I love the story of Pentecost; it's dramatic, full of energy, excitement and vitality. It plays into our desire to enjoy and believe in the fantastical. It's wonderful drama. However, the challenge is to take the words out of the text and allow them to breathe into the here and now. Yes, we as a church community need to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit.
So what is the job of the Holy Spirit? One popular way of thinking about the Holy Spirit is as the sustaining form of God. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that we are equipped to keep telling the Christian story, salvation’s story. The Holy Spirit, if we are open to him, gives us the right words to say, in the right time, in the right way. The Holy Spirit is that impulse, or energy within us, that allows us to tell the Jesus story, in myriad different ways, or different tongues, to different people. And, just for a moment lets pause and consider this:
Right at the start of the gospels it is clear that Jesus has come for all people in all nations. Simeon makes this clear through the words of the Nunc Dimitus. Pentecost in all its multi-lingual vibrancy is the proof of this. Pentecost is the seal of God’s pledge that salvation’s story is the universal story. In the gospel reading we hear that the work of the Spirit is to lead us into all ‘truth.’ The greatest truth is the universality of the gospel.
As contemporary Christians we need to be open to this Pentecostal truth. And, the only way we can do this is by opening ourselves up to the work of the Holy Spirit within us. The way we do this is by prayer, and maybe in particular corporate prayer: ‘When the day of Pentecost came they were all together in one place’ and presumably they were praying, as they had earlier been instructed to do.
I suspect that they were praying in a spirit of openness to God, but I also suspect that they must have been ever so slightly anxious and scared. They had after all been through the most bizarre of sequential experiences; their Lord had been betrayed, tried and crucified, then he had been resurrected. In the period between the resurrection and ascension he appears to his disciples, feeds them, breathes on them, challenges them, and then disappears, again, from them. But the disciples despite all this hang on in there and keep saying their prayers. Pentecost is in some ways God’s way of answering their prayers. Pentecost is not a divine imposition. Its the fulfilment of a divine promise: ‘I will send you another advocate.’
Just like the early disciples we too can be recipients of the divine promise. We too can receive a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of such an anointing is to lead us into all ‘truth,’ and to help us to tell the universal and radically inclusive salvation story to all people in ways which they can understand and relate to.
Loving God, pour your Holy Spirit on us, your church. Lead us into all truth and equip us to tell salvation’s story to all who we encounter. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Saviour we pray, Amen.