A remarkable practice has developed during this period of social distancing, insecurity, and emotional unrest due to the CO-Vid 19 pandemic where people are asked to look each day for where you see God and where you see God’s message in what is happening. And I must admit, it is easier to see God’s message some days more than others. But this day is Pentecost…. The birthday of the church…. the day that the Holy Spirit came to us. A glorify for God… a way that we can always have a personal relationship with our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.
And even though we like to think of the Holy Spirit as a gentle breeze or a calming wind, and we sing songs like ‘Spirit, Spirit Of Gentleness, blow through the wilderness calling and free’….. the description of the day of Pentecost was anything but and is really quite alarming. Listen now to the Pentecost story which we read every year and which is found in the second chapter of Acts verses 1-21.
2 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.’
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Wow…. what an event! The group was gathered in one place and a sound like the rush of violent wind filled the house…. I imagine the sound would be like a major hurricane upon you or the train like sound many describe when a tornado passes through. I violent scary experience. And then flames like fire rested on the people and all of them spoke in their native tongue, not the one they shared, but the language from their home village or town. And it describes how there were Jews from all over the world present that day who were speaking in their native tongue and praising God…. and that was not the miracle…. the miracle was that much like a UN meeting where everyone is speaking in their own tongue but wearing microphones so that each person’s language is translated in the native language of the person listening…. ALL COULD BE UNDERSTOOD! Language was not a barrier. The Spirit somehow brought them together.
Some years the lectionary reading pairs this annual reading of the first Pentecost story with the story found in the 11th chapter of Genesis of the Tower of Babel. And when it does, to me, it is funny. Even though the stories are about situations where everyone is speaking a foreign language, the circumstances that lead them to speaking and the outcome couldn’t be more different.
In the Tower of Babel, the people were to build a glorious tower that will reach up to heaven. Their reason for making it was so to impress foreigners who would visit and they thought it would make a name for themselves. God saw what they were doing and put a stop to their ability to work together by making people speak in different languages. God was angered as their purpose for making the building was not to glorify God but to glorify themselves.
And, in Pentecost people from all over the world were speaking in their native languages but the HUGE difference in that story was that the miracle, was that everyone understood each other. And the report was that they were not trying to glorify themselves… quite the contrary. They were speaking about God’s deeds of power.
So the Pentecost experience brought differing people together to glorify God. People could understand others even though their native tongues were not the same. It created a church without the boundaries of nationality and race.
Pentecost is the birthday of the church. And this church which God made was one where all were welcome. Obstacles that had divided people were no longer there. And that might be our message today as to where we see God at work. Back to the original question posed at the beginning of this sermonette. Where do we see God at work today? And my answer is that at Pentecost we can see God at work in anything that breaks down barriers that had divided people before and helps us to be the family of God that was intended when we call each other fellow children of God. And our calling at Pentecost is to be the force that spreads the message of God’s love and in doing so, makes us the agents to unite a fractured world. So…. Where do you see God today? I see it right here with you, my family called Riviera. Amen.