5/15/2016 Day of Pentecost The text is Acts 2:1-21.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today is the Day of Pentecost and what a day it is! It’s been ninety days since Ash Wednesday and 50 days since we celebrated the Lord’s resurrection. We have been through Lent, through a time of penitence and reconciliation. We’ve been through Holy Week, remembering and immersing ourselves in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. We’ve felt the tenderness of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet; we’ve stood at the cross, listened to the silence of the tomb, felt the fear and confusion of the disciples, sung Alleluias, smelled the lilies and, feasted at the Easter table and proclaimed, “Christ is risen! He has risen, indeed!” We kept on feasting and proclaiming it for 7 weeks, and today, we bring the celebration to a close.
We bring the season to a close, not with heavy hearts, but with another kind of party. Today, we celebrate the gift of the Lord’s life-giving spirit which fires up the disciples and causes them to bear witness to the crucified and resurrected Christ. The Spirit is the gift which brings about the birth of the church. The Spirit binds people together into the Body of Christ. The Spirit opens our hearts so that we may believe in God, so that we can trust Him whom we cannot see.
So today, for one last time, we celebrate. We celebrate, knowing that birthday parties last only a few hours and then life must return to normal. Festive times eventually come to an end. Even wedding receptions, which take months of planning, are not year-long celebrations. And honeymoons? They don’t last for entire marriages. It is after the reception and the honeymoon are over that a couples gets down to the nitty-gritty of living together as husband and wife.
So, it is with us today. For a short time, we party, but when the party is over, we are called to get down to the task of living together as redeemed children of a God who gives us the memory of what his son has done for us on the cross. And, we are left with a vision of the glory which is to come as the old has passed away, and a new age has begun.
This new age begins with God keeping his promises. At the Last Supper our Lord promised that he would not leave his disciples desolate. He promised that he would be with them always, that he would come to them in the person of the Holy Spirit, as their advocate, counselor and teacher. This Spirit was to do so much more than comfort them. The Spirit was to empower their memory, strengthen their faith, and give them courage to speak and to act on behalf of God, for the benefit of all people. By the gift of his Spirit, the disciples were sent with the power of God to spread God’s love throughout all the world. With the Spirit God was ushering in his final rule over all the earth. His final coming would happen with “wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath,” but before that time, the gospel was to be preached so that all who believed and called on the name of the Lord would be saved.
It was here, on Pentecost, that the task of spreading the good news and the job of salvation began, as the Son of God kept his promise to his disciples. With a sound like wind and tongues as of fire, the Holy Spirit entered the lives of a small band of ordinary people and empowered them for an extraordinary task. The Holy Spirit transformed their lives and they began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. The new found ability to communicate enabled the visitors from many regions who were gathered in Jerusalem for the feast to hear about God’s deeds of power in the raising of Jesus from the dead. And with this, the mission of the church began.
And that work continues. The work of the Spirit didn’t end at Pentecost. The Spirit comes to each of us in baptism as Jesus keeps his promise forever. The Lord has not nor will he ever leave us on our own, depending on our own abilities and power to spread the gospel. You may never have an experience like the disciples on that first Pentecost. When you were baptized you never felt a violent wind, or saw tongues of fire, or received some magical ability to communicate in many different languages. Yet, God continues to keep his promises. God, in Christ, grants us the gift of himself in the person of the Holy Spirit, and he is with us to the end of the age, empowering us to be his witnesses to the end of the earth. We can count on that. For, we have been given the Holy Spirit for a purpose. We, who receive the Spirit, are energized for action of some sort and this action is for the common good. The Spirit is not given for me to sit down in my living room and enjoy my “spirituality” over a cup of coffee. That’s not why we were penitent at Lent, why we recalled the Lord’s passion in Holy Week, or why we feasted at Easter. The gift of the Spirit is meant to get us moving, sending us on a mission, confirming our faith and enabling us to share the memories of God’s grace handed down through the generations.
We may not have rushing winds and tongues of flame, today. I don’t expect fireworks in the church at the font. Instead, the Spirit presence may be felt in the steady, rhythmic, breath of God. Day in, day out, the Spirit keeps us going, fills us with vitality, helps us to share God’s love with one another. It is not a one-day, one-time experience as the Spirit is God’s ongoing presence in our lives, a presence which prods us when we need a push and comforts us in our sorrow.
The Spirit is never a gift given in seclusion. While there is a personal dimension to faith, the faith that comes through the Spirit, binds us together for the good of each other, for mutual edification, and for fortification of our witness. The work of the Spirit knits us together as a body, so that each person is essential for the whole and without any one person, the body suffers.
You and I are bound together. You and I have been granted the Holy Spirit to empower us to spread the Word. It is our calling, our joint calling, to be witnesses of God’s new age and let everyone know that they are loved and that they invited to participate in God’s everlasting kingdom.
So, my friends, we have a lot to celebrate today, as we celebrate a day of endings and a day of beginnings. It will be a continuation of our life in Christ and our mission as a people. For when the celebration is over, our work remains.
May God help us as we bear witness to the Spirit within us. May God help us, as we reach out to those around us in words and actions that reflect God’s will. May God help us be faithful witnesses to the salvation prepared for all through the cross of Christ. May the holy and life-giving Spirit be our guide, our advocate, our counselor, and our comforter. And, may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.