Homily: What Makes Us Come Alive

Our first reading for this Pentecost Sunday speaks of God sending forth God’s Spirit on the Apostles in a creative burst that is both productive and renewing. It must have felt like creation all over again, with wind and fire, and something new bursting forth. Then there was the amazing experience of speaking in other languages yet being understood by people of many different languages and lands. All the people were one in their hearing. Despite their differences, they could all hear what the disciples were saying, each in their own language. Fire, wind, and speaking in many tongues were dramatic signs that God was doing a new thing that would transform the lives of all those present, and far beyond, in time and place.

There have been manifestations, remarkable displays of God’s Spirit in the Bible before, of course, with sound and light and amazing ‘special effects’, as we call them today. But those events, like Moses on the mountaintop and Jesus transfigured, were reserved for only a few witnesses, the most inside of insiders. Here, at the dawn of a new era, on the birthday of a church called to spread to the ends of the earth, the display is for everyone. Not just the disciples, gathered in a room, getting themselves together after Jesus is once again departed. Not just the holiest or the most faithful or the most learned, not just the believers, not just those who were with Jesus on the road or witnesses to his Resurrection. No, in this case, at this moment, male and female, old and young, slave and free, are invited and included — and not just invited but expected to prophesy and dream, too!

And just to make sure that they know they’re included, the formidable obstacle of a multitude of languages is overcome by a sweeping wind, an uplifting Spirit that drives those disciples out, out into the world beyond their walls, beyond the theoretical but fragile safety those walls provide. Out into the world, and compelled to spread the Good News of what God is doing in a new day. These simple fishermen become impassioned, eloquent spokespersons for the gift of new life, the beginning of a brand new era in which God is fulfilling promises and salvation is drawing near.

This reading is particularly powerful for a church that proclaims wholeheartedly that God is still speaking, The effect of the first Pentecost, then, may not be new birth, but rebirth, not a new covenant but a renewed covenant that would change the hearts and minds of the disciples and renew the face of the earth!

The same Spirit of God that warmed the hearts of those disciples on the road to Emmaus and inspired the tongues of those gathered in Jerusalem is looking to inspire a rebirth within us. It is the same Spirit that led Isaiah to envision a holy mountain for all people, or John of Patmos to witness a city with no walls and no temple, that is breaking in to our cloudy consciousness and sending us out as ambassadors of a renewed earth.

Clearly, the crowd is hungry for the word brought by the Spirit-filled disciples. Yet we know from later verses that the church expanded from just over one hundred to three thousand in one day. A mega-church is born on a single day! What do you think is the heart of the message that brought so many new believers to the newborn church? What converted, and even transformed, them all — in a shared experience?

The same Spirit that drew the little band of disciples out into the world also shaped them into a community.

Births are rarely neat, tidy, or quiet, whether it’s a human being or ‘something beautiful’ struggling to be born. The birth of the church is no different. The feast of Pentecost is a good time to think about pregnancy and birth, and the great crowd of converts is its own kind of harvest even as it leads to even greater possibilities of growth and new life. The disciples experience their own kind of rebirth or transformation by the power of this Spirit who blows into the scene on the rush of a mighty wind, with great noise and even with fire. In this case, fire and wind bring not destruction but new life. As with birth, it may not be quiet or peaceful; but it is exhilarating and, in the end, a very good thing.

Some connect this rebirth long ago with what is happening in the contemporary church: They look at the church today and see the possibility that we are in fact in the middle of an inspired, refocusing of our hearts and minds on what the good news means in our own day, while honoring the contributions of those who have gone before us. They see this as a time of great renewal for the church and the churches, an opportunity for re-examination of the fundamental questions and a re-commitment to a renewed living of our faith.

If we learn to communicate effectively, to hear what God is still speaking today, we will hear a call, together, that may astound us and gather us into something more effective and more amazing that we were before.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. It’s faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living.

We must have ears to hear and eyes to see the astonishing things that happen quietly in the life of our churches, and in the lives of those who belong to them. It’s tempting to prefer a church that’s a safe refuge over a place and community where we are astonished and our safe assumptions regularly up-ended. We need to appreciate our differences and yet find that common ground.

Today’s story is another one of those that belongs to all of us. This is our beginning, our ‘foundational story’ of the new life, the New Age of which we are a part. You can almost feel the wind pulling the folks together from all corners of the known world, and then propelling them back out to share the good news, like the Spirit breathing life into the young church.

The Church, from this day forward, will have the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all that they do, preaching the gospel to a very different audience that includes both Jews and Gentiles. We depend today on that same Spirit for guidance and wisdom, that we too remain faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ in ever more creative and dynamic ways.

On this Pentecost, then, may you find your heart singing with the spirit of God, your ears humming with the voice of the Spirit speaking in a language that reaches deep into your soul and wisdom dawning on your mind so that the shackles that have hardened around your mind may be broken, and God’s voice and language set free. May our communities and churches experience the coming of God’s Spirit, and anticipate it with joy and hope.   (Kathryn Matthews Huey)

 

 

 

 

 

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