When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All 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. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But 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. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, 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.’
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there on that Pentecost day to witness all this? If you had been part of the crowd in Jerusalem who had come for this big harvest festival, what would you think if, over the din of the
crowd noise, you heard the sound like the rush of a violent wind? How would you feel if you saw these tongues as of fire resting on each of those disciples? Have you ever wondered if you had been there, would you have been able to hear these disciples speaking in English (or whatever your first language is)? What would your reaction have been to all this outpouring of the Holy Spirit? What one word would you use to describe how you’d feel in this experience: Excited? Frightened? Amazed? Astonished? Perplexed? . . .
To see the movement of the Holy Spirit in such stark and powerful ways had to be inspiring, faith-building, motivating, wouldn’t you think?
Apparently not for everyone. Some were simply confused. Others thought these disciples had been drinking. Some sneered and made fun of them. And still others just wondered what this all meant.
Today, on this Pentecost day, I’m interested in these, the ones who were skeptical or wrote off the events of that Pentecost day. Wind, fire, language, and prophecy should be enough for anyone. Anyone who witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit in such dramatic ways should be convinced that God was doing something pretty special and would want to be part of that.
But some weren’t. I’m wondering why not? Why wouldn’t all this described in Acts 2 be enough for them to jump on board with what God was apparently doing there?
I find myself having more empathy with these lately. That’s because I’ve come to believe we’re in a similar situation. God is up to something pretty significant.
Our reactions are strikingly parallel to those of the people in Acts 2. Some of us are excited, amazed, and astonished! Others of us are skeptical, confused, and maybe even frightened. We are, at the same time, ready to jump on board, and wondering “What’s really going on?” If we were in Jerusalem on that day, I think we’d fit right in with the crowds.
There’s an outpouring of the Holy Spirit here lately. Expressions of love and compassion are rising more frequently among us. There’s a renewing energy and sense of optimism. Some of you have noticed it. Don’t just sneer and write this off. This is the stuff of Pentecost.
Two specifics in attitude: 1. We’re beginning a capital campaign to tackle some facility issues that have dogged us for decades, e.g., elevator, landscaping, lighting, cooling, parking, and more. Even before it has begun we’re entering into it with enthusiasm and generosity. Money is coming in already that we had no idea was there. We just got a $50,000 check this week. I’m not one who says “if you have enough faith, you can make God do whatever you want.” No, it’s not that. This is not something we’ve contrived or earned or believed in or created. It’s the Day of Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit is blowing through us.
2. Have you noticed a difference in the way we’ve been looking to the future of our ministry? Rather than panicking, feeling like we have to do something so the doors don’t close, we, for instance, recognized at our congregational meeting a few weeks ago that the warmth and love on the inside isn’t being well projected on the outside, and so we spent several minutes having fun tossing around possible new names for this congregation that better convey who we actually are. It’s the Day of Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit is allowing us to hear good news in new languages.
Some of us are experiencing excitement and amazement at this outpouring of the Spirit. Others of us aren’t paying any attention at all and so are probably skeptical. Still others are cautious and afraid of what this means. But as Peter said in Acts, “Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.”
We are witnessing an outpouring of the Holy Spirit among us. Pay attention—this is not of our making. It is simply a gift from God. If any of you wonder how to describe or understand the Holy Spirit, you really can’t. But what’s happening among us isn’t a bad way to begin. The Spirit is beyond our control, for reasons that cannot always be explained, the Holy Spirit of God is once again blowing, moving, firing up in us, among us, and around us. And the revealing of Christ’s love, compassion, generosity, and grace are the result.
There’s so much in this text, but one aspect of all this is vital. In Acts 2, this outpouring of the Spirit was experienced by the disciples, but it wasn’t only for their sake. It was also for the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for the Pentecost Festival. The wind, the fire, the languages were all to help reveal God’s love in Christ for all those people gathered.
What we’re experiencing is an outpouring of the same Holy Spirit, and even some of our reactions are the same as those gathered. The means of the Spirit’s movement is different, but the purpose is the same. We are experiencing the Holy Spirit, but not just for our own sakes. The Spirit is moving among us for the sake of the crowds gathered in our neighborhoods and communities who need a sign of compassion, love, and mercy.
The Holy Spirit is here, and her power is real. Anything can happen as Christ is revealed. Something very good is going on around here.