Moved by the Spirit

Genesis 11:1-9
Psalm 33:12-22
Acts 2:1-21

Reverend Dr. Stephen R. Caine

 

2:1 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.’ (Acts 2:1-21, NRSV)

 

Let us pray: Spirit of the living God fall afresh on us, make us mold us, fill us, use us, Spirit of the living God fall afresh on each of us.

 

As a Presbyterian preacher, Pentecost Sunday but more specifically the Holy Spirit present a tough subject because Presbyterians are known for worshiping God with our heads and using our intellect.  It is one reason we are often referred to as the frozen chosen.  We tend to shy away from the spiritual aspects of faith.  So, to have a Sunday and a season set aside to focus on the Holy Spirit of God is a daunting task.   I had a colleague who was famous for asking, Do Presbyterian believe in the spirit or do we just drink them?”

 

Despite our “image,” Presbyterians, and also Episcopalians, we actually do welcome the Holy Spirit, we may even be more Pentecostal than we think we are.

 

That first Pentecost people from all over were together in one place, Jerusalem.  When suddenly a rush of wind came upon them, and it filled the place where they were.  People began to speak each in their own language and they understood each other in ways that they never had before.  The crowd was bewildered, because each one heard the others speaking in their own native language.  Amazed and astonished, they asked how can this be?  That we hear each other talking in their won native tongue and yet we understand what they are saying?  They were all amazed and perplexed, asking each other, “What is going on and what does it mean?”  The crowds were speaking about God and God’s amazing power.  But there were some who did not like what was happening.  They got angry and mad and said, what are those drunks talking about and how could they be drinking this early in the morning.  They said it was the Holy Spirit. The first Pentecost.  Here we are some 2000 plus years later.  Why does this silly Pentecost matter today?  It is important to us both as a community of faith and as faithful individuals.

 

It shows us different world.  It is full of wonder and it invites us to question.  Wouldn’t it be easier if we were all the same?  If we all spoke the same language?  If we all shared a common culture?  If we all worshiped God in the same way? Wouldn’t our world be so much better?  But we realize the real question, behind these questions is: “Wouldn’t life be easier if we were all just like me?”  After all, isn’t that what we really want?[1]   It is one of the problems with the Christian Church, we long for the good old days when everyone went to church, when families were stable and societal structures were strong and sound.  This is exactly why the story of Pentecost is important.  Because it helps us understand that differences and diversity have been around for thousands of years.  It helps us understand how God sees our differences.  One of the gifts of Pentecost is diversity.   At Pentecost, God through the Spirit does not remove our differences but instead embraces the fact that God has made us all so wonderfully different.[2]

Pentecost shows us that our desire for conformity and uniformity is, well not biblical.  As children of God our differences are not erased.  Instead, being in the household of God removes our need to see identity markers as claims of superiority or inferiority.  We are not the same, but we are reminded that our differences are not ways to measure our value in the eyes of God or in the eyes of one another.[3]

 

So, notice what happens in the face of this great diversity as described at the first day of Pentecost.  God, through the Holy Spirit, engages humanity where we are: among a multitude of languages and experiences and cultures.  The Spirit translates the gospel instantly so that everyone understood.

 

Now, if you are like me and this seems overwhelming and somewhat troubling.  If we are scared by the idea of other and people who are different than we are?  Pentecost reminds us that Jesus didn’t leave us all alone to figure out life and faith.  Jesus said, “I’m leaving but I will not leave you orphaned, God will give to you and advocate, the Holy Spirit,”…It is not any old Spirit.   It is the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of the Living God.

 

How does this Spirit work among us as faith filled individuals?  The Spirit helps us to pray.  Prayer is a gift of the Spirit.  The Spirit intercedes for us even when we cannot find the words. There are all sorts of prayers.  Ann LaMott says she has two types of prayers: “Help! Help! Help! And Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!”[4]

 

God’s Spirit knows what we want and what we need long before we ask. Yet, God still wants to hear from us.  Isn’t comforting to know that God’s Spirit hears our sighs! “She’s gone, I really miss her.” “I am so scared, I don’t know what to do?”  “I don’t know how I made it through that.”

 

The Holy Spirit offers hope.  Hope that we can understand each other better and that we can communicate our deepest needs and longings with God.  The Holy Spirit has the power to touch us and move us and to empower us, to make us God’s faithful people.

 

It is a hope that God is still at work in the world and in each of us enabling us to listen to each other especially others who are different than us.  It is ironic don’t you think that we have so many new and varied ways to communicate and yet we still have so much trouble hearing each other.  Enabling us to listen to each other; to children, adults, to people from diverse backgrounds and diverse cultures, faiths and religious than we are.   That same Spirit will empower us to live through whatever it is we face in our lives.  Constantly reminding us that Nothing can separate us from God’s Spirit, nothing in all of creation.  The Holy Spirit is here and with us and in us. Now and Forever.

 

Let us pray:

 

[1] The Rev. Dr. Eric Barreto is the Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ. http://day1.org/7835-eric_barreto_cant_we_all_just_get_along

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Reverend Joe Harvard, “Are We Pentecostal?” A sermon preached on Sunday May 30, 2004 at First Presbyterian Church, Durham, NC. Based on psalm 139:1-2; Romans 8:14-17, 26-27 and Acts 2:1-21.