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A Taste of the Spirit Leads to Overindulgence
(but I mean that in a good way)
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 tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
CCI: A taste of the Spirit will leave you hungry for more.
Today is the Day of Pentecost! Within the church year, this day begins the Season of Pentecost, and this season lasts all the way through November until we start a new year with Advent in December.
For those of us who grew up Baptist, we may not realize that this is the longest season of the Christian year. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter all focus on the person of Jesus, his coming, his revelation, his sorrow and his resurrection. But the Season of Pentecost is when we ask, “If all this is true, how should we live?
If someone were to ask you, “What is Pentecost?”, How would you answer them?
The event itself is amazing to read. Eugene Peterson translates the beginning of this passage this way, “When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.” The people who had gathered in Jerusalem for the Pentecost celebration were shocked. Some said, “They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!” Others did not understand and all they could say was, “They are drunk on cheap wine” and they mocked the followers of Jesus.
They are drunk on cheap wine. What were they hearing? Why did some understand God’s message and others hear only blabbering? Certainly there was a lot of commotion, a wind that was coming from a house (!) and sounds that had never before been heard! But why would they think they were drunk?
It may be because the power of the breath of God, God’s Spirit blowing with a hurricane force, and the energy of the Fire of God burning into the hearts of the disciples incited in the disciples a hunger and thirst for God that nothing could stop. They were intoxicated with the Spirit of God. There was joy, there was excitement, there was freedom, there was power and there was hope. When the Spirit of God infused them with the power of God, they became changed men and women.
Think about it, only 7 weeks before, every one of the disciples had deserted Jesus when he was arrested. 7 weeks before this moment, Peter had sworn that he did not know Jesus. 7 weeks before this moment, the disciples had been hiding in a locked room because they were afraid. Even after Jesus ascended, the disciples spent 10 days in a room hiding from authorities trying to decide what they would do next.
And then came the wind, and then came the fire, and suddenly the disciples were transformed by God’s Spirit. And they could not get enough of it, and they had to share it.
That is what Pentecost is about. It is about the Spirit of God filling God’s people who then can not keep it to themselves. Do you long for the Spirit to empower you? That is what God longs for you! The disciples experienced that power after they came together in prayer and offered themselves to God to work through them. So open yourself to God, invite God to ignite a fires your life that will spread like wildfire!
But there was something else happening in Jerusalem that day. Pentecost, while originally a harvest festival (a festival of first grains) eventually morphed into a celebration of the giving of the Law through Moses. When God appeared before the people it was with a pillar of fire, when God brought deliverance through the sea, it was with the Wind of God. This festival was one of the three most important festivals.
The bringing together of the harvest and Law made Pentecost (or Shavuot, in Hebrew) a day of remembrance that was crucial to all Jews. So Judaism, as we know it as an organized faith, began at Pentecost. In many ways, Pentecost, as Christians celebrate it is a continuation of God’s revelation. But there is something else that most of us do not recognize. This week also sees the beginning of Ramadan, the Islamic celebration of the giving of the Koran. Each of the Abrahamic faiths see this month as an important time when God revealed God’s own self to Humans.
We need to remember this truth and grieve the violence that human beings cling to. It was on the first day of Ramadan, it was at a time of preparation for Shavuoth, and a time of preparation for Pentecost that more than a hundred Palestinians were killed on the border of the occupied territory. It was two days before Christians celebrate the giving the the Comforter that 8 students and 2 teachers were slaughtered in their school.
This violence and division is so different from the message of Pentecost. As we look at those who were present we find that there were 120 followers of Jesus gathered, both men and women. But the passage emphasizes the togetherness of the Disciples, as well as the uniqueness of the experience when the Spirit came upon them. Everyone heard individually. But they were ALL in ONE place. The WHOLE house was shaken; EVERYONE was filled with the Spirit; The fire was distributed to each and EVERY one of those gathered. It was corporate, and it was individual. The inclusive nature of the giving of the spirit is a foreshadowing of the truth that the gospel will be shared with the world.
That day people in the crowd gathered from Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt and Libya. They were diverse in language and in race and national origin. The came from all around the world, and when the gospel was proclaimed to them, they did not have those identities erased, they continued to be unique individuals, but in the midst of their diversity they “heard them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Language, one of the clearest characteristics of diversity, was overcome but not eliminated. In the midst of their diversity, they found unity. The unity came through the power of Love as God poured out the Spirit on first the disciples and then on each and every follower of Jesus. They heard the disciples declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues! That day, the love of God was merged with the fire of God and a revival spread. Love and fire, we don’t always think of them together, but we use the expression “when love is ignited.” That expression captures the power of love in a person’s heart.
Perhaps you also witnessed a powerful sermon yesterday. At the wedding of Harry and Megan, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, in a sermon heard around the world spoke of the power of fire and the potential of the fire of the heart. As he concluded his sermon, he spoke of the power of Fire.
The late French Jesuit, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, was at once a scientist, a Roman Catholic priest, a theologian, a true mystic. His was one of the great minds and spirits of the 20th century.
He suggested that the discovery and harnessing of fire was one of the great scientific and technological discoveries of human history.
Fire, to a great extent, made human civilization possible.
Fire made it possible to cook food, thereby reducing the spread of disease.
Fire made it possible to stay warm in cold climates, thereby marking human migration around the world a possibility.
Fire made the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Industrial Revolution possible. The advances of science and technology are greatly dependent on the human capacity to take fire and use it for human good.
Anybody get here in a car today? Nod your heads if you did. If you drove here this morning, you did so in part because of harnessed fire.
Controlled fire powers air travel.
Fire makes it possible for us to text, tweet, email, Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other. Fire makes all of that possible.
de Chardin said that fire is one of the greatest discoveries in all of human histories. He then went on to say “Someday… we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”
May the love of God be ignited in your life. May the fire of God, burn in your heart. May we as followers of Jesus be one with one voice and one mission and one purpose. And friends, don’t worry about over indulging, the fire of the Spirit will bring life as you have never known it before.