Acts 2:1-21; John 14:8-17, 25-27
St Barbara’s 09.06.19
Rev Tulo Raistrick
The events of that first Christian Pentecost must have been extraordinary to behold.
First we have the sound of an almighty wind inside the house! Something extraordinary is taking place. When God created the world the Bible tells us he breathed it into being. The word for wind is the same as it is for breath. When Ezekiel the Old Testament prophet foretold that God would renew the world he described it in the picture of God breathing his spirit onto a pile of bones which suddenly came back to human life again. So this wind is a sign that God is doing something very special – he is bringing into being something new.
And then there is fire, resting on the top of each person’s head. Not destructive fire that burns everything up and leaves only ashes, but holy fire.
It reminds us of Moses and the burning bush, another time when something was on fire and yet not being consumed. It was a sign to Moses that he was in God’s holy, awesome and sacred presence. He stood on holy ground. He took off his sandals and prostrated himself on the ground.
Well now fire is resting on each of the disciples’ heads. They are the place where God’s holy presence is resting. They themselves are not just standing on holy ground. They are holy ground!
Lets put that in context. For Jews, the holy of holies in the temple was the place which represented the presence of God. It was such a holy place that only one person – the high priest – could go in there, and even then, only one day every year.
But now – rather than one holy place where you could encounter the presence of God, limited to one person once a year – there were millions of places accessible at any time – for each Christian becomes someone in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. Each one of us has become the holy of holies! Paul writes to the church in Corinth: “your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God.” We are living temples. We are holy ground because God dwells within us
This is extraordinary, miraculous.
Look around you. This place is a special place, a holy place, not because of the building, but because of the people who are here. God by his spirit lives in each of us. When we look at one another we have the opportunity to see what God is like. Each one of us represents holy ground, a place where we can encounter the presence of God. How amazing!
God dwells in us. He also works through us.
God’s presence is like the wind – we cannot see it, but we can see its impact.
Look at how the Holy Spirit’s presence had an impact on the disciples:
Peter preaches in a way he had never done before, with courage and boldness. This friend of Jesus, who had denied even knowing him the night before Jesus died, is now willing to stand up in front of a crowd of thousands and tell them about Jesus.
The disciples speak in different languages. These uneducated fishermen from Galilee are able to communicate with people all over the world the life changing message of Christ.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, the disciples’ communication was transformed, from the equivalent of a paper cup and string to a mobile phone, or from carrier pigeon to email.
Suddenly barriers to communication were brought down. And what did they choose to communicate at this momentous moment? They chose to communicate about Jesus!
The Holy Spirit’s presence can help us to point others to Jesus too.
When we pray to God, the Holy Spirit can give us the opportunities to speak to others about Jesus, and give us the words to say.
Last Sunday a member of the congregation was telling me how someone they didn’t know had told them about some difficulty, and the church member had said they would pray for them. The person was a bit sceptical and suspicious of anything religious, but later in the week, they said how much they would appreciate prayer. The church member felt like the Holy Spirit had prompted them to say the right thing.
The Holy Spirit helps us to point others to Jesus, whether at home, at work or at school.
The Holy Spirit’s presence also helps to create community.
A story in the Old Testament is told of how when people were building the Tower of Babel, they all began to speak different languages, leading to lots of confusion, misunderstanding and argument. They all fell out with each other. But now in a reverse of that story, the disciples are able to be understood by everyone, no matter their language. Divisions and misunderstandings are overcome. All are welcomed into the kingdom of God. The work of the Holy Spirit brings unity, it builds community.
That was certainly the experience of the early church. Within days of Pentecost, we read that the new Christians began living as one community – sharing with each other, giving generously. As the church grew, so did their compassion and their kindness. They gave away their possessions to care for the poor. They set up soup kitchens for the hungry. They supported those in difficult times.
How can we work with the Holy Spirit to build community? To care for those in need. To ensure we love each other, not fall out with one another.
This Pentecost, remind yourself again:
God, by his spirit, lives in us.
And God, by his spirit, works through us, to point others to Jesus and to build communities of love.
Let us pray that God will fill us with his Spirit to overflowing.