Acts 2: 1 – 12 The Power of the Spirit June 5, 2022

The Power of the Spirit
Acts 2: 1 – 12

(preached June 5, 2022)

We hear in our passage from Acts that the disciples are together in one place. Jesus had ascended into heaven, but he had told the disciples to stay put. As he departed, he told them to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came to them. Sure enough, on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit arrives like the rush of a mighty wind. The Spirit arrives, blazing among them with tongues of fire. That day, devout Jews had gathered in Jerusalem from “every nation under heaven.” Now they hear the disciples speaking in a wide variety of languages. And each one can understand what the disciples are saying.

The Spirit brought this gift of understanding, so that the good news of God in Jesus Christ would find no barriers. The Spirit billowed in with understanding, to make the good news heard all over the world, so that the disciples could do God’s work: bringing hope to the hopeless, healing to the broken hearted, and freedom to the captive.

For the past three and a half years, the Spirit has been at work among us, giving us power to continue the ministry the disciples began on that first Pentecost. From the beginning of my time as your Pastor, I have felt the Spirit’s presence in the warmth of this community. I have felt the Spirit’s presence in the beauty of this sanctuary. I’m grateful to God for what I’ve experienced in my time here.

As I reflect on our ministry together, I can see high points and low points in our journey together. High points have been welcoming new members in December of 2018 and June of 2021. Another high point was our vote to become an Open and Affirming church in October of 2019.

But the year 2020 brought a challenge none of us had anticipated. COVID 19 hit our country and our community like an earthquake, shaking up our usual way of doing things. The virus caused us to stop worshiping here together for four months. When we did start again, we began by worshiping outside, carefully placing our chairs six feet apart. We listened to the hymns but didn’t sing them.
Gradually, we began to worship in a more familiar way. No coffee hour, though, and still no singing. One exception was Christmas Eve 2020, when we stood in a circle in the parking lot and sang “Silent Night.”

The pandemic brought upheaval, the like of which I had never seen. But in the midst of it we found new ways to serve the community. We held food drives in the parking lot, collecting truckloads of food for the pantry at the Senior Center. You generously donated shampoo, and hand lotion, towels and toothpaste for the residents of Rhodes House, down the street. We cooked a meal for the members of Worcester Fellowship.

Now, life seems a little more normal, and there was an unexpected blessing from the pandemic. It got me to learn to use technology. Now our services are on our Facebook page every week. This past Tuesday, four of us put heads together and figured out how to continue that ministry.

Through all the highs and lows of these past few years, God’s Spirit has been with us. I know, even though our ministry together is ending, that God’s Spirit will continue to guide all of us in the years ahead. God’s Spirit will continue to guide us, as we bring the message of God’s love to a world badly in need of it: as we share the love that brings hope to the hopeless, healing to the broken hearted, and freedom to the captive.

On that first Pentecost, a host of people were gathered outside the room where the disciples were. People were in the streets, in the alleys, in the markets. They came from different cultures and traditions. They came from different walks of life. They spoke different languages, but each one heard the apostles speaking in a language he or she could understand.

Today, people are wandering through shopping malls. People are hunched over laptops in cafes. People are staring into the little screens of cell phones. People are standing on street corners and huddling under bridges. Everywhere we can find people who need to hear the good news. People who need to hear a story of hope and joy and justice, to hear that story in a language they can understand.

In church we’re used to talking about God. We’re used to talking about what God is doing in our lives. We tend to forget that a lot of people today don’t even know what it means to say that. And a lot of people are in deep despair. A lot of people need to be comforted in grief, or calmed in anxiety, or encouraged in adversity. We may need to find ways to reach them that are different from the words we’re used to speaking. To reach them we have to be open to what the Spirit is giving us, now. We have to trust the message that the Spirit is giving us, for this day and time. We may find ourselves speaking a language that doesn’t use words at all. We may find ourselves acting out what Jesus taught, rather than talking about it.

My friends, our time together is coming to an end. But I have no doubt that God’s Spirit is falling on you and me. It’s billowing into our lives with a message to share with people from all walks of life: the good news of a God who comes, with hope and joy and justice, in Jesus Christ. And although our time together here is ending, the needs of the world go on. So let’s not wait. Let’s not hesitate to be about God’s holy work. Let’s go forth in faith, bringing hope to the hopeless, healing to the broken hearted, and freedom to the captives.

Rev. Elva Merry Pawle
Pentecost Sunday