Pentecost

Pentecost

Dear God, on this day of Pentecost,
as we remember your empowering of us and of all creation
with the very holiness of You,
may we be given fresh insight into who and what you are
as well as insight into ourselves,
as we respond to Your grace.
We pray in Jesus’ Name
Amen

Our reading (Acts 2:1-21) begins with us being told – specifically – they were all together [i], and in one place. We know from Matthew 18:19 that there is something very special about people meeting and agreeing, being of one mind, as opposed to the Medusa mythology that warns of how having too many thoughts all flying in different directions immobilizes us – turns us to stone – individually as well as a community. All together in one place implies their being of one mind! 

(When) ‘suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting’ – evocative of Adam’s [ii] inspiration.

And thenDivided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them’.  Resting on each – individually. We can imagine so many bottles being individually funnel-filled as opposed to having buckets of water sloshed over them. Those people were being individually ‘funnel-filled’ with God’s Spirit, as marked by those individual tongues of flame over each one of them…

And the effect of that filling was how the many different languages which were being spoken were now suddenly all understood. People began actually to understand one another. Some see this as the reversal of the Tower of Babel curse of Genesis 11 [iii].  13 But not everyone, because ‘some others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” Kind of like our easy contempt for whatever we don’t understand or perhaps feel threatened by.

And then came Peter’s sermon recalling that awesome prophecy of Joel, how God said: 17 ‘In the last days … I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and our children shall prophesy, young men see visions, and our old men dream dreams. …in those days …21 when everyone who calls on the name of the Lord SHALL BE SAVED.’

‘The effect of the Pentecost-poured out Holy Spirit in our lives is our ability better to embrace what was achieved for us by God in and through Jesus Christ – THAT’S WHAT WE UNDERSTAND BY ‘BEING SAVED’

THERE IS SO MUCH IN OUR LIVING THAT WE ALLOW TO STEAL OUR LIVES!

…to steal our IDENTITIES! And our  PERSPECTIVES! And our whole sense of PURPOSE!

What do you allow to decide your IDENTITY?

  • …your career perhaps: We do that! We so easily allow our sense of self & self-worth to be decided by how successful or unsuccessful we believe we are, or have been, in our working lives! If ‘successful’ with lots of trophies and recognition, we may feel good about ourselves. But if, in our own estimation, we feel we’ve underachieved, or under-appreciated, well, not so good.
  • Or how about our relationships – both present and past relationships? To what extent do you measure yourself by the number of people you’ve let down, or whom have let you down? I’m thinking of marriages that deteriorated, or eroded family connections. Our rejection of, or by, friends?
  • How about the things we have or have not done? Substance abuse issues perhaps? How about those hateful yet lurking racist tendencies – that awful self-protective tribal instinct that we allow sometimes to arise within us? In Romans 7 Paul seems to be totally exasperated by the extent of his constantly letting himself down: ‘even though I want to do the right thing it seems my actions are constantly sinful and trip me up’. Can you relate to that? DO relate to that? Is that what you allow to influence your sense of identity? All it takes is just one bad health report, or the effects of one mistake/ one out of control tantrum, being forced to go into social isolation as a result of this pandemic…

OF COURSE our sense of self is affected by any or all of those factors, but to allow them EVER to go to the very heart of who we believe we ACTUALLY are?

How we see ourselves matters ENORMOUSLY because it defines OUR PERSPECTIVE! I remember telling the Chuck Swindoll story of the old guy who awoke from his afternoon nap to find that naughty children had smeared really smelly limburger cheese on his moustache – and how the whole world now just reeked – until he found that the smell wasn’t from out there at all but from under his own nose? Our ‘sense of self’ filters & affects everything about how we see the world. Some of the most unhappy are simply stuck, seeing themselves as ‘victims’ with all the world against them. And tragically for many, who can blame them? Especially when exposed to the racism, or homophobia they may be experiencing, or the loneliness perhaps, perhaps it’s the effects of their chronic mental or physical disease, their substance abuse…

We’ve heard this before – hear it again: Our primary identity is that we are MADE in God’s image! THAT IS TRUTH: GOD-GIVEN, CHRIST-SECURED, SPIRIT GUARANTEED!

What we own as our most essential IDENTITY influences our PERSPECTIVE. And then it’s our PERSPECTIVE that has everything to do with what we understand as our PURPOSE.

And that’s true quite regardless of however other influences may have impacted our awareness of that! Our SALVATION in Christ is all about our reclaiming our Christ-secured identity: It’s about the embracing of our Truest Selves/ Our Best Selves/ Our Soul Selves! Pentecost’s outpouring of the Holy Spirit is God’s empowering guarantee of all that! [iv] 

And so, drawing this together: IT’S AS OUR GOD-GIVEN IDENTITY comes to inform our GOD-GIVEN PERSPECTIVE allowing us to see beyond all the distraction to the holiness of what is most essential and sacred within everyone & everything, so we begin to catch our God-given PURPOSE! The ‘visions’ and ‘dream’ referred to in today’s reading have to do with our glimpsing of that! It’s precisely because most people don’t know, that God created the Church, making it our whole purpose/mission as Christ followers, to know it for ourselves, and then to do whatever we can to tell them! THAT IS OUR MISSION! 

I’m speaking particularly about our telling those whose circumstances or life experiences have eroded & contaminated their vision of themselves to SUCH extent that they’ve come to believe the lie that they are so much less than what they actually are!

The things that distort their vision are just about exactly what we need to go to work against: easing the effects of their poverty, healing, releasing the crippling effects their guilt from the past, comforting their loneliness, embracing their need for acceptance, addressing their longing to fit in and to be loved. 

Our Pentecost prayer is that our witness becomes all very real and possible as once again we allow ourselves to receive the empowering presence of God’s Holy Spirit love…We know the prayer of St Francis so well, but hear it again today as Jillian sings at the close of this service – own it as if for the very first time:

Lord, make me a means of your peace.
Where there’s hatred grown, let me sow your love.
Where there’s injury, Lord, let forgiveness be my sword.
Lord, make me a means of your peace.
When there’s sadness here, let me sow your joy.
When the darkness nears, may your light dispel our fears.
Lord, make me a means of your peace.

God, grant me to seek and to share:
less to be consoled than to help console,
less be understood than to understand your good.

Lord, make me a means of your peace.

PRAYER

Dear God, in this world where there is so much that messes with our awareness of who You have made us – and all creation – to be, we pray that You, by Your Spirit, would save us: open our eyes, clear our minds, rebirth our lives, that we may know the beauty of You in all that You touch…

Thank you for Jesus Christ and for whom & what we are as we embrace & are embraced by His Shalom/Peace…

Thank you for your Holy Spirit, poured out to empower our knowing and our living into what you intend…

May we be useful to you, O God, as vessels, channels, as the means, conduits of your love, of your wholeness, of your peace…


Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2020.
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[i] Like the Emmaus Rd two/ also Mt 18:20…

[ii] ‘Adam’ (meaning ‘reddish’ ‘like skin’) recalling humanity ‘coming alive’ with God’s ‘Ruach’ / wind/ breath.

[iii] Reversing the effects of the language cacophony which resulted from the arrogance of humanity trying to be     equal with God.

[iv] Ephesians 1:13,14