“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” (Acts 2:1-4, NRSV)
I love a good story, and what happened on the day of Pentecost is one of the most dramatic stories in the New Testament. It starts with the disciples gathered in the upper room, where they had their last intimate supper with Jesus before his death and resurrection. Even though Jesus appeared to them in the upper room after his resurrection—twice—they remained locked inside, fearing for their safety. This fearful existence is where the story gets good. The Holy Spirit shows up with the sound of a hurricane, filling every nook and cranny in the house. Flame-like apparitions appear on people’s heads, but no one gets burned. All the apostles began speaking in foreign languages to share the gospel with the thousands of visitors to Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks Festival—a celebration of God’s gift of the Law. As a result of the Holy Spirit enabling them to preach so that people could understand, about 3,000 people became followers of Jesus that day.
The dramatic rushing wind and flames of fire are not ways I’ve experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s presence often comes to me through the inspiration of something I’ve read, possibly an insight into a scripture passage. An awareness of the Spirit sometimes comes to me through moving lyrics or harmonies in a song. Frequently, I sense the Spirit’s presence through a prayer prayed by someone with a deep, abiding faith. Other times I experience the presence of the Holy Spirt as I walk along the beach, moved by the mystery of the ocean and in awe of the hands that created it. The mountains remind me of God’s incredible power as I take in their grandeur, and I sense the Holy Spirit’s delight in my gratitude for such a spectacle. We can feel the Spirit’s presence as we gaze at a newborn baby or the weathered hands of our grandparents. The Spirit is always present, so our task is to recognize what the Spirit is up to and join in.
Join us this Sunday as we explore the surprising presence of the Holy Spirit and what it means for us as a church. See you Sunday! — Senior Pastor Dale Cohen