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Pentecost. Is it Happening?

Jesus promised. Now it’s happening. It’s Pentecost.


Jesus promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to them, that they would be filled with power when the Holy Spirit came upon them.


They’d been waiting, ten long days. Now it’s happening. “Suddenly there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”


They rush out into the streets, praising God in the language of every nation. And all who heard them, Parthians, Medes and all the rest were bewildered, and amazed, and perplexed.


And they said to one another, “What does this mean?”


Now that’s a great question.


This is an amazing story, an awesome moment. What does this mean?


And does it still have meaning today?


Jesus promised. It happened. Is it still happening today?


What does this mean?


How would you answer that question?


Some people in the crowd answer by saying, “they are filled with new wine.”  This is just a drunken outburst, “all sound and fury, signifying nothing.” There’s no deeper meaning. Move on folks, nothing to see here. No big deal.


But this is a big deal. Jesus promised this, and it’s happening.


Peter knows that this is a big deal, and so he addresses the crowd.


What does this mean? This, says Peter, this is the dawn of a new era. This changes everything.


“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.

Even upon my slaves, both men and women,

 in those days I will pour out my Spirit.


This is the dawn of a new era.


It is a new era that is rooted in the promises of God, rooted in creation itself. The Holy Spirit is not new. It is the Spirit that moved over creation in the beginning, the Spirit that breathes life into all creatures, the Spirit that rested upon Moses and the prophets and that came upon Jesus at his baptism.


But on the day of Pentecost, the disciples experience the Spirit in a way that they never had before. When Jesus had told them on the eve of his departure that he would always be with them, that he would abide in them, they had no clue what he meant. But on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit came upon them as a rushing wind and flaming fire, filling each one of them, and sending them out in such a powerful way, eventually, when they had time to catch their breath, they must have said to themselves, “Oh, this is what Jesus meant.”


This is the dawn of a new era


It’s rooted in the past, rooted in the promises of the prophets and Jesus himself. But it’s also new.  It’s personal, global, inclusive, egalitarian, Jesus-centred, and missional.


It is, first of all, intensely personal. Who could ever have imagined that the very Spirit of God would come upon me, that I could be filled with the Holy Spirit? It’s one thing to think of the Spirit brooding over creation, or being present in the Holy of Holies of the Temple, or even inspiring a select few as prophets, but it’s quite another thing to think of the Holy Spirit as filling and empowering you and me. It’s shockingly intimate. It’s intensely personal.


But at the same time, it is manifestly global. The Spirit sends the disciples out into the streets as her first move. But the Spirit doesn’t stop sending on the day of Pentecost. Over and over, the Spirit sends the early church on its mission to be Jesus’ witnesses to the ends of the earth, something they would never have dreamed of. In their imagination, the people of God were the Hebrew people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Spirit blows that idea to bits, sending them to the ends of the earth, to all people and all nations. The many languages and the multi-cultural crowd on the day of Pentecost are just a precursor to the Spirit’s global reach. This is for everyone.


The church is to be multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual. To go to where people are. To speak in ways that people can relate to and understand. There is a trajectory of inclusivity that begins on the day of Pentecost and launches the early church forward in ways that we have yet to imagine. To be sure, inclusivity is rooted in creation itself, in the creation of all of humanity in the image of God. But Pentecost launches us on a new trajectory.


There’s something inclusive and egalitarian too about this new era that dawns at Pentecost. Peter picks up on this in the passage that we quoted from Joel.


“I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,

And your sons and daughters shall prophesy,

And your young men shall see visions.

And your old men shall dream dreams.

Even upon my slaves, both men and women,

In those days I will pour out my Spirit.”


Everyone’s getting in on the act here. God is pouring out his Spirit on all people, men and women, young and old, slave and free. Everyone gets to have visions, everyone will dream dreams, each empowered by the Spirit and unhindered by the usual socioeconomic, age and gender barriers created by our societies. No more shall prophesy be limited to the prophets – in this new era, everyone who is filled with the Spirit can get in on the act. We all get to dream dreams, and everyone’s dream matters. Including yours.


That does sound like it could be a bit chaotic, but it’s not a total free for all, for at the centre of what the Spirit empowers is Jesus. The new centre of this movement of God is not a particular place or people or privilege. The new centre is the God that was made known to us in the person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus promised us the Spirit, he promised that the Spirit would testify on his behalf, that the Spirit would make known to us the many things that Jesus wanted to teach us, that she would empower us to embody the way of life that Jesus showed us, a way based on love and service and compassion and forgiveness. Jesus is at the centre of this new era of the Spirit. That’s why when Peter speaks to the crowds, he tells them the story of Jesus.


Because another thing that’s new about this era of the Spirit is that the mission of God which had been entrusted to Jesus has now been entrusted to the church. The church is that group of disciples that was empowered by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. But the church is not just a group of people. At its core, the church is to be a mission, God’s mission, which has been entrusted to us. To carry out God’s mission, we will have to be filled, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit and we will have to be centred on Jesus. We will dream dreams and see visions – how can we become the people that God created us to be? How can we reshape the world to be more like the way God intended it? We will have to change and grow, we will make disciples, we will baptize people, we will witness to Jesus, we will bring healing, liberation and joy to those around us. That’s the mission that was entrusted to us on the day of Pentecost. This is the dawn of a new era. The new era of the Spirit of God, filling and empowering us.


This is what Jesus promised. This is what happened. This is what it means.


Is it still happening today?


That’s another good question.


Because Pentecost doesn’t mean very much if it’s over and done with. If the church isn’t led by the Spirit today, if God’s people are not filled and empowered by the Spirit, then in all likelihood, we’re just kind of thrashing around. In the Book of Acts, we see that the Spirit doesn’t just come to the church on the day of Pentecost, she just keeps coming, over and over again, to Philip sent on the wilderness road to the Ethiopian eunuch, to Peter whose vision and dreams lead him to Cornelius, to Paul as the Spirit-filled church in Antioch sends him out on one of his many journeys.


Is it still happening today?


The Spirit can come to us in many ways. In the powerful wind of Pentecost, and in the whispers of a still night. In prayer, in visions and dreams, and in meetings and gatherings like this one. We may have different experiences of the Holy Spirit, some more, some less dramatic, but Jesus’ promise to each one of us remains the same. “I will send my Spirit to you, to teach you all things and guide you in my ways. And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”


That’s the promise. Is it happening?



Homily: Yr B Pentecost, May 19 2024, Trinity

Readings: Acts 2.1-21; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8.22-27; John 15.26-27, 16.4b-15

Image by AbstractArt77 Creative Commons



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