The Day of Pentecost

Readings – Acts 2: 1-21; Psalm 104: 25-35, 37; Romans 8: 22-27; John 15: 26-27, 16: 4b-15

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

I used to think that Easter was enough. I used to think that the empty tomb was enough all by itself. But I’ve changed my mind. Easter needs Pentecost.

Without Pentecost, Easter offers us a risen Christ whose return to glory leave the church to face the world armed with nothin but fond memories of how it once was when Jesus was here.

But with Pentecost, Easter’s Christ promises to return and has returned in the Holy Spirit as comforter, guide, teacher, reminder, and power.

With Pentecost, the church does not simply celebrate, but participates in Easter. With Pentecost, the risen Christ says hello and not good-bye to the church.

We are Easter people, yes, but even with Easter we still need Pentecost.

Listen once again as Luke describes it…”…suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting (where they were waiting”). And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Well, what does it all mean? After all, wasn’t it a onetime thing, never to occur again? Have you seen any tongues of fire floating through the church lately? The colors we’re wearing today come as close as we possibly can.

Let’s admit it…while we talk about the presence of the Holy Spirit, isn’t it really true that we are more like Thomas? We believe what we can see, what we can touch, what we know to be real, and because of that we’re not inclined to place the full weight of our faith on something as vaguely obscure as the Holy Spirit?

We’re like the little boy who was being tucked into bed by his mother. “Mommy,” he cried out, “I’m afraid to be alone in the dark. I want somebody to stay with me.”

His mother responded, “Don’t be afraid. God is with you.”

The little boy then said, “I want somebody with skin on his face.”

When it comes to seeing the presence of God, isn’t it true that you want God to be someone with skin on his face? Pentecost tells us we can. As Tony Campolo says…

Two thousand years ago, the eternal Christ was incarnated in a man named Jesus. The hands of that man Jesus were the hands of God, and with those hands God touched those who had leprosy and made them whole.

The feet of that man Jesus were the feet of God, and with those feet God walked among the people of this world so that we might behold God's glory.

The tongue of that man Jesus was the tongue of God, and it was with that tongue that God uttered the most important words ever put into human language.

Two thousand years ago, Christ, who is the eternal Son of God, expressed Himself in a historical human body.

Two thousand years ago. Does that mean God no longer exists in human form? No!

Pentecost says that God is now embodied in the church, that through the church, God wants to heal the sick, God wants to proclaim good news to those who need it most, God wants to bring about justice in a pain-driven world, and God wants to give liberty to those who are driven down by the dreadful circumstances of their lives.

If it is going to happen, it will happen through the church.

God has made it clear that these kinds of people are God’s kind of people, and God is depending on the church to proclaim and embody the good news that only the kingdom can deliver.

There was a time when the disciples found themselves waiting, tediously waiting.

But when Pentecost came, when the Holy Spirit appeared as wind and fire and annointed those gathered that day with power from on high, it then became the church’s time to deliver the great news of the kingdom. And that is still the church’s task.

The church, this church, needs to be set on fire, for that is the picture of Pentecost.

If someone were to stand right now and holler, “Fire!,” what would be our reaction? Do you see why this imagery is so important to the church?

This is where we gather to worship, yes, afterwards, the church is supposed to be out there. Every worship service in this place is simply another opportunity for us to call out, “Fire!”

For the fire that sends us scurrying into the world outside these four walls is the kind of fire that opens peoples’ ears, and fills their hearts with passion; it heals rather than harms, it builds rather than destroys.

Pentecost is the season of fire, the fire of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is the season of wind, the wind of the Spirit that blows and gusts the hearts of those who are committed to God and God’s kingdom.

Where is the fire?

So let us ask the inevitable question…In this place, is the Spirit evident? When we leave worship and go out into the world, is the Spirit evident? Where we work, where we live, where we shop, where we do whatever it is we do, is the Spirit evident? We are Easter people, yes, but are we Pentecost people as well?

Are we afraid to give into the Pentecost experience, fearful that we might lose control? That’s what it is really all about, isn’t it? Control. We want to be in control.

Well, if Pentecost is to do nothing else, it should remind us that we are not in control, not even of ourselves.

We are to be a witnessing community, sharing with friends, family, and acquaintances the power of God in our lives. Why?

Because we are the church, and the church is the only institution founded by Christ himself.

My friends, the time for patience, the time for waiting, the time for control is over. Fire!

Let us on this Pentecost Sunday respond to the outpouring of God’s great Spirit, and determine as individuals and a collective body of faith that it is time for us to deliver. There are really no other options.

Lord, come and anoint us on Pentecost Day. Give us tongues of fire with which to share our faith. Send, with the gusty wind of your presence, the Spirit that gives us courage to let go and let you be in control of who we are and what we do. Inflame us with you Spirit, that we might deliver the good news of a saving Christ, for it is in his name we pray this dangerous prayer. Amen

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