The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Pentecost Sunday

Based on Acts 2: 1-21

Opening Prayer:  Holy, Gracious, and Amazing God, may the words on my lips and our thoughts and feelings in response to our reflections to your Word be acceptable in your sight this day, amen.

This morning our reading from scripture call us to let go the season of Easter as we embrace the season of Pentecost.  It calls us to let go the stories of relationship with the risen Christ and to embrace stories of how the Holy Spirit enlivens our lives and our ministries.

The preamble to this week’s story taken from the author of the Acts of the Apostles is this: 

Jesus has ascended to the Father or we might say has returned to his intimate relationship with God.  In his farewell speech to the disciples, he encourages them to go back to Jerusalem. 

“To do what?” we might ask.

“To watch and wait and pray together” and attentively wait on God’s promise to send them an advocate, comforter, or a friend-one who will guide, nurture, and support them in all the days to come.

And, indeed, the disciples, the core ten along with Jesus’ mother, Mary, gather with other like-minded friends in community to do just that. 

They return to an upper room of some sort in Jerusalem where they are joined by 120 others to watch and wait and pray on God’s promise come to them through their beloved leader, Jesus, the Christ.

“What were their expectations as they watched and waited and prayed?”, we might wonder.  

Certainly other manifestations of God’s presence in their tradition might have them expecting God’s advocate, comforter, or friend to appear much like the gentle dove that hovered over Jesus’ head on the occasion of his baptism in the river Jordan.

Or they might be thinking of the story from Genesis of how God’s presence brooded over the waters of Creation at its beginning.

They might even be thinking of how God spoke to Moses in the burning bush at Mount Sinai or even of how God’s presence was made known in the violent wind on the mountainside.

While we can’t ever really know what the gathered body of Jesus’ followers at Jerusalem expected that day, we do know this: The coming of God’s Spirit in the rush of a violent wind and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit’s energy as tongues of fire on each one’s head must have come as surprising jolt.

In fact, if I were to find myself in their number, I would not be expecting such a dramatic and intense experience of the one promised as advocate, comforter, or friend.

But then, it seems that our God and the God of those gathered together that day is full of wild and surprising ways! 

I would also not be expecting to be so filled with the Holy Spirit to then propel us into action as bearers of healing and wholeness and good news. 

But, again, who among us is ever prepared for how God’s wildly undomesticated and surprising ways will appear in our lives moving us in a new direction? 

Who among us, indeed!

The pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit on this set apart group at Pentecost led them to suddenly be able to speak, not in ‘tongues’ as described by Paul in the letter to the Corinthians, but rather, in a multitude of languages-languages immediately recognized by the many folks on pilgrimage and/or already living in Jerusalem.

What a great way to catch the attention of the wider community gathered in the Holy City to celebrate the first fruits of the summer harvest!

What a great way to forge bonds with those making the annual pilgrimage in honour of their faith tradition’s roots-the giving of Torah to Moses!

From here, this morning’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles has the whole community abuzz with amazement at the linguistic proficiency of those Galilean peasants. 

“What does it all mean”?” is the prevailing question.

As is always the case with human nature, there are those gathered who need their questions answered.

Wrestling with their understanding of the experience of God’s Holy Spirit being poured out, some decide its nothing more that a case of too much left-over partying from the night before.

But, the Apostle, Peter will have none of it. 

Stepping into the role of leader or spokesperson for the 120 newly baptised by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he offers a paraphrase of ancient words attributed to the prophet, Joel. 

This experience is not about having drunk too much wine, Peter declares, but rather, it's about a reversal of fortune.  Paraphrasing from the ancient prophet, Joel, he reminds everyone with ears to listen of this:
Our sons and daughters will prophesy, our young men will see visions, and our old men dream dreams once more. 

Everyone- slaves, men, women, everyone will be blessed and energized by this outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

If we were to continue on from this prophecy we would hear Peter bearing witness to the story of Jesus, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his on-going presence their lives and in the life of the world.  And we would hear tell of how several thousand were so moved by his testimony that they, themselves, became converts to Christianity that very day.  But that’s a story for another day.

Our story from the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, full of surprising twists and turns offers us much food for thought as we gather to celebrate the start of a new season. 

The season of Pentecost will offer us many opportunities to reflect on how God’s presence in our lives moved our faith ancestors far beyond their comfort zones compelling them to move in a new direction, and by extension, our own gathered body on the story’s re-telling. 

For all of that and more, we say “thanks be to God and may it be so!”. Amen.

 

Prayers of the People: God of the rushing wind and fiery flames, we give you thanks for the outpouring of your Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

We give you thanks for our church where we witness and worship together and where we learn and grow and become the body of Christ in this time and this place.

God of truth, comfort, and challenge, constant companion and guide, we give you thanks for our stories from scripture, our relationships, and our calls to discipleship.

As leaders and followers, as co-creators of your kingdom come, we thank you for all the blessings and the challenges of learning and growing together in community.

Help us learn patience and curiosity for that which confounds and confuses us.

Help us learn to be thankful for differences that remind and call us into living abundantly and living well.

God, you know exactly where we need soothing and where we need stirring up.

Be with us in our times of sadness and loss as well as in our times of joy and gain.

Direct us in the ways of your holiness that we might learn new ways of offering spirit-filled ministries in your name.

Come, Holy Spirit, companion us through challenge and change, resting in the sure knowledge that you are with, within, and among us.

This day we think on people everywhere whose freedom to congregate -to meet in public places is severely challenged.   

We remember and pray for our brothers and sisters in Manila, Kabul, Egypt, London, Manchester….

And we lift our diverse voices together in Jesus’ name as we say together… “Our Father, who art in heaven….”