Pentecost Sunday – May 20, 2018
Acts 2:1-21, Philippians 4:4-7 and John 14:16-17
Pentecost brings new life and joy. New life and joy are contagious and can be the means of drawing a hope-less world together. Mostly the opposite happens that we drift apart because our natural tendency is that we prefer everyone to be the same and all people to be easy to understand.
Don’t we all hear differently depending on our culture, background and depending on the situation we are in?
I came across a somewhat humorous story recently which illustrates this point. 1)
The story tells of a situation where an elderly woman, was alone in her apartment, is being robbed by a burglar with poor eyesight. The woman was deeply involved in Bible study when the burglar broke in. She was reading Acts 2:38 which is: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
To defend herself against the burglar the elderly woman screamed out, as loud as she could: “Acts 2:38!!!!!!” The burglar immediately looked very afraid and cowered passively in the corner begging for mercy. This gave the elderly woman time to call the police. The police on arrival were amazed that the elderly woman had overcome the burglar. She explained that it had been by the power of God’s word that she had been protected, specifically by confronting the burglar with Acts 2:38. The police asked the burglar if he knew the scripture Acts 2:38.
“Scripture?” replied the burglar, “what scripture? All I heard the old lady say was that she had an ax and two 38’s – two 38 calibre guns.”
In a small way it points out how easy it is for humans to misunderstand one another. How easy it is to read the other wrongly… How easy it is to assume something about the other and it isn’t true…
There is a real problem among humans of understanding one another. And misunderstandings create huge barriers.
I could go at great length about the misunderstandings and barriers that humans have in this world.
Much of the last century there were wars and conflicts over ideology. Totalitarianism, Socialism, Democracy, Communism. There are age barriers, gender barriers, racial barriers, language barriers, geographical and cultural barriers
On a more local scale there are other kinds of barriers and misunderstandings: anger between spouses, mistrust between parents and children, festering grievances between colleagues, disappointment between friends, impatience with those of another generation, or unkind words spoken between neighbours.
We could explore in detail each kind of division, misunderstanding or barrier simply by telling the stories of one’s own life or by noting the behaviours of those around us. Coming from as far away as South Africa, I can personally tell many stories of how misunderstanding have either made for much humour or even some agony.
Would part of the cause of mishearing one another perhaps be that we don’t tap into the wonderful contagious vigour of the Holy Spirit who made it possible for us to have the Spirit right within us?
Sadly, I believe we often lose out on the potential that is demonstrated in our passage that we heard from Acts 2. The Spirit came upon people from different languages, different cultures, different ethnicities, and made it possible to hear each other in their own tongue. Initially we might want to look at this rather weird happening on that first Pentecost day as wild and a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Is this really how limited the message of Pentecost is? I don’t think so. I fully believe that the Holy Spirit of God is still the one who empowers, the one that God sent after Christ rose into heaven. I have to admit that I’ve been very negligent in embracing this potential of the Holy Spirit. Doesn’t the Holy Spirit want us in the 21st century to continue writing the chapter between Christ’s ascension and Christ’s second coming to this world in full glory? Should we not allow the Spirit to work through us in concrete ways? We know that, beginning with the event of Pentecost, the early Christian believers devoted themselves wholeheartedly to building a distinctive community of faith, unique to the world.
The Spirit of God works in small practical ways. Down to earth.
Let us rejoice always and the peace of Christ will be with us every day as we allow the Spirit of God to make us willing to search for understanding. I conclude with a few of Rev. Michael Curry’s words at the Royal wedding yesterday: “Love shall save the world. Stand back and let it happen, Step up and make it happen!”
1) Introduction borrowed from a sermon by Harry Currie, First Presbyterian Church, Edmonton
Copyright 2018 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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