May 24, 2015

Day of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104: 25-35, 37b; Romans 8: 22-27; John 15: 26-27, 16: 4b - 15


In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Good morning. Thank you for being here on such a rainy Sunday morning. In the church calendar we are celebrating Pentecost, but on our national calendar, we are honoring the fallen who have given their lives for our country. I want to pause now and offer a prayer for Memorial Day. Let us pray.  

God, we remember the women and men who are currently serving in the armed forces of our country and we pray for their safe return. We also acknowledge that there are women and men who will not return, and we grieve their death in our prayers. We pause to honor their service and their sacrifice. Those of us who have not served in the armed forces cannot fully imagine the experience of war, but we do know war’s aftermath and the toll it can take on the human heart. This day we remember and acknowledge that loss as we remember those whom we have loved and lost. We hold their names and faces in our mind’s eye.  We recall the gifts they gave to us through the strength of their being, the depth of their love, the courage of their dying, and the fullness of their living. AMEN.

Okay, onto Pentecost. That word, Pentecost simply means “fifty days.” During the time of Jesus, some of the first crops were harvested fifty days after they were planted. So this day has some origin in agriculture and farming. During the time of Jesus, the festival we call Pentecost was more than just a Jewish agricultural festival. It also was an observation  of a very important moment in the history of Israel.  

Fifty days passed between the event of the Passover in Egypt and the arrival of the Jewish people to Mount Sinai, where Moses received the ten commandments.  

The reason why I say all this is to give us some context for understanding what exactly is going on here this morning. The book of Acts says that on the fiftieth day after the resurrection of Jesus, the spirit of God filled the house of the disciples in unique way. The Bible says it was like a “violent wind,” a phrase certainly appropriate for today where in parts of Harris County, storm gusts could get to 45 mph. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

The wind is accompanied by divided tongues of fire that come to rest on each of the disciples. This fire is the reason for why we wear red today – it is to commemorate the “fire” of the Holy Spirit. But, we are also Clutch City, are we not, and red is appropriate for the Rockets, and we all know they need our prayers.

For us today, Pentecost marks the dramatic conclusion to the Easter Season as we give thanks to God for the new life of the church that is given through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Today in church we are doing this – we are thanking God by celebrating the abundance we have received in this place and in our lives.  We are encouraging each person to write out on this sheet of paper (show) the blessings for which you would like to thank God. The ushers will collect them at the offering and place them in a basket and we will offer them to God at the altar.  

As Easter closes, it does so in a multiplicity of languages, which we heard a few moments ago during the reading from Acts. We heard Latin, Spanish, Assamese, and others. The reason why we hear those languages is because they foreshadow the universal global church. The church grows from Jerusalem reaching every continent, state, city and village.  

The impetus for Pentecost is not that the church grew because of people’s hard work, though that’s part of the story. The church grew because of the Spirit of God that blows where it chooses.  

Today we celebrate the birth of the church through the Holy Spirit, through that rush of wind and tongues of flame all of creation is turned toward its redemption. The Holy Spirit is a spirit of life, and so it is fitting today that we celebrate the gift of life freely given to us today through the Holy Spirit. And we do so with baptism, that sacred recognition that we are drawn into God’s family through water, prayer, and fire - in which they will be marked by the Holy Spirit forever.  Nothing will take that away, because the Spirit of God which we call Holy is forever. AMEN.