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Catch the Spirit!

“Catch the Spirit”

May 18, 2024 - Cobleskill United Methodist Church, Pastor Anna Blinn Cole

Acts 2:1-21


Acts 2:1-21

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 nation 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, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:“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.Even upon my slaves, both men and women,   in those days I will pour out my Spirit;     and they shall prophesy.And I will show portents in the heaven above   and signs on the earth below,     blood, and fire, and smoky mist.The sun shall be turned to darkness   and the moon to blood,     before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Yesterday, June and I were blowing up some balloons in preparation for today.   I blew up one red one just for her to play with and when I was done, I batted it over to her.  She caught it and exclaimed that it was like she was catching a piece of me because my air was inside.  

At which point I thought to myself, now that’ll preach.

Friends, today is Pentecost.  Undoubtedly it’s a weird word you don’t hear in everyday language.  It means 50th in Greek and it refers to the 50th day after Easter.  On one hand, Pentecost is like a bookend to the story of God-With-Us that began with Advent.  Jesus came, Jesus lived, Jesus loved, Jesus died, Jesus rose, Jesus ascended to be with God, and on Pentecost, God sends the Holy Spirit as a companion to be with us in our daily lives as we move forward in community without Jesus physically with us.   But as much as it is a conclusion to this season of the church year when we celebrate Jesus being with us, it’s also a beginning to the journey we do as a church in the ordinary days of our lives.  It’s a beginning to the life we live in community trying to follow in the footsteps Jesus left us.  Without Jesus here to physically hold our hands and guide us forward, God sends an intangible wind, a burning passion, a holy ghost, to fill us up.  And filled with that presence, we are empowered to hold each other’s hands as we move forward together.  This, my friends, is what we call the church. 

And it’s kind of like catching a balloon filled with the breath of God.  A gift passed to us not for us to just hold, but for us to keep passing.  

Just now in our scripture reading we got to hear the story of Pentecost and we also got to experience some of the feeling of Pentecost.  A feeling of chaotic speaking, confusion, then clarity, understanding, appreciation.  People had assembled from all over the known world (did you hear all those places? Great job, Sarah, tackling all the place names) …. People had assembled from all over the known world and God wanted them to hear the good news.  But there was a problem.  These people did not speak the same language.  They are all different.  And this is what’s miraculous about this day.  When the Holy Spirit arrived, it rushed through the room like a wind and the people were aflame with the sense that God was with them and empowering them for understanding.  And what could have happened is that all these different people from so many different places gathered together with the disciples in Galilee and God could have made the miracle go the other way.  God could have allowed everyone to understand the one language of the Galilean disciples.  Pentecost could have been a flattening of all that diversity into uniformity.  A return to a monolith.  A time when everyone spoke the same language.  But that was not the miracle of Pentecost.  The miracle is that everyone heard everyone else’s different language and understood all of them.  The Spirit’s gift was the celebration of diversity.  And it was chaotic and a bit confusing at first.  But in the midst of the chaos, the Spirit made space for understanding. 

We cannot take the miracle of Pentecost for granted.  

Because even though everyone brought their full, different, beautiful selves, on Pentecost they had a common denominator.  The Holy Spirit was bouncing around them all like a room full of balloons filled with God’s breath.  That spirit united them, brought them joy, gave them focus, and ultimately, forged bonds between vastly different peoples.  If that miracle could happen 2000 years ago, can it not happen again today?  

What if, in a world where people still try to separate us by gender roles, country borders, religion, political parties, partisan ideologies and doctrines, us and them…what if, we claimed our roots as Pentecost People.  What if we used this annual birthday party to launch ourselves anew as diverse and beautiful people made by God to belong to each other through the transformative love of Jesus?  What if creating spaces of belonging for diverse people was the mission and purpose of our church?  

Is that the kind spirit you can catch?  Because that’s what God’s sending.  

Church, will you take a big deep breath with me.  Fill your lungs from the top to the bottom and then let it all out. This is the moment when the mantle of Jesus’s liberating work of peace and justice on this earth is passed to us.  

Let us pray with the fullness of God.   

Fill our lungs, Holy Spirit.  Fill our hearts with your story.  Fill our bones with your birth, your living, your loving, your justice, your healing, your peace.  Fill our souls with your victory over death itself.  With this fullness of your holy story, 

we breathe in 

and we breathe out.  

We exhale with relief that we are not in this alone. That your breath sustains us.  We exhale with the enduring promise that through you we find our place in this community of barrier-breaking, justice-seeking, neighbor loving people.  We exhale knowing we belong.  

O God, in the exchange of this air, in the movement from mountaintops to valleys, in the ups and downs of our actual lives, root us in our identity as your beloved community called to be diverse, and colorful and full of life.  Root us in your belonging.  

And all God’s people said Amen. 

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