2 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14 But 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. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, 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.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Acts 2:1-21 NRSV)
What about the Holy Spirit do you need to hear today?
Do you need to know that God’s Spirit is creative? Do you need to hear about God’s provision through the Spirit? Perhaps you want to be reminded that when “…we do not know how to pray as we ought, …the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26b NRSV)
What can I share with you that would make a difference in your life right now, this minute? What would make a difference for you in your journey of faith?
Peter, the Apostles and followers of Jesus number roughly 120 when our reading begins. They have followed Jesus’ final instructions to remain in Jerusalem until they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. While they stayed together they prayed and filled Judas’ empty position with Matthias. And they waited.
Finally, the Jewish celebration of Pentecost arrives. Jews from all over the known world have traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate God’s provision of land and food and Torah. They will read scripture and worship and remember all that God has done for them. But, today, God is at work doing something new.
As these cosmopolitan Jews from all over the known world pass by, they notice something strange. The sound of rushing wind; divided tongues as of fire resting on Jesus’ followers. But the most amazing, scary and astonishing thing of all — these illiterate Galileans are speaking in languages they can understand!
Often someone will greet me after worship with, “Nice sermon, Pastor.” Once in awhile, they’ll tell me what they heard. And usually, it’s not what I said! The Holy Spirit has taken my words and made them understandable to someone who needed to hear an important message. I may have written a sermon, but Spirit delivers the message!
The followers of Jesus (or was it only the Apostles who spoke in many different tongues?) speak in languages that anyone present could understand. They heard a message that they needed to hear.
For some it’s amazing; for others it’s ridiculous. Did I mention uneducated Galileans? They must be drunk with wine or simply crazy! This just isn’t done.
Peter, the denier of Jesus, the one who asked the questions that got him into trouble, the one who had moments of understanding only to have them pass; Peter, the leader of the Apostles’ steps forward to speak. When delivering a sermon, use scripture. And he does. He remembers the words of the prophet Joel. And he preaches it.
In the last days… God will pour out God’s Spirit. God will pour out that Spirit on everyone. And Joel lists everyone from young and old, to master and slave, to men and women and children. Peter only sees in the mirror dimly. Soon he’ll understand even more as God takes these men and women into new areas to share the gospel. They’ll meet people who are Jewish outcasts; second-class women will open their purses and their homes; gentiles will even be included!
Those who listened heard what they most needed to hear. Love, forgiveness, meaningfulness. They turned their lives away from activities that lacked love; that were unforgiving; that no longer made sense to them. They would learn to share what they had with each other and with the stranger.
They would never be the same again.
So, what do you need to hear today?
Do you need the reminder that because Jesus lives, we know that there is nothing God can’t do? That miracles still occur? That God provides and grace abounds? Look to the Spirit to show you those places where God is at work.
Do you need to see creativity in action? Allow Spirit to show you, again, God’s creation that is renewed each spring, that is damaged but isn’t dead. Allow Spirit to work in you new ways to live creatively.
Perhaps you need to hear about intercession. Those moments when words fail. Give it all to Spirit and start breathing again.
That Pentecost day wasn’t a one-off. It was the birthday of the church, and it’s repeated every day. You may not hear a different language, but you will hear someone say something in words you can understand like never before. You may not be proficient in another language, but you’re already speaking to others and using your own words while the Spirit uses them to comfort or convict another.
What do you need to hear today? Stop and pray. Listen for the breath of God to empower you.
Then go out to love and serve the Lord.
All glory and honor be to God.