Acts 2:1-21 • June 12, 2011
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.
The day of Pentecost. A day that I’m not sure we will ever fully understand or know why we celebrate. Pentecost occurs fifty days after Passover. Historically Jews kept the Pentecost festival, which originally celebrated the wheat harvest but had become the commemoration of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai by the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. As the fiftieth day of Easter, Christians maintained the festival, altering its focus to a celebration of the Spirit of the risen Christ in the church.
The Day of Pentecost begins the longest season of the church year. A season where Christians explore very deeply what it means to be the church in the world today. Even though our focus will be centered in being church in the world, Pentecost seems to remain one of the least understood days and maybe entire seasons in the life of the church.
The Pentecost text in the second chapter of Acts is challenging. There are all kinds of things happening in this text. References to the Hebrew Bible, a quote from the prophets, a geography lesson, an account of miracles, an accusation of the disciples being drunk.
At its core, however, Pentecost is a crowning moment in Jesus’ mission and ministry. This is a day when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit that has been breathed into us through Jesus. As we receive this breathe, we are sent to be witnesses to God’s love in and for the world.
I’m guessing that all of us have an experience of a communication breakdown. Miscommunication about one thing or another is one of the most common challenges that many of us experience in relationships. Clear communication is difficult.
I was taking an MBA class several years ago. The professor would break us into small study groups and give us case studies from different companies. We would study a variety of situations that these companies faced and offer possible solutions that may have been pursued. Often the challenges that these companies faced was the result of some misunderstood communication that had taken place.
Most of our case studies where similar to a story like this one about a homeowner who took great pride in his home. He insisted that only the best materials and products be used to care for it. So much so that he once wrote a letter to the manufacture of the cast iron pipes he had used in his plumbing, letting them know that he had found pouring hydrochloric acid down his drain was a fantastic way to clean the grease from his clogged pipes. He wrote to the manufacturer to make sure that there was no way using this acid was going to be harmful to the pipes.
The manufacturer quickly wrote him back saying, “Thank you for your letter. The effect of such acid upon ferrous-constructed materials is certain to be deleterious. We therefore strongly urge you to cease such activity in the interest of the future of your plumbing.”
He read their letter and responded, thanking them for their letter and telling them that he was relieved that he was doing the right thing in using the acid on the pipes.
Another letter came from the manufacturer. “We fear that there may have been some miscommunication in our correspondence. Acid, of that density, applied to cast iron pipe, is certain to have dubious results. Therefore, please desist from your current practices.”
The homeowner read the letter, wrote back, again thanking the company for its response and telling them once again that he was delighted that he was doing nothing that might harm the pipes.
Finally, the frustrated manufacturer sent a final letter by overnight express delivery. In big bold capital letters on the manufacturer’s letterhead, they wrote, “DON’T USE ACID. IT RUSTS AND DESTROYS THE PIPES!”
That might be similar to what happened when the breathe of the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on that first Pentecost day. In the roaring wind and tongues of fire, something extraordinary happened. Something that changed the world and all followers of the risen Christ forever. Something in big bold capital letters from God that said, “I am giving you the breathe of the Holy Spirit. This is a good thing!!” Did they understand it? Did they know what had just happened?
There’s a wonderful old children’s story about a shark and a whale who were good friends. They were swimming along one day in the sea when the shark asked the whale, “You are so much older than I, and wiser too. Could you tell me where the ocean is?” The whale smiled gently and said, “The ocean is what you are in now.” The shark couldn’t possibly believe that. “Come on, tell me where the ocean is so I can find it!” The whale repeated, “The ocean is here, now; you are in it.” Still unbelieving, the shark swam away disgusted, still searching for the ocean.
Brothers and sisters in Christ – don’t spend too much time looking for God, the spirit of God is here, now, all around you in the now of your life, dwelling within you, within me, and within this community of faith called Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. On that first Pentecost day, the breathe of the Holy Spirit was given to all who believe in the risen savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
Luther Seminary Professor David Lose wrote this about Pentecost this week, “In the cross of Christ, we see God’s strength mediated through suffering, God’s victory achieved through defeat, and new life pledged and provided through death. The crucified and resurrected God we meet in Jesus is a God of paradox, and so we should look for no less in God’s Holy Spirit.”
Receiving the breathe of the Holy Spirit – a gift that you and I are given in the water and word of Holy Baptism – is a communication from God that we must not receive lightly. This communication is the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, in big bold capital letters on God’s letterhead, that sends us into a broken world to be witnesses of God’s love using language that every broken heart can hear and understand.
Because we know what it is like to be broken by hatred and judgment, you and I can share with others the healing love of Christ’s sacrifice.
Because we know what it is like to be broken by despair, you and I can share with others the healing hope of Christ’s forgiveness.
Because we know what it is like to be broken by doubt, you and I can share with others the healing faith of Christ’s promises.
Because we know what it is like to be broken by illness, you and I can share with others the healing wholeness of Christ’s resurrection.
Because the Holy Spirit continues to breathe through us today, you and I can share with others the healing presence of God’s love for all people in everything that we say and do.
May God richly bless and keep you this week as you live and serve with the breath of the Holy Spirit rushing through you that changes the world each and every day.