5-11-16 - Shake, Rattle and Roll

For the rest of the week, we will explore the reading from Acts about what happened to Jesus’ followers on that Day of Pentecost. Pentecost was the Greek name for the Jewish festival of Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, which marked both the grain harvest and the giving of the Torah. As observant Jews, Jesus’ disciples were gathered for prayer when the Holy Spirit began to make some noise:

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.

It must have been terrifying – the sound like a hurricane, the sight of these divided fire-like tongues appearing, with one resting on each person… and then the utterance of speech in languages unknown to the speaker. But maybe they weren’t frightened at all, for we’re told they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. It’s amazing when God acts in so definite a way.

And it’s always wonderful when the Spirit is poured out on the whole assembly - then no one thinks she has gone crazy. In my experience, though (admittedly, my Episcopalian experience, which is a big “but..”…), the Spirit comes more quietly and gently, inciting an sense of God’s presence and deep feeling but not necessarily a lot of noise. I have seen manifestations of tears and outbreaks of peace more than I have felt the foundations shaking.

So, does the Spirit bring only as much power as we’re willing to receive? Is our impact limited by our capacity to be Spirit-carriers? Or does the Spirit bring as much power as is needed for what God wants to accomplish on a given day. That day, God was about changing the course of history. If the rest of the New Testament is to be believed, those newly anointed apostles so boldly and constantly proclaimed the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ that the movement they began is still rolling, if with a little less shaking and rattling.

It wouldn’t hurt to increase our capacity to hold and move with the Spirit of God. “Come, Holy Spirit” is never a wasted prayer. And if you’re not used to praying, I commend it to you. For with the Spirit of God working through us, God continues to transform the world. Are you ready?

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