After Easter, as we have heard over the past 6 weeks, the apostles and disciples saw Jesus. Then he left their midst to be with God. And for 10 days they were in the Upper Room, waiting, sharing their fears, their remembrances, their confusion and perhaps their hopes. Then they had an experience so unique that even many years later they could only liken it to other things. In the book of Acts they describe it as being like the sound of a mighty wind and the appearance as of tongues of fire.
50 days after the celebration of Passover the Jews observed Shavout, a feast celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai. The Greek name of the feast was Pentecost. On that day of commemoration of the covenant with Moses there came this dramatic commissioning of Jesus’ followers to do something new, and totally unexpected.
The followers of Jesus were gathered in the Upper Room that morning as they had gathered each day. On this day there was the sound of a mighty wind – not a gentle breeze stirring the leaves… but of a powerful, almost violent, wind so loud it filled the house with the sound.
In Hebrew and in Greek the same word is used for wind, breath and spirit. What filled the room was the breath, the Spirit of God.
And there was something appearing to them that seemed like divided tongues of flame among them and resting on them.
Fire, we should recall, was a sign of the God’s presence. Moses you remember had encountered God in the burning bush. The people of Israel in Exodus were led through the wilderness at night by a pillar of fire.
So on this day, according to Acts, these followers of the crucified and risen Jesus began to be heard in different languages.
Now these were not scholars, scribes or learned men. They were fishermen, tax collectors, – ordinary folk.. Somehow they had this new ability to speak in ways they could not have imagined. Ordinary people suddenly able to share their experiences with strangers who did not share their religious beliefs or world view. Out in the street sharing with Jews and gentiles the wonderful works of God as they had experienced them.
These are the people whoi had been fear-filled after Good Friday and Easter – hiding behind closed and locked doors. Even after the risen Jesus appeared to them they still hid, fearful of arrest and death at the hands of the Romans.
This indescribable experience on Pentecost got them to move from huddling in fear and confusion behind the locked door of the upper room, to burst forth – out among the people of the city. They go from fear that the Romans might find out they were Jesus friends and arrest them, to bold public proclamation of Jesus as their teacher, friend, and risen one of God
What caused the dramatic change? The Spirit of God working in and through them. Those 10 days were ones in which we believe they had to confront and name their fears. They had to decide whether or not to be open to God and whatever future awaited them as follower of Jesus. They decided to allow God’s spirit within and it ended up enlivening them and let them move beyond their fearful hesitation.
The early Christian community is remembered for their ability to add to their numbers even in the hostile culture and environment of the Roman Empire. To share good news with people who needed good news.
If we wish to be followers of Jesus with the effectiveness of these apostles – like them we must answer for ourselves some questions
Behind what doors and in what upper room are we locked in?
What is it we fear, that makes us so timid?
Will we permit or welcome the mighty, surprising, unpredictable wind- breath- spirit of God blow through our lives?
Are willing to allow the forceful wind of the Spirit to inspire us; to let the flame of God’s love burn within us allowing us to burst from our self-imposed prison to be God’s people in the world?
History shows us what a few people burning with the Spirit of God and the fire of love can do. We can think of St Paul; St Francis of Assisi, Bishop Desmond Tutu; Nelson Mandella, Mother Theresa and many others – each changing their world to be more as God would have it.
What might happen in our community if WE let the Spirit blow through our lives and enflame us to greater efforts to share good news and caring in the community. To let the Spirit further enable us to invite and welcome and incorporate those we love and others to find what we have found in the Gospel. To share Good News with those who deeply need Good News?
Shall we find out?
Let us pray
Come, Holy Spirit. Come into our parish, into our lives, into our hearts….
Enable us to get beyond our fears and our self-consciousness and to live our faith, care for your people, and invite others to come within your loving embrace. AMEN.