Pentecost – what’s all the fuss about?

We celebrated Pentecost this weekend, known to many as the birthday of the church. For me, it ranks right up there with Christmas and Easter, and is, perhaps, the most personally impactful. On the first Christmas not much seemed to change in the world, though the birth of Jesus certainly turned Mary and Joseph’s lives upside down. On Easter, Jesus triumphed over death, and rose with a new, recognizable body. But he only showed himself to the ones seeking him. He appeared and disappeared at will to his confused, disheartened disciples. He spent fifty days popping into believer’s lives. With the transient nature of his presence, they couldn’t follow him around as they had before. They must have been at loose ends whenever he wasn’t with them, wondering what would happen next.

Then, the Ascension – Jesus left them gaping as he “returned to” his father.

I don’t think it was a casual instruction when he told them to wait in Jerusalem. Otherwise, they likely would have taken off, as they did after his death, hitting the road, heading home, back to old trades, or simply floundering.

But they obeyed, gathered, once again behind closed doors, and prayed.

And waited.

A good model for indecision (or misery)

Not too easy for most of us, but they’d already committed, thrown everything in.

So wait they did.

And the rest of the world went on as usual. Unaware of the prayer huddle in an upper room near the town plaza.

As ‘chance would have it’ the city was once again jammed, as in Bethlehem when Jesus was born, due to King Herod’s order for everyone to register at their birthplace, and at his death, Jerusalem filled with the celebration of Passover. Now, on the day we call Pentecost, the faithful gathered from all Israel, as well as other countries. They packed Jerusalem for Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, recalling God giving Moses the Law on Mt Sinai. Many read the Torah, some all night. (Could any know what they were preparing for?)

Perhaps the band which stayed together at Jesus’ command poured over the Torah all night, too, recognizing the footprint of their Master from creation throughout their sacred writings.

Still, just a little group of invisible people (they wanted it that way for safety), they read and prayed and comforted each other.

In the morning, outside crowds filled every empty space as they made their way to the Temple.

And then The Big Shift.

Later, some reported a sound like a mighty, rushing wind. It filled the room. Others said it was like tongues of fire flowing down to their heads, each one. No one left out.

Furnace near Otavalo, Ecuador property of Jack H Thompson, Jr

Imagine!

Common, mostly peasant bodies were charged with the energy of creation. Filled with a power they had only glimpsed as Jesus healed lepers and raised the dead. A power that calmed storms at sea and set souls free from demon control.

The power that raised the body of Jesus.

The promised comforter, advocate, Spirit of the living God.

The power of Love.

And no room left for fear. No more ‘what if’ or ‘if only’.

No doubt.

No hesitation.

How could they contain it?

How can a human body contain Eternity?

Like sprinters at the start, they pushed open the doors and burst into the light of the day. Sharing, spilling over what was still spilling through their minds and bodies.

A chaos of languages they didn’t know became heart lessons for the pilgrims.

Peter, the impulsive one, now filled with wisdom, rose up and spoke words he never imagined, never dared.

Now, he dared not contain it.

And the world has never been the same. Thousands joined the handful, swelled their ranks, and went on to share the Grace.

So it has been, down through the centuries, as Pentecost arrives on our doorstep.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened by religious rituals that provide no peace…” Amplified Bible Matt 11:20

He never meant for us to live invisible, fear-filled, second-guessing lives.

He never meant for us to plod through our days, or hide behind closed doors.

He never meant for us to stay the same.

Christmas, Easter, Resurrection and Ascension all lead to transformation, the power that was incarnate in one tiny baby, now available to us all, Pentecost.

I won’t quibble about getting filled with the Spirit when you accepted Jesus, were baptized, or just asked for it. All I know is, I was a believer from a young age, baptized, confirmed, and tried for years to obey. But something was missing.

Could it be he waits for each of us to huddle behind closed doors and wait for Him? To say, like Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope]…” Amplified Bible John 6:68

Until nothing else will satisfy us, and we stop.

We wait.

For the power of Eternity.

For the change, when the invisible is finally brave, standing tall

When the fear-filled pushes aside the shadows and rises up in courage

For real life.

So we can finally really know what it means:

for in him we live, and move, and have our being Acts 17:28 ASV

The Power of Yes

Sometimes it feels like life is a swirling downward eddy. We don’t have options. Or we can have so many choices that confusion dulls our minds. We answer the call of highest demand, attack a few of the items on the top of our to-do list, if we’re lucky, and address the squeaky wheel in our lives. When we finally hit the pillow, we let out a long sigh, relieved the day is over. Then, if you’re anything like me, instead of drifting off to refreshing sleep, a scene from the day slips in. I give it a mental do-over, assuring myself it will help me do better next time.

Really?

The next day starts with sleep deprivation, and a growing list of Should and Ought.

It is usually a Bible passage, a sermon or a dream that brings me up short and asks, “What am I really following?” I say I’m following Jesus, but what about the days I churn through, ruminating over someone’s displeasure with me, or my sense of not measuring up, letting someone down, or simply not having the energy or time to do what I’d like for others.

Am I really following Jesus then, or worshipping at some other altar?

Would the photo show a selfie?

Would it be any better if the picture on the altar where I worship is a spouse, a teacher, a church, a neighbor, a child? Even a mission?

This line of thought started when I took a few minutes out for a little nap and feel sound asleep, which is unusual in the middle of the day. At the end of the dream, I drowned.

Yes. The dream didn’t stop when I was almost dead.

I couldn’t breathe, and I drowned.

Then I woke up, gasping for air.

Once the oxygen returned to my body, I felt strangely lighter. As if I’d left the load behind in the water.

Starting fresh.

Sounds a little like baptism, doesn’t it?

A song is always playing in the background of my life. This time Peter’s words played in my mind, “Lord to whom can we go?”

A large crowd had followed Jesus, excited by healings and miracles and words that made them happier. They’d eaten their full on broken bread from his hand. Then Jesus said some hard things. His eyes must have glistened in sadness as he watched most of them grumble and turn away, back to their own household gods.

Then he looked to his little hand-picked group of unlikely Messiah men, and forced the issue with them. “Are my words too hard for you, too? Am I too much for you?”

Peter, The Mouth, blurts out what his heart is pounding.  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

He didn’t have all the answers. But at that moment, Peter chose to follow what he did know, not stumble on what he didn’t know.

Peter said yes to Jesus, to his love and power, and everything changed.

Hanging on to Jesus is really what free living is all about. We let go of all the good-that-replaces-the-best we carry in our hands, or on our backs.

We don’t need more theory, theology or understanding. Or more rules or laws.

We find a lighter life when we reach for what little we know of Jesus. We simply follow, even when we have no clue where he is going, or what he is doing.

He will reveal himself, his love filling every part of our hearts that we open to him with a “Yes.”

And everything changes, even if we don’t sense it right then. An eternal shift.

The power of Yes.

Why do we delay? Why are we fearful?
You see, this day has been given to us not for us to theorize and analyze but as a great gift given out of love so that we may once again, or for the very first time today, believe, confess, and truly receive. . . .
Don’t you see it? Today is our day to say yes to God – yes to His love, yes to His mercy, yes to His forgiveness, yes to His grace. 
  

Quote from a sermon preached by the Rev. Charleston D. Wilson The Church of the Redeemer, Sarasota, Florida, 16 August 2015