Day of Pentecost

Day of Pentecost

Reading: Acts 2:1-21

A reading from the book of Acts. 

When the day of Pentecost had come, [the apostles] 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.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken 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, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 

The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ”

Word of God, word of life.
Thanks be to God. 

Gospel: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

A reading from the Gospel of John.
Glory to you, O Lord.

[Jesus said,] “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

Now let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and Redeemer


Think of the depictions of the Holy Spirit that you have seen in church art—stained glass, paintings, illustrations in children’s bibles, tapestries, etc. How do artists characterize the Spirit? Typically, it’s a gentle dove peacefully fluttering down to earth like in Jesus’ baptism.

Now read Acts 2:1-21. Gentle? Peaceful? Serene? The Holy Spirit is about as subtle as a roaring tornado as it arrives among the disciples. All Heaven breaks loose! Tongues of flame appear and the language barrier is removed among the very diverse assembly. Everybody is giddy with surprise, awe and the indwelling of God’s Spirit. Bystanders think the disciples are drunk!

Pentecost is the time to remind everyone of the Holy Spirit’s many dimensions. Yes, it can float into our lives and congregations as gently and subtly as a dove, but it can also arrive with power and awe. However it arrives, the Holy Spirit shakes us up, wakes us up and leaves us transformed.

With such a powerful ally in our spiritual struggles, you’d think more congregations and people would count the Holy Spirit as their Number One resource. As stewards of our congregation and our lives, we typically take note of the assets we bring in any situation. Yet many of us overlook the Holy Spirit and rely instead on money, ability, status, intelligence or allies.

Readings for Pentecost offer the perfect chance to remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit is with us always, helping us in ways that are as gentle as a dove or thunderous as a tornado.


We have three readings today: Ezekiel and the Valley of Dry Bones, the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in Acts, and Jesus comforting the apostles in the Upper Room in John’s gospel. There is a lesson to be learned here that is consistently present in each story that endures across time and space. In the simplest terms I can think of: it’s not about “me,” it’s about “us” and “them.” 

Too often, American Christianity has an individual focus, a “me and Jesus” fixation. We worry about having a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” we choose a church on how it meets our “personal spiritual needs,” and when we change churches we often explain it by saying, “Well, I just wasn’t being fed.”  In line with this, too often the Holy Spirit is seen as a personal thing. Whether it’s speaking in tongues or having a personal spirit animal or something in between, if your “spiritual life” is all about you, and that’s a problem. 

In each of our stories the activity of the Spirit comes to the community, for the benefit of the community, in order to lead the community into serving the world.

In Ezekiel, the people being addressed are the nation of Israel in exile in Babylon. They have lost everything. They’re a nation defeated in war and destroyed. Their temple torn down, their political and religious leaders carted away to live in captivity, former diplomats and priests working menial jobs to feed their families. And of course, they look at their lives and ask, “Can these dry bones live?” “Is God finished with us?” “Is there no future for God’s Chosen People?”

Ezekiel’s vision of God’s spirit bringing life to the bones is a message to the community of Israelites living in Babylon that God’s plans for God’s chosen people and the world have not been defeated; that God can bring new life to their community, and through their community, to the world. The gift of the Spirit was not for Ezekiel’s benefit; it was for us “the people of God,” and “the people of the world.”

The 120 or so folk gathered in a room on the day of Pentecost were different from the few disciples who huddled behind closed doors in fear and trembling on Easter evening, but they were still unsure of themselves and their future. “Jesus has ascended, he’s really gone this time. He told us to wait, but how long? And what for? He said the Spirit would come, but how will we know when it gets here?” Trust me, they knew when the Spirit showed up. Mighty wind, tongues of fire, out in the street, every language under the sun. Again not for me “the one who received the gift of the Spirit,” but for us, “the ones sitting in the room wondering about the future,” we received the spirit for, “the people outside our doors in need of hope and love.” 

In John’s Gospel, we are back at Maundy Thursday, with Jesus in the Upper Room. He is telling his disciples he is leaving, that he will die, and rise, and then leave for good. And they are confused, and scared, and each one is feeling very much alone, as we all do in moments of grief mixed with fear of the future. In this moment, Jesus reassures them with the promise that he won’t leave them alone, he’ll send an Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. And once again, it is a gift that is communal, not individual. It is promised to the twelve collectively, not to each one privately. It will aid the Apostles in witnessing to Jesus, it will lead the church into the future, it will show the world a different way to deal with sin and salvation. The Spirit comes to us “the church,” for the sake of “the world.”


There is nowhere you can go that God is not. Think about that: There is nowhere you can go that God is not. This may seem like a no-brainer, but how often do we feel like this is false, even though our scriptures teach us again and again that it is true? “There is nowhere you can go that God is not” is a good reminder for this Day of Pentecost. This feast day marks the official birth of the Church and the explicit mission of the Holy Spirit—for us to tell the world about the Good News of Jesus Christ.

This is the day where the power of our great affection brings forth God’s mission. This evokes energy pent up, like a runner finally being able to speed off from the starting line or an arrow released from its bow. When we do something in the name of Jesus, great power is unleashed. 

  • We are to be flung out across our communities, the nation, and the world with the release of the Holy Spirit, like, mingling amongst ordinary life to show that God’s love is not so ordinary, but something radical and life-changing. 
  • We are to be those trick candles on a birthday cake that, when the world thinks it has blown us out, we come back to shine light anew.

We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in the world. We affirm this during our renewal of baptismal vows when we answer the questions: 

  • “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? 
  • Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? 
  • Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” 

To this, we answer, “I do, and I ask God to help and guide me.”

When the Spirit moves in our own lives, one of the immediate reactions is to be perplexed, like some of the people in our story from Acts were. Another reaction is to sneer in disbelief at what is happening, much like some of the other people. Our human minds cannot wrap themselves around what God is doing, even if we are in the midst of God’s action ourselves, just like those in the crowd. And isn’t that still true in this day and age? We want to put God in a box. We want a nice, neat, tidy God that we can understand, tied with a bow—but God doesn’t work that way. The Holy Spirit blows where it will and we cannot deny it and we can’t stop it. Sometimes it makes us perplexed. Sometimes it makes us uncomfortable. But always, always the Spirit is pouring out to proclaim God’s glory in the world and it is moving through us so that God’s glory will be revealed. God comes alongside us speaking our language, healing and inspiring us so that we can share God’s love with someone else in their own language. This is the Good News!

How has the Holy Spirit blown like the wind in your life? We’ve all had our moments. Moments where God has sent the Holy Spirit sounding like a violent wind in our lives, upsetting things, moving things, changing things—and we all know how human beings hate change. Yet we can take a page from the disciples’ story and remember that we should always be prepared for God. Be prepared to receive the vivid experience of the Holy Spirit—over and over and over again. God is always doing something new.


And what about us, in the 21st century. Is God done with us? We live in very uncertain times. The culture of the world, the country, and the church have changed so much that many of us feel disoriented and disheartened. We despair of hope for the future and sometimes yearn for an imagined better past. Our world and our church feel like a valley of dry bones and we wonder, “Will we live again, do we have a future?” We sit in small groups together in lonely rooms separated from the world and take comfort in each other’s presence while wondering what’s going to happen to us now.

The good news today is God still fills dry bones with new life, God still pushes God’s people out into the streets, God’s Spirit leads us in telling the world about Jesus. And, if we’re not careful, we might find ourselves showing the world our scars from the pain we have survived. Who knows? When you start messing around with the Spirit of the living God anything’s possible.