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5/31/09 - The Rev. Susan N. Blue - The Day of Pentecost

posted May 21, 2010, 6:30 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:30 PM by Terry Brady ]
“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…Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” Joel

The Feast of Pentecost that we celebrate today has often been called the birthday of the church. It begins with story…the believers are gathered together in a locked room…the disciples, the women, Jesus’ mother and brothers…all are frightened, lost and grieving. They have given up everything to follow Jesus and now he has gone.
This story is told in two different ways. In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke, this occurs after Christ’s Ascension. In the Gospel of John, that we just heard, Jesus comes among them through the locked door and declares that he will send the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth. In either case, Jesus must leave in order for the Spirit to come to enable their ministry.
In Acts, the Spirit is represented by tongues of fire and by a rushing wind. Both are uncontrollable earth forces and, when they appear with power, those persons and things that are touched are changed forever. We are reminded of the wind (ruach) that rushed over the earth at creation. We cannot see the wind; we only know it by its results.
Further, they spoke in many languages, not just Hebrew, a symbol that the Spirit was for all people not just the Jews. It was a unifying symbol, the opposite of the divisive Tower of Babel. Further, it comes to the entire community, not just the few.
So, in this story, whether Jesus had ascended and the Spirit came in wind and tongues of fire or Jesus, himself, came among them declaring the coming of the Holy Spirit, those who heard and believed were changed forever. Fear was transformed into courage, doubt into faith and grief into hope.
They could only be changed if they were open to the Spirit, if they were vulnerable and broken. A rigid heart and mind could not hear and respond. The results of this encounter are the facts of history. This small band of believers spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the known Western world. The heart of the story is the universality of the message: Jesus came for all people, not just the few.
We are like those early believers. We have much to fear in the twenty-first century. We are assailed by pandemic illness, grinding poverty, a faltering world-wide economy, the depletion of the world’s resources, terrorism, war and radical fringe groups. The list goes on and on.
To be transformed by the Holy Spirit, like or forebears, we must be open, vulnerable, listening and trusting. One word of caution, we must be clear that what we believe we are hearing is truly of God. If it divides it is not of God. If it subjugates or isolates others it is not of God. If it breeds self-righteousness and arrogance, it is not of God. We shall know if we have judged rightly by what we do and say as a result of the encounter.
We are called today to be changed, to embrace all people as Jesus did. We are called to know no outcasts, to listen to those who differ from us, and to proclaim love to a hate-filled world. We shall be known by the fruits of our work. As a community we can be changed. We can find courage to speak truth to power, to challenge the values of the world, and to bring hope to a hurting world. We shall remember that: “… everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” AMEN