about our business of being God’s church in the world.
But sometimes the Holy Spirit shows up. Things can feel chaotic. Not everything goes in an orderly, calm kind of way. It’s not that we’re doing anything differently, necessarily, but the Holy Spirit begins to blow and burn and speak. We try to figure out what’s happeninging, why things are different, why things aren’t going the way we had planned. Why suddenly what we had been doing that was so sucessful now seems to have shifted out from underneath us. I have a newfound appreciation for the disciples on that first Pentecost Day.
I think, sometimes, that we long for the orderly, predictable way of our past. The chaos and uncertainlty of Pentecost is unsettling. What will happen? What is God up to around us? What has God called us into now? I’m not sure I know the answer.
I have a new respect for what these disciples experienced on that Pentecost Day. The Holy Spirit comes, chaos often ensues. The Holy Spirit will do what she does on her own. She blows where she wants to blow, and accomplishes what she wants to accomplish. Not because of our efforts, but sometimes through them. It’s not explainable, not orderly, not according to our priorities or expectations. Wind and fire and languages. The Holy Spirit makes noise, and chaos ensues. Whether we like it or not. Whether we cooperate or not. Blow, Spirit, blow. We can deal with chaos. Light a holy fire. We will put up with whatever you’ve got in mind. Speak through us. We are here. Come, Holy Spirit.