Text: Acts 2: 1-21
There are days when you can look out of your window and you know that the wind is blowing. Tree tops are swaying, you can hear the wind whistle through the leaves. It’s a glorious sound and a reminder of the power that is present in the natural world.
I think we have all had days when we have fought against the wind. Perhaps you’ve been out of the golf course only to have a gust of wind send your perfect shot off course, or you’ve been out flying a kite a time when a little bit of wind is helpful only to have a gust of wind send your kite into a tailspin or worse rip it from your hands. Perhaps you have just been trying to walk down the street only to have a gust of wind stop you in your tracks.
I am convinced that the windiest spot in Cobourg is at the Terry Fox school, where I stand to pick the boys up. The wind gusts through this particular part of Cobourg like nothing I’ve experienced. Walk fifty feet off the school grounds and there is no wind!
This morning we celebrate Pentecost which is the coming of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost was a Jewish Agricultural festival held fifty days after Passover. A day when farmers brought the first wheat from the crop and offered it to God. However, it was not simply an agricultural festival. It was a reminder of the great stories which dominate the imagination of the Jewish people. Stories of the Exodus, receiving the law. Pentecost isn’t just about first fruits it is about God giving his redeemed people a way of life they must now live out. (Acts for Everyone, Part 1, p21).
We often equate the Holy Spirit with a dove, a bird which we view as gentle. However, in his narrative from Acts Luke describes the Holy Spirit as a violent force which empowers the faithful and propels the church into being. The coming of the Spirit is not a gentle breeze, instead imagine if you will the windows of this sanctuary bursting open with the power of the Spirit. The Greek word used to describe its coming is violent. Not a strong wind as the Good News translates the word, but a violent wind.
Holy Spirit is like a meteorologist tracking a storm. “It’s important that someone somewhere is tracking the hurricane and telling us what it’s doing, but when it comes to Pentecost it’s far more important that you’re out there in the wind, letting it sweep through your life, your heart, your imagination, your powers of speech, and transform you from a listless or lifeless believer into someone whose hear is on fire with the love of God” (Acts for Everyone: Part 1, p22).
However, before we go to far we should set the scene. In the first chapter of Acts we are told that all the apostles and followers of Jesus gathered together. The purpose of this gathering was to select a twelfth dispel, to replace Judas Iscariot. We are told that Mattias is elected as a disciple and then we never hear about Mattias again. What we are also told is that there are 120 followers of Jesus.
Let that number sink in. 120.
Most Sunday’s we have a little less than 100 worshiping here. A very similar number to the first individuals who identified as followers of Jesus. Shortly after the meeting the Holy Spirit rushes down like a violent wind. Not to birth the church, but rather to empower those 120 believers to go and bear witness to what they know about Jesus.
Peter would go on to preach and share the words of the prophet Joel, “Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
What dreams do we have? What are our young people telling us? What visions are before us that we should see through?
Will Willimon notes, “…that when God pours out God’s Spirit on people, those who speak are often those whom the world tries to silence. Various servants whom we tell to keep quiet and just do what we tell them. Children and young adults whom we tell are too inexperienced to speak. Old people whom we tell since their day is past, they’re just too old to say anything meaningful anymore.”
We know that these words are wrong. We see the value in the laughter of children and we have as much to learn from a younger generation as we do from an older one. What we need to do is trust in God’s guidance, to feel the wind blowing as the Holy Spirit works and moves in our lives. It’s not a subject we touch on often in Presbyterian circles and I need to confess that I probably spend more time focusing sermons on Jesus than I do on the other aspects of the Trinity.
Pentecost is a time when the church comes together in prayer for how we can be moved forward by the Holy Spirit. To recognize how we are being called to be faithful to God’s word in our lives. It is a time when we look to and trust in the Holy Spirit. Preacher Barbara Brown Taylor describes the Holy Spirit as, “someone we trust, not something we understand.” (Working Preacher).
We know what the Spirit did for those early faithful disciples, what do we trust the Spirit to do in our lives? Are we willing to trust in God in such a way? To let go and simply trust, perhaps not fully understanding what God is doing in our lives?
Karoline Taylor writes, “We tend only to believe in the Spirit’s activity in our lives if it is comfortable and convenient; if it affirms what we want to hear, not what we need to hear.” Sometimes we need to hear hard truths, sometimes the Spirit blows violently and that scares us. But sometimes that’s what we need.
Right now, I believe the church needs a violent demonstration from the Holy Spirit. We need to understand God’s power, and our power in that light. Not as a meek presence in the world, but as a transformative power. Because working with God, with the power of the Holy Spirit blowing through us we are capable of wonderful things. Please understand that by a violent demonstration from the Holy Spirit I am not asking for things to be destroyed. Shaken up, perhaps, destroyed no.
I believe we need a reminder, a strong reminder, of God’s sovereignty. A reminder of what we are called to do as disciples of Christ. I pray that as the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada begins its work later today that God’s Spirit would be felt powerfully by those in attendance.
I pray that this community of faith in Cobourg would also feel a profound and tangible moving of the Holy Spirit. Just as the early church was moved to bear witness, that we too would go and bear witness. Just think from 120 followers, 120 scared followers of Jesus. People who thought that the authorities were going to knock on their door at any moment. From those 120 terrified individuals, the church sprang to life.
We are not so different. Amen.