Spirit, Wind, and Fire
We had a pretty good storm on Tuesday night, didn’t we?
Trees were uprooted, power lines downed, four tornados in the state!
Even those of us whose towns were relatively unscathed had trash cans and lawn furniture blown about.
Many events were canceled or rescheduled, including our final confirmation class!
100 mile winds have to be taken seriously.
It’s clear that wind has the power to rearrange things.
Not just lawn furniture-- the landscape of our lives as well.
That’s what happened on the day of Pentecost.
The disciples were gathering in Jerusalem, their spiritual capital,
along with pilgrims from nations all over the known world.
It was the religious festival of Pentecost, a celebration of the wheat harvest and God giving the law to Moses.
But something incredible interrupted the usual proceedings.
The sound of rushing wind filled the upper room where the disciples had been staying.
Tongues of fire rested on their heads, and they filled with the Holy Spirit.
Suddenly they had the ability to speak in new languages.
The people in Jerusalem heard the mighty sound, and came running out of their homes to see what it was.
‘what does this mean?’ they wanted to know.
Peter answered the crowd, saying,
“This is what was promised 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, your young men shall see visions, and your old men dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women, In those days I shall pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.“
Peter was quoting an old prophecy from the 5th century BC.
It’s part of a long tradition of God’s Spirit being shared with human beings.
First and foremost of these were the prophets, who had unusual and intense experiences of God And were commissioned to carry God’s word to the people.
But God’s Spirit didn’t just come to these few exceptional people.
The book of Numbers records a story where God took the spirit of Moses
and placed it on 70 elders of the people.
And Peter quotes the prophet Joel who picks up on this theme with the prediction
that the prophet’s experience of God and commissioning to bring God’s word
would be given to ALL FLESH, that is, to all people, regardless of gender, age, or place in life.
It’s quite a rearrangement.
Most human structures are top – down in organization—
the few at the top hold the power and make the rules for the rest.
But the wind of the Holy Spirit rearranged the usual structure of power.
Instead of Jesus, one leader, being at the top, holding the power, calling the shots,
We have 12 disciples touched by the Holy Spirit, testifying in Jesus’ name.
On that day of Pentecost, 3000 people join the disciples and also received the Holy Spirit.
They too become part of the great bottom up movement of the Spirit
Which harnessed the voices and lives of all kinds of people
to proclaim God’s healing and restorative work in the world in Jesus.
Today we have five confirmands: Alexa, Charley, Sarah, Shelby, and Peter.
They were gifted with the Holy Spirit long ago at their baptisms
And I have seen the gifts of the Spirit at work in them
As they served the community meal at Grace in Hartford, they staffed nursery, organized food pantry, and led worship here at SM and Lutheran Home.
They carry the Spirit as they go about their lives as athletes, performers, caretakers and students. All five enthusiastically participate and have MUCH to contribute.
Our confirmands are a living sign of the truth of Pentecost—the Spirit is alive in them!
In fact, sometimes the Spirit was so alive in them that I had to stop class and tell them to be quiet! But seriously, these young people are a reminder that every believer has spiritual gifts to share. Every believer as valued and needed.
Each believer is differently abled, created and a unique facet of God‘s character.
Together we reflect the glory of God. And together we are enabled to carry out God‘s mission in the world.
But this Pentecostal Spirit that empowers us from the bottom up also requires something more of us.
We are not passive recipients of the Holy Spirit.
We are called to do more than soak up the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Our giftedness calls for our responsibility to use these gifts to God’s glory, to take risks and try new things.
And more that—when the Spirit is at work around us, we have to be more flexible.
Sometimes the work of the Holy Spirit is disconcerting and brings new practices, people, and ideas Sometimes the Spirit gets things moving and organization has to catch up
When the Spirit rearranges our personal or communal lives it can get a little uncomfortable
And we may want to return to the tried and true, the orderly, the manageable.
But like the disciples on that day of Pentecost long ago, we can embrace the wind of the Spirit. We can let it take us to new places, and trust that wherever we go, God is already there.
Jesus’ departure in the Ascension and the gift of Jesus’ Spirit at Pentecost
symbolized a transfer of power from Jesus to the disciples and finally to all believers.
The organizational DNA of the Church is based on an equal sharing of Jesus’ Spirit.
Alexa, Charley, Sarah, Shelby, and Peter are proof positive that the Spirit is alive here at St Matthew.
I look forward to seeing them as assisting ministers and altar guild members,
As leaders in serving others and proclaiming justice.
Let us join them in welcoming the gale force wind of the Spirit to change and rearrange our lives.
Let us join them in claiming our spiritual gifts and putting them to use.