The Holy Spirit: Pentecost
Marissa Jadrich Ortiz — May 23, 2021
Today, Christians around the world are celebrating a day we call Pentecost. It’s a great story! You remember how Jesus spent years telling everyone what it’s really like to be part of God’s family; how sad it was when Jesus died and how exciting it was when Jesus came back to life, even stronger than death. How he visited his friends and forgave them for totally abandoning him, and even said that the best part of the story was still to come. Well that was a kind of strange thing to say, because soon, Jesus went right up to heaven. “Don’t worry guys!” he said to them. “I’m sending you help! Soon! Just wait!”
Well that was confusing.
Jesus friends did just what he said. They waited around. They got together a lot, to remember stories about Jesus and pray together and ask each other “what do you think he meant?” And then, came a day they would never forget.
It was a very busy day in Jerusalem. Jewish people from all over had come into town to celebrate a special holiday together, the harvest festival. Jesus friends got together in the morning like they often did. Maybe they were just sitting down to breakfast. When they heard something—it sounded like a strong wind blowing through the whole house! And they saw something—a flame, just a little one, hovering over each person’s head! And that’s not all. Inside themselves, they felt something—it was the Holy Spirit, God’s presence and power staying with them from the inside JUST LIKE it was with Jesus. And then—they started talking. All of them. Not just talking, declaring the mighty works of God! But the CRAZY part is, they were speaking in other languages. Languages they don’t even know!
Well that was pretty amazing, and confusing. Not just for Jesus friends. Some other people outside had questions. Remember, it was a busy day in the city, and some people had travelled from far away to celebrate there. Well, these folks out in the street heard all this noise coming from their house. And no matter where they came from, they heard God’s praises in their OWN language. How is that possible??
How did that happen? Well God has unlimited power and can do just about anything. But that can make this sound like a party trick or an advertising stunt. I want to take a moment and talk about WHY this would happen.
I think God did this because God wanted them to know that God speaks their language. Not just big important languages like Greek or Latin or English, the little obscure languages that people use in their remote villages, with their families. The
hard to pronounce words, the idioms and irregular verbs. God cares about them that deep. Not just as a human or as a jewish person. But as “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; Romans, Cretans and Arabs.”
Church, I think that’s what God was saying to the whole world on Pentecost. To all of them, God was ready to speak right to them.
Well all these people from all these places were wondering what was going on! So Jesus friends came out to talk with them. Peter preached a sermon about how through Jesus, God has come closer to us than ever before. God’s forgiveness, Jesus’ victory over death, the Holy Spirit’s power, these are for everyone. Many people decided to follow Jesus that day. But I think hearing the words of God in their own language spoke even louder than a sermon. It proved that God knew and loved them—their homeland, their culture, their family, the jokes that wouldn’t be funny if you translated them. God wants to be part of EVERYTHING that we are.
And that is how the Church was born! Thousands of people heard Peter’s message, changed their hearts and lives, and got baptized. Some of them went back to their homeland, bringing the good news of Jesus with them. And some of them stayed in Jerusalem. Instead of just a handful of friends from Judea, there were hundreds of people from different cultural groups who worshiped, prayed, and shared food together in the city. How exciting!
I love that the church was born out of Jesus’ resurrection—out of the Holy Spirit’s super surprising hospitality through welcoming all these people in their own language—out of the faithfulness of Jesus’ friends to just wait and be a part of this movement on God’s time.
Their job (and ours) is to let that Holy Spirit flame light up the place God has put us. And let that Holy Spirit wind blow the mercy and joy and welcome comes from being part of God’s family out from our lives into the people around us.
As that flame caught on to one people, families, and cities, it wasn’t always easy— people following Jesus got themselves into some sticky situations, and building a community with people who are very different from you always gets messy and painful. But they knew the wind of God’s Spirit was always blowing over them, ready to keep the fire going and growing. That’s how the church first was born, and that’s still what it means for us to follow Jesus together. Our words and our actions show each other and those around us that no difference, division, difficulty, or even death can stop God’s
power through Jesus to make us part of God’s family, and through the Holy Spirit to make us family to each other.
This is such an exciting holiday for Christians! We should celebrate!
We’re going to celebrate by lighting a fire together! We’re going to see if we can demonstrate right here and now what it looks like for one little flame to light a really big fire. If you’re good at fires and you want to help coordinate this I would be happy to take volunteers too. Okay, we’re going to line up in order from smallest to largest thing to burn. If you want to help and you didn’t bring anything, you can help yourself from this pile over here. Smallest things in the front, and we’ll see if we can get everything lit from just one match.