Chris Dodd – 5 June 2022.
Reading: Acts 2:1-21
Our reading from the book of Acts this morning describes the first day of Pentecost.
Significantly the story has the followers of Jesus gathered in one place. They are together, not scattered or spread around Jerusalem. They are together. We don’t know what they are feeling, what they are talking about or even who they are. But they are together.
This is the second time in a few short weeks that the followers of Jesus have been together in one place, for after Jesus’ crucifixion they too were together in the upper room.
The gospel of john tells us:
- The disciples were afraid of the Jewish leaders, and on the evening of that same Sunday they locked themselves in a room. Suddenly, Jesus appeared in the middle of the group. When the disciples saw the lord, they became very happy.
After Jesus’ death we are told that his followers were afraid. They were hiding from the Jewish leaders and it is only when Jesus appears to them that they are reassured and are said to be happy.
But on the day of Pentecost things are different. the followers of Jesus know that he will not come to them as he did after his death, for just a few days beforehand they had witnessed his ascension to heaven. They know that Jesus is no longer a physical presence amongst them. And so they feel alone, isolated, perhaps forgotten and abandoned.
But in this moment we have a snapshot of the beginnings of the church. A group of people with a common belief gathered together seeking comfort from each other, unsure of what lies next, but knowing that they should be together as the gathered people of God.
This is the beginning. the early fire of Pentecost is amongst them and as we know the first sparks of a newly lit fire are usually yellow – the first colour of Pentecost.
The imagery in the book of acts concerning Pentecost is most vivid. It is deliberately so because the author, traditionally accredited to Luke who wrote the gospel of the same name is trying to impress on the reader the importance of this event.
And so Luke writes that suddenly in the midst of this group of people, unsure and afraid there came the sound of a rushing wind and it filled the house they were in.
The use of the image of rushing wind is not unintentional. Think for a moment about times when you were exposed to heavy wind blasts and in our changing climate we have been exposed more and more to high wind storms.
What happens when the wind blows hard? Strong trees bend, some are even uprooted from the ground, ships are driven onto the rocks, buildings are damaged and your trampoline ends up next door along with all your outdoor furniture.
The rushing wind on the day of Pentecost drove through the room where Jesus followers were gathered and every person there was affected.
They could not ignore it. and so from being a group who were tentative and afraid they became quite literally moved by the power of God’s spirit. And so the second colour of Pentecost is orange for when the fire picks up heat it often glows orange.
Finally, the people huddled in the room begin to find courage to venture out into the marketplace and begin to engage with the people there. The power of the wind had driven them out of their hiding place into the open glare and the danger and uncertainties of the world.
And these people who had hidden themselves away, what did they do when the wind drove them out of their sanctuary?
Did they run back into their safe haven? Did they hide? Did they hope no-one would make eye contact with them? No they didn’t. And here is the essence of the story of Pentecost.
The followers of Jesus were transformed. they went from being people gathered together to a people going out into the world and speaking to people in a way that they understood. The writer describes this as speaking with tongues of fire. And so the final colour of Pentecost is red, for when a fire is blazing and moving across the landscape it is usually red.
We come to the end of our story. But it is not just a story about the early church, it should also be understood that the story provides a vision on how to be the people of God.
We recently had a mission and wellness meeting where we talked about what type of church we wanted to be and we came up with many ideas. Here in the story of Pentecost we have God’s plan for our mission and wellness.
Firstly God wants us to be together in that room, getting to know each other, drawing strength from each other. God has no problems with family groups and shared meals and gatherings of his people.
But God doesn’t want us to just stay in a room with people we are comfortable with. So he stirs us and sends a howling wind to shake us, to move us, sometimes to break us so we can be rebuilt. He wants us to experience the power of his spirit so that we as a church can take that final step. and that is to leave the room filled with our friends and go out and talk to people where they live in a language they understand and through actions that meet their needs.
For the final step is that it’s no longer what we want, no longer what we are comfortable with. It is now all about what we are called to do even if it is way out of our comfort zones which it often is. I’m sure peter the fisherman never saw himself as addressing a crowd on Pentecost
It is often a calling we feel we are not qualified for. We feel or convince ourselves that we don’t have the time or the talents or the energy to do what God has called us to do.
But despite our fears, this morning let us remember the colours of Pentecost, colours that guide us from the yellow of the single flame to the orange of a spreading fire to the red of a firestorm that consumes all it touches.
This is the message of Pentecost, God wants us to grow from a solitary yellow flame in the dark to a fiery red firestorm lighting the world.
He has promised to light the road for that journey. Are we willing to take it?