Coming Soon to a Theater Near You!
May 23rd, 2021. Scripture Readings: Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Watch first: Day of Pentecost HD – Bing video
Did anyone see the miniseries that clip came from? I missed it when it came out on the History Channel, but you can watch it now on YouTube for free. If ever there was a story from the Bible that was Hollywood-friendly, Pentecost is it. There is drama, suspense, travel to a distance land, and special effects galore. We have a strange power from the sky coming down and filling people, taking control of them and giving them extraordinary powers. If this were a Hollywood movie, these characters would then go out and do amazing things, with exciting battles and adventures, and sell action figures and licensed underwear. Can you see yourself in this movie?
A similar plot-line has been used many times, of course, one of the more recent ones being a show called “Preacher”, which was based on a graphic novel that borrows many Biblical themes, except that God has gone missing, and the main characters set out to find Him, one of those characters being a vampire. Most people want some kind of power to make them special, and try all kinds of things to get it, like drugs and bodybuilding and buying things they don’t need. We all want something to take us out of the ordinary world; we want to get a special power, or to win the lottery, or to marry someone rich and famous. We want to live lives worth remembering, but don’t always believe we can do that just as God created us.
That special power for all followers of Jesus is the Holy Spirit, but it is far beyond anything Hollywood can give us. It is far beyond the power of a superhero, it is a wild wind blowing through the world, clearing out the old and making all things new. It gives us access to the throne of God, and victory over death. Through the joys and trials of life, the Spirit guides us and comforts us, making us stronger. As Paul writes:
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
Our salvation comes through Jesus, and the Spirit keeps the ball rolling. By “saints”, Paul means us, too. We might want to see the Spirit work like it does in the Bible, with miracles and flash and breathtaking events, but it also works in quiet ways, in everyday life. It is at work in our prayers, Bible study, and worship times. As our Lord said in our Gospel reading:
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27)
I don’t know how much our world needs more flashy displays, but it certainly needs more truth. We don’t know whom among humankind to believe or trust anymore: only Jesus brings the words of truth and life. The only way we can know this truth is through the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this is accomplished through prophecy spoken to God’s people by certain individuals, but it also happens inside each of us through the Spirit. We may say we know who Jesus is, but it is only through the Spirit that we can truly know Him as our Lord and Savior, the Good Shepherd who takes us in His arms and loves and protects us. For the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Our Lord says:
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-14)
The Spirit dwells in the hearts of Jesus’ followers. We have access to this power, wisdom, and comfort, now and forever. The Spirit fills us with God’s grace, love, and joy. And as if that wasn’t enough, it also brings us all together as God’s people, able to do great things together for the Kingdom of God.
You have probably all heard the comparison of the Day of Pentecost to the Tower of Babel, except in reverse. When men tried to build the tower to reach Heaven due to their pride, God scattered them and gave them different languages to separate them and prevent them from doing such a thing ever again. But here on the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit allows people to speak and understand all languages, allowing them to be united once again. If you look at a map, the names of the various peoples mentioned (Phrygians, Egyptians, Medes, etc.) essentially form a circle around Jerusalem. From there the Gospel of Jesus would spread. Not through their own efforts this time, but through the power of the Spirit, which carries God’s grace to all people. This can continue today, if we let the Spirit guide us instead of our earthly pride and selfishness.
You have probably also heard of the Day of Pentecost as being the birth of the Church, formed and activated in the Spirit. We all know how divisive our world is, and how much people feel isolated and splintered, even before the pandemic. More than ever, we need the Spirit to bring us together as one people. We won’t agree on everything, of course, but we need a sense of unity between all followers of Jesus. Only the Spirit can make that happen, if we are willing to follow the Spirit’s guidance.
There are of course many other aspects and jobs of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit enables us to share in God’s moral character and empowers us to live accordingly. But of all the characteristics of the Spirit, perhaps the most exciting is power. It is the Spirit who gets things done. As the author of the meditation on the back of the bulletin notes, the Spirit is our guide through this life, a new life in Christ that the Spirit sets us on and will see us to the end, when we shall leave this world and begin a new and even better adventure.
If a movie of your life came to our local theater, once it opens again, what would you want it to be like? Would it be an adventure movie, a drama, a comedy; a little of each? Would it be a story of success, or one of missed opportunities? Perhaps a retrospective? Would it have lots of special effects, and which actor would you like to play you? Perhaps it will have tragedy and trials, but through it all, may the Spirit guide us and comfort us. With Jesus enthroned in Heaven, it is the Spirit who continues His work here on earth, through us. Whether at the end or at a new beginning, the Spirit will get us to whatever lies ahead. Our life in Christ is a great adventure, and it is the Spirit who directs our movie.
Any comments on how the Holy Spirit has worked or is at work in your life?