Pentecost re-orients all people toward the Story of God – June 4, 2017
A homily by Mother Beth
The First Reading from the book of Acts 2
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14But 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. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, 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. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
When asked, what is the most important element of any relationship, most people say the most important element is communication. I have spoken before about the frustration that we bring to communicating with others. Sometimes we read into emails or notes a certain tone; depending on the last interaction that we may have had with the person. And by far, the best form of communication – in order to be understood is – face to face communication. This is largely because 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and only 7% is the actual words spoken. True and effective communication is about being in the same time and space as the person that you want to build relationship with.
There are moments though when you might ask yourself – what language am I speaking? I do not feel understood. There are just times when despite your best efforts you and the other party just seem to be missing each other.
You may remember a little story in Genesis chapter 11 about the building of a tower.
“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.
As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.
The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.
Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.
That is why it was called Babel–because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”
The creation of different languages created confusion and chaos. Those who had been working together for a common purpose could now no longer work together because they could no longer communicate.
We hear about them scattering over the face of the earth – this is the establishing of many different nations.
So when we hear today the story of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, we may see a restoration taking place. The tower of Babel story – creates chaos and disunity – confusion and misunderstanding but Pentecost unites humanity towards the story of God.
We hear that there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven – the whole earth is represented here.
The barrier that was created by all speaking different languages is removed here – they all hear in their own language. The thing that normally kept them from being united – from understanding each other – is overcome by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The good news is that God is not limited by language. All those times that you feel like you can not be understood – or you don’t know what to say or how to say it – God, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, can provide for.
Peter begins to explain to all who are there what is happening. He says, 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”. This is the fulfillment of God’s promise in Joel – I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh – all – no exceptions.
Sons and daughters will prophesy – no discrimination in the sexes – both will be anointed by the Spirit.
Young men will see visions and Old men will dream dreams – no Ageism – God empowers both young and old alike.
God breaks down all the barriers that divide humanity – He pours himself out – please note this is not just a trickle – this is a pouring out – on all.
Pentecost is not the birth of the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit as a person of the Trinity always was – and up until this point – the Holy Spirit has been manifest in and on specific people – Moses, Elijah, David, the prophets, John the Baptist but, now God pours out his Holy Spirit on all.
Pentecost is considered the birth of the church – up until this point the average person received something from God through the person of Jesus Christ (in his physical form) or through the prophets but with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, God makes himself available to all. This is the birth of the church as an inclusive entity – the move to acceptance of all people – all ages, all races, all sexes. As in Babel all the nations and races were separated so now all the nations and races are unified through the story of Christ as revealed to all people.
I think it is interesting to note that in each of the readings that we heard today – there is an intentional gathering of people – the disciples are gathered together in John and in Acts. As we gather together we receive the good gifts that God has for us. I think it is especially important to note this at Pentecost because the Spirit empowers us with gifts but these gifts are not for our own personal use – but for the building up of others – for the encouragement and equipping of the church. As we gather together and each bring the Spiritual gifts that God has bestowed on us – we complement each other. As we come together in the power of the Holy Spirit we make up the body of Christ. I think it is important because sometimes we get tired of working on the relationships or we get tempted to go off on our own – just me and God – nothing else matters. Each of the scriptures that we heard today emphasize over and over the importance of all and everyone. It is significant that God reveals himself no longer to just one or two people – the Holy Spirit is not just dripped out on Billy Graham or your local priest or pastor. NO.
The Holy Spirit at the Day of Pentecost was poured out on all – to break down the barriers that divide us and to unite us together in the great story of God and his son Jesus Christ – that the church might be faithful to God’s mission to this world.
Last week we heard Jesus say in Luke 24 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
May God empower us by His Holy Spirit to go out into our communities as witnesses to his son Jesus Christ. Amen.