We hope this message finds you well and ready for the start of a new week. It is hard to believe that tomorrow already starts the 6th month of 2020! The year still seems to be going by quickly in spite of the unusual times we are in. With any luck, this may be the last written message you will see for a while as next Sunday we will likely be streaming our first video worship service. Watch Facebook and our website for updates! Fingers crossed. Today, however, we continue with this written message as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday–which we observe on this 49th day (the seventh Sunday) after Easter Sunday. Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks. Read God’s word for us today from the book of Acts, Chapter 2, verses 1-21.
1When 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. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes 11Cretans and Arabs — in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 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. 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.’”
It had been 10 days since Jesus ascended into Heaven. He had promised to send the Holy Spirit to be with His disciples forever. On Pentecost, when they were all together, suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven, and what seemed to be tongues of fire separated and came to rest on each of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter preached the best sermon ever, and 3,000 people believed. The Church was born!
Across the United States and around the world, we often experience the dramatic effect of something no one can see. In 2011, for instance, several US cities were devastated by tornadoes that blew apart neighborhoods and business districts. And during each hurricane season, we are shocked as winds of more than 100 miles an hour threaten to destroy what we have built. All of this is the result of an unseen force. Sure, we see the wind’s effects (flags flapping, debris flying), but we cannot see the wind itself. It works in a mysterious invisibility. In a sense, this is also true of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, when believers experienced the filling of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, “suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” That wind was a tangible demonstration to those early Christians that the unseen Spirit was at work in their lives. And He still works in our lives today! As a follower of Jesus Christ, be encouraged. The Holy Spirit bears fruit in your life, forms believers into one body, and assures you of God’s presence. The Holy Spirit is a powerful Person in our lives—even though we can’t see Him.
A few years ago, a young woman shared her story of getting to know The Holy Spirit in her life while at a retreat. She writes, “I went on a retreat in college called “Fan into Flame,” which was focused on encountering the Holy Spirit in a new and deeper way. As we got into who the Holy Spirit was on this retreat, I was uncomfortable at first — but throughout the retreat, I found myself opening up a little more, despite my discomfort. As I came to understand how the Holy Spirit works in our lives and grew more comfortable with worshipping God through song throughout the retreat, the idea of surrendering my life to Him in a deeper way didn’t scare me as much. At one point in the retreat, our small groups prayed together to intercede for each other for particular requests: to be freed from things that kept us from God, to receive the Holy Spirit in a deeper way or to receive His gifts. I don’t remember what I prayed for — but I do remember that, as I was being prayed over, I had this gentle urge to rest, to just let go — and I experienced an overwhelming peace within me that resonated through my whole body. I couldn’t stop smiling because I couldn’t contain the joy inside me. It was bursting! Words fall entirely short when I try to communicate what this experience actually was. All I can say is that I met the Person of the Holy Spirit in that moment. When I stood up after what felt like hours, the time of prayer was over and, from what I could tell, almost every soul in the room had experienced the same thing I had, or at least something very similar. We had just experienced our own Pentecost. This wasn’t just a one-time thing, though. Since that first encounter, I have on other occasions experienced the Holy Spirit in powerful ways, and I experience Him in a quieter way on a daily basis.”
The Holy Spirit–invisible, yet so powerful. Pentecost was a real thing. The Apostles receiving the Holy Spirit was a real thing. But this outpouring of the Holy Spirit wasn’t just for the Apostles. We were all meant to receive the same thing. We are all meant to know Him, to walk with Him and to receive the graces we need for our daily lives from Him. We all receive Him at baptism, and then again in a deeper way with the sacrament of confirmation. But often, the potential for the graces we could have lie dormant until we give Him the permission to come into our hearts.
Finally, one last story to illustrate Pentecost Sunday. “There was a small boy who decided it was the perfect day to fly a kite. It was a windy day, and the kite kept going higher and higher. Finally it got so high that it was out of sight. A man passed by and saw the little boy holding onto the string. The man could not see the kite, and he asked the boy, “How do you even know you have a kite up there?” The boy replied, “Because I can feel it.” Although we cannot see the Holy Spirit, we should be able to sense His work in our lives changing us into the image of Christ. So on this Pentecost Sunday, it is our hope that you can feel the Holy Spirit working in your lives. For the Spirit of Peace, that calms our mind and stills our life, we give you thanks. For the Spirit of Love that touches hearts and reaches out, we give you thanks. For the Spirit of Joy that lifts our soul and gives us faith we give you thanks. For the Spirit of Power, that gift of grace for this your church, we give you thanks. Now, go out into God’s world filled with the spark of the Holy Spirit. Let love guide your actions. Listen for the Spirit of Truth. Spread the peace of Christ and remind everyone you meet that each one is a beloved child of God. Amen. Have a good week church family!