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.’
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.
Welcome to Pentecost. It’s kind of weird. And chaotic. It’s got violent winds, and tongues on fire, floating above people’s heads. It has a room full of rural farmer folk, Galileans as they are called, who suddenly speak in languages that are not their own, but languages that reach to the ends of the earth. What else would people think, except that they must be drunk again. Only they’re not drunk. Intoxicated, yes. But not with alcohol. With the Holy Spirit.
Like I said. Welcome to Pentecost. It’s kind of weird. And chaotic. I hope you got a sense of that chaos when you heard this Acts reading with your ears and eyes in 5 difference languages just a minute ago. I hope it was hard to pay attention, because no doubt it was back then too. When the Holy Spirit came rushing like wind and fire into that tomb-like house the disciples had buried themselves in.
That’s what today is all about – the Holy Spirit. It’s like the Holy Spirit’s 15 minutes of fame. Only 15 minutes, because let’s be honest, at least for those of us who are Lutherans, the Holy Spirit freaks us out. We don’t get it. Probably because our image of those who are “filled with the Spirit” is the image of people singing and dancing in church with their hands in the air, and huge fake smiles across their face. It’s like they really do have that joy, joy, joy, joy down in their hearts. And that freaks us out. Because we don’t want to look like fools. At least I don’t.
Or maybe it is because we used to call the “Holy Spirit” the “Holy Ghost”, and “Holy Ghost” is way more creepy and stalker-ish. And so as a result, we just haven’t quite warmed up to the idea of the Holy Spirit and what she brings into our lives and churches and communities. Whether we want it or not.
And that’s the thing …the Holy Spirit should freak us out. But maybe not for those reasons. Maybe the Holy Spirit shouldn’t freak us out because she is going to make us so excited and slap-happy that our friends will think we are drunk, or because she is this ghostly-stalker-god that won’t stop moving your keys or making that sound every time you lie down to sleep.
Maybe the Holy Spirit should freak us out because when the Holy Spirit comes, it will mess you up. It will disrupts and disturb us. At least, that is what it did on that day so many years ago.
The disciples were all locked up together in a house. Scared. Uncertain. Nervous. Why? Because Jesus had just left them. Ascended into the sky to be with God, and they don’t have a clue what to do? Is this it? Is this the end? Jesus said that he would send them the Holy Spirit, but he never told them when. So what are they to do?
Meanwhile, down in Jerusalem, there is a party going on. In fact, it was a Pentecost party. You see, Pentecost was already a holiday before the Holy Spirit showed up. It was a Jewish festival celebrating the first fruits of summer and the giving of the Law to Moses at Mt. Sinai. Which means thousands of Jews from all over the world are having a party in Jerusalem. And when the Holy Spirit comes, you know what it does? t interrupts that party. There’s an attribute for you. Holy Spirit – party crasher. Listen.
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. 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.”
Suddenly, the party is no longer located in downtown Jerusalem. No, it was rudely interrupted by all the noise that was coming from this other house filled with scared and uncertain Jesus followers. And so those devout Jews left their party to come and see what was going on at this party. And they could barely believe their eyes and ears. Not only was it Galileans, which also stood for hick, who were talking in all of these languages, but they each could hear their language. How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language, they ask. Their native tongue. A word. A voice. A message meant just for them. And that was the great miracle that day. Not that Galileans spoke in another language. But that the others had ears to hear a word from the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit comes, it comes to interrupt your party. And to speak to you, through the least likely people (Galileans!). And it speaks a word, a message that is meant for you. In your own language, so that you might finally hear something you need to hear. And chances are it is going to mess you up. Because that is what the Holy Spirit does, it disturbs us. It interrupts the rhythms of our life that we have grown complacently comfortable with. The rhythms of life that are so constant and regular and mind-numbing that we have finally just given in and said, “Okay, I guess this is just how life goes.” And that is exactly when the Holy Spirit shows up and flips the whole game board over.
Have you ever had a Holy Spirit moment? Not a nice one, but one when your whole life was dislodged from some rut you had been living in? And when the Holy Spirit showed up and kicked you in the pants, it hurt. Not because you didn’t need a kick in the pants, but because you had become so comfortable in the rut.
In December 2011, I had been pastor here for just about 5 months and Lauren was about 4 months pregnant. And as some of you might remember, Lauren was commuting to school. She would drive up late Monday night, have 9 hours of classes all day Tuesday, and then drive home late Tuesday night. Now, as a side note, I kind of prided myself on being an awesome husband to my pregnant wife. And on this particular night, I was sitting on the couch watching TV as I heard the garage door open. And I was sitting on the couch watching TV, as I heard her lug all of luggage and book bags out of the car and up to the front door. And I was sitting on the couch watching TV as I heard her struggle to open the door, with her hands and belly so full. And I was sitting on the couch watching TV as she waddled her way into the living, dropped all of her bags on the floor, and gave me that look. And then she finally said it. “Really?…..Really? Strangers won’t let me open the door for myself at school because they can see that I am 4 months pregnant, but I come home and you don’t even help me with my bags? Really?”
The whole air in the room shifted. Lauren was speaking English, my language. But she was also speaking to me on a deeper level. Something that I knew was true, and had been true for a couple of weeks now, but I just couldn’t quite admit it. The Holy Spirit was telling me something. Through Lauren. “Wake up Jon. You are not well. You are not being the husband you want to be.” And it was like who air in the room changed. A light bulb, or who knows, maybe it was a tongue of fire, went on above my head, as I knew something was wrong. Turns out, I was going through some depression. And the Holy Spirit had interrupted it, woke me up to it, disturbed my complacent comfort in it…through Lauren. And it messed me up. But also because of it,I got the help I needed. And I was transformed. Into a new creation. Maybe I would even dare to say I was born again.
And that’s how the Holy Spirit works. It takes the pattern that is our life and it interrupts it. It takes the way we live and move and have our being and it dislocates it out of joint, so that we can no longer move in the same ways we used to. Or in other words, when the Holy Spirit shows up – it transforms us. It changes us by speaking to us what we need to hear.
Have you ever had a Holy Spirit moment like that? When your life gets interrupted or dislocated, and it hurts. But it also heals. A moment that smacks you between the eyes and leaves you stunned. A moment when you finally realize:
I’m not happy at my job.
That person who I thought was nothing like me is just like me.
I can’t live this way anymore.
I don’t have to be angry all the time.
It’s time to let go.
It’s time to make amends and heal the relationship.
When the day of Pentecost came, the disciples were gathered together in a house. And, you know, maybe it wasn’t a tomb-like house after all, where the disciples and the church followers had gone to die. Maybe it was a womb-like house. Where they were waiting for something to be born out of their fear and uncertainty. And along comes the Holy Spirit. Like a violent wind and with tongues of fire. Sounds like birth pangs to me.
The Holy Spirit comes and disrupts and disturbs our life so that something new might be born. So that we might be made into a new creation.
So let’s bring this home. This summer our two churches join together in worship. And here is what I know. We are no different than the people on that very first day of Pentecost long ago. I know that sometimes we just want to lock ourselves and our lives up behind closed doors and not let anyone in out of fear. Not share our lives with anyone. And sometimes we look around this room and all we see are others as “Galileans.” What could that person teach me? Why should I bother to get to know that person? He’s just a Galilean. Why should I share my highs/lows with them, they don’t really care about me.
But maybe our time together this summer can be a summer of Pentecost. Maybe this summer, the Holy Spirit will disrupt us out of comfortable places in these pews. Maybe she will throw us on our heels as we meet new people, or at least hear new stories about what is going on in each other’s lives. And maybe. Just maybe, we will be transformed and born again as the people of God that we are as a result.
Welcome to Pentecost. It’s kind of weird. And chaotic. But also very beautiful. Thanks be to God. Amen