24 September 2017
Acts 2: Pentecost
Luke leaves the little group , hurting, hopeful and waiting, gathering strength from being in community.
Then we come to Pentecost. The day of celebration of the spring festival , the day when the giving of the law to Moses is celebrated. , God’s gift for people to live by . On pentecost a new gift comes. Not carried down a smoking volcano of Sinai and trapped in stone but swirling into their midst.
The crowd heard it and saw it . . Some said it sounded like a party that was left-over from the night before: “They are filled with new wine.”. Everyone who saw and heard it was “amazed and perplexed”, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
God was in their midst.
When God’s holy spirit blows, when she burns, when he inspires there is no stopping Gods power to change and to encourage - to resurrect - a frightened, despairing church.
Pentecost is the day when the church finds its voice.
When the Wind blows , the atmosphere is electric and the Spirit inspires
the church discovers that it has truth to tell ... and the guts to tell it. Before Pentecost the church has no voice. On Pentecost it receives a voice ... in every language on the face of the earth. Some voice!
It could be understood everyone, from the ends of the earth it says – all languages and cultures, people there for a festival, - everyone could hear and understand what they were hearing.
We need to be reminded that the courage to speak of God’s love for the world is not self-generated. The church’s authentic voice is always the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit.
And we celebrate Pentecost to remind us that here and now God’s spirit is with us. and gives us the voice to communicate in the language of our own community so they can hear about who God is.
OUR REFORMER ancestors would be appalled by some of the small traditions of joy and triumph that have crept into the Christian celebration of Pentecost. The streamers of flame, the cake which is our way of celebrating life going on. There certainly was a party but it is the beginning of a journey of following Jesus. And that journey is one which needs to be Spirit led .
So Peter, in one of the more sobering moments in Acts,
Removes the idea that this is just some superficial , giddy high tide of spiritual excess. He quotes the prophet Joel,
who proclaims that God will pour out his Spirit upon all flesh, yielding prophecy, visions and dreams--and then says that all this is God's own word:and the time has come when they are seeing this happening.
I will show wonders in the heaven above,
and signs on the earth beneath,
blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
the sun shall be turned into darkness
and the moon into blood,
before the day of the Lord Comes,
the great and manifest day.
Peter looks into the heart of the believers' experience on that day and sees a spiritual harvest that grows from God's promise in a time of terror, death and death-dealing.
What he saw then makes sense now.
The Spirit comes when the light is almost gone--the sun darkened and the moon like blood.
On Pentecost "we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God" (Acts 2:11b). What are those mighty works? Given the quote that Peter uses from the prophet Joel, those are perhaps known in the utterance of prophecy and in dreams and visions. Perhaps such utterances are not about the death and resurrection of Jesus alone, but about the death and resurrection of hope, but now Peter can see that Jesus is Gods action showing how that hope becomes accessible for everyone.
Red is the colour we have to mark this time of the year . The colour of fire, of the Spirit – and our streamers of celebration are also symbols of hope. Pentecost in this season for us is when the darkness draws in and the cold of winter appriaches and time when to be warmed into life.
T. S. Eliot talks about “ the pentecostal fire In the dark time of the year
Perhaps we want it to be our turn to be the ones who dream dreams. And see visions. I want this, of course, because I really am getting older. And see the spirit work stir within our young ones here today as we confidently and faithfully praed at their baptisms.
I also want the dreams promised because it is a dark time for the world at present. How long our "year" will be I do not know, but I believe that unless there is a perceptible, exponential growth in authentic prophesy, dreams and visions, we will die. In the church having the courage to talk about what love and risky justice look like against the mainstream of every person for themselves. And be able to live that the dream becomes part of life.
Pentecost, however, is not an event to be wished for lightly. The Spirit is somewhat tricky and does its own thing. "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8-9).
One commentator at the millennium, said "Look around you. There is an eerie sense of Panic in the air, a silent Fear and uncertainty that comes with once reliable faiths and truths and solid Institutions that are no longer safe to believe in ..."
I don’t think it was any different for those early Jesus Followers .
And in our celebrations, we must remember it is the choice between life and death that we celebrate. That there is a choice and ther is the power to do so in the Spirit’sgift, Gods own self, Love which reaches into the depths of our lives and changes us and our community.
It is time to pay attention to Peter and Joel, to T.S. Eliot, and know the best Pentecost is the gift of the Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son. which comes when the need is greatest and gives us life, saturated in costly love.
Mark Harris The Challenge of Change: The Anglican Communion in the Post-Modern Age
Rev Ed Searcy - Sermon on Pentecost.
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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