Welcome to a Birthday Party! One to which the whole world showed up 2000 years ago – and to which the whole world is invited today. This is the day we celebrate as PENTECOST in the Christian Church. The day that God’s holy Church became a reality in Jerusalem and from there spread throughout the world reaching down even to us.
Our readings contain many images of God that are party worthy. The prophet looking down from a cliff at a field covered with the bones of many long dead warriors. God asking a seemingly ridiculous question: hey, dude, think these bones can walk and dance and fight again as these men did in their youth? The Prophet replying: I don’t have a clue! Is this a trick question?
There’s the Psalmist looking out toward the vast Mediterranean Sea and reminding his hearers that God made that sea and all the scary and delicious creatures swimming in it. He says that God even made the Leviathan – a big sea monster; think the Loch Ness Monster, for example – just so God could play with it! Like a kid with a rubber ducky in the wading pool!
St. Luke writes about the morning that the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles in the Upper Room. Think like a movie director for a moment. You have an ordinary banquet room in a small hotel. You have 120 people there, talking, praying, laughing, moving around, not exactly aimlessly but pretty close. Remember that Jesus rose from the grave a mere 50 days ago and was last seen disappearing into heaven just 10 days ago. What now? Did we bet on the wrong Messiah? Did Jesus really say that something else – some sort of Advocate, whatever that is – would come? When? How? Would they know when they got “it”? How would you make that known to a movie audience?
Maybe start with the sound of a tornado wind – not the physical wind, just the sound! Then flames – real fire-looking flames – on people’s heads. No heat, no burning hair smells, just very real looking flames. And then everyone in the room starts talking. You recognize French, Spanish, German, Russian, Italian – others you cannot begin to identify. This is not a random cacophony of sounds. These are real languages that foreign visitors in Jerusalem will understand. The noise, the excitement flows out the windows and down the stairs! People passing by begin to listen.
The followers of Jesus head downstairs into the gathering crowds. As they walk, people begin to circle up around the speaker they understand. Now these are ordinary Jews, dressed in local garb with country accents. The foreigners were surprised to hear their own language being spoken perfectly. And the message these people were preaching! God had come to earth in the flesh and then died and then walked out of the tomb and now offers eternal life for all people if only they believe! Are you nuts?!?
The usual human reactions begin – from Wow! Alleluia! all way to oh, forget it! They are just drunk and making trouble! No point in listening to them.
Peter – now on the road to being the SAINT Peter we honor – steps up to assure the crowd that the speakers are not drunk. It is only 9 am – who’s had time to get drunk!! Listen to them, people! They are teaching what our prophets have said for generations! God’s Spirit is poured out on us so that we can be saved. St. Luke later tells us that 3000 people joined the disciples that very day! Now that is a great birthday party for us to celebrate!
When we put the 4 readings for today side by side, we see clearly a pattern of activity by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit restores and resurrects the dry bones. The Spirit brings the gift of communication to the disciples. The Spirit comes upon the disciples and then upon us to teach us what Jesus Christ wants us to know about God.
Here I need to tell you that I am an unapologetic Trinitarian – more about that next Sunday which is Holy Trinity Sunday. But when you hear me say God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are hearing a statement of my beliefs. I understand the Holy Spirit to be the POWER of God working in the universe. I understand the KEY to that power as being PRAYER. I understand angels, messengers, miracles, mysteries, coincidences and grace to be the work of God the Holy Spirit. I believe that the saints and the Scriptures give us examples and tell us stories about the work of the Spirit so that we will take the risk of stepping out in faith.
Faith is taking a risk, trusting that what we cannot see is real. Faith is listening for the sound of the rushing wind when we do not FEEL wind in our hair. Faith is trusting that the fire we see on the heads of the people around us – and they see on our head – will not burn our hair right down to the roots or set the walls on fire.
As human beings we are very prone to survey the field of dry bones and then walk away without even asking the Holy Spirit if there is anything to be done. We do not know how to reanimate the dry bones of our faith, our hopes, our desires for God’s presence within us. Therefore, we assume that the dry bones will remain dry. But God is in the business of changing people and the Holy Spirit is the change agent.
Do you think the Peter who denied Jesus 3 times would have seen himself preaching to thousands of foreigners in defiance of the Temple leaders?
Do you think Saul as he started his road trip to Damascus would have seen himself as Paul the missionary to the Gentiles? Do you think the ancient prophet seeing the vision from God would had predicted that God intended to save the Israelites from their captivity? Of course not! It is convenient to think that what limits us limits God. That makes God a
“convenience” – easy to carry around and manipulate, there to “save” us but not to challenge us.
The Holy Spirit is power beyond our comprehension. Bringing dry bones back to life is the very least of it! Every breath you take is taken in the grace of the Holy Spirit. Every cell in your body is known and penetrated by the grace of the Holy Spirit. BUT you must invite the Holy Spirit into your heart and your mind. That takes courage because nothing will ever be the same again. Hear that: the Holy Spirit makes ALL things NEW!
You will become the person you most desire to be – God’s beloved child. You will see grace where you have never seen it before. You will fight battles you never thought you could win and overcome struggles you never would have chosen. Challenge upon challenge and grace upon grace will come into your life. You will know the unending love of God.
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I pray for the power of God’s Holy Spirit here and now in each of us, in this place. Amen.