June 9, 2019 — Day of Pentecost
Rev. Alison Quin
If you type the word “lit” on your phone, an emoji of a little flame comes up. The word lit has a number of meanings. Most recently, it is used to mean that something is awesome, exciting, cool, excellent, outstanding. Back in the day, it meant that someone was intoxicated. And of course, there is the original meaning, illuminated.
All these meanings work for Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. The followers of Jesus were gathered together in Jerusalem, obeying Jesus’ instruction to stay there until he sent the Holy Spirit to them.
They probably weren’t expecting the form the Spirit took that day—the tongues as of fire on each of them, the sound of the mighty wind. The Holy Spirit often shows up in unexpected ways.
And it brings life, vitality, energy, enthusiasm, movement, change. The apostles were immediately transformed with new energy and enthusiasm—so much so that people thought they might be drunk.
The experience energized them and gave them the ability to speak in other languages—they were able to tell the story of how Jesus had changed their lives, and people were able to take it in because it was in their native languages.
Pentecost is a Jewish feast—the feast of weeks or Shavuot. It is a celebration of the first spring harvest and also a celebration of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
Just as the Torah guides and inspires and teaches, and draws people close to God, so the Holy Spirit guides and inspires and teaches and enables people to know Jesus, God’s Word. Those early followers of Jesus celebrated a first harvest on that day—thousands of people heard the gospel and were baptized.
The Holy Spirit continues to bring life and vitality and energy and enthusiasm and movement and change to all of us. We continue to learn new languages as the Spirit opens our hearts to new communities and groups of people, so that we can share the good news of God in Christ.
Have you ever tried to learn a new language? It’s hard—it’s exhausting. You can’t follow conversations at first, or get your meaning across or crack jokes. And it’s easy to offend because you don’t know the language well enough.
This is the story of the church as we have expanded our awareness of different peoples and cultures and languages. Over the centuries, missionaries have been inspired by the Spirit to go to the ends of the earth, and learn about other languages and cultures in order to share the gospel. Sometimes they brought other baggage as well, and so there is a mixed history of our evangelism. But the life and vitality of Christianity in all parts of the world shows us that it is still good news, even when flawed people and cultures transmit it.
We are still in the process of learning languages and learning to communicate. How do we reach out to new immigrants in our country who speak different languages? Even within our country there are many different cultures and languages—how can we learn those languages and build the relationship of love that allows God’s word to be heard?
How about those who are differently abled and have different ways of communicating? Those with autism, those who are deaf or blind, or suffer from mental or physical illnesses?
Even if you are in the mainstream, you are still unique—each person is a little world of their own, who must be studied before communication can happen.
The Holy Spirit is the power that allows us to communicate—to speak, to listen, to be connected. The Holy Spirit is constantly inviting us to go outside our walls—to reach out to new people, to learn their stories, their culture and their language, so that we can share God’s love and grow in love ourselves.
The Holy Spirit is powerfully present all the time in community. Every week, people share their God stories with me—it’s the best. My daughter was at the doctor’s office this week and found out she had to have surgery to have her stitches redone after giving birth. And she was crying. A total stranger walked up to her and gave her a piece of paper that said: John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid. God is with you.”
Someone else told me that a friend who disappeared and later was arrested for an alcohol related offense has had a conversion experience in jail and is completely transformed. Someone else mentioned recently that she lost her job and was really upset about it, but then she was free to sit at the bedside of a friend in intensive care, whose parents live on the other side of the world and couldn’t be there. A group of people who were having conflict sat down and worked through the conflict after praying about it—now they are working together and are happy about it. Someone else had disabling fatigue after a major surgery—she prayed for it to end and it lifted.
Here at CTK, we felt called by the Spirit to celebrate Pride month with more vigor this year, partly in response to the harassment and discrimination that our LGBTQ friends still experience. Last week’s Pride March was beautiful. There were more faith communities and more Episcopalians than I have seen in all the years I have been here. And we had children from our church as part of the march, celebrating the diversity of God’s people. They were chanting: “Find out what community looks like! This is what community looks like.”
These stories are just from the last few weeks. The Holy Spirit is never silent—it is the very job description of the Spirit to communicate with us through everything that happens. God sent Jesus into the world to befriend us, and Jesus sent the Spirit to keep that friendship going through constant communication. From day to day, we see miracles, experience God providing for us and are able to minister to others, through the power of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is always inviting us to find out more about what community looks like—to open our hearts, broaden our understanding, learn new languages. As Janet said last week, our hearts are growing so we can love more and it is God’s Spirit within us that enables this to happen.
Thanks be to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty lit right now!