This sermon was preached at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Dearborn Heights, Michigan and was focused upon the story that is told in Acts 2:1-21. The audio recording is above and a written manuscript is below.
I hear that word weaving its way throughout this entire story.
It’s right there at the beginning: When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. The disciples of Jesus were all in a house together. The twelve disciples were there, likely with other men, women, and children who called themselves disciples too. We don’t know exactly what they were doing when the great, surprising moment of the Spirit came, but we do know that they were in fellowship together. We do know they were all in one place.
They had been doing this together for a while in a season of waiting. Now surely, they couldn’t have anticipated the full power and all details of this moment, and most likely, they wouldn’t necessarily have expected it to happen that very day. No, they couldn’t have anticipated all the details, but were waiting purposefully.
After Jesus died and was raised to new life, he spoke to his disciples, saying, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are my witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
So when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. They were waiting purposefully for the promise of God, but in any given moment, could they have anticipated that the time was right upon them? I bet they were just as stunned as anyone else was that day.
Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
I’m sure they were startled.
Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
What strange, wonderful details.
And that’s when we hear the word again. . .
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Could they have possibly anticipated this holy moment and what it would be like?
Could they have possibly known how deeply empowered they would become without a moment’s notice?
When the Holy Spirit suddenly entered that room, God empowered them to become witnesses to proclaim this great message of forgiveness, freedom, and release for the people.
They spoke good news about all these things, and initially, all those who heard them were stunned. Pentecost was an ancient, annual festival of the Jews. People from many different nations were present during this holy moment. They were Jews who lived in other places. They came to Jerusalem from every nation to celebrate this great festival of the harvest.
When the people heard all this sound and these words of forgiveness, freedom, and release, they were shocked. They said, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? So how is it that all of us – all of us, wherever we have come from – are hearing these words in our own languages?” They were stunned by this. The story says, All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’
So often, when we enter our own celebration of Pentecost and remember this holy moment, we think of this story as a miracle of tongues. Certainly it was, for the disciples were speaking languages previously unknown to them. But Eric Law, an Episcopal priest and author, frames this moment in another way. He says that this Pentecost moment was a miracle of the ear. Suddenly, people divided by language, national origin, and cultural upbringing were connected, and all were able to hear one another.
This is truly a miracle of the ear.
This is a miracle of God bringing people together so that this message of good news may be heard.
This is what they heard:
Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and said to all of them, People of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. These people are not drunk as you suppose. It’s only 9 in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.
And listen as the word all weaves its way through Peter’s speech.
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 Peter closes by saying,
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
All who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
That’s what happens in this moment of Pentecost.
Beyond the portion of the text we read today, Peter continues in his speech. He talks about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He talks about forgiveness, freedom, and release. Peter shares all of this with the people, for God is providing all of these for the people.
After they heard all of this, the story continues, saying that they were cut to the heart. They said Peter and the other apostles, “What should we do?” Peter invites them to repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus, and receive the Holy Spirit.
And they do. The story goes on to say,
Those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day, about three thousand persons were added.
So this day of Pentecost –
the day we are living together –
I keep thinking about this word All
and the power that is within it.
I marvel at the power and the beauty of the large, expansive vision of God.
I marvel at the power and the beauty present
when we are all gathered together,
not simply living a mundane moment,
not simply living one of 52 Sundays on the calendar,
but being present this day and waiting upon God.
I marvel at the power and beauty that takes place
when all are empowered,
perhaps to do things that have seemed impossible.
I marvel when all are able to hear each other,
especially in this world where see so many divisions —
with our political leanings,
our races and ethnicities,
our class structures,
our expressions of culture,
our expressions of church culture. . .
What a miracle it is when we are all able to hear one another
and recognize that the Spirit of God
can be found in and among all of these human lives.
I marvel at this word:
These visions and these powerful ways of thinking are truly of the Spirit. They are large. They do seem impossible at times. They are certainly expansive.
And you know what else I notice? These large-scale visions of God all take place in and through the presence of specific human lives. These people gathered together, and they waited upon God. They were simple, ordinary people, and God chose to empower them.
They were people like you and me.
With our histories, our life experiences, our variety of ages,
we gather all together,
and large, expansive visions can take place in our midst too,
perhaps right in a moment when we aren’t expecting it.
Will we wait for the presence of the Holy Spirit among us?
Will we allow ourselves to be empowered?
In the unexpected moment before us today,
will we allow our vision to be as expansive as God’s?
So let’s close in the same way we began:
When the day of Pentecost had come, the people of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church were all together in one place.
 I found this image here.
 Eric H.F. Law shares this perspective on Pentecost in his book The Wolf Shall Dwell With the Lamb: A Spirituality for Leadership in a Multicultural Community.