The Feast of Pentecost; Year A (6/4/2017)

Lessons:
Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
1st Corinthians 12:3b-13
St. John 20: 19-23

Prayer of the Day:
God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as you sent upon the disciples the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, look upon your Church and open our hearts to the power of the Spirit. Kindle in us the fire of your love, and strengthen our lives for service in your kingdom; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

2.1 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, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

God’s Deeds of Power

When I was in High School there was a great deal of talk about the power of the Holy Spirit. Friends of mine who hadn’t been particularly interested in faith matters were caught up in the Spirit and became believers. Young people who were embarking on careers sensed the Spirit nudging them to enroll in a certain school or take a certain job or move to a certain part of the country. Worshippers in neighboring congregations (although not in my congregation!) who were touched by the Spirit began to speak in unintelligible languages. People who were struggling with illnesses of all sorts credited the Spirit with having received the gifts of healing and new life.

I often felt intimidated when people would make witness to these kinds of experiences. I couldn’t identify the Spirit moving in extraordinary ways through my life. I grew up in the church. My parents were Christians. Honestly, just about everyone I knew in my small-town Minnesota neighborhood were Christians. I always thought of myself that way. I identified as a Christian. I could look back on my life’s journey and see some periods of growth and some periods of decline, but no major dramatic turns that I might have been able to credit to the power of the Holy Spirit.

I wondered, some times, if the absence of such a story was an indication that I really wasn’t a Christian.

This weekend’s text, from the second chapter of Acts, serves as a word of encouragement to me. The disciples, afraid they might meet the same fate as their teacher and master, are hiding away and afraid to follow the instructions they have received (for instance, see St. Matthew 28:16-20). Then the Holy Spirit begins to move among them in powerful ways. Some who reflect on this story focus on the flames and the noise and the miracle of simple fishermen and peasants speaking in languages they had never studied. I find myself inspired by the result. The crowds, gathered from every corner of the known world, say: “…in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” Some three thousand of them become members of the church that day.

I still haven’t heard irrefutable messages of guidance from God, or spoken in strange languages, or received an unexplained healing. But I have heard others speak of God’s deeds of power. And I have found myself drawn to believe in these words, and to trust in the promise they hold. These days I give thanks, with Martin Luther (who couldn’t believe in Jesus or come to him on his own, but experienced the Holy Spirit “calling him by the Gospel, enlightening him with its gifts, making him holy, and keeping him in the one true faith…”), for the way the Spirit makes faith possible for me, and allows me to place my trust in the promises of God.

This gives me plenty of reason to celebrate the Holy Spirit this coming Sunday. I hope it does for you too!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. With what are the disciples struggling as today’s text begins?
  2. What is their experience of the Holy Spirit like?
  3. What does the Holy Spirit make possible for them?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I experienced God’s Spirit making a difference in my life?
  2. What role has the Holy Spirit played in the development of my faith?
  3. What do I pray that the Holy Spirit might make possible for me?

2 thoughts on “The Feast of Pentecost; Year A (6/4/2017)

  1. My high school and college story, too, Dave. Even had these friends pray over me that I might receive the gifts proving my faith in Jesus. Thanks!

    1. Just had a great Bible study, Wade, where we talked about how each of us is influenced both by the Holy Spirit and by the human spirit. Sometimes those influences converge, but often they tug us in different ways. I may want visible signs of my faithfulness to be apparent (these days I’m more tempted to desire success and reputation than metaphysical phenomena), but what God wants is a change in my heart and a heart for my neighbor.

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