The reading from Acts 2 should be familiar, especially since it defines the meaning of Pentecost Sunday. Since it is so familiar, the worship committee decided to present it in a more dramatic fashion. In this reading we’ve heard about fire and wind and movement. We’ve also been invited to envision the work of God’s Spirit in the world. It is a work that involves God’s people.
The book of Acts focuses on the movement of the Holy Spirit. This movement begins with the commission Jesus gives the disciples in Acts 1:8:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The rest of the Book of Acts flows out of this commissioning. That movement of the Spirit gets underway in Acts 2 and it continues to this day. That means we’re part of this movement of the Spirit. Our story begins in an Upper Room, where the disciples are waiting for the Spirit to come in power. As the followers of Jesus pray for the Spirit to move, the “rush of a violent wind” fills the house. Imagine for a moment the power of a violent windstorm blowing open the windows and filling your house. You would conclude that this wind is quite powerful.
Since ancient times humans have tried to harness the power of the wind. You might not see the wind, but you can feel its effects. That’s why the ancients began to put sails on their boats and ships. Sailors learned to wait for the wind to blow in the direction they wanted to go, and then they would hoist the sails and the ship would begin to move. This ancient technology still works, as some of you can attest. If you’ve crewed a sailboat, which I’ve not done, you will know better than I the feeling that comes when the sail catches the wind and moves you along at a quickened pace. On this Pentecost Sunday Jesus is inviting us to hoist our sails so we can catch the wind of the Spirit and move across the waters to the destination the Spirit will reveal.
When Peter tried to interpret the events of the day of Pentecost, he pointed the crowd’s attention to the words of the prophet Joel. The prophet spoke of the day when God would pour out the Spirit on all flesh. When that day came the people of God -- young and old, male and female, slave and free -- would prophesy, see visions, and dream dreams. On that day everyone calling upon the name of the Lord would be saved. So, what dreams do you dream? What visions do you envision? Where is the Spirit of the Living God moving you?
I think it’s important to note how diverse the crowd was on that day of Pentecost. Most of those gathered in that place were Jews, but they came from all over the ancient world. They spoke many different languages, and everyone heard the good news in their own language. It’s often been noted that Pentecost overturns the story of Babel. That is the story of how God confused the languages of the people so that they wouldn’t storm heaven. The Day of Pentecost marked a new day when the Spirit brings the people back together.
I think it is appropriate this morning that we have in our midst representatives from the Turkish American Society of Michigan. After the service, when we go into the Fellowship Hall, we’ll have the opportunity to eat a bit of Noah’s Pudding and share in conversation with new friends whose background is very different from most of us gathered here today. Even if we may have our differences in religion, ethnicity, and first language, I believe the Spirit is bringing us together for a reason that remains to be revealed.
In another sign of the movement of the Spirit, I joined the mayor and a member of the Troy City Council for a meeting with a representative of the Somerset Park Apartments, just down the road from us. We were meeting to discuss how to help the residents of this apartment complex cope with the recent murder that took place there. In the course of the conversation I learned that this is the largest apartment complex in the Midwest, and that over half the residents are from India. Many of them, perhaps a majority, are here for a short time on work visas. This tragedy has shaken the residents. They’re not sure what to do? I was invited into this conversation because of my involvement with TIG. I must say that this brief meeting was eye-opening for me. I learned more about the challenges facing a significant number of people living in Troy. I learned about people who are contributing to our economy, but remain unsure about how to navigate the complexities of life in America. I also learned that the children living in this complex attend five different schools, because the closest school to the complex can’t handle the numbers of children living there. Even before this meeting I learned that the residents of Troy speak seventy-five different languages. Troy is not alone. I know that many of our neighboring communities have similar demographics. So, how is the Spirit moving us to engage this diverse community that we inhabit?
Are you ready to hoist your sails and catch the wind of the Spirit?
On Thursday evening the congregations that make up the Detroit Regional Interfaith Voice for Equity (DRIVE) will be getting back together to share the results of their one-on-one conversations with members of our congregations. From these conversations DRIVE will decide where to focus its attention in the coming months.
Are you ready to hoist your sails and go where the Spirit leads?
The mission statement of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) commits us to being a “movement of wholeness in a fragmented world.” That is, I believe, a vision revealed to us by the Spirit of God. It is our mission as a congregation in covenant relationship with the entirety of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). So, as we hoist our sails and catch the wind of the Spirit, how might we bring good news of God’s presence to our world? How do we share this message of love and justice with the world in which we inhabit? The answers we give help define our spiritual work.
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall, Pastor
Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Pentecost Sunday, Year C
May 15, 2016