Breath of God

 

Meditation on Acts 2:1-21

Merritt Island Presbyterian Church

May 20, 2018

Slide59

 

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.Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?

Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘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;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

 

Beginning at 11:20 a.m. England time yesterday, Rolls Royces carrying the British royal family and the wedding party pulled up at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor as the crowds cheered them on. Some people had camped out for days to claim their spots and get a good look at Prince Harry and his beautiful bride, Meghan Markle on their wedding day.

The wedding brought back memories of Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981. Did any of you see their wedding? More than 750 million people watched that royal wedding, taking in every detail, which at the time, were very important to some of us.

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How beautiful Diana was, wearing a dress worth more than $41,000 U.S. dollars today. I even remember some of the funny things that happened. Poor Diana was so nervous—with 3500 invited guests watching and listening in person; she got Charles’ name wrong during the vows, calling him “Philip Charles Arthur George” instead of “Charles Philip Arthur George.”

Her 25-foot train got wrinkled on the way to the wedding, and her young bridesmaids couldn’t shake the wrinkles out before she walked down the aisle. India Hicks, who was just 13 at the time, recalls Diana sympathetically whispering, “Just do your best” to her bridal party.

And Clementine Hambro, granddaughter of Winston Churchill was just 5 when she was in Diana’s wedding party. Clementine tripped and fell and began to cry, to which Diana asked her gently, “Did you bump your bottom?”

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There were some similarities to Harry’s parents’ wedding, including the Cinderella procession afterward with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex riding in a horse-drawn open carriage, flanked by royal regiments on horseback. But there were important differences– signs of hope and much needed change, not just for attitudes in Britain society, but for America and the whole world.

This was Charles and Diana’s son, Harry, marrying a beautiful, outspoken American actress named Meghan Markle, who is bi-racial.

Slide40

About her ancestry, Meghan has said, “My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African American. I’m half black and half white. … I have come to embrace this and say who I am, to share where I’m from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident, mixed-race woman.”

Meghan arrived at the church in a 1950 Rolls Royce custom made for Elizabeth’s coronation. She was 4 seconds late, the press pointed out. The bells were chiming the noon hour as she was helped from the car.

Two little boys held the tips of her enormous train as she walked up first 22 steps to the entrance and then down the aisle. Her little bridesmaids followed behind and passed by the bride, nearly forgetting to take the bridal bouquet.

Harry smiles at Meghan and goes off script, not caring that the whole world is watching. ”You look amazing,” he says to her. “I love you.”

The bride’s mother, Doris Ragland, came alone as she was the only one in her family to attend. Meghan’s father had heart surgery on Wednesday and wasn’t ready for travel. Doris wept openly throughout the service.

The archbishop of Canterbury read from 1 John: “God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.” The congregation sings “Lord of All Hopefulness” to the tune of “Be Thou My Vision.” A passionate passage from Song of Solomon was read. The Kingdom Choir sang a very moving, “Stand By Me,” following the Rev. Michael Curry’s charismatic, social justice message.

Curry, the first African-American leader of the US Episcopal Church, quoted Martin Luther King, “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world.”

Slide50

Curry said, “There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalise. There is power, power in love….. I’m talking about some power. Real power. Power to change the world.”

***

 

It’s the power of love—REAL power—that comes to Christ’s followers gathered in Jerusalem on Pentecost. This familiar story we read every year, and recall its fine details, such as Peter’s joke about not being drunk at 9 in the morning. This Spiritual baptism is not limited by gender, age or social position. Slave or free, men and boys, women and girls, “all flesh” receive the Spirit in a demonstration of radical social equality that is the Kingdom of God. But with hearing the story every year, I worry that the “violent wind” may be diminished to something less than the wild, out of our control force that breathed life into human beings formed from dust at Creation. It is also important to remember that the Spirit comes to those with faith, those who have prepared their hearts, gathering together in one place, waiting in hope and prayer, as Christ tells them to do.

The first to benefit from the Spirit’s work on Pentecost through Christ’s followers are the devout Jews and proselytes who have come from all over to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festival of Shavuot. The word Pentecost is Greek for 50th as Shavuot falls on the 50th day from the first Sunday after Passover. It’s no coincidence that God has chosen this day to give His Spirit to dwell with His people. For on Shavuot, the faithful celebrate the giving of God’s Word—the Torah—on Mt. Sinai. The Spirit compels Christ’s followers to speak of God’s “deeds of power” in languages that everyone can understand, languages the uneducated Galileans couldn’t possibly know on their own. Many take Peter’s message to heart; about 3,000 people are added to the church in one day.

The Spirit continues to give gifts to Christ’s followers today–each in a special way, as Paul explains in 1 Cor. 12:7-11. We need to trust the Breath of God that is in us and take the message to our community, as Peter and the disciples do on Pentecost. But most of us don’t feel comfortable preaching to crowds. Most of us aren’t comfortable preaching at all. The thought of sharing the gospel with the world is surely terrifying to some. But I think the most effective preaching involves few if any words, like St. Francis of Assisi said. Your life proclaims God’s work in you through the fruits of the Spirit, Paul tells the Galatians in 5:22-23. People will know you are following Christ by your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.

Remember you have the Breath of God living inside you. We have the Breath of God among us when we gather together in faith, waiting, praying and hoping in him. And you have the Power of Love. Real Power…  …Power to change the world.”

Let us pray.

Lord God, thank you for sending your Spirit at Pentecost so that believers would be strengthened to share your message of love and redemption–and that the church would grow by 3,000 that day. Thank you that we have your breath now, within us, and that you continue to breathe on us your Spirit, refreshing and renewing us as we seek to do your will. Grow us, Lord, by your Spirit. Build our faith and numbers in all our ministries, including the preschool. Stir us to gather together every Sunday to seek you in faith, hope and prayer here, in this place. Then send us out to care for people in need and show we are your followers by our acts of kindness. Transform us with your Power of Love and use us to break down barriers between people– and change the world. In Christ we pray. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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