A Sermon for the Day of Pentecost, 23rd May 2021
” . . . suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind” Acts 2:2
In Acts Chapter 2, Saint Luke describes that first day of Pentecost, that day on which the church was born. Reading his words today, what he says may be considered in terms of four “Ws”: waiting, wind, wonder and witnesses.
Waiting demands patience. The disciples had been told by Jesus to stay in Jerusalem and to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. In Saint Luke Chapter 24 Verse 49, we read the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples , “And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” They are to wait, but that wait has not just been since the ascension of Jesus, ten days previously, nor has it just been since the resurrection of Jesus, fifty days previously, since the days of the prophets there has been a hope that God’s Spirit would come to be with his people. In Acts Chapter 2 Verses 16-17, Peter explains that this moment is one that has been long awaited:
“. . . this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
‘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.'”
What can be learned from the long wait of the people and the experience of the disciples on that Sunday in Jerusalem? Waiting is important. Even the disciples, the people who had been with Jesus for three years, the people who have seen him back from the dead, have to wait. God has his own time and sometimes people just have to be patient.
The second “W” is wind. Act Chapter 2 Verse 2 says, “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.”
Since the beginning of Creation, God’s Spirit has been like a wind, like a breath. In the first two verses of Genesis, the first two verses of the entire Bible, it says “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” The breath of God is found blowing over the waters, the wind is something that creates, that gives life, so the Holy Spirit comes as one who will create a new people, the Holy Spirit comes as the breath of the church, the one who gives life to the church, the one who must be present in the church if the church is not to die.
Are Christians aware of the importance of the breath of God? Sometimes Christians behave as though the church is like any other human organization; it’s not. Without the breath of the Spirit, without the rushing wind, the church is dead and lifeless.
The third “W” is “wonder”. Look at the words that Luke uses to describe the reactions of those who saw the impact of that Day of Pentecost. Verse 6 says, “the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.” In Verse 7, he says that they were “amazed and astonished”, while Verse 12 says, “all were amazed and perplexed.” The people are filled with wonder at what God has done; this will be a moment that they will never forget.
Thinking about God, are people ever struck with a sense of wonder? Do their thoughts ever leave them feeling changed in a way that those first followers were changed? If there is not a sense of wonder, what does it say about faith? If people are going to carry on believing through times that are challenging, they need to have a faith with a capacity to amaze, to bewilder, even. People need to be filled with wonder.
The final “W” is witnesses. Peter speaks to those who have witnessed what has taken place, he is anxious that the story they tell is true. He addressed them in plain terms, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.”
Being a witness is at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, to see for oneself and to share what one has seen. Peter is aware that such faith will be challenged and that it will not be something that people can hold onto by themselves, in Verse 21 he says, “Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” When they ask for God’s strength, then God will send his Spirit.
The Spirit who was with the disciples on that first day of Pentecost is the Spirit who is with Christians now, and as the Spirit enabled the disciples to be witnesses for Jesus, so the Spirit can help people to be witnesses to Jesus in their own lives.
No-one is being forced, Peter said to the crowd, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord”, they had a choice and people now have a choice. They can choose to be Jesus’ people, they can choose to be his witnesses, or they can turn around and walk away. Many people did walk away, it is clear from reading the Gospels that there were many people who did not want to know. Like them, people have to choose. Will they be witnesses?
Waiting and wind and wonder and witnesses – words that a reminder of the story of Pentecost and ask, when the story has been heard, how will people respond?
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