Day of Pentecost – May 19, 2024

Posted on May 20, 2024, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

May 19, 2024

Day of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21
1 Corinthians 12:1-13
Mark 1:4-8

Worship Service Video Sermon Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Grace to you and peace from God, our creator, and from our risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

If you do an online search for images of Pentecost, the artists’ depictions of the event often portray the apostles calmly sitting in a room with their hands folded in their laps and a tongue of fire resting just above each of their heads. But there was nothing polite or calm about the Holy Spirit’s arrival in the room that day.

Scripture tells us the sound of the Holy Spirit was like the rush of a violent wind. Probably not quite hurricane or tornado-force, but it was strong.

In Phoenix, the house I lived in faces south, and I always knew when a storm was coming because the wind would pick up. Most of the time, the wind picked up and the rain eventually came and then it was gone, and everything was calm.

But a few times, the storm ended up being a microburst. And they started out the same – the wind picked up as usual. But as the microburst hit, there was a sudden and violent rush of wind and the sound and feeling of something hitting the house.  And then the rain or hail or whatever dumped all at once. And it was loud and intense. One year, it blew the skylights out of my house.

That is more in line with what hit the room the apostles were in on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit that day wasn’t a gentle breeze that made the curtains flutter. It was disruptive. And it left the apostles confused, in an uproar, beside themselves, undone, blown away, thoroughly disoriented, and trying to figure out what had just happened.

As a major festival day, Pentecost didn’t originate with the Christian church. It was a Jewish festival called Shavuot, which takes place fifty days after Passover, and commemorates the first fruits of the harvest, sort of like a Thanksgiving. And it also commemorates the tradition that Moses received the Ten Commandments fifty days after the Exodus.

It was one of the pilgrimage festivals in which Jewish people from all over the Roman Empire would come to Jerusalem. Many of them only spoke enough Hebrew to get by in worship, but they were native speakers of the local languages from where they lived. So, when the apostles began speaking to them in their own languages, they were astounded.

And a festival with origins in liberation from slavery and the continuing presence of God, now had a new dimension with the liberation from death through Christ’s resurrection. Its impact on individuals and communities of believers who were open to God’s Spirit was just beginning.

Comparisons are often made between Pentecost and the Tower of Babel. But the difference is that Pentecost brought people together with the gift of language. Because the people that day heard the gospel, the good news of Jesus, in a language that they understood.

 And we know that it continued to be told from that day on. And as it did, and as communities were formed around the good news of Jesus, the church began to take shape. Not as the institution as we know it, but as communities of believers who gathered to worship Jesus and serve the common good in his name.

And we know, too, that it didn’t always work well. One of the clearest examples of that was addressed by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians.

We know that that community was divided. Instead of coming together in peace and celebration, their gathering times had become chaotic. They were constantly one-upping each other and trying to outdo one another in terms of showing off their gifts.

And Paul told them that they didn’t lack any spiritual gifts. And that was true. But it was only true because they needed each other. It was only together as a community that they didn’t lack any spiritual gift because no one person has them all. But as a community, they did.

And Paul understood that their community was part of the whole collective body of Christ. That the Holy Spirit brought them together for that purpose. That through the Spirit, each person brought different gifts, and that by coming together and using their gifts for the common good is how the body of Christ is not only formed, but also maintained and strengthened and empowered to grow.

As the church, the body of Christ, has continued to grow throughout the centuries, we know that it hasn’t always been united. Right? That started way before Martin Luther in the 1500s. And it still isn’t united. There are different interpretations of scripture; values are assigned to spiritual gifts. One group tends to think its way of sharing the gospel is better than another’s.

And what gets lost in all of this is the miracle of community that the Spirit gave to us on Pentecost. The community across differences that’s made possible by the work of the Spirit. A community that gives vision and hope, that spans time and place, that opens us to the shocking and disruptive ways of the Spirit.

And that empowers us to reach across our differences and allows our voices to speak a language of good news that can be heard by all people. It’s the miracle of the body of Christ.

I had the privilege of attending the Synod Assembly yesterday. If you’ve never attended one, or it’s been a while, I encourage you to attend the next one. It’s more than just a really long business meeting; it’s also a celebration of ministry.

And at every assembly I am always astounded by the ministries represented all in the same room. Because it isn’t just what we would call “typical” congregations. We’re all sharing the good news of Jesus, doing the work of the gospel, in the ways that the Spirit has gifted to us.

Because in the same way that no one person has all the spiritual gifts, neither does any one ministry site. No one pastor or deacon or congregation or camp or worship community can possibly fill all the needs of our area on their own. We need each other. We need all the other ministries in our area.

And we are at our best when we’re working together and supporting one another as the body of Christ. God’s Spirit is what makes it possible for us to do that! It brings us together with our various gifts and teaches us how to be the body of Christ with, to, and for one another.

The miracle of Pentecost is happening all around us because God’s Spirit is still at work all around us. It still hits us with the force of a microburst and leaves us confused and trying to figure out what just happened.

And in its wake, there’s vision and hope. There’s community formed across differences. Community that recognizes the gifts it has been given and uses them to speak the good news of Jesus in a language that’s familiar.

It’s community that brings us together, wherever we happen to be, as the body of Christ. Thanks be to God! Amen.