When the World was Set on Fire!

A Reading from Scripture 

 Acts 2:1-4 — When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tonguesas the Spirit enabled them.       

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Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.  And you shall renew the face of the earth.  O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and every enjoy Your comforts.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

In the 2019 Annual Conference of the Baltimore Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church scripture for worship services were read in Korean, and Spanish and English. It was fascinating to hear the Word of God in different languages. While I did not understand Korean and Spanish, I could tell from the reflections of the members there who understood the Word – how God was speaking to them.  This is exactly what was happening as the disciples and their relatives and friends were in hiding from the Roman and Jewish authorities.

Jesus had been crucified and 50 days before had been resurrected. It had been 10 days since Jesus ascended and left the disciples to face the future alone and they were fearful as they gathered in the upper room. The disciples remembered some of Jesus’ parting words –“I will send you the Advocate, or Helper, or Comforter, from the Father – from John 15 and from the first chapter of Acts But nothing had happened and – because the disciples were alone – scared and weak— with little hope —- it was a difficult and trying time for them.

As Scripture says in Acts – suddenly there came a wind — like a violent storm in the room and — a tongues of flame rested on them and they heard each other speak in their native languages – and those who understood the language – understood what was being said – but the observers – who did not understand the languages — thought the disciples were drunk – so early in the morning.  The Disciples were confused and they asked the key question – “What does this mean?”

The Holy Spirit arrived— it is the day of Pentecost. – “What does this mean to us?’

Pentecost is viewed as the beginning of the church. The day of birth of the church. Throughout the ages, Pentecost has become the second most important celebration, second to Easter.

In Judaism and Christianity, the Day of Pentecost is about the fullness of the harvest — Pentecost falls on the tenth day after Ascension Thursday. Historically and symbolically, Pentecost is related to the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot or the day, fifty days after the Exodus, on which God gave the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. Pentecost now also commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus as described in the Book of Acts.

We may ask ourselves the question — “Why is this day important?” Without Pentecost, the incarnation of God in Christ would be just a story. A story told for a long time, but just a story with no hope or no growth or no transformation. At Pentecost, the truth about Jesus the Christ becomes internalized and personal; God incarnate in the lives of ordinary men and women.

As we read further in Acts — a dispirited group of ordinary, uneducated men – became empowered by the Holy Spirit. Wind and fire shook and transformed and filled these everyday people with the power of the divine Spirit of God. For them, their experiences with the Risen Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit changed them into new people with a passion for abundant living to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with all the people.

Ordinary men and women became full of faith and they were fearless. They became courageous witness to God’s mighty and saving acts. Weak and timid disciples became strong and powerful witness to the Good News of God’s saving acts to an unbelieving and self-absorbed world. Each disciple received comfort, assurance, and hope as they were now accompanied by the Holy Spirit – just as Jesus had promised. And they suffered for this — everyone was martyred for their faith.

So, let us go back to the original question —- “What does this mean?” Well, for you and for me, Pentecost means that the Holy Spirit is with us – transforming us – urging us on

nudging us forward – revealing to us the continued power of God’s incarnation – God’s indwelling through Jesus.

God through Jesus delivered on his promise to send an advocate or helper to be with us.

But there is more —- People of faith – people who pray – people who seek to draw close to Christ – also experience the Holy Spirit. The Spirit can emerge in subtle ways and the Spirit can emerge in dynamic ways.

Little by little, as you hear, recognize, understand, and become aware of the Holy Spirit in different ways—through your thinking, correcting a thought with this voice of God, recognizing this voice in another, sharing this voice of God with a friend, — the Holy Spirit is brought into the world and given to each of God’s people.

Another question that we may ask is: What does Pentecost really mean to us as we receive the gift of the Spirit? If we check 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

The gift of the Spirit can cause us to become transformed people: love can become predominant in our life transplanting our narcissus love of our self. This a most powerful transformation. The Spirit can bring us peace in a world that is full of turmoil and we really need this! The Spirit brings us the gift of patience – transforming us from a person who wants it done now and to our time frame to a person who can wait for God’s timing.

Kindness becomes a new gift to the person who has been mean and uncaring. A gift of faithfulness can be imparted by the Spirit. We can become transformed from a life of dishonesty, disloyalty, falseness, inconstancy, treachery to a life of faith and trust. Gone are the age barriers. Gone are the gender barriers. Gone are the social barriers, the educational barriers, and the racial barriers. The Holy Spirit includes and calls all God’s people, the rich and the ragged, the scholars and the unschooled, the Browns and the Blacks and the Whites, in God’s dynamic mission of “declaring the wonders of God” in wherever strategic position he places them. The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of abundance — life and more life and this is the most precious gift of all.

Let us look at the Spirit Song in our hymnal, UMH 347 or listen to the Spirit Song that is attached in this Reflections.

As we listen to the beginning of the Spirit Song – let us think about our lives and our relationship with Jesus. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to each of us for our comfort and our help in dealing with the uncertainties of life. Jesus said that he would not leave us as orphans — I will send the Comforter —- the Holy Spirit to empower us. Each of us are called by God to be witnesses to the living power of the Resurrected One – wherever we go we can be extraordinary examples of just what the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can perform.

So, I encourage you to seek to understand just what God is asking you to become — a person who is different than what you are. A person who can radiate the love of God. Hard to do? – Yes! Certainly, the Disciples were afraid and confused at Pentecost, but by the power of the Holy Spirit they transformed the world, so can you!

Shall we pray! Christ Jesus — before ascending into heaven, you promised to send the Holy Spirit. Grant that the Spirit may perfect in our lives the work of your grace and love.

Grant to us the Spirit of Awe so that we may be filled with a loving reverence toward You.

Christ Jesus, we ask that you grant us the Spirit of piety – that we may find peace and fulfillment in the service of God while serving others. Grant us the Spirit of Fortitude that we may bear our cross with You and, with courage, overcome the obstacles that interfere with our salvation; Christ Jesus, grant to us the Spirit of Knowledge that we may know You and know ourselves and grow in holiness; The Spirit of Understanding to enlighten our minds with the light of Your truth; The Spirit of Counsel that we may choose the surest way of doing Your will, seeking first the Kingdom; Grant us the Spirit of Wisdom that we may aspire to the things that last forever;  Teach us to be Your faithful disciples and allow us to emulate you in every way. Come Holy Spirit, Come!