The Day of Pentecost (5/11/2008)

The Miraculous Power of the Holy Spirit

Lessons: Acts 2:1-21 Psalm 104:24-34, 35b 1st Corinthians 12:3b-13 St. John 20: 19-23

Prayer of the Day: God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as you sent upon the disciples the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, look upon your Church and open our hearts to the power of the Spirit. Kindle in us the fire of your love, and strengthen our lives for service in your kingdom; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

2.1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs-in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" 13 But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine."

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 '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. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' "

Acts 2:1-21, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

It was an amazing day, that first Pentecost celebration after the resurrection of Jesus. For fifty days, the disciples gathered and studied the scriptures. They remembered his words. They recalled the last week of his life and the remarkable appearances he made to them before ascending to heaven. Then came Pentecost. As was the case during Passover (when Jesus was crucified), the Holy City was filled with pilgrims: this time for the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot - the ancient celebration marking the beginning of the harvest. With the crowds milling about in the streets outside, the disciples gathered in a house, no doubt doing what they had been doing every day since Jesus' death: searching the Scriptures, desperate to understand what had happened to their teacher and Lord.

Suddenly, they were startled by what began to take place. A great sound filled the house where they were staying - it sounded to them like a fierce wind storm. The appearance of "tongues" - similar to tongues of fire - rested over each of their heads. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, and then these humble followers of the Rabbi from Nazareth made their way out into the streets of Jerusalem, miraculously capable of communicating in languages they had never before learned. In perhaps the greatest miracle of the day, people from every imaginable country, speaking every imaginable language, heard the witness of these disciples, were touched by what they said, and became believers in Jesus Christ.

I've thought of this day often throughout the years. Early on, I was somewhat frightened by it - glad that tongues of fire had never rested on my head. As a teenager, I was intimidated by this story - the Holy Spirit had never done anything dramatic to me, and it made me wonder if my faith was genuine. In the past few decades I have become increasingly curious - wondering what it must have been like to be part of this day. Lately I have found myself feeling impressed. and perhaps even a bit envious: that these early followers were so open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, that it was able to have such an impact on them, and that it helped so many people to embrace the Christian faith.

The Day of Pentecost celebrates the fact that the Holy Spirit moves through believers, and makes a tremendous difference. Last week we listened in as Jesus prayed that all his followers might be one. Now this week we learn of how the Spirit filled his disciples in Jerusalem, and moved through them to break down the barriers of language that separated them from others who were there that day - uniting them (at least 3,000 of them) in Christian faith.

This world in which we live is filled with division: divisions between nations, between religions, between insiders and outsiders, between believers and non-believers.... the list goes on and on. Perhaps one way to pray for the coming of God's Holy Spirit, is to pray that it might work unity among us, and that once united with one another, it might inspire us to be a unifying force in the communities that surround us.

Now wouldn't that be a miracle?

David J. Risendal, PastorĀ  (May 6, 2008)

Exploring This Week's Text:

  1. What happened to the disciples during the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost?
  2. How did the Holy Spirit become visible in their midst? Why was that important?
  3. What did the Holy Spirit empower them to do?

Connecting with This Week's Text:

  1. When have I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life?
  2. What signs of disunity are evident in my relationships? With whom do I feel distant?
  3. What might the Holy Spirit be doing in my life, to break down the boundaries that isolate me, and help me to better connect with others?