The Promises of Jesus and the Spirit Get Met

A sermon based on Acts 2:1-11
given at Mount Vernon, Ohio on May 31, 2020
by Rev. Scott Elliott

Last week we considered how The Book of the Acts of the Apostles reports in Chapter one that forty-days after Easter Jesus told his followers that they would be baptized by the Holy Spirit in a few days. And we also heard that as the disciples stared up as Jesus ascended to heaven they were told by angels that “‘Jesus, would “come in the same way as [they] saw him go into heaven.’”
In Acts chapter two, as we just heard in the lesson Laura read so well, it is reported that ten days later on the day of Pentecost, which refers to the fifty days from Passover, the followers of Jesus
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 of flame 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.
We can hear this as being just as Jesus and the angels predicted. The followers WERE baptized by the Holy Spirit, AND in a very real sense Jesus returned when those flames of the Spirit created The Body of Christ in the gathering of the followers that we now call “Church.”
Christians, in partnership with the Holy Spirit within, have been Christ’s continuing presence of earth ever since that first Christian Pentecost. As we have often heard, WE are Christ’s hands and feet and voice in our acts of compassion and care and love, and in our efforts toward justice and peace. When we act in those ways, ways that Jesus taught, we manifest Christ, we incarnate God and help bring in the Realm of God.
This is cause for festivity! Which is why we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after Easter, and more than two thousand years after the first baptism by the whirlwind flames of the Holy Spirit described in our lesson. Those flames have been passed like an Olympic torch through generation after generation! That is why we have tradition of remembering flames on Pentecost with red paraments and stoles on the chancel and wearing red to church. Red is the color of the Holy Spirit. Flames of the Spirit carried – and carry– the energy of Christ in our imagery.
Real flames in physical science are the visible part of fire converting energy in fuel molecules into heat and light which go out into the surroundings. The energy stored in most common fuels we burn originated from the sun and is stored in coal, oil, wood, it is also thhe energy stored in the food fuels we eat and burn. Life needs that energy. One way we can understand the Pentecost flames is they are the visible part of the energy of another type of Son, the Son . . . of God, Christ, God incarnate. The flames of the Holy Spirit bring that energy out of us into our surroundings.
As more sunny weather has been arriving, I have been thinking lately how God is like energy in that God permeates existence and is simultaneously dynamic and dormant waiting to be tapped into. Like with energy, all of being is dependant on God and God cannot be created or destroyed. Plus, similar to energy we understand God in part, but mostly God remains the mysterious source and force of life.
What physical energy in science does not do, is actively care and desire and act for the well being of us and creation. So the flames represented in our red colors and in the story today, are not like a physical flame’s visible part of lifeless molecules being converted, but the visible part of our living God in action in us as Church and Christians. We remember on Pentecost the flames fanned by wind and the noise and the universal understanding of the message of love and compassion “spoken” by those first touched by the flames of the Spirit that brought the Body of Christ to life in the Church. Love is the universal language of the Spirit and the church.
In celebration of that universal language and the Spirit, the next part of the service is going to emphasize the Spirit in another universal language that we all know and enjoy. Music! We thought we’d lift up our spirits with the spirit in the wind of the thundering voices of you all at home. So we are going to have extra music, hymns of the spirt for us all to sing. You should be able to find the lyrics at a link sent in the midweek note and hopefully also set out in the aGodvlog notes on this video. We already heard great music in Christa’s wonderful introit on the organ.
In just a moment we are going to shift our camera over to Denny and Laura as the come up to lead us in some hymns. First Denny will lead us on guitar in singing “All Are Welcome,” “We Are Marching in the Light of God,” and “Shine Jesus Shine.” Then Laura will sing verses 1 and 4 of “Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness.” Then we will switch the camera back to the chancel for a Pastoral Prayer, a Benediction and Laura playing “Spirit of the Living God” as our postlude and final hymn. You have a part in this, it is to sing along at home loud and strong. So I am going to sit down now and listen for your singing as Denny and Laura lead us in hymns.