Scripture Passage: Acts 2: 1-6, [7-11], 12-17, [18-21]
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each…” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14But 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. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, 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.
I know it’s been too long since I did this. But rather than beleaguering that point now, I’ll just let all the reasons why I have seemed to be missing in action drift into future writings. So, over the years, I have often written in “high holy” seasons, those seasons that sort of burst in and interrupt our day-to-day ordinary lives. They are the seasons, like Advent and Lent, that make us pay attention, perhaps even change what we are doing.
We often think the same thing of Pentecost. It has been portrayed with images of winds and fires and brightly colored streamers that at the very least draw our attention to the day. Some even refer to it as the “Church’s birthday”. Truthfully, I hate that. I don’t think it was the birth of the church (the organized church came along much later). I also don’t think it was merely an awakening of a sleepy people (although that would be helpful even now). And it is not merely a day filled with fire and winds. (When I was young, I conjured up images of forest fires and hurricanes, which did not seem helpful to me at all.) Instead, in my thoughts, this day is tied to the Sunday before. The Ascension of Christ left what seemed to be an emptiness, a place that was once filled but is now an uncomfortable gaping hole in the story. And we are told to wait. (Have you noticed there’s a lot of waiting in this life?)
And then, we are told, a wind comes upon us and the Spirit pours into us, filling that emptiness with the piece of God that is meant just for us. And it is like tongues of fire, all-consuming, burning away those things around the edges of our lives onto which we hold a little too tightly. The Hebrew for it is “Ruah”, more than wind, more than Spirit, but the very breath of God breathed into us. It does not interrupt our ordinary lives; it makes them what they are meant to be; it makes them holy.
This “high holy” day is different from the rest. Because it brings our ordinariness along with it. It is now the norm. And if we are open to being Spirit-poured, we can never go back to the old ways again. So, what part of God’s Spirit is yours? What part of Jesus life is yours to carry? And what will you do with your newfound ordinariness?
Without Pentecost, the Christ-event–the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus–remains imprisoned in history as something to remember, think about, and reflect on. The Spirit of Jesus comes to dwell within us, so that we can become living Christs here and now. (Henri J.M. Nouwen)
Grace and Peace,