The Day of Pentecost
The Very Reverend Steve Lipscomb, Dean

Acts 2:1-21

Often, as we read about certain events, people, locations– our imaginations, our mind’s eye, will carry us to those places and events and people and we are able almost to experience them, right down to the color of the leaves on the trees or the water in the lake, the texture of the walls, the age lines in people’s faces.

This is especially true for me with Bible stories, and most especially those which we read or hear over and over again, like this morning’s reading from Acts (and for that matter, the gospel reading from John). Both are familiar stories which take us back to familiar people and familiar times and familiar places. Or could it be just one place?

“When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place.” Could that one place be the same place where Jesus appeared before the disciples on Easter evening, when they were afraid and ashamed and hidden behind closed doors? Could it be the same place where Jesus broke bread and poured wine with his friends for the last time before the crucifixion?

If so, then we can imagine the scene well. An upper room—an upstairs room—where on this “original” Day of Pentecost—the first day of the week—the disciples have gathered to commemorate and celebrate the Resurrection & to worship and pray. For most Jews, though, this was a work day, the day after the Sabbath, and so the streets were filled with crowds and with the hustle and bustle of everyday activity.

There must have been some part of that room that opened to the outside, like a balcony or a raised courtyard, for this interaction between the disciples and the crowd to have taken place. For, we’re told that when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples as wind and fire, the people heard the sound and gathered round the place. And they were amazed and astonished, and then bewildered, for the next sound they heard was the disciples, all clearly Galileans, speaking in every kind of language so that every representative from every nation present that day could hear and understand what the disciples were saying (and I’d be willing to bet that whatever was being said was some pretty heavy stuff, some pretty sound preaching.)

In any case, and maybe for the first time, the Holy Spirit is recognized and its work is begun in those disciples who gathered themselves in that place on that day in Jerusalem. The gift of God’s Spirit. It all starts with fire and wind and words, and it doesn’t rest until a church, a community of faith, the extended body of Christ is born.

And that body is the shape, the form, that the Holy Spirit has taken. The Spirit that was seen in fire and heard in wind and word: that same Spirit resides and moves in the Church today, and can be seen and heard still by those who will open their hearts and minds as well as their eyes and ears. In fact, you can’t miss it, if you’re open to receiving it.

It’s there in words every time you open your mouth to sing and pray. It’s there in water every time we baptize into the community. It’s there in bread and wine every time you receive it. It’s there like fire on our heads when hands are laid on. God is present, God’s Spirit is here, every time we gather in the Lord’s name.

So if you’re missing the Spirit, don’t be looking out there, outside yourself, for the reason why. Look in here. Open you heart and soul and receive it. Open your eyes to see it. Open your ears to hear it. The Spirit is here, always present in the Church, because the Lord sent it, but it has to be invited, by you, to get in here—if you are to receive it.

We wait for the Spirit. We invoke the Spirit’s presence, particularly at times like baptism and confirmation and ordination. We’ll do that today when we baptize Daniel and Jack, and when we confirm 9 others. We use the words and perform the acts. We do the liturgy and participate in the rituals. We affirm. We convey authority, all of it calling upon the Spirit’s name, the Lord’s name, asking the Spirit to come. And yet, we know that the Spirit is already with us, and that the Church has been and continues to be renewed by and with and through and in that presence.

Before the story of Pentecost in Jerusalem is over, the disciples are out of that room and on the streets and on their way toward spreading the gospel throughout the world . . . knowing full well that the Holy Spirit (the Lord’s own first gift) was with them, and would never leave them, and would enable and empower them for the work that they had been called to do.

Today, through baptism, the Lord will impart the gift of the Holy Spirit to two people and will affirm that same gift in 9 others. And we who witness these acts and reaffirm our baptismal vows will be reminded of the gift of the Spirit’s presence in our lives, and of our own empowerment and commitment to action in God’s name.

That’s the whole point of a sacrament. It’s a response to God’s gift—to God’s grace. It is saying to God, “We love you, too.”

In the face of some of the unfortunate things that are happening in the church today, it’s so easy – too easy – for folks to say that the Spirit isn’t with the church. There will always be “stinkers” in the church—disagreeable, dissatisfied people. There will always be breakaway factions and groups within the church who, pointing a finger at others, will claim that the Spirit is missing, or that theirs is the only “Spirit-filled” or “proper thinking” group or church.

Don’t believe it for a minute. Don’t believe a word of it. The Spirit is there. It’s just that there are people out there who miss it–who fail to see the Spirit, even when it’s dancing above their heads, like tongues of fire, or rushing through the room like a strong wind.

It is here, the Spirit of God—here, in this room, every week. (Today, it happens to be red.) Do you see it? Can you feel it? Or do you miss it? The Spirit is here, at work with us today—in our ministry and commitments, in our planning for the future of this cathedral, when the word is preached, the bread broken, in baptism and confirmation. It’s here because God promised it would be here. And God is a keeper of promises.

That is why we celebrate today The Pentecost, the giving of God’s Spirit: that hope-giving, life-giving Spirit that enables us to be the body of Christ, and to witness to the whole world that the Jesus who rose from the dead is with us still, working in us and through us (a positive spirit) for the coming of God’s kingdom.
And in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.