You are driving in a car at a constant speed. On your left side is a valley and on your right side is a fire engine traveling at the same speed as you. In front of you is a galloping pig which is the same size as your car and you cannot overtake it. Behind you is a helicopter flying at ground level. Both the giant pig and the helicopter are also traveling at the same speed as you. What must you do to safely get out of this highly dangerous situation? Get off the children's carousel and, next time, don't drink so much.
Yes, the spirit can make us act in outlandish ways—both the spirits that come in a bottle and the Holy Spirit that is of God. And the disciples of Jesus were so animated and excited on that Pentecost morning that people thought they had been drinking—at nine in the morning. They were gathered together in Jerusalem deep in prayer and, all of a sudden, all holy hell broke loose—a rushing blast of wind blew through the room and visible tongues of fire settled on each of them.
Miraculous things happened immediately. They went out into the streets and boldly and enthusiastically preached the Good News about Jesus Christ. Everyone in the city—and there were many people of different nationalities who spoke different languages—everyone understood every word they said. Never before had the crowds gathered for the Jewish Feast of Pentecost experienced such an astonishing phenomenon, so naturally they assumed that the disciples had tied on a good jag.
God had given the gift Jesus had promised—Sophia, the Holy Spirit, the charism that would gain momentum and turn the lives of its first members upside down with power from on high. Never again would they see things through the same dull, antiquated lens. The Spirit totally disrupted their ho-hum lives and with great holy commotion empowered this small group of believers to stir up the hearts of the thousands of people who heard them preach with conviction and passion.
From the very beginning of the church’s life, its dreams and visions have been shaped by the windy whims of the Spirit—the same life-giving Spirit that was not only responsible for the birth of Jesus but also for the birth of the church; the same life-creating Spirit that descended upon Jesus at his baptism and that descended upon us at ours. That Spirit calls us to imagine this world as it should be, to hear the melody of God’s future—and to dance to it.
The Reverend Buddy Stallings, former rector of St. Bart’s Church, Park Avenue, New York, offers this poignant reflection about Pentecost: It helps to remember that the Church, this lumbering, perplexing and often maddening entity, began in a burst of enthusiasm that changed the world. Far from the stodgy uptight reputation we have managed to earn and cherish, the church began with some wild and crazy carrying on!
On Pentecost, I don't think there was one speck of meanness to be found; people were filled with joy and absolutely nothing could stop them from spreading some really, really Good News. Through all the twists and turns of the church, many of which, old and new, make us cringe, the Good News remains an invitation to a new thing, to a new life, to a life of creativity and joy.
Two thousand years ago on this day the Holy Spirit came to those first, frightened believers as the great surprise of God—kind of like a little old lady who wades into a barroom brawl, shooting her six-guns into the air. And She still surprises us— blowing in and out of this place, stirring us up, even rattling our cages a bit, disturbing us with a power that continues to transform us.
Whenever we gather as a community of faith, we should be prepared for surprise and adventure because a living God calls us to expect great things – of ourselves and the creative movements of God. Just as She did on that first Pentecost, this Holy Comforter, the very Spirit and Breath of God, makes itself known in community, where we might find the most intense challenges—and the deepest blessings.
You are part of this God-initiated whirlwind experience. As followers of Jesus we have been given the power to live on behalf of the values of God. You and I are the great commotion that God generates in the world. May we claim it and use it.
Come, listen! The voice of the Spirit speaks within the whole of life. Hear and know a God whose love for us is as warm as a flame, reaching into every cold place and breathing new life. Amen.