Acts 2:1-21, John 20. 19-23
So we are here Pentecost or Whit Sunday; one of the most important days in the history of the universe. Our readings over the last few weeks have all been about the Holy Spirit in one way or another and have all been building up to the readings we have this morning. The account of the descent, the coming of the Holy Spirit; Pentecost.
First thing that’s important to say is that Pentecost was already a festival in ancient times before the Holy Spirit descended one year and that became the focus of it. All first century Jews would have celebrated Pentecost each year.
It was an agricultural festival that took place on the 50th day of the Passover. The farmers would bring their first crop of the year, the first sheaf of wheat and offer it to God. Party to give thanks to God for the crop and also as a prayer that the rest of the crop would grow heathy and abundantly.
But as with most Jewish festivals Pentecost wasn’t just about agriculture, it echoed and awakened the memories of the Exodus the Jewish peoples escape from Egypt. It was the night of the Passover that the Jews fled Egypt and crossed the Red Sea parted by Moses. Then 50 days later they came to Mount Sinai and God gave Moses the 10 commandments.
So 50 days after the Passover when the Jews had fled Egypt God gave Moses the 10 commandments atop Mount Saini. Then one or two thousand years later God (Jesus) on the 50th day after the Passover when Jesus had shared a meal (the Last Supper) the day before his crucifixion. On the 50th day after that Jesus (God) sent his breath his Holy Spirit to dwell among and in the disciples, the apostles, and in all people and in all creation.
It’s beautiful the way God weaves all of these together all of these huge moments in history together in the quilt of faith. It’s also beautiful looking at the disciples reactions in our account from Acts of the Apostles. As I said last week the disciples have had an incredibly rough time since Jesus arrest and crucifixion even after his resurrection they still had immense difficulty. In the first chapter of Acts you can see how emotionally and physically drained they are and they are simply at a point of doing, simply functioning, so much emotional and physical drain has been upon them.
Until now, now we see them complete. Complete in their rejoicing and now fully recognising what has happed, the resurrection of Jesus, deaths defeat, and loves victory concluded with the descent of the Holy Spirit.
You can see it manifest in Peters speech to the crowd. Peter was a fisherman he didn’t have an education and wasn’t a public figure or speaker in the slightest. Yet now he is full of the Holy Spirit suddenly he is not drained emotionally or physical but full. He has been refilled instantly by the presence of God dwelling in him. Then he gives an impassioned speech and you can see the Joy and passion pouring out of him.
Listen to the words he says:
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.’
Impassionate, articulate, and spirit filled. That is the power of the Holy Spirit. The point of the Holy Spirit isn’t (as sometimes thought) to fill us with an unshakable faith, certainty in faith and in life, or in our actions. It may have some of those effects but that isn’t the point of it. The point of it is that it is given to the disciples and to us to open our eyes and fill our hearts to do the things and be the people Jesus is calling us to be.
We are human, we question, we get things wrong, we prioritise thighs perhaps God is not calling us to prioritise at times. That is the nature of humanity and we cannot grow in life or and faith and relationship with God if we don’t do these things sometimes. It is how we learn and grow.
But the Holy Spirit is what fills us, surrounds us, and guides us. it is what calls us to be more Christ like and to be the people God is calling us to be and do the things God is calling us to do and it is by the strength of the Holy Spirit that we get the strength do that.
But what is always vital to remember is that the Holy Spirit works in all of us in different ways. God calls us all individually and personally by name and as such its inevitable the spirit works though each of us individually and personally. Enabling us to respond to that individual and personal call.
As such we all experience the spirit in different ways there is no right or wrong way. There are some parts of Christianity that claim (incorrectly) that if you don’t experience the spirit in a certain way then you clearly are doing something wrong and not opening yourself up to God properly or living as God has called you to. Not only is that incorrect it’s not what we are told in the bible and in scripture. That’s not how it works.
Don’t ever feel guilty or let someone make you feel guilty if you don’t experience the spirit exactly like the disciples or like someone else or feel jealous of them. We see in the first few chapters of Act’s alone how God works differently and mysteriously though different people.
Some people have remarkable experiences of the spirit perhaps because they are going to have to do something or go into a difficult situation (like the disciples.) For others that’s not the case, for others it is a quiet and patient spirit that embodies, surrounds, and works through them. Transforming their lives and enabling them to live the life God is calling them to just as much as the ones with the remarkable experience but doing so with patience and steadiness.
The spirit works in all of us differently, it is amazing how it worked in the disciples and especially St Peter enabling him to become this person and have that voice that would become one of the main foundations of Christianity. But we aren’t all St Peter and as the spirit worked uniquely in him for him it does so also with us.
So as we go out today and in the weeks and months ahead let us try and discern in our lives where the spirit is calling us to go, what it is calling us to do, and who it is calling us to be. It may be a sudden quick revelation through a remarkable event brought on by the spirit. Or it may be a slow and steady discernment of a niggling feeling. A calling to do something, be someone, embody something.
It is different and unique for every single one of us but it is there for every single one of us calling us to be more Christ like, in our lives, our actions, and who we are.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. ”