After the followers of Jesus had made it through the shock of the death of Jesus, they had amazed it through the resurrection of Christ. They lived in excitement in the 40 days of greatest hits of “tell me another.” The disciples looked at the sky with the ascension wondering where Jesus had really gone as he went up to heaven. Now, we find the disciples gathered together in one room, again an upper room, regrouping and wondering, what will happen next? Remember, Jesus told them, the Comforter, the Advocate would come.
Together, they were in one place, when sounds like a rushing wind came and filled the house where they were. I wonder if they were still startled at this point, or if they had begun to look at one another, and shrug, as if to say, this must be of God. They had started to experience the incredible presence of God with such frequency. Then again, do we ever get familiar with God’s wonder? I am not sure that we are ever quite so familiar. And the sounds of the violent winds came, filling the house, so did tongues of fire, resting on each of them, filling them with the presence of the Holy Spirit and gifting them with language, so that others might hear God’s word in their own language.
Last week, we begun a short series on belief. Three weeks, grounding ourselves in historic and essential understandings of the larger church on resurrection, which we discussed last week, Holy Spirit, this week, and next, we will wade, into the mystery, that is Trinity. All of these are held within the creeds of our larger faith within the universal church. Later in worship together as we receive into membership both at 8:30 and 11:00and celebrate the sacrament of baptism with children, young people, and adults, we will also have an opportunity to affirm our faith with an ancient creed. Creeds are earliest expressions of modern concepts stretching us personally and corporately connecting us globally and across time. We join our voices corporately, even when individual voices pause to ask questions.(1)
“I believe in the Holy Spirit” – each of the Creeds confirm. We celebrate today on Pentecost and call it the coming of the Spirit. However, the Holy Spirit was present with God at creation and is a part of the Trinity. At the Creation of the Earth and Heaven, the Spirit of God, hovered over the waters and out of the chaos, brought forth life. This is ruach, Holy Spirit of God. One of the many works of the Spirit is bringing order out of chaos. This is both out of the chaos of creation and out of the chaos of our lives. Throughout the Old Testament, we see the presence of the Holy Spirit in particularly the prophets, in Isaiah and Jeremiah, urging and comforting the people in times of challenge.
Throughout the Psalms, the writers wove their own experiences of the Holy Spirit into the Psalm. They began to the learn that the Holt Spirit is always gifting the people of God. We learn this early – both gifts and fruits of the Spirit. These gifts are both God’s glory and to build up the body of Christ followers. For those who are given the singing, it is both to glorify God, and so that others will be encouraged. For those who are given that gift of intellect, it is both to glorify God, so that we will increase what we know about the world us.
In the 19th century, a revival of spirit-filled Pentecost focused teaching enlivened the church. In the Methodist movement, preachers and laypeople gathered daily in camp meetings and homes to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in preaching, teaching, and gathered presence of fellowship. They wanted to know more and more! Andrew Murray, Scottish Dutch Reform ministry influential in the Pentecostal movement from his sermon on Acts 2, “The filling with the Spirit and the indwelling of Christ bring of themselves a life that has its root, its joy, its power, its evidence in love, because the indwelling Christ Himself is Love. O how would the love of God fill the Church and convince the world that she has received a heavenly element into her life, if the filling with the Spirit and the indwelling of Christ in the heart were recognized as the blessing which the Father has promised us! The coming of the Spirit changed weakness and fear into courage and power. (2)
In the Methodist tradition, our Pentecostal roots have been as strong as biblical roots. This was known by all who sought to be methodical, including, Phoebe Palmer. Phoebe grew up in Methodism with her family in the 1810s. She knelt with husband Walter C. Palmer, a physician, during the Allen Street Methodist Church revival of 1832. As her faith and practice grows, she emerges as the leader of the prayer meeting, known as the Tuesday Meeting for the Promotion of Holiness In 1839, men were admitted to the Tuesday Meetings, and Mrs. Palmer’s circle widened to include Methodist bishops, theologians, and ministers, as well as lay men and women. Soon the cradle of renewal gently rocked all American Methodism. (3)
The prayer meetings of churches gone by and this church here are based on the movement of the Holy Spirit. Our reading from Romans reminds us that it is never about having the right words, but rather one of the works of the Holy Spirit is to intercede for us, helping us, in our weakness, groaning for us, when the ways of life are too much. On the first Pentecost, the followers of Jesus experienced this part of the Holy Spirit as fire dangerous and yet approachable. Writer Rachel Held Evans says this: “deceptively polite in its dance atop the wax and wick of our church candles, but wild and mercurial as a storm when unleashed. Fire holds no single shape, no single form. It can roar through a forest or fulminate in a cannon. It can glow in hot coals or flit about in embers. But it cannot be held. The living know it indirectly—through heat, through light, through tendrils of smoke snaking through the sky, through the scent of burning wood, through the itch of ash in the eye. Fire consumes. It creates in its destroying and destroys in its creating. The furnace that smelts the ore drives off slag, and the flame that refines the metal purifies the gold. The fire that torches a centuries-old tree can crack open her cones and spill out their seeds. When God led his people through the wilderness, the Spirit blazed in a fire that rested over the tabernacle each night. And when God made the church, the Spirit blazed in little fires that rested over his people’s heads. “Quench not the Spirit,” the apostle wrote. It is as necessary and as dangerous as fire, so stay alert; pay attention. (4)
You and I, like the first disciples often find ourselves gathered with other or by ourselves in upper rooms or in cars waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit in powerful ways. We wait on the Lord, because when God comes, God always comes in undeniable power. With rushes of wind, with fire so that all might understand, that power of God might bring all near.
When we boldly add our voices in creeds to those who have come before, when we manage to squeak out line after line, when we say maybe every other line of the creed, we invite God, who is already present to be present among us. We claim for ourselves, we do believe in the Holy Spirit, who comes in power and quietly without pomp and circumstance, to intercede our behalf as we groan our prayers.
As we pray, on this Pentecost Sunday, Come, Holy Spirit, Come.
This is the Gospel, the Good News of our Lord, Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
(1) Hamilton, Adam. Creed: What Christians Believe and Why.
New Testament Lesson: Romans 8:22-27
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
New Testament Lesson: Acts 2:1-13
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 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. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, May 20 ~ Saturday, May 26
Sunday “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. ” Romans 8:22-23. Where is it that God is calling you to both to anticipate and to motivate God’s people?
Monday “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:24-25. Consider how you are living in patience, even now for hope of what is seen and what is not seen.
Tuesday “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” Romans 8: 26 Pray today as you wait for the Holy Spirit.
Wednesday “And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8: 27. Consider how God is inviting you to intercede in prayer for your neighbors. Then pray for them.
Thursday “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 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.” Acts 2:1-2. Where are you gathering together to wait on God?
Friday “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” Acts 2:3-4. Pray for the gifts of the Spirit to come for you and for the church.
Saturday “All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’” Acts 2:14. Consider what God is teaching you every time that you find yourself amazed.