1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’
14 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. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 “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.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. The gift of the Holy Spirit poured out on the disciples. The ongoing presence of God in the world; and the beginning of the church. Sometimes we talk about Pentecost as the birthday of the church.
We have talked about our second pandemic Easter and our second pandemic Mothers’ Day (Fathers’ Day not far behind). Add to that birthdays and other significant days that now for the second year we are unable to observe and celebrate in the way that we wish to.
But I haven’t heard anyone talk about our second pandemic Pentecost.
That’s probably because even though Pentecost is a big deal in the church, most of us don’t quite know what to do with it. Christmas is easy, light in the darkness, a child in a feed trough. Good Friday and Easter: Death and Resurrection, grief and joy, confusion, all things we know from experience and that have a metaphorical quality.
In contrast, Pentecost is the neglected feast day of the church.
We have likely heard all this before in one form or another. But it is different this year because this year is not like any other year, except perhaps last year.
One of the things that has made this time so difficult is the separation that the pandemic has brought. Of course, we have come to appreciate small gestures, have had opportunities to help neighbours, friends, or aging parents, or been at the receiving end of such. We have found a new appreciation of the beauty of our province, and we have gained a new appreciation for all in essential positions and for those whose livelihoods are fragile. Not to mention that we are thankful for the technology and those that run it that allows us to continue to gather for worship.
And yet everyone we talk to says and knows that it’s not the same. Not the same as being together in one space. Hugging each other, shaking hands, giving high fives. Not the same as laughing and crying together, or just to sit together in silence. Not the same as listening to a sermon in the pew, as volunteering as a greeter or usher. Or hearing your neighbour sneeze and unwrap a cough candy.
We are thankful that things are moving in the right direction. We are thankful that streaming and Zoom and Jordan have preserved some sense of normalcy for us, allowing our corporate worship to continue to give rhythm to our lives, especially we are thankful to Jordan.
But here we are standing at the threshold of our second pandemic Pentecost. This is the festival that constitutes the church, constitutes the Christian community, makes discipleship possible.
More than ever before we now know that we need one another, that our faith isn’t just a matter between Jesus and me, but that as the Word became flesh in Jesus, the Word becomes flesh in the community, takes on form and shape, and we are more than friends, or put differently, our friendship is built on the friendship of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit brings us together and makes us one. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, but all are one in Christ Jesus. The oneness is not to be mistaken for sameness, because there are many gifts in the Body of Christ. But we are belong to God and are called by the Holy Spirit to be the Body of Christ broken for the world.
Perhaps this period of fasting from being together and thus the giving up of something that is precious, beautiful, though sometimes difficult, and essential will help us to be the Body of Christ broken for the world. But most likely it is the Holy Spirit that makes it possible and for whose presence we give thanks.