Leaning into the Mystery

By Pastor Jody

The disciples were once again gathered in a room.  But this time they were not hiding. They were doing exactly what Jesus had told them to do, they were waiting.Jesus told them to stay put in Jerusalem. He told them to wait.  

Wait for the Spirit to come upon you and THEN….then Jesus told them you will go and be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.   Jesus said you will be my witness, you will tell them all about me and show them who I am in Jerusalem, here at home, in this town and Judea, all among your own countrymen and in Samaria, among your enemies and to the end so the earth, to all creation.  

That is what you are going to do…..then he disappeared, lifted up into heaven. And so the disciples were doing what Jesus told them to, they are waiting, anxiously, Waiting for something not quite sure knowing what.

Jerusalem was overly crowded, teaming with pilgrims, Jews from all over the place who had come to observe Shavuot- Pentecost in greek. A festival that takes place on the 50th day after passover.  It is a festival to commemorate the giving of the Mosaic law, the Torah.

Acts 2 begins:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 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. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Imagine the scene, strangers, friends, travelers, locals, filling the streets of the city when suddenly this one particular house is overflowing with noise and light and people talking. Talking and talking and every word they said was understood by every person present.  

The text offers a list of diverse nationalities.   Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and the list goes on, all  heard the disciples speaking in their own language. 

What a spectacle it must have been. So much so that some people thought they must inebriated. Peter, the once fisherman, stood up in front of the throngs of people and spoke in a voice all could hear, “We are not drunk yall.  It is only 9 in the morning!”

He then offers words from the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,  and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.18  Even upon my slaves, both men and women,  in those days I will pour out my Spirit,    

Peter enlightens them, reminding them of what God has promised.  God will pour out God’s spirit on everyone. Peter then offers a summation of the events of the last 50 days ending with these words,

36 “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Our text today explores the response of the pilgrims to Peter’s speech. As we listen to these verses, I would like us to consider what can we learn from the gathered crowd?


Scripture:

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers,[i] what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.43 Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds[j] to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[k] and ate their food with glad and generous[l] hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.


In Sunday School -O so many years ago- I learned that Pentecost is the birthday of the church.  It is a day to recognize and celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit bu whose power the church came into being. God poured out God’s spirit on those gathered in the upper room, those who were waiting as Jesus had instructed.  God kept God’s promise, the apostles were not left alone  

After being sequestered for 50 days, first fearfully and then obediently, the followers of the ascended Christ are busting out. Peter, the denier, offers and impromptu speech to 1000’s of devoted Jews.  He is certainly not denying, or hiding, or looking for a distraction now.  Peter’s speech is not steeped with congratulatory remarks and “atta boys,” but rather a biting tirade recounting the activities of the Jewish leaders and the triumphal consequences of their actions, Christ is risen.

He says in verse  36 “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

OUCH

The once clumsy and uncertain Peter is now bold, fearless.It was quite a dayA day to celebrate

Have you heard of a golden birthday? If you turn 17 on the 17th, or 23 or the 23rd, that is your golden birthday. I turned 60 on the 6th of March and decided that that certainly counted as a Platinum birthday. My actual birthday came and went with little fanfare.  

And that was well and good because I decided at the beginning fo the year that I was going to celebrate my platinum birthday all year.  Not just one day to recognize what happened a long time ago but a year to embrace new possibilities. My 61st year around the sun will be one of discovery and creativity. I am going to do things that I thought I could not or should not. I am going to lean into this new decade with a willingness to learn new things, try new adventures and live life in a new way. My platinum birthday year is going great.

What if we approached Pentecost not just as day  for remembering what has been given but with a sense of anticipation and excitement about what that gift in our lives really means.  

What if we choose to lean into the Spirit daily. Lean into the unknown. The Holy Spirit is here. Ready to enliven us . Ready to inspire us.  Ready to empower us. Empower us to embrace the unexpected ..the mystery. Like Peter we can be audacious for the sake of the kingdom. We can do the things we thought we could not or should not.

What can we learn from the crowd gathered on the day of Pentecost, the birthday of the church?

We read in the text, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. All who believed were together and had all things in common;(koinos) Day by day, proskartereō  as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous  hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. 

Proskartereō means steadfastly attentive.

Day by Day, everyday unfailingly, devoted to fellowship, devoted to each other.

Koinonia.

The beloved community.

In various ways, teaching, eating, worshiping, they choose to spend time together. Chose to give themselves over to each other.

Theologian Mitzi Smith writes,”Ultimately, it is God who saves and expands the community, but not without our cooperation. God worked in and through people willing to teach and be taught, to believe in, perform and receive signs and wonders, and to create mutual koinonia.

It is in the ongoing devotion to God and to each other that community is formed.  

We have work to do. 

It is good to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the 50th day after Easter. That is the day the church, the ecclesia that Jesus told Peter he would anchor, was born. 

So let’s celebrate this day today and choose to lean into the mystery of the Spirit daily, embracing the courage and tenacity bestowed upon us so that we can love recklessly,  welcome radically and praise worthily. Boldly living a life that prioritizes the beloved community for sake of the kingdom.