Preached on 23 May 2015 at St. Luke’s Memorial Episcopal Church
Day of Pentecost, Year B
Let’s start at the very beginning.
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit moved upon the face of the deep. And God said, “Let there be light. And there was light….”
The Spirit of God is there from the very beginning of Creation.
Today, we hear the psalmist extol the marvels of Creation and God’s utter delight in it. Even the Leviathan – the terrifying sea monster – delights God.
“You send forth your Spirit and they are created;” the psalmist sings to God, “and so you renew the face of the earth.”
The Spirit of God is always present, always creating, always renewing the earth.
Fast forward to first century Jerusalem. Jews on pilgrimage throng to this anceitn city from all over the world to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost – 50 days after the Feast of Passover. You see our feasts are rooted in Jewish tradition.
Passover celebrates God bringing the children of Israel out of the land of bondage.
At Easter, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in which he conquers death and brings God’s children out of bondage to sin.
50 days later, we find the people of Israel gathering at the foot of Mt. Sinai while Moses goes up to meet with God in fire and smoke and trembling earth to receive the Torah.
All of these celebrations are not simply remembering a spectacular event from a long time ago. In each case it is a celebration of God’s continuing action in the present.
God continues to free God’s people from bondage. God continues to give the Torah.
God continues to conquer death and free us from bondage to sin.
All are celebrations of a present reality.
And what happens in our story in Acts? They have come to celebrate Pentecost and God shows up again.
And It. Is. Spectacular!
We have come to use powerful words to describe the mundane. It seems that everything and everyone is awesome these days. The trouble is, those words have become tame, domesticated and we lose the ability to describe the extremes.
The text describes the people as amazed and astonished, bewildered and perplexed. But these words can’t even begin to capture the experience.
The Holy Spirit shows up in FIRE and violent Wind. The people are more than confused or puzzled; they are undone; they are Blown Away!
God is on the Loose.
“What does it mean?” they ask one another.
And Peter steps right up to interpret what is happening, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
He reminds them of the prophet, Joel, who said, “God will our out God’s Spirit on all flesh – young and old, men and women, slave and free – all will be filled with the Holy Spirit and they shall prophesy.” He explains that’s what’s going on right here. The prophecy is being fulfilled in their presence.
What happens next?
Peter goes on to preach the Good News; to tell them about Jesus and the salvation they are offered.
The text goes on,
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Watch out! God is on the loose, tearing down walls and opening up new possibilities for the People of God. God will not be tamed or contained.
And so, we say, the church was born. Still, we baptize and devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. We will renew those vows of our baptism in just a few minutes.
The people were gathered in Jerusalem on Pentecost to celebrate God’s giving the Torah not as a past event, but as an ongoing reality of their lives.
We gather here, wearing red, today, to celebrate Pentecost. For us it is the sending of the Holy Spirit on the church and on all flesh – on us – as an ongoing reality of our lives.
God cannot be tamed or contained. Not in our buildings or our traditions; not in our liturgies or our theology; not even in Scripture.
God is on the loose tearing down old boundaries, doing a new thing – always drawing us into God’s self.
God is on the loose – recreating the earth, the church, the people; recreating us, recreating you.
You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. You are baptized into the Body of Christ; a part of one body that extends over all the earth.
And you are part of the Body of Christ in this place at this time.
So, what now? What’s next?
What is the Holy Spirit doing here at St. Luke’s?
Come Holy Spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.