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5/19/24 Sermon

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John 14:15-21 NRSVUE, adapted

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and God will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees the Spirit nor knows the Spirit. You know the Spirit because the Spirit abides with you, and the Spirit will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me, and those who love me will be loved by God, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Acts 2:1-17 NRSV

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every people under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Fellow Jews and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions,    and your old men shall dream dreams.

These verses from John are part of Jesus’ Last Supper discourse. In a little while… Jesus promises they will see him again… in a little while. 

They of course misunderstand this at first and are expecting and hoping to have him back among them in the same way in which they are familiar. Indeed, he does show himself in the days and weeks following the mystery of his empty tomb. 

Now it has been fifty days since Jesus was raised from the dead after being killed in Jerusalem. Fifty days since his first post-resurrection appearances. Fifty days filled with grief and uncertainty. Fifty days of his closest followers huddling together for safety and for comfort. Fifty days of waiting and wondering.

Jesus promised another Advocate. Jesus was our first Advocate. After his death and resurrection, at his Transfiguration his Holy Spirit became our eternal Advocate, always present to help, to encourage, to comfort. 

On the fiftieth day, the disciples were gathered together for the Jewish Festival of Weeks, a harvest festival (Shavuot). The city of Jerusalem is filled with people from “everywhere” as Sarina read for us, Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Egypt, Asia… that is when the Holy Spirit makes her grand entrance… and yet all present can understand the disciples, who are all Galileans. 

In John’s scripture, it feels like the mighty wind of Pentecost is swirling all around within the words. It feels personal. So many times in these seven verses we find the words you and me, and my and I; especially Jesus speaking as first person I. So many promises… what Jesus will do, what we must do, what God will do, what the Spirit, (the Advocate) will do. Jesus  promises that the Advocate will abide in you and you in the Advocate, Jesus in the Father, and us in Jesus, and Jesus in us. Jesus promises over and over again that there will always be this holy relationship between those who follow, those who love, those who are open to mystery and revelation. 

When we pray, so often we pray for God or Spirit to be with us, which they always are. It is good to remember to pray for ourselves to be open to the Holy Spirit, pray for us to be with God and Spirit, which are always present and waiting for us to be with them.

I read in the Connections commentary series, that in verse 17 the Greek word for “in you” can also be translated “among you.” It can be singular or plural. It is helpful to think of it both ways. Jesus is in us individually, and among us communally. We are all in this together. 

Mental Health Sunday is a good opportunity to consider ways that the Holy Spirit moves in us and among us. Pentecost is an invitation to listen and to understand voices and concepts that sound foreign to us. Hearing from another culture, another gender, another perspective, to view another’s reality can be life changing… and can bring us closer to one another and closer to God. 

In John chapter 14, verse 18 Jesus states that he will not leave them orphaned. He reiterates that he is coming to them, although not everyone will see him. He will be revealed… which is where we pick up in our passage from Luke-Acts, where we move from the promise to the fulfilment. 

Jesus was baptized with the Holy Spirit and Fire during his lifetime. It is during this encounter of rushing wind and tongues of fire, that baptism is bestowed upon the disciples. 

The disciples are all together in one place when they are disrupted by a sound from heaven like the rush of a violent wind. It appears as divided tongues, as of fire, filling them with the Holy Spirit, giving them the ability to communicate across cultures and languages. Not a fire that destroys, but a fire like the one Moses encountered at the burning bush, which blazed but did not consume.

The scripture tells us that those present were amazed and astonished and bewildered and perplexed. That sounds about right. Also, there were naysayers. Those unable or unwilling to let the experience resonate with them. Some were skeptical, arguing that the disciples must surely be drunk on new wine. 

After reading this scripture many times in the past twenty years, this is the first time I think that I understand Peter’s response to those sneering at what they are witnessing. Drunk at 9:00 in the morning? Certainly not. However, they were in fact under the influence; not of new wine, but under the influence of the Holy Spirit. What was witnessed defies belief. The scriptures are being fulfilled, says the disciple Peter… the Prophet Joel spoke of God’s promise to pour out the Holy Spirit upon all flesh causing believers to prophesy, see visions, dream dreams. 

Some Biblical translations refer to “a mighty wind,” but this NRSV specifies “a violent wind.” We do not like to think of it, but often the Holy Spirit moves in ways that we would rather not experience. The Holy Spirit is known to push us way out of our comfort zones. Jesus was not concerned with comfort; not his own, not ours. 

Many of you know that I would not be standing in this pulpit if it weren’t for a very persistent Holy Spirit pushing me to walk to the edge, and continued relentlessly pushing until I had no option but to  step into the unknown. One description of faith is this: Trusting that one of two things will happen when you step into the unknown; there will be something solid to stand on, or you will learn to fly.

I would like to raise up four individuals in our congregation that are stepping out into the unknown. Amelia Ashmore, Alison Boden, Nick Davis, and Pat Summerer. Our            “Claiming Your Call for Climate Justice” team is about to embark on a journey along with eight other congregations from Northern New England. After a time of discernment, they will be invited to engage our congregation in a “small experiment with radical intent.”  

I expect these four, and eventually all of us will be pushed out of our comfort zones as we grapple with the reality of climate change and how it is impacting the planet and people and creatures that we love, both near and far. 

This will take courage, and faith, and trust for them and for us. I pray that the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit blows in them and among us all in the coming months. I pray that the gifts of Pentecost keep on giving, that we are open to the promises made and kept, in surprising and unexpected ways. 


Rev. TJ Mack – May 18, 2024

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