Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunami waves fascinate and horrify us. Television brings these images into our space, thankfully they’re taking place far from our safe homes. We would not wish to experience any of those destructive forces first hand. Such an experience changes lives, hundreds of people in Alberta, Canada have lost homes, land and all belongings to the raging forest fires to the north.
Remember in Hoquiam an entire hillside broke loose, bringing mud, dirt, trees, and house sliding down into the city streets. In an instant the world turns upside down. We are continually reminded of our fragile existence within creation.
Another power, a creative power of a different dimension informs our faith, the power that changes lives at Pentecost. It is that power that was experienced by a small insignificant group of men and women gathered in Jerusalem waiting for a promise to be fulfilled.
The horizons of their world were limited to the countryside of Galillee and Palestine when suddenly their hearts and minds were opened to a greater world beyond.
Nothing could have prepared them for the magnitude of their enlightenment as they responded to the creative spirit of God. In an instant their worlds were turned upside down by the tremendous rush of creative power, released into their hearts and minds, souls and bodies, showing forth in flames above their heads.
They saw a new world through new eyes. The differences of culture and language that separated them now crumbled before this power. Each could speak and hear, with the same understanding of the stories of God’s deeds and power.
As the power of nature might show its ability to destroy, so too the power of the Spirit opens one to new relations among communities, new intimacy with God. Man made bridges crumble before natural disasters, the Spirit builds bridges beyond time and space, between slave and free, man and woman, Jew or Gentile.
This is Pentecost, the outpouring of God’s spirit upon the disciples, then and now. There isno end to the horizon of God’s embrace. Disciples see things differently, know things differently and are sent forth as apostles to share what they see and know and hear. God opened their eyes and taught their hearts. Now other languages, other voices, other experiences are no longer foreign to them; all are one in God’s love through his reconciling spirit.
Year after year on this day we are reminded of the creative energy of God which overwhelms the disruptive power of man and nature so that we too might learn to discern the spirit as it rushes through our own world, reconciling, reuniting all of creation through us, within us, for us. The spirit sent forth creates the world anew if we can but see it.
There are times when even those alive in the spirit become weary with the world, and like Philip need encouragement. How is their longing to see the Father to be satisfied? How might we see Jesus?
Peter tells the skeptics, the cynics, the amazed and perplexed that this Jesus, through his spirit, is to be sought right in the midst of destructive forces. When it seems that the nightly news forces only on the dark stories, look then for the men and women quietly going about God’s work, creating order out of chaos, offering compassion to the suffering and hope to the desperate. At the scene of disasters the spirit of God rushes in to heal and mend, to recreate anew.
Pentecost originated in the Jewish observance of the Feast of Weeks, an agricultural festival to show gratitude to God for this early harvest. It was observed on the fiftieth day after the first day of Passover. Our Christian festival of Pentecost occurs fifty day after Easter, one of the seven Principal Feasts of the year.
Our service this morning began with the opening prayer addressed to every race and nation promising the gift of the Holy Spirit. Every scripture reading speaks of the powerful Spirit changing lives, deepening the dimensions of our life with God. In the first reading we heard the dramatic story of the day of Pentecost long, long ago only weeks after Jesus’ death, shaken to the core, the disciples gathered together. Without warning from heaven came the rush of wind, tongue of fire appeared, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. The crowd gathered. How? Why? What did this mean? All speaking their own language yet understanding each other.
The psalm praises God in creation for the Spirit renews the face of the earth. This wonderful song gives us a vision of the creating Spirit of God.
Paul writes to the Christians in Rome declaring that all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God, not only children but actually heirs of God. In the upper room Philip seeks reassurance by asking Jesus to show them the Father. The response is gentle, ending with a promised gift—the Advocate, the Spirit of truth, which will be with them forever. Then he gives the blessing of his peace.
The Latin word spiritus means breath, Breath is what you have when you’re alive. So spirit=breath=life, the aliveness and power of life that is in you. When your spirit is strong, you can breathe it out into other lives, you become literally inspiring. Spirit is highly contagious. When people are very excited, happy or sad, you can catch it from what they say or what they do. God also has a spirit, is Spirit. Thus God is the power of life itself, has breathed and continues to breathe life into his creation.
May God, Holy Spirit bless us all especially this day and forever. AMEN