Pentectost 2020

Pentecost            Acts 2: 1-21

“The Coming of the Holy Spirit”

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 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. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

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. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

“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.

Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
   in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
     and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
   and signs on the earth below,
     blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

I listened to a radio interview the other day with one of the scientists from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), and they were discussing all those terms and phrases which are now so familiar to us. The R-value, easing of lockdown, social distancing and being asymptomatic.

At the very end of the interview the scientist said, ‘what this whole thing has taught me is to only talk about what I really know about, my area of expertise; and appreciate that there is a vast expanse of things that we do and cannot know about.’  

Looking at it another way, it is acknowledging that our lives are not based on continuous certainty but that we need to make space for unknowing; for expansiveness; and for those possibilities which are way beyond our capacity to imagine.

When you read of that first Pentecost, it’s a resounding example of just that. People suddenly experience something of the unknowing, expansiveness, and possibilities of God that are far beyond their imagination; through the pouring out and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost reminds us of the opportunity given to the early church and to ourselves to build bridges with strangers, to make connections with God and with one another and to continue the mission and work of Christ.  For just as the Spirit of God passed over the waters at the time of creation, bringing order out of chaos, so in the early church, God’s Holy Spirit brings order and purpose in living out resurrection hope.

 It was a church made up of a myriad of different tongues, and peoples, yet, through the gift of God, it was a church able to communicate, to build relationships one with another, and all this, because of their shared and common faith in the risen and ascended Lord. That first church began so very simply, in frailty and weakness.  Just a small group of people – so small they could all fit into one room, knowing each other by name.

That early church was made up of an eclectic group of people and that is the pattern for our church too, resurrection faith is lived out by individuals and communities with personalities, contexts, gifts, and unique perspectives. The Church, our church, St Thomas’, grows by faithful, committed people, who seek to understand the generosity and love of God in Christ, and who embody that in their lives.

Eugene Peterson in his book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, reminds us of community and the need for the power of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Spirit is a direct result of the resurrection. The same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead dwells in us and in our world.

Eugene Peterson says this:

We live the Christian life out of a rich tradition of formation-by-resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection provides the energy and conditions by which we ‘walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 116.9). The resurrection of Jesus creates and makes available the reality in which we are formed as new creatures in Christ by the Holy Spirit.  The do-it-yourself, self-help culture (of our society) has so thoroughly permeated our imaginations that we don’t give much sustained attention to the biggest thing of all, resurrection.  And the reason we don’t give much attention to it is because the resurrection is not something we can use or manipulate or control or improve on.”

God’s gift of the Holy Spirit is to inspire us, engage us, transform us. Life isn’t about knowing, with more and more certainty, it’s an invitation to move more deeply into the mystery of all things. Pentecost Day, is an expressing of God’s unbounded love for us, God’s blessing upon us, through which we are to be inspired to love one another and impart that to others wherever life’s journey takes us.

A Pentecost Prayer:

To make new things that never were

We name you wind, power, force,

and then, imaginatively, “Third Person.”

We name you and you blow…
blow hard,

blow cold,

blow hot,

blow strong,

blow gentle,

blow new…
Blowing the world out of nothing to abundance,
blowing the church out of despair to new life,
blowing little David from shepherd boy to messiah,
blowing to make things new that never were.
So blow this day, wind,

blow here and there, power,

blow even us, force,  

Rush us beyond ourselves,

Rush us beyond our hopes,

Rush us beyond our fears, until we enact your newness in the world.

Come, come Spirit.  Amen.

from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann.