Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day we celebrate when the Holy Spirit was first given to Jesus’ disciples and thus the church was born.
The Holy Spirit is often an elusive and mysterious part of the trinity. We all get God the Creator, maker of heaven and earth and Jesus the Christ, Lord and Savior of us all.
But when it comes to the Holy Spirit, we can get a little baffled.
In seminary some of us got to talking about this, and as seminarians often do, each of us were trying hard to out pontificate the others with every ounce of theological prowess we could muster.
Some felt the Spirit was just as the term “holy ghost” insinuates a ghost is today—unseen but physical enough when it wanted to be.
Some made the case that the Holy Spirit was the missing female entity of the trio.
Eventually, after some time of trying to assign traits, practices, and gender to the Holy Spirit, but reaching no mutual consensus, someone finally said, “Maybe the Holy Spirit is the divine ‘It.’”
The term struck a chord because all of us immediately stopped talking—and when you render a group of seminarians debating theology speechless, then you know you said something worthwhile, or at the very least, difficult to argue.
Regardless of how we see the Holy Spirit, we all believe in the Holy Spirit.
We gather on Sunday mornings to be immersed in God’s presence that comes to us through the Holy Spirit, we invoke the Spirit to be with us, we sing hymns about the Spirit.
When we think of the Spirit, we think of the constant and abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. We think of divine nudges and gentle whispers.
And I suppose all of that is true. The Holy Spirit is a constant and abiding presence, He, She or It is our Comforter and our Advocate.
But when we delve into the second chapter of Acts we can easily see the Holy Spirit is not simply quiet, gentle, and subtle. Rather the Holy Spirit is loud, fiery, and earth shattering.
Listen again to how Luke recounts the story of Pentecost: “Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house… tongues, as of fire, appeared among them…. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Did you hear Luke’s words? “Suddenly,” “rush,” “violent wind,” “filled,” “fire.”
There’s nothing subtle here. The Holy Spirit arrives loudly and dramatically, and He, She or It sets the disciples on fire with the fire that is the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit was and still is, the presence of God in our world, and in our lives, so that the Kingdom of God would be furthered on earth—so that the words we pray each week, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” would become a reality.
And maybe that is the best way to see the Holy Spirit—not as a He, She, or It, but rather as the work and ministry that is being done to build up the Kingdom of God on earth.
But when the Holy Spirit is at work, that work is anything but quiet, gentle, subtle, and easy to miss because the work of the Holy Spirit, as Acts 2 tells us, is loud, fiery, and earth shattering.
So if that is the work of the Holy Spirit, and we believe in the Holy Spirit to the point that we invoke the Holy Spirit to come upon us, then the question must be asked: Where’s the loud earth shattering presence?
When it comes to our work and ministry as the Church and as a church: Where’s the fire?
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit brought about radical change.
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit transformed a ragtag gathering of Jesus’ disciples into the body of Christ, the Church.
Peter the impulsive, James and John the competitive, Mary the meek, Thomas the doubtful—everyone in that room that day was changed.
Some became prophets, some healers, some preachers, some caregivers—some would travel the world preaching, others would stay behind-the-scenes caring for the poor—but all of them were set on fire with the fire that is the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
With the fire of the Holy Spirit upon them, they were never the same after that. And neither was the world.
They became living entities, living embodiments of the fire of the Holy Spirit. There was nothing meek or quite about it.
And because the Holy Spirit was upon them in such a radical, loud, fiery, earth shattering way, people around them couldn’t help but notice.
Because of the Holy Spirit the Disciples got the attention of the people around them and because that happened—lives were changes, hearts were saved, and the Kingdom of God was furthered—on earth as it was in heaven.
All across the country this morning there are churches celebrating Pentecost.
Some will have red and white balloons and birthday cake to celebrate the birth of the church.
Some will have liturgical dancers.
Some, like us, have asked their members to wear red and created worship displays.
We all do Pentecost Sunday.
But Pentecost should motivate us to do more than just that. Pentecost should motivate us to answer the questions: “Where’s the loud earth shattering presence of the Holy Spirit?” “Where’s the fire?”
Where’s the fire when it comes to being the Church today?
Where’ the fire for being living entities, living embodiments of the fire of the Holy Spirit?
There are pockets of such; moments of such here and there…our mission team is evidence of this. But that’s a small group, going out for a week.
We need to be constantly asking ourselves, “Are we… Am I… furthering the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven?”
“Do we…Do I… have the fire of the Holy Spirit burning within me?”
Now this is where you are probably thinking to yourself “tread lightly Rev. We all are faithful servants in our own way.”
That is true and I am not going to use Pentecost Sunday as a time for accusations.
But Pentecost Sunday is a time for contemplation.
If the fire of the Holy Spirit is truly ablaze in the followers of Christ, if it is truly burning strong in the Church, if the Holy Spirit is loud and sudden and rushing—then what exactly does that look like?
I want you take a moment to get that picture—based upon what we heard from the second chapter of Acts about that first Pentecost when there was “Suddenly from heaven a sound like the rush of a violent wind… tongues, as of fire, appeared…” resulting in gawking and bewildered bystanders, think about what that looked like and then ask yourself—Does our church look like that today? Do I look like that today?
I’m not making an accusation—I am asking you though to contemplate these questions.
When we invited the Holy Spirit into our worship this morning, did we really know what we were asking for?
Yes, we want the Comforter. We want the Advocate. We want to come here and feel the gentle presence of the Spirit. We’d even be open to a little nudge or two.
But do we really want the fire? We like the Holy Spirit to be warm… but hot?
Do we really want to be changed?
Would we really call upon the Spirit if we knew it meant that we’d have to live and love differently?
Do we realize what we’re doing when we call upon the Holy Spirit, because the fire of the Holy Spirit means radical change to how we act in the world and what we do as Christians and as the Church.
When those first disciples were anointed with the Holy Spirit, it was a wild scene.
People on the street thought the disciples were drunk, but the reality was the disciples were so excited, so fired up, so full of the Spirit that people thought they were crazy.
Do people on the street ever look at us Christians and think we’re crazy?
All right, yes they do but for different reasons than I am getting at, so let me ask that question in a different way.
Do we look different enough from the world that people notice we are different?
What I want to know is: Are our hearts really on fire?
Is God really at the center of our lives?
Are we willing to have the Spirit poured out on us in a way that will move us to see visions, dream dreams, and prophecy?
Do we love in a way that is radical?
Are we extravagantly generous?
Do we forgive the unforgivable?
Do we reach out to the least and the lost?
Are we so loving, so compassionate, so giving, so humble, that the world thinks we’re crazy because that is not how the rest of the world acts?
If not, then we have work to do because we seek to be different, we pray to be different than this world.
“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Each Sunday we pray our Lord’s Prayer, we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Do we take that prayer seriously?
If we really do, then each time we pray it we need to be ready because the Spirit will make us do crazy things like: loving our enemies, reaching out to people who are outcast, spend our money differently, cry for the suffering of others.
The Spirit will make us want to change the world—starting right here in our community.
Today is Pentecost Sunday the day we celebrate the fire of the Holy Spirit setting the Disciples on fire with the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
We are the church today—so where’s the fire?
If we are a church on fire with the fire of the Holy Spirit then we will not be meek and moderate. We will not try to fit in and go unnoticed.
Rather we will be drunk with love for God, crazy in our compassion for others, extreme in our faith, extravagant in our kindness, and radical in our commitment to God and God’s people.
If we do that, then no one will ever ask “Where’s the fire?”