June 9, 2019

Pentecost  June 9, 2019  Psalm 104, Romans 8:14-17, John 14:15-17, Acts 2:1-21

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Imagine gathered disciples singing prayerfully soulfully, many times –

Spirit of the living God fall afresh on us – Spirit of the living God fall afresh on us

Till suddenly without warning the Holy Spirit floods the zone, fills the room with God’s presence…With a sound like a wild stormy wind and what appears to be flickering tongues of fire dancing on disciples’ heads –

And the Spirit speaks through disciples, enabling all to speak the praises of God in many languages – Alleluia, thank you God, Alleluia, thank you Lord…  a strange and beautiful sound – that works as a summons – for many to come and listen…

As believers, altogether in one place now – are praising God passionately, speaking of God’s mighty deeds in many tongues – understanding each other across borders and boundaries of language and culture…

Quite a hard act to follow – this wild scene in the book of Acts…

Not that this first Pentecost after the resurrection was meant to be replicable in any literal sense. Nothing happening here at Pentecost was ever planned by people. From the get-go the giving of the Spirit is God’s work, not ours. To this day the Holy Spirit is a mystery we can’t explain…

Yet – little Pentecosts keep happening… The Holy Spirit has fallen afresh on gathered disciples of all nations – many more times than we can imagine.

We may not hear the sound of rushing wind now, or see dancing tongues of flame, now, or receive the gift of speaking in tongues that we don’t know (or didn’t know we knew).  But the Spirit dwells in us and among us, even now – God’s gracious gift to all who believe and follow Jesus…

And if we ever find ourselves not noticing the Holy Spirit’s presence – we’re invited again to remember – that one thing those first disciples did get right – (one of the rare things Jesus told them to do that they actually did right away –)  which was – to wait.

Wait in Jerusalem, in their day. Wait wherever we are, now.

Wait till God sends the Holy Spirit…

Wait and pray…

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us…

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us…

A simple prayer. Simple. But –

One of the harder things for most of us to do is… Wait…

Wait attentively… For the Holy Spirit… without submitting to distractions…

(And if you’ve figured out how to do this on a regular basis–tell me how you do it)

Because I still get distracted, way too easily, by way too many things…

Yet – sometimes, I (even I) – even if only for five or ten minutes – I sometimes do manage by grace to hear the Spirit whisper

Peace – be still

And obey.

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We don’t know exactly how long those first disciples had to wait for the Spirit. There’s fifty days from Passover in the Jewish calendar (Easter in the Christian calendar) to Pentecost – so we could say they waited fifty days. And it’s ten days to Pentecost from the day of Ascension, where Jesus says again – ‘wait for the Spirit in Jerusalem.’ So it could be ten days of waiting…

Either way, it seems, even God waits…

God waits till it’s time for the festival of Pentecost before sending the Holy Spirit… Likely because Pentecost brought large crowds into Jerusalem every year, maximizing the number of people who could hear the message that the Spirit’s about to deliver…. and…

However long it took, I’m picturing disciples becoming gradually more attuned to the Spirit – (who is there all along, long before today’s dramatic public coming-out party for the Spirit) – since we hear of God’s Spirit hovering over the waters in the first words of the bible – so I picture the Spirit nudging disciples to gather together… Where they are now, all together in one place, about nine o’clock that morning. (We know the hour of the day just because of the apostle Peter’s rebuttal to the charge of worshiping under the influence of new wine – as Peters says “these guys haven’t been drinking – hey, it’s only nine in the morning.’

No, Peter continues – this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel – “in the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters will prophesy…”

And now Simon Peter the apostle who said he didn’t even know Jesus (three times, one night) seven weeks ago – is suddenly preaching Jesus with passion and power – improvising on words spoken long ago by the prophet Joel – preaching a come-to-Jesus-come-to-God sermon that leads, just a little later in this same sermon (same chapter) to an impromptu altar call with 3000 baptized on the spot… (Peter’s got to be Most Improved Disciple of that Year.)

And while we’re contemplating Peter’s miraculous turn-around-faith-rebounding…

Let’s consider our own condition – small, frail, many of us getting on in years – sometimes a little tired, even a little discouraged…So like the early church, we too need to pause – and wait – for the Spirit’s refreshing – and remember great things grow from small beginnings… As in the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn:

See, how great a flame aspires, kindled by a spark of grace–

Jesus’ love the nations fires, sets the kingdoms on a blaze

And the last verse –

Saw ye not the cloud arise, little as a human hand?

Now it spreads along the skies, hangs o’er all the thirsty land.

Lo, the promise of a shower drops already from above;

but the Lord will shortly pour all the Spirit of his love.

And maybe it’s because I’ve been singing some of the Charles Wesley hymns we’re singing today, but… I’ve been feeling the Holy Spirit nudging me this week in many mostly small ways… to pay attention to small beginnings…

Has one new person come to church today? This month? This year? Thanks be to God! Has someone joined our prayer group recently? Thanks be to God! Has someone started coming to bible study? Thanks be to God!

Is somebody visiting some of our shut-ins? Feeding someone in need? Driving someone to doctor’s appointments? Helping in the Thrift Shop? Helping with our children’s clothing ministry? Are any of us getting more involved with God? Thanks and praise… and alleluia… be to God

Because at the end of the day – as at the end of our life on earth – God isn’t likely to ask if we fed the whole world or saved a whole nation. But I’m very sure God will ask us (since Jesus says so) – What did you do today to share the good news of Jesus risen from the dead, and with us still? I’m sure he will ask us, when our time is up, the same question he asks every day – How was your day? Did you think about me? Did you remember what I’ve been teaching you today? Did you help anyone else remember me, by word or deed?

God isn’t expecting us to re-enact the whole book of Acts. (God isn’t into re-runs.) But God does expect us to practice the basic teachings of Acts. To continue to gather together in one place – worshiping – praying together – for all our life to be a deep Spirit-led prayer from the heart, in multi-part gospel harmony (in however many cultural languages there are) – so that by all means possible everyone who can possibly be reached by God’s love…Shall be reached…

So we pray again, often – always, in faith, hope, and love –

Spirit of the Living God – fall afresh on us…   

Thanks be to God. Amen.