May 19 2013
“This is It”
Acts 2:1-21

A friend and I were talking over the weekend. I told him we had big doings here this weekend. Pentecost, confirmation, “each one bring one Sunday.” My friend asked, “what do you hope these folks get out of church?” He is a pretty smart guy, a keen observer of organizations, particularly churches. He’s also a ‘wisenheimer’.

At first, I was a little put off by his comment. After all, it is the bane of our American existence that we always ask ‘what do I get’ more quickly than ‘what can I give.’ But the longer I thought about this question, the more sense it made to me.

The appropriateness of the question, “What do they get out of it,” hinges on what it is we seek. After all, no one enters into any commitment without some expectation of the outcome of that commitment. The rightness, if you will, of that expected outcome is what we must discern if we are to engage in valuable activity.

In the text from Luke’s Acts this morning, we have what I believe is the most important account of Pentecost: the coming of the Holy Spirit. Here we have the Apostle’s (and I suppose the other 108 people who were ‘followers’ of Jesus) gathered together. There was some question in town about what had gotten into these people. They were ‘energized,’ on ‘fire’ even. They were speaking in strange tongues, but not so strange that others could not understand. It is hard to determine exactly why these folks began following Jesus three years ago. There were a few who joined this group because he told them to. There were others who joined this group because they were attracted by his message. There were others, still, who joined because of the miraculous deeds this rabbi accomplished amongst them. Mixed motives. But now, they are all ‘getting something out of it.’


What are they getting? We might immediately say, “The presence of the Holy Spirit,” and that would be correct. People join groups for immediate gratification. Some people join a group because the group provides an opportunity to yield power in a way they cannot be powerful in their own lives. I don’t know. You remember that even the disciples were jockeying for position in those final days before the Crucifixion, saying, “let me sit on your right hand when you come into your kingdom.” But the outcome in this group is not one of seats of power or authority. The gift is what someone described as a ‘mystical’ presence that empowers and guides these believers to do the will of God.

Confirmation students join the church for a mixture of motives. That’s a nice way of saying, “Mom and Dad made ’em come.” But what do we hope they get? If we were to pay close attention to the words in the liturgy, we would hear a subtle hope expressed: It is the hope that we would all receive the presence of Christ, to be joined with him through his church. We expect that he, and he alone, will shape their lives, our lives.

What Peter tries to explain is that this is the very thing they have ‘gotten out of this;’ God’s promise is now realized in a way far beyond the expectations of even the most faithful disciples. He says something like this:

While we were praying and meditating, it seemed like flames of fire darted from the air and fell on all of us. We couldn’t stay in that room. We had to come down. At first, I wasn’t sure what was happening. Then I remembered the words of a prophet named Joel. He quoted God by saying, “In the last days I will give my Spirit freely to all kinds of people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. At that time I will give my Spirit, even to my servants, both men and women. And they will prophesy.”

Well, this is it! It is what God promised. A new age has come upon us. God is doing a new thing with us. It must be the power that Jesus promised. We can’t control it. It is controlling us. This is it. New life for the church! New life for people within the church!

What are we hoping we get? The same as 2000 years ago. We pray that a miracle will occur and that God will create people who are on fire for Jesus Christ, who have energy to do God’s work in the world, whose lives demonstrate a radical openness to others, hope and grace, justice and peace, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

New life through the Spirit of God! This is it! This is the message of Pentecost!