The Pentecost Story based on Acts 2:1-21
May 20, 2018
Today we are going to hear the story of the first Pentecost. At various points in the story we will be asking for congregational participation.
We will need the sound of the rushing wind. Let’s practice for a moment by beginning the sound softly, gradually increasing in volume to a roar and then gradually dying down.
We will also need you to create a dance of tongues of fire by waving these streamers above your heads. Let’s practice this.
We are also going to be speaking a word of welcome or greeting in many different words and languages. When I ask, I would like you to repeat either welcome, hello, nice to meet you, good morning, how do you do? Peace be with you, in any language that you know (including English) so that the sounds of many different languages will be heard greeting each other together. We’re not going to practice this. We’ll just see what happens when the time comes. Now we will begin the story.
After the sadness of Jesus’ death, after the joy of Jesus being alive again, and after the amazement of Jesus’ final parting, the community of Christ’s followers prayed and sang and worshipped. They also awaited what he promised: the coming of the Holy Spirit. He had told them that they would be given great power when the Holy Spirit came upon them, and then they would become his storytellers and healers and justice seekers in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth! But from time to time, they felt deflated, unsure and anxious. If the Holy Spirit was going to come, when would it come? And how would it happen? And where was it going to come? Would it really make a difference in their lives anyway? Would they recognize it when it appeared??
We find out in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.
Fifty days had passed from the time of Passover, when Jesus was killed. It was the Jewish festival of Pentecost, a kind of harvest festival. Christ’s followers were gathered together in Jerusalem although they weren’t feeling much like celebrating. People from nations near and far, who spoke all different languages, were also in Jerusalem for the celebration.
Suddenly, there was a loud noise, like the sound of a violent wind! The noise filled the whole place where the believers were gathered.
(At this point create the sound of the rushing wind.)
What looked like tongues of flame appeared and rested over each person. (Wave streamers over heads.)
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability. (say words in many languages)
At this sound the people, who had come to Jerusalem from all the nations, gathered around the disciples. They were amazed because they could all understand what was being said. They heard their own language being spoken!
Aren’t these people all from Galilee? How is it possible that we hear, each one of us, our own native language? We hear them speaking in our own words of the great things God has done! They were so excited. They started talking about all the amazing things God had done, how Jesus who was once dead was somehow still alive, how with Jesus there was hope where there was once only despair and love stronger than hate and life more powerful than death.
What does this mean? Their heads were spinning – they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it! They talked back and forth, confused. ‘Something is happening here – what is it??’
Others said ‘I think they’ve all been drinking too much wine!’
But Peter stood up and spoke to the people in a loud voice.
“Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘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. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
“What should we do?” they asked. Peter said… love one another as God loves you, change your ways, be baptised. Be washed cleaned and made new. Receive the Holy Spirit, say and do what Jesus said and did. God’s promise is for you, for your children, and for everyone God calls.
Who watched the Royal Wedding yesterday? The American Bishop, Michael Curry, shared the sermon at the wedding, and I read it a few times yesterday and I wanted to share part of it in case you missed it, and also it is worth repeating… over and over again!! He talked about how when Fire was discovered, it changed the world. The harnessing of fire was one of the great scientific and technological discoveries in all of human history.
“Fire to a great extent made human civilisation possible.
He said that love has this same power. The power of love has the potential to be the next world changing energy as fire was in its time.
He had previously in his sermon described love and its power:
“Love is not selfish and self-centred. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world.
“If you don’t believe me, just stop and imagine. Think and imagine a world where love is the way.”
“Imagine our homes and families where love is the way. Imagine neighbourhoods and communities where love is the way.
“Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way.
“Imagine this tired old world where love is the way. When love is the way – unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.
“When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.
“When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.
“When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.
“When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.
“When love is the way, there’s plenty good room – plenty good room – for all of God’s children.
“Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well… like we are actually family.
“When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, children of God.
“My brothers and sisters, that’s a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family.”
Thus we learn that even though we remain scattered over the face of the earth and speak many different languages, we are joined by the Spirit. The language of love and compassion speaks to all and joins us all. As God’s Spirit breathes into us and we join one another in love, the world is brought closer to living as a community of God.