31 May 2020
Today the church celebrates Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples.
An event which gave birth to the Church and gave it divine power enabling it to carry out its appointed mission, to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
In the view of St Luke, who gives us this story, nothing less that this heaven-sent gift could have changed simple fishermen into fearless Evangelists.
It made them the driving force of a missionary campaign that swept through the Roman world and, in the short space of 30 years,
transformed an obscure Jewish sect into a world-wide religious movement.
Luke dramatises the event in terms of the 'wind' of the Spirit of God and the 'fire' of the Power of God,
together with the breaking down of the language barrier, showing the reconciling power of God.
It was not the superficial gift of energy and excitement, an injection of artificial adrenaline
It was not the kind of power that the world thinks of as power.
The gift we get at Pentecost is the one gift we and the world most desperately needs.
Strangely enough, the main gift of Pentecost is the gift of something to say,
a Word to speak in the brokenness and tragedy of the world that is unlike any other word.
Did you notice what happened to the disciples when the Spirit was given?
It wasn't followed by a 7day convention while they discussed the implications of the gift.
No, they immediately went out and began to communicate in the languages of the people gathered in Jerusalem
and to speak the Gospel in ways that the listeners understood.
They had been given the power to communicate.
They moved from silence to language.
They talked and the whole world heard the good news in its own languages.
That was the miracle of Pentecost, not just that the disciples were able to speak in different tongues
but that people of different nationalities and languages were able to hear and understand the good news of Jesus.
As the prophet Joel said,
"In the latter days, I will pour out my Spirit on all of humanity.
And your sons and your daughters will prophesy." (2:28)
Your sons and your daughters will have a Word to speak,
that life is stronger than death, that hope is deeper than despair, that every tear will be dried,
and that through the power of Christ's resurrection, death and pain will be no more.
That Word is our gift to speak.
William Blake (1757-1827) wrote, in his poem Pentecost
Unless the eye catch fire, God will not be seen.
Unless the ear catch fire God will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catch fire God will not be named.
Unless the heart catch fire, God will not be loved.
Unless the mind catch fire, God will not be known.
In what ways have we soaked our eyes, ears, tongue, heart and mind in a fire-retardant?
By works? Addictions? Business?
How might we be trying to ignite our own fires?
It will not work! We ask for the Holy Spirit to set our hearts on fire for God and his Kingdom.
And when the rainy seasons come, we ask each other to help us stoke the flames.
On this Pentecost Sunday we are called to speak in tongues of love that will bring about healing and welcome.
We are called to find our voice in this time of change and challenge to encourage others.
We are to show our faith by our living.
May the Spirit who set the Church on fire upon the Day of Pentecost bring the world alive
with the love of the risen Christ and inspire us to greater service in Jesus' name.
O Lord open our lips; and our mouths with show forth your praise. Amen.