When God Moves
Scripture: Acts 2: 1-21. (Read in Afrikaans, Farsi, Filipino, German, Japanese, and Ukraianian)
Sermon: “When God Moves”
Today is Pentecost Sunday! Some of us have our red on today! I have friends who have red heels, and they sport them on this day! I’ll need to get some for next year! I have my red mask, red stole, and anything else red we can find! We celebrate the day that the Holy Spirit breathes down life from heaven in a whole unexpected way. Pentecost is truly the celebration of the birth of the church! A miracle has happened today, and we are all changed.
God works like that, right? Unexpectantly, and in strange ways that we never could predict. But are we surprised? We shouldn’t be. We should expect that God takes what never could be, and makes it so. Today, the Scriptures say that all were together in one place. Not all from the North Shore. Not all from Canada. But all from all over, everywhere, from different languages and cultures and practices. And all were amazed.
The Spirit of God does not disappoint. In fact, the Spirit goes beyond any expectation. Tongues of fire it says—came down upon them and gave them the ability to speak in languages and native tongues that each one there could understand.
Today, you hear the Scripture read in many different languages that are represented just within our own congregation right here. And there are probably more among us than we were able to include today! And not that we doubted the Spirit, but just in case you don’t know Afrikaans, Farsi, Filipino, German, Japanese or Ukrainian…we included the English up on the screen for us.
In some way, today, we’ve all heard the Word, and we pray we understood, with God’s help.
I come from a place where sudden strong winds can come upon a land without notice. When I went to college in Lubbock, Texas, it was known as tumbleweed country. When the wind blew, the tumbleweeds would start flying across the roads. And if it was strong enough, the dirt stirred in the air so much, that you couldn’t even see across the street! Wind is powerful. The Holy Spirit image as a rushing violent wind is powerful, moving anything that is in the way.
We lived in Chicago after our first-born was born, and we remember taking him out for a short walk. We didn’t realize that the wind had picked up! We bundled him up in proper gear—coat, hats and gloves….but when he stepped outside at about 2 years old, we looked back and to this day remember a sweet little toddler overwhelmed with wind. “Whooooaaaaaaaa,” he yelped, as his hands reached out wide to try and steady himself without falling over like a roly poly, or pill bugs as their called here, I think!
Here's what Luke wants us to know from today’s Scripture—let yourself be surrounded by the wind! Get out there in it! The Holy Spirit is given to us, poured out on all flesh, that we might know God in a new way, and life with His Spirit moving us in new ways.
Scholar NT Wright writes that the wind overcoming us is good. Let it sweep through “your life, your heart, your imagination, your powers of speech, and transform you from a listless or lifeless believer into someone whose heart is on fire with the love of God.”
What did you notice when you heard the different languages spoken today? Maybe you noticed how each one sounded different—accents on syllables, formation of words, and so on. I know in the Hungarian language, sometimes the word that is equivalent to an English word is a lot longer and many more syllables than the English. So sometimes it takes longer to get out all the words, when in the English it may look quite short to speak. Whenever we have the opportunity to travel to a foreign land, what do we do? We try and take a crash course in the basic phrases of that land: Hello, Good-bye, How are you, and Where is the Bathroom?
Did you understand every word like they did at Pentecost? Do you feel like this is a test!? J Maybe we didn’t understand the Afrikaans, if we’ve never learned it or spoken it, or read it. Maybe the Filipino sounded different to our ears if we’ve not lived in that community. We heard a lot of different languages, and it is Pentecost, after all. So, what do we think God would like us to understand today? Maybe that the Spirit can move us in ways that may look different than we expect. Maybe God would like us to understand that in our own lives, we might actually limit the Spirit if we are not open to other’s ideas. We know that Luke emphasizes this: ALL were together in one place. The Spirit comes not to divide, but to unite.
In our current context, we may not necessarily understand every word spoken from a different language. But, we can try and understand that God has us here together, in one place, and we are no two alike. And God is okay with that. God loves are differences. God made us unique. Last week we learned about the Ascension---Jesus risen into heaven is Part I of the earth being transformed into a new creation in which heaven and earth are joined. Now Part II—the pouring out of the Spirit on earth---is the sheer energy of heaven itself! “The gift of the Spirit is the direct result of the Ascension of Jesus.” God keeps giving us more of himself!
What does wind do? It moves us. It moves over us, it moves through us in our very breath, it physically can move us from a standing position if it is strong enough. The Spirit of God is like a massive wind, and Pentecost gives us words to describe the Spirit. Words that in any other context, we wouldn’t understand at all---but when spoken by God’s people, we are united in one place together. Some folks refer to it as “holy babble.” God moves mysteriously among his people. It can look very different for all of us. But for all of us, God longs to give his Spirit to all people who seek him.
The funniest line in this whole text is that Peter says, how can you think all of us are drunk with wine? I mean, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! The day is young. So, what was up with them…if they appeared so out of sorts. What was the Spirit, so powerfully doing? And church, are we so filled with it that some may accuse of too much wine in the morning?! Do our lives look that different to others, that people notice?
Willie Jennings writes that “the new wine has been poured out on those unaware of just how deeply they thirsted.” There is a future for us, North Lonsdale…a future shaped by divine desire, and a God whose power has been given that we might all be joined together, in one place. May we continue to grow together, as we learn the language of God, and speak it fluently!
Here is one of the wildest parts of the Scripture you heard today. A former preaching professor notes that not only is this gathering diverse…it’s impossible! For example, the Medes! They wouldn’t have travelled just a few hundred miles, but a few hundred years! They had been extinct. Same with the Elamites! This is a gathering of those living and those dead. This is Acts way of saying, this Spirit given at Pentecost---is truly poured out for all. All the languages are a sign that God is stitching humanity back together, making one people out of who all we've divided.
We are the stuff of our past. And at Pentecost…everything is brought back, and everything is remembered. We’re all given words. All the Spirit to speak through you. It may feel strange at first—like you’re speaking in a voice that’s not your own, joined together with people that may not be like you. And that’s the Pentecost miracle. We speak the language of God—a language we might not have known before, until the Spirit came down, like fire. Amen.
 Wright, N.T., “Acts for Everyone Commentary.”