Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21; John 14: 8-17, 25-27
Preached by Rev. Dr. Jason Haddox
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all gathered together…” They were gathered together for the feast, for the celebration, for the remembrance.
Fifty Days after the Passover, the feast of Pentecost was a spring thanksgiving festival, remembering the giving of the Torah (The Teaching or Instruction, not “Law” in the way we usually mean that word) at Mt. Sinai. God appeared in fire on the mountain, and gave that teaching to Moses, and called the children of Israel as God’s chosen people.
We see that gift commemorated in our window here nearest the pulpit; the green and purple trumpets of the prophets are lifted to call the people together; to hear the teaching of God for the good of God’s people and God’s creation. To call them to instruction, symbolized by the scrolls of the Torah there at the base of the window’s icon. To summon them to repentance (metanoia): to turn from the objects and actions which distract and destroy, to bring them back to their Creator, the giver of Life and all things.
The Day of Pentecost was already a big day, one of the great pilgrimage occasions, so there were lots of pilgrims in Jerusalem that year; lots of strangers double-booked in overcrowded inns (perhaps some even sleeping in the barn with the animals); a veritable Tower of Babble in the streets.
Suddenly, into this warm, closely-packed, high-volume scene, with no warning whatsoever: Wind. Fire. Light and air, motion and sound, even greater than the noise already in the streets. The disciples have been waiting for something to happen—and happen it does.
Today the Church is sent out from the place where they have waited. Today the closed doors of the Upper Room are blown off their hinges, and the followers of Jesus are hurled out into those busy, babbling streets to become witnesses of what they themselves have seen of God’s power over the powers of death and destruction, messengers carrying words of hope, forgiveness, and new life into the towns and countries into which they will go. They are infused with the breath and life and words and power of God, through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And see—the green and purple trumpets of the prophets are there too. In our Pentecost window, beneath the descending dove and holy fire, undergirding the whole scene, promising that the teaching, the wisdom, the way of life that God has promised his people is still there. “In those days” says Peter, quoting the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all people: young and old, men and women, slave and free.” Not only for those in Judea and Jerusalem, not only for the inner circle, no. The Way that leads to the life of God is now available to all people, regardless of who they are or where they are. Or when.
They who have seen and experienced the power, the mercy, and the love of God displayed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, now take that experience with them into the world, to share it with everyone they meet. It has transformed their lives; now they will be agents and instruments of transformation in the lives of others.
Whoever has seen Jesus, has seen the Father. In the passage from John’s gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that they too are “in God”, and that they will do the works that they have seen Jesus do, and more. What have they seen? Water turned to wine; strangers welcomed and blessed in order to bless their own communities and neighbors; thousands fed with seemingly inadequate resources; the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead are raised to new life.
But they will not—they cannot—do any of these things on their own. They must be taught and guided by “the Advocate” whom Jesus will send. “Advocate”= “Helper, comforter”; from the Greek word Paraclete, from para-, “for the purpose of” or “with”; and kalao, “to call.” One who comes alongside, to guide and direct. The disciples must “abide in Christ” (John 15:4) that the life of Christ may be evident in them.
J. Philip Newell’s Listening For The Heartbeat Of God, our Wisdom Wednesday discussion book recently, made much of the image of listening—paying careful and constant attention to the voice of God present among us and to each of us. That “still, small voice” is an invitation to trust. It is an invitation into faith…not faith in a series of propositional statements ABOUT God, but into faith in the continuing presence and guidance OF God, revealed through Scripture, and tradition, and human thought and reflection on experience—listening for the breath of the Holy Spirit, which (as the Gospel of John says earlier) “blows where it will, and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with those who are born of the Spirit.”
As followers of Jesus we believe that Spirit is given to each of us, and to all of us together. We remember in our baptism—even if we don’t remember the baptism itself—that we were given gifts for ministry. Each one of us has a gift, or more than one, for ministry in Christ’s name. How will we make use of those gifts? For it is to this that Jesus calls us, this day of Pentecost, in this town of Augusta, in this year 2013.
From Paul Fromberg, rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa, SF: Pentecost in a single line: Jesus says to us: “You are my beloved, do as I do, be as I am.”
My brothers and sisters, may it be so with us. May it be so among us, today and always.