Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church
In the Gospels, Peter denies knowing Jesus, not once, but three times. After Pentecost, the same Peter gives challenging sermons and heals people.
In the Gospels, Philip has to be convinced to follow Jesus. After Pentecost, the same Philip baptizes the Ethiopian eunuch.
In the Gospels, we have no idea if Stephen even follows Jesus.
After Pentecost, Stephen is martyred for the Lord.
Pentecost changes everything for individual believers and the church as a whole.
Timid disciples suddenly become tough; fair-weather followers are suddenly filled with faith, and believers of all stripes begin gathering as the church in earnest. What actually happens on this day to shake everybody up?!
Acts 2 tells us that the day begins with the Lord’s remaining disciples hiding together behind locked doors, just like they did on Easter Sunday.
Peter and the others are still afraid of a Roman crackdown, and they don’t know what to do next, so they hide. But the Spring Harvest Festival has come to town (50 days after Passover, from which we get the name Pentecost), and Jewish tourists from all over the known world have come to Jerusalem to sell their crops and imbibe in a little celebration. Picture the United Nations spilling into Richmond Hill! Jesus’ friends have no desire to mix with the public right now, but like it or not, the Holy Spirit shows up, literally blowing these people out of their complacency and lighting a fire underneath them. The Bible says that God shows up as wind and tongues of fire resting on each of them.
With the Lord’s shove, Peter goes down on the street and begins preaching to the crowd of strangers and Jesus’ followers alike. The recently empowered apostle tells everyone about Easter and the Lord of Love let loose on the world. The thing is that they are all able to understand Peter and each other! Somehow, God’s universal translator is at work and people hear the disciples speaking about God’s deeds of power in the native language of each.
So there’s a language miracle happening way ahead of Google Translate. What does the Holy Spirit really provide that turns the world upside down on Pentecost? Two things: the ability to listen to one another, and the courage to act on our faith. I know, in a world where you can watch your favorite movie on your cell phone and participate in a worship service live from the other side of the world via Zoom, listening and courage don’t seem especially miraculous.
But think about all the people who are talking past each other these days. Think honestly about all the times we are listening to someone else only to respond instead of actually learning from them. Americans are divided by faith, lifestyles, and politics even though we want so many of the same things. Think about the tens of millions of Christians in this country who confess that Jesus is Lord, but we are too timid to transform our society with Jesus’ love and justice. Think about what we could all do to help our neighbors if we could only focus on the right things, and we realize that listening and courage are not small miracles at all!
Christians around the world celebrate Pentecost Sunday on June 5th this year. I think we could all use a little holy wind and fire. Come, Lord Jesus.
God Loves You, and So Do I!