The first reading begins with the apostles huddled in the upper room after the death of their Master fearful that His fate might be their own. Suddenly they hear what sounds like a powerful wind, it fills the whole room, they see tongues of fire resting on each of them and they receive the gift of speech. The coming of the Spirit breaks all barriers filling the world with God's presence. The tongues of fire remind us of the tongues of fire that were seen when God made a covenant with Moses at Mount Sinai. That was the first covenant made by God with his chosen people. Pentecost is the new covenant made by the Spirit with the new people of God, His Church. A sign of this covenant is the gift of speech, the gift of communication, the gift of being able to express oneself and be understood in one's own language. The language understood by all is the language of the spirit, the language of love. Whereas Babel was man's effort to reach God that led to confusion, Pentecost is God's initiative reaching out through one another leading to unity and understandingFilm: 'Being John Malkovich'
In the very strange 1999 surrealist movie "Being John Malkovich", someone discovers a portal into Malkovich's mind, enabling visitors to see and experience things through his body and to influence his actions. He becomes aware of what's happening and finds the portal himself. At the climax of the movie, there is a bizarre but powerful scene when he enters the portal, being swept down a dark tunnel with a roaring sound to emerge as a participant/observer in his own world. He discovers that everyone has his face and his voice, and every word spoken is his name. Connections with the Pentecost story: - the paradox of the creator entering his own creation by an unexplainable power; - the potential of the portal to connect people in an unprecedented kind of indwelling. - seeing the face of Malkovich everywhere reminds me of the Spirit making Jesus present through us in a new and all-encompassing way. We are recognisably Christ-like, though still ourselves, and all we say and do is 'in his name'. It's a frightening moment in the movie, because Malkovich has no wish to become omnipresent as a Christ-figure, but the image is powerful.From film insights by Marnie Barrel in 'The Text this Week'
In the Gospel Jesus reminds his disciples that while He is leaving them He is not abandoning them. While He was on earth He was their strength, their advocate with the Father. Now He is going to give them another advocate, another helper they can always rely on, the Holy Spirit. The gospel reading represents John's version of the birth of the Church. The disciples are to continue Jesus' mission from his Father and this mission will, as his, involve judgement. His mission was to bring humankind to the light and to the Father. In John's gospel there is a continuous process of confrontation with Jesus and self-judgement. The different attitudes of humankind to Jesus will continue in the reactions to his presence in the Church. It is significant that in John the Church is founded by the risen Lord. When Jesus breathes upon the disciples it shows that a new creation is taking place. Just as God made man by breathing life into him, so the life of the Church comes from the breath of the Spirit of Jesus. This is the new life Jesus came to bring. In a sense everything is already accomplished when Jesus breathes life into his disciples. The Holy Spirit is the advocate that never fails. We know of people who carry on living joyfully though they are suffering; we know of people who have been battered with one trial after another, who have not grown embittered by it all. We know of priests and religious sisters living constantly under fear of being attacked because they are Christian, who refuse to give up or retaliate. We know of people who have very little security and an uncertain future, people who can still radiate peace, the gifts of the Spirit. The Spirit is very much alive and very much needed in these demanding times.
There was this secondary school teacher who died and arrived at the gates of heaven. He was calmly walking in through the entrance, when Peter stopped him and said, "Hi, hold on there! Where are you going?" "I'm going in there." replied the teacher to which Peter replied "Oh no, you're not! It's not that simple. Just like you had in your secondary-level education, we also have a points system in operation here." "Oh, I didn't know that" said the teacher. "What is your system? How many points do I require?" "We have set one thousand points as requirement for entry into heaven" said Peter. "Now tell me something about yourself, and why you expect to get in this door." The teacher took a deep breath, stuck out his chest (this was his big moment) and said "I went to mass every morning for the past forty years." "Very good" said Peter. "That's one point." The poor teacher was completely taken aback, and was nearly struck dumb when Peter asked "And tell me, what else did you do along the journey of life?" The teacher gathered himself together, and had another go. "I was in the S.V.P., and in several Third World Charities, and I collected a lot of money over the years". "How much?" asked Peter. "Probably forty or fifty thousand pounds" said the teacher. "Very good." said Peter. "That's another point." By now the poor teacher was completely deflated and he muttered to himself under his breath "I'm afraid it's only by the grace of God I'm going to get there." Peter heard him and looked him straight in the eye and said "You are perfectly correct. It is only be the grace of God and His Spirit that you'll ever be able to enter those gates. If you really believe that, go right in, because that, my dear friend, is a thousand points!" At Pentecost God gave us the most precious gift of His Spirit freely to all who believed!
The Role of the Holy Spirit in our lives
A renowned Italian violinist, violist, cellist, guitarist and composer, Niccolo Paganini, was due to perform one night in a very prestigious Concert Hall in Paris. Even as he walked on stage, the audience stood up and cheered with irrepressible excitement and heart-warming esteem. Resting his violin under his chin, the celebrated musician began to play with such dexterity and brilliance that the audience listened in spell bound silence. Suddenly one string on the violin snapped. But the consummate professional was not deterred. On the contrary, he continued to play with three strings, and the music was just as fascinating and impressive. Moments later, a second string snapped; and minutes later the third... The crowd gasped in stunned disbelief. What was Paganini going to do? Would he bow and leave gracefully? Without losing his cool, the famous maestro raised his hand, called for silence and announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to hear Paganini on one string." What followed thereafter literally took everyone's breath away - the performance was flawless, the music exquisite, the entertainment heavenly and on just one string! Such was the incomparable touch of the master's hand. -This extraordinary story aptly describes the singular and marvelous role of the Holy Spirit in our personal lives. A wise author summarized that role in this thought-provoking maxim: "God does not look at our ability or inability; all God wants is our availability."James Valladares in 'Your Words are Spirit, and they are Life'
By the power of His Spirit
At 7:15 a.m. on September 5, 1987, Dr. Ben Carson, an American paediatric neurosurgeon, assisted by a team of most skilled surgeons, physicians, anaesthetists and nursing staff, performed the critical separation of the seven-year-old German twins, Patrick and Benjamin Binder, precariously joined at the back of the head - a delicate and critical operation that lasted 22 agonizing hours. And when it had been successfully accomplished, Dr. Carson lifted his eyes to God and whispered, "Thank you, God, thank you. I know you had a hand in this." Dr. Carson humbly ascribed his phenomenal success to two special persons -Almighty God and his mother, Sonya. A single parent, Sonya had worked tirelessly at two and even three jobs, whatever she could find, to make ends meet and educate her two sons. Above all, she was a devout believer with an unshakeable faith in God. So when her son Ben declared his dream of being a doctor, that noble woman said: "Bennie, listen to me. If you ask the Lord for something and believe He will do it, then it will happen." Ben Carson went on to become one of America's best paediatric neurosurgeons. -Despite our human frailties, limitations and imperfections, the Holy Spirit is able to achieve the most marvelous results in and through us, because God's power is almighty, his wisdom inscrutable, and his love unfathomable.James Valladares in 'Your Words are Spirit, and they are Life'
They were all together
A pastor once heard that one of his parishioners was going about announcing to one and all that he would no longer attend church services. The rebellious parishioner was advancing the familiar argument that he could communicate with God just as easily out in the fields, with nature as his setting for worship. One winter evening the pastor called on this reluctant member of his flock for a friendly visit. The two men sat before the fireplace making small talk, but studiously avoiding the issue of church attendance. After a while, the pastor took the tongs from the rack next to the fireplace and pulled a single coal from the fire. He placed the glowing ember on the hearth. As the two watched in silence, the coal quickly ceased burning and turned ashen grey, while the other coals in the fire continued to burn brightly. The pastor's silent message was not lost on the parishioner. After a long pause, he turned to the pastor and said, "I'll be back at services next Sunday." We read in the Scriptures that 'When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together."
John Pichappilly in 'The Table of the Word'
From Fr. Tony Kadavil:
1) "Well, Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore.”
It happened in Galveston, TX. A woman was cleaning the bottom of the cage of her parrot Chippie with the canister vacuum cleaner. She was not using an attachment on the tube. When the telephone rang, she turned her head to pick it up, continuing to vacuum the cage as she said, "Hello," into the phone. Then she heard the horrible noise of Chippie being sucked into the vacuum. Immediately she put down the phone, ripped open the vacuum bag, and found Chippie in there, stunned but still alive. Since the bird was covered with dust and dirt, she grabbed it, ran it into the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held the bird under the water to clean it off. When she finished that, she saw the hair dryer on the bathroom sink. She turned it on and held the bird in front of the blast of hot air to dry him off. A few weeks later, a reporter from the newspaper that originally published the story went out to the house to ask the woman, "How’s Chippie doing now?" She said, “He just sort of sits and stares." Today’s Gospel tells us that it was what happened to the apostles. They all were traumatized by the arrest and crucifixion of their master and bewildered by his post-Resurrection appearances and his command to prepare for the coming of his Holy Spirit. Many of us can identify with Chippie and the apostles. Life has sucked us up, thrown cold water on us, and blown us away. Somewhere in the trauma, we have lost our song. Hence, we, too, need the daily anointing of the Holy Spirit to keep us singing songs of Christian witnessing through agápe love. http://www.biblestudyresources.com/devotionals/jesus/he_keeps_me_singing.htm
2) The Spirit of God is the melody that energizes the Church:
In the last years of his life, the great cellist and conductor Pablo Casals suffered greatly from rheumatoid arthritis and emphysema. At 90, he was badly stooped and his head pitched forward; his breathing was labored. He needed the help of his wife, Marta, to get dressed in the morning. Marta would then help him shuffle into his studio where he would, with great difficulty, arrange himself on the piano bench. Casals would then manage to raise his swollen, clenched fingers above the keyboard. A visitor describes what he saw next one particular morning: “I was not prepared for the miracle that was about to happen. The fingers slowly unlocked and reached toward the keys like the buds of a plant toward the sunlight. His back straightened. He seemed to breathe more freely. Now his fingers settled on the keys. Then came the opening bars of Bach’s Wohltemperierte Klavier [Well-tempered Clavier], played with great sensitivity and control . . . He hummed as he played, then said that Bach ‘spoke to him here’ – and he placed his hand over his heart. “Then he plunged into a Brahms concerto and his fingers, now agile and powerful, raced across the keyboard with dazzling speed. His entire body seemed fused with the music; it was no longer stiff and shrunken but supple and graceful and completely freed of its arthritic coils. “Having finished the piece, he stood up by himself, far straighter and taller than when he had come into the room. He walked to the breakfast table with no trace of a shuffle, ate heartily, talked animatedly, finished the meal, then went for a walk on the beach.” (From Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration by Norman Cousins).
Like music that inspires and exhilarates, the Spirit of God is the melody that energizes the Church, uniting our many different voices into the song of the Love of God. God has formed us into a community, or Church, an instrument for bringing his life and love into our world. But what makes our Church more than just a gathering of good people is His “Breath” infusing the Church with the music of His Divinity. Today we celebrate that presence. In Jesus’ breathing upon the assembled disciples on Easter night the new life of the Holy Spirit, the community of the Resurrection — the Church — takes flight. That same Holy Spirit continues to “blow” through today’s Church giving life and direction to our mission and ministry to preach the Gospel to every nation, to immerse all of humanity into the music of God’s love and the symphony of the Resurrection.
3) Treasure within:
An old beggar lay on his deathbed. His last words were to his youngest son who had been his constant companion during his begging trips. “Dear son," he said, “I have nothing to give you except a cotton bag and a dirty bronze bowl which I got in my younger days from the junk yard of a rich lady.” After his father’s death, the boy continued begging, using the bowl his father had given him. One day a gold merchant dropped a coin in the boy’s bowl and he was surprised to hear a familiar clinking sound. “Let me check your bowl,” the merchant said. To his great surprise, he found that the beggar’s bowl was made of pure gold. “My dear young man," he said, “why do you waste your time begging? You are a rich man. That bowl of yours is worth at least thirty thousand dollars.” We Christians are often like this beggar boy who failed to recognize and appreciate the value of his bowl. We fail to appreciate the infinite worth of the Holy Spirit living within each of us, sharing His gifts and fruits and charisms with us. On this major feast day, we are invited to experience and appreciate the transforming, sanctifying and strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit within us. This is also a day to renew the promises made to God during our Baptism and Confirmation, to profess our Faith, and to practice it.
1) The seven gifts in day-to-day life:
a) The gift of wisdom: 1) Four-year-old Amanda was taken to the doctor’s office with a fever. The doctor looked in her ears and asked, "Who’s in there? Donald Duck?" She said, "No." He looked in her open mouth, "Who’s in there? Mickey Mouse?" Again, she said, "No." He put his stethoscope on her heart and asked, "Who’s in there? Barney?" Amanda replied, "No, Jesus is in my heart. Barney is in the pocket of my underwear."
2) There is an old joke about a man who asked his pastor whether it was okay to smoke while he prayed. His pastor said, “Absolutely not! When you pray you should be completely devoted to prayer?” So the man went to another priest, but he changed his question, “Would it be okay to pray while I smoke?” “Yes, of course” was the answer.
b) The gift of understanding: 1) A kindergarten teacher was observing her the children in her classroom while they drew pictures. She would occasionally walk around to see each child's artwork. As she came to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was. The girl replied, "I'm drawing God." The teacher paused and said, "But no one knows what God looks like." Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing the girl replied, "They will in a minute."
2) "If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the Church, would that get me into Heaven?" I asked the children in my Sunday School class. "NO!" the children all answered. "If I cleaned the Church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?" Again, the answer was, "NO!" "Well, then, if I were kind to animals and gave candy to all the children, and loved my wife, would that get me into Heaven?" I asked them again. Again, they all answered, "NO!" "Well," I continued, "then how can I get into Heaven?" A five-year-old boy shouted out, "YOU GOTTA BE DEAD!"
c) The gift of counsel: Just after receiving his driver’s license, a Lutheran minister’s son wanted to talk about using the family car. “I’ll make a deal with you,” his father said. “Bring your grades up, read your Bible more often, and get a haircut. Then you may use the car once or twice a week.” A month later the question came up again. “Son,” the father said, “I’m proud of you. I see you studying hard and reading your Bible every day. But you didn’t get a haircut.” After a moment’s pause, the son replied, “Yeah, I’ve thought about that. But Samson had long hair, Moses had long hair, and even Jesus had long hair.” “True," the father replied, “but maybe you noticed that they walked wherever they went.”
d) The gift of fortitude: A mother refused to permit her little boy to go for a picnic with his classmates. On the day of the picnic, however, she changed her mind and gave him permission. But he sighed and confessed, "It's too late Mummy, I've already prayed for rain on the school picnic day!"
e) The gift of knowledge: 1) The story is told of a man who went to the priest and said, "Father, I want you to say a Mass for my dog." The priest was indignant. "What do you mean, say a Mass for your dog?" "It's my pet dog," said the man. "I loved that dog and I'd like you to offer a Mass for him." "We don't offer Masses for dogs here," the priest said. "You might try the denomination down the street. Ask them if they have a service for you." As the man was leaving, he said to the priest, "I really loved that dog. I was planning to give a five thousand-dollar stipend for the Mass." And the priest said, "Wait a minute! Why didn’t tell me that your dog was Catholic?!"
2) A little boy wanted $100 badly and prayed for two weeks but nothing happened. Then he decided to write a letter to the Lord requesting the $100. When the postal authorities received the letter addressed to the Lord, USA, they decided to send it to the White House so the President could have a look at it. The President was so impressed, touched, and amused that he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a $5.00 bill, as this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy. The little boy was delighted with the $5.00, and sat down to write a thank-you note to the Lord. He wrote: "Dear Lord, Thank you very much for sending me the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you had to send it through Washington, DC and those jerks deducted 95%."
3) The Two Ushers:
Six-year-old Angie and her four-year-old brother Joel were sitting together in Church. Joel giggled, sang, and talked out loud. Finally, his big sister had had enough. “You're not supposed to talk out loud in church” “Why? Who's going to stop me?” Joel asked. Angie pointed to the back of the church and said, ”See those two men standing by the door? They're ‘hushers.'”
f) The gift of piety:
The Rabbi, the Cantor and one member of the congregation were the only ones present for the service. The Rabbi intoned, "Adonai, before you I am as nothing." The Cantor intoned, "Adonai, before you I am less than nothing." The member of the congregation intoned, "Adonai, I too am nothing and less than nothing." The Cantor looked at the rabbi, and gestured toward the member of the congregation. "Look who thinks he's nothing!"
g) The gift of fear of the Lord:
Do not ride in automobiles: they are responsible for 20% of fatal accidents. Do not stay home: 1% of all accidents occur in home. Do not walk on the streets or sidewalks: 14% of all accidents occur at such times. Do not travel by air, rail, or water: 16% of all accidents happen on planes, trains or boats. Only .001% of all deaths occur in worship services in Church, and these are usually related to previous physical disorders. Hence, the safest place for you to be at any time is at Church!!!
1) Paderewski immortalizing a boy’s music:
Once, a mother took her five-year-old son with her to a concert by Ignace Paderewski, the great Polish pianist. The mother and her son got their seats close to the stage. Then the mother met her old friend and got involved talking with her. She failed to notice that her son had slipped away to do some exploring. At the right time the lights dimmed and the spot light came on. Only then did the mother see her five-year-old son on the stage, sitting on the piano bench, innocently picking out "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little star." Before she could retrieve her son, Paderewski walked on to the stage. Walking over to the piano, he whispered to the boy, "Don't stop, keep playing." Then, leaning over the boy, Paderewski reached out his left hand and began to fill in the bass. Later, he reached around the other side of the boy and added a running obbligato. Together, the great maestro and the tiny five-year-old mesmerized the audience with their playing. The image of the great maestro and the tiny five-year-old at the piano makes a fitting image of the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples. On the first Pentecost the Holy Spirit whispered encouragement to the disciples. The Holy Spirit transformed the feeble efforts of the disciples into something powerful. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
2) “Lower your bucket-- taste and see”:
More than a century ago, a great sailing ship was stranded off the coast of South America. Week after week the ship lay there in the still waters with not a hint of a breeze. The captain was desperate; the crew was dying of thirst. And then, on the far horizon, a steamship appeared, headed directly toward them. As it drew near, the captain called out, "We need water! Give us water!" The steamship replied, "Lower your buckets where you are." The captain was furious at this cavalier response but called out again, "Please, give us water." But the steamer gave the same reply, "Lower your buckets where you are!" And with that they sailed away! The captain was beside himself with anger and despair, and he went below. But a little later, when no one was looking, a yeoman lowered a bucket into the sea and then tasted what he brought up: It was perfectly sweet, fresh water! For you see, the ship was just out of sight of the mouth of the Amazon. And for all those weeks they had been sitting right on top of all the fresh water they needed! What we are really seeking is already inside us, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be embraced: the Holy Spirit of God Who has been living within us from the moment of our Baptism. The Holy Spirit is saying to us at this very moment from deep in our heart, "Lower your buckets where you are. Taste and see!" Come, Holy Spirit! Fill our hearts, and set us on fire! Amen.
3) Why are the Swiss watches gone?
If in 1968 someone had asked which country would dominate watch making in the 1990s, most people would have said Switzerland. This is because Switzerland had dominated the world of watch- making for the previous sixty years. They led the search for new ways to manufacture better and more durable watch parts. They developed the best waterproofing techniques. In fact, in 1968 the Swiss made 65% of all watches sold in the world, and laid claim to 90% of the profits. However, by 1980 in Switzerland, watchmakers had been laid off by the thousands and the Swiss controlled a paltry 10% of the watch market. Why? The Swiss had ignored an important new development, the Quartz Movement. Ironically a Swiss invented the Quartz movement, but it was rejected because it had no mainspring or knob. It was too much of a paradigm shift for them to embrace. It was too new and too strange. Today's text from Acts tells of a powerful paradigm shift in the people of God demanded by "God's deeds of power," the miraculous activities that accompanied the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles.
4) Speaking the same language:
In 1887, Dr. Ludwig Zamenhof, a Polish linguist, constructed a new language that could be shared by people throughout the world. The artificial language Dr. Zamenhof created is called Esperanto, "the language of hope." The name signifies hope for humankind that a common language might heal the divisions that exist among the different peoples of the earth. The feast of Pentecost is the Church's celebration of her unity and universality in the Holy Spirit, and so some of the readings used express this in terms of language. Dr. Zamenhof's invention of a universal language like Esperanto has been followed by the establishment of the United Nations Assembly, by Summit meetings of the heads of nations, by cultural exchanges and by the revival of the Olympic Games. But Pentecost is more than a work of human creation, more than a work of art and music. Pentecost is a new outpouring of God's Spirit into our hearts to kindle in us the fire of his love (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds).
5) All Mr. Yates needed was suddenly provided.
During the Great Depression, a man by the name of Yates owned a sheep ranch in West Texas. Day by day he grazed his sheep and wondered how he was going to pay his bills. It was in the middle of the Depression, and even government subsidies would not give him enough income to break even. Then one day an oil company came to town. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well on Mr. Yates' land. At 1,115 feet, they struck oil to the tune of 80,000 barrels a day. All Mr. Yates needed was suddenly provided. When I read that old story, one that Bill Bright tells, I wondered if it might be a parable of our spiritual life. “All I have needed God's hands have provided,” says the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness. That is a parable of our spiritual life. The power we need to become what God intended us to be is already in our souls in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
6) "Oh, it sleeps about eighty."
A family driving a large camper pulled up in front of the Church just as the pastor started toward home. Desiring to be friendly, the pastor introduced himself and expressed his admiration for the camper. The man of the family told him rather proudly: "This camper sleeps eight people." Then he asked: "What is the capacity of your Church, Pastor?" The beleaguered pastor replied rather glumly, "Oh, it sleeps about eighty." It is embarrassing sometimes how little the modern-day Churches resemble the Church that first Pentecost: the sound of a wind-storm, tongues of fire, disciples speaking in different languages, thousands being added to the Church and lots of excitement – excitement everywhere!
7) “I'm gonna run her through that thing one time."
Two brothers grew up on a farm in a rural area near Cairo, Georgia. One brother took to education like a duck to water. He graduated from Georgia Tech and became a renowned engineer in Chicago. The other brother was content to stay home and farm. Some years later, the learned brother was invited to give a speech in Atlanta at the Peachtree Plaza Hotel. He had not seen his brother in a long while so he invited him to bring his family to the hotel and spend a little time with him. The rural brother had never been in a town bigger than Cairo. He and his wife and son piled into their pickup truck and headed for Atlanta. After a fearful experience on the interstate highways, they pulled up in front of the Peachtree Plaza. The farmer left his wife in the truck. He and his son went inside to check in. Just inside the entrance were a number of elevators. The farmer had never seen one before. He watched a large, very plain, middle-aged lady step inside one of those little rooms. The doors closed. After about a minute, the doors opened and out stepped a young lady who was a vision of loveliness. The farmer's eyes bugged out. Quickly he punched his son and said, "Boy, go get your Maw. I'm gonna run her through that thing one time." At Pentecost, a ragged aggregation of misfits was transformed into a disciplined cadre of spiritual storm troopers. The wimps became warriors!
8) Wilma Rudolph winning Olympics gold medals:
Neil T. Anderson, in his book Victory over Darkness, tells a thrilling story about a little girl born with major health problems which left her crippled. She had a large, wonderful Christian family. Her mother used to tell her. "If you believe, God will make it happen. You will be able to run around like your brothers and sisters." She took her mother’s counsel to heart and began to believe that God could heal her. She practiced walking without her braces with the aid of her brothers and sisters. On her twelfth birthday, she surprised her parents and her doctors by removing her braces and walking around the doctor's office unassisted. She never wore the braces again. Her next goal was to play basketball. The coach only agreed to let her play as a means of getting her older sister on the team. One day she approached the coach and promised him if he would give her an extra 10 minutes of coaching each day, she would give him a world-class athlete. He laughed, but seeing she was serious, half-heartedly agreed. Before long her determination paid off. She was one of the team's best players. Her team went to the state basketball championships. One of the referees noticed her exceptional ability. He asked if she had ever run track. She hadn't. He encouraged her to try it. So after the basketball season she went out for track. She began winning races and earned a berth in the state championships. At the age of 16, she was one of the best young runners in the country. She went to the Olympics in Australia and won a bronze medal for anchoring the 400meter relay team. Four years later in Rome she won the 100-meter dash, the 200meter dash and anchored the winning 400-meter relay team "all in world-record times.” Wilma Rudolph capped the year by receiving the prestigious Sullivan Award as the most outstanding amateur athlete in America. Her faith and hard work had paid off. [Neil T. Anderson, Victory over Darkness (Ventura, California: Regal Books, 1990), pp. 107-108.] In a sense, that is what Pentecost is about. People opened themselves to the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit empowered them to do things they never dreamed possible. Pentecost is about empowerment: "a small group of folks turned the world upside down.”
9) In yachting, no wind means no race!
“Rev. Alan Walker of Australia often tells about the race of the sailing yachts in which Australia finally defeated the USA for the prized America's Cup. For 132 years, the cup was kept and defended by the United States. Again, and again there were challenges for the cup, but each time it was retained by the USA. Finally, in 1983 Australia mounted a serious challenge. The event took place as scheduled, and after six races, the two yachts were deadlocked at three wins each. Now the whole world seemed to take notice. Australia was alive with anticipation. The sporting world was focused on the race. The day came for the final race. After more than 100 years, the United States was in danger of losing its very precious cup. Thousands of people came to watch the race. Television cameras were ready to beam the race by satellite around the world. The crews were ready. The boats were polished. The yachts pulled into place at the starting line. All was ready, but there was no race! There was not enough wind. In yachting, no wind means no race!" In the life of the Church, as in yachting, no wind, no race. Who would deny that the Church today lacks power, life, energy, excitement? The Church today needs the power of the Holy Spirit.
10) Torch and Bucket:
There is the story of a person who saw an angel walking down the street. The angel was carrying a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. “What are you going to do with that torch and that bucket of water?” the person asked. The angel stopped abruptly, looked at the person and said, “With the torch, I’m going to burn down the mansions of Heaven, and with the bucket of water, I’m going to put out the fires of hell. Then we’re going to see who really loves God. The angel’s point is that many people obey God’s Commandments out of fear of punishment of Hell or hope of reward in Heaven. They don’t obey him for the reason Jesus gives in today’s Gospel. They don’t obey them out of love: “If you love me,” Jesus says in today’s reading, “you will obey my commandments.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies).
11) Do you belong to a Pentecostal church?
During the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in the days of Mussolini, Christian believers suffered considerable persecution. In his book, Fire on the Mountains, Raymond Davis tells of the love demonstrated by believers for each other during this period of affliction, which in turn made a major impression on unbelievers. For example, no provision was made to feed the prisoners in jail by the invading army. This was the responsibility of relatives and friends. Christians in the prisons had no problem, though. They were well cared for by friends and family. In fact, so much food was brought them by fellow believers and Church groups that enough remained to feed the unbelieving prisoners also. This observable love, vibrant though nonverbal, brought many to seek the Lord. Such love was previously unheard of. As a result the word spread far and wide. Non-believers sought out believers to learn more about the Christian faith. When prisoners who had come to know Christ while in jail were released, they went back home and attended the nearest church. [Leslie B. Flynn, You Don’t Have To Go It Alone, (Denver, Colorado: Accent Books, 1981).] It is only right, then, that we should pray that we might be a “Pentecostal Church,” if we understand what that means.
12) “I need to know if you are Pentecostal.”
The well-known author and preacher, Fred Craddock, tells a rather funny story about a lecture he was giving: A few years ago, when he was on the West Coast speaking at a seminary, just before the first lecture, one of the students stood up and said, "Before you speak, I need to know if you are Pentecostal." The room grew silent. Craddock said he looked around for the Dean of the Seminary! He was nowhere to be found. The student continued with his quiz right in front of everybody. Craddock was taken aback, and so he said, "Do you mean do I belong to the Pentecostal Church?" He said, "No, I mean are you Pentecostal?" Craddock said, "Are you asking me if I am charismatic?" the student said, "I am asking you if you are Pentecostal." Craddock said, "Do you want to know if I speak in tongues?" He said, "I want to know if you are Pentecostal." Craddock said, "I don't know what your question is." The student said, "Obviously, you are not Pentecostal." He left. What are we talking about this morning? Is the Church supposed to use the word Pentecost only as a noun or can it be used as an adjective? And so I ask you: Are you Pentecostal? If the Church is alive in the world, it is Pentecostal. The Church is alive if we are in one accord, sharing our blessings with the less fortunate ones, if we are joined together in prayer and if we are repenting people asking forgiveness from God and others every day.
13) “It was the Holy Spirit.”
Fr. Bob Spitzer, a Jesuit priest who was the president of Gonzaga University for 12 years tells about a powerful prayer to the Holy Spirit. It involves asking for the healing of hurts and memories, not just for own self, but for those one has harmed, always seeking forgiveness. He tells the story of making an offhand comment that afterwards he regretted. Unable to call the man, he went to the chapel and asked the Holy Spirit to heal any harm he had done. A few days later, something extraordinary happened. Fr. Spitzer ran into the man walking on the campus, and the man said, “You know Father, I’ve been thinking about what you told me. At first I was kind of angry, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized what you were getting at. You actually helped me a great deal.” As Fr. Spitzer remarked later: “It was the Holy Spirit.” (http://www.magisreasonfaith.org/files/pdfs/spitzerbio.pdf).
14) The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of communication:
There have been numerous books written on the difficulty that men and women have in communicating. It has been estimated that women say something like 6,000 – 8,000 words a day and that men utter 2,000 – 4,000 words a day. At the end of the day the man has spoken his 4,000 words and doesn’t want to communicate any more. He simply wants to sit quietly, watch TV and go to bed. A woman most likely won’t have spoken her 8,000 words for the day yet. She may have 2-3,000 words to go and uses them to share every event of the day. This conversation may sound familiar. Wife: Hi darling …it’s good to see you home. How was your day? Husband: Good. Wife: I heard that you were going to finalize that big deal today. How did it go? Husband: Fine. Wife: That’s good. Do you think the boss will give you a raise? Husband: Maybe. Wife: Hey! Today I found out that I’m pregnant. Husband: That’s good. and so on… and then she goes on to tell everything that happened in her day. The Holy Spirit communicates with men and women equally through the Holy Bible and inspires them and guides them in their communication with God. May God's Spirit guide and help us as we go out from here today and give us the courage and power to speak his Word to others. (Rev. Gerhard)-
15) Come, Holy Spirit:
There is a period of human history called the Dark Ages. It started in about the fifth century and continued for the next 600 years. You might say it was a 600-year depression – food was scarce, people lived hand-to-mouth – and Western civilisation barely hung by a thread. The one bright spot was the local Cathedral. Building Cathedrals, even in small towns, gave work to thousands of people. These buildings became the cultural, social and spiritual centres of life. Murals, stained glass windows, sculptures and pageantry helped teach the great stories of the Bible at a time when very few people could read. With this in mind, some of the cathedral builders chose to impress on the people the meaning of Pentecost. In the great domed and richly painted ceilings were a number of small carefully disguised doors. During worship on Pentecost when the whole town was gathered in the cathedral, some unlucky parishioners were drafted to climb up on to the roof. At the appropriate moment during the liturgy, they would release a live dove through the one of the small doors. This dove would swoop over the congregation as a living symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit. At the same time the choir boys would make whooshing noise, the doors in the ceiling would be opened again and this time rose petals would be showered on the congregation, symbolizing tongues of flame falling on the worshippers below. You can imagine the impact that this had on those medieval Christians whose lives were drab and hard. They might not have been able to read about Pentecost from the Bible but nevertheless this visual demonstration must have left a lasting impression. (Rev. Gerhard).
16) Together they finished the race.
Derek Redmond ran in a semi-final of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Halfway round the track this British athlete collapsed with a torn hamstring. For some strange reason, he wanted to finish the race, and he struggled to his feet. Derek's Dad got up out of the stand, and he broke his way through security. His Dad picked up his crying son, and together they finished the race. That man did what the Holy Spirit does for us. It’s when we are spiritually exhausted, when we find ourselves giving into the spirit of slavery again and again, when we can't pray, when we don't want to pray, when our Faith is just not strong enough –- when there is no way we can finish the race. That’s when the Spirit picks us up, and drags us to the finish line. (Rev. Gerhard).
17) Some Pentecost traditions:
Some parishes have begun the tradition of encouraging people to wear red clothing on Pentecost, since red is the liturgical color of the day. This reflects the old custom of decorating homes and churches with colorful flowers on this day. In Poland, for example, and among the Ukrainians, Pentecost is sometimes called the “Green Holiday,” and in Germany the “Flower Feast.” In some Latin countries, there is the term Pascha Rosatum, Latin words that mean “Feast of Roses.” And in Italy there is the name Pascua Rossa, meaning “Red Pasch,” inspired by the red vestments worn on Pentecost. Medieval Christians liked to dramatize the Pentecost symbols of the dove and flames of fire. Historical accounts tell us, for example, that in France, when the priest intoned the words “Come, Holy Ghost,” trumpets would blow, signifying the violent wind of which the Scriptures speak. In other countries, choirboys would hiss, hum, make odd noises with wind instruments, and rattle their benches. Then from a hole in the wall above, called “The Holy Ghost Hole,” a great swinging disk with a beautiful image of a dove would descend, and remain suspended above the middle of the church. From the same opening in the wall would follow a shower of flowers, representing the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and water symbolizing Baptism. In the thirteenth century, French cathedrals would release white pigeons inside the buildings, and drop roses from the Holy Ghost Hole. Some towns in central Europe even dropped pieces of burning straw, representing the flaming tongues of Pentecost. This last custom eventually found disfavor, as more and more churches and worshipers caught fire, spiritually and literally. (Fr. Hoisington).
18) "Did you and Grandma ever get into any fights?"
A little girl asked her grandfather, "Did you and Grandma ever get into any fights?" The grandfather replied: "We don't talk about it very often, but there was a time when we were not getting along very well. We seemed to be picking on each other a lot and finding all kinds of things to argue about and really getting on one another's nerves. Well, one day I came in from the garden and I heard a voice upstairs. I went to the stairs and heard your grandmother telling God what she could not bring herself to tell me." "Well, what did you do?" asked the grand-daughter. "I quietly walked up the stairs," he replied, "and knelt down beside her and told God my side of the story. And from that day to this, we have never had a problem which we couldn't resolve by talking it over with each other and with God." Do you think the Holy Spirit was active in that couples' marriage? There can be no doubt. Conflict will always remain part of every relationship. The fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control – will always remain critical for happy relationships with others.
19) The Holy Spirit clean-up job:
The Holy Spirit not only gives life but even brings dead bones to life. In Greek mythology, we read about the demi-god Hercules, son of Zeus and Alcmena. He was noted for his strength and was commanded by the King whom he was serving in expiation of a crime to clean the stables of Augeas, which housed 3000 oxen. The stable had not been cleaned for 30 years and Hercules was told to do the job within a day. This was a herculean job to complete. He could not do it by his own enormous power so he directed the river Alpheus to run through the stable and so completed the task. The apostles themselves did a great job of cleaning and giving life to people by letting the Holy Spirit move into them. (Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families).
20) Unseen Guest:
Rossini was a great composer of music. He composed beautiful pieces of music, and, therefore, the King of France presented him with a watch which he kept in his showcase with great pride. One day he showed it to his friend. His friend was surprised to know the real worth of the royal watch. He touched a button on the watch and a beautiful photograph of Rossini popped up. All stood in awe! Rossini had had the watch for several years and but had never realized the value and the importance of the watch. Many people do not know much about the Holy Spirit and the importance of Him in our lives. (Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
21) “Life after Delivery?”
In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.” “Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?” The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouth. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.” The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded. ”The second insisted, ”Well I think there is something, and maybe it’s different from life here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.” The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover, if there is life, then why has no one ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes nowhere.” “Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.” The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?” The second said.” She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”
Said the first: “Well I don’t see her, so it is only logical that she doesn’t exit.” To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and listen, you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.” Today is Pentecost: The Church’s birthday! “Before Pentecost, the disciples were unsure of what they were to do next, and spent most of their time in hiding. After Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit, they understood their mission to spread the Good News of Jesus, and they had the courage to come out of their hiding and speak openly about who Jesus was, and what he had accomplished by his dying and rising. (http://www.staugustinechurch.net/homilies/pentecostSundayhomily.htm)
22) The Shakespearean advocate who saved a life:
One of the popular plays of William Shakespeare is “The Merchant of Venice.” Antonio, a successful merchant of Venice got into trouble because of his generosity. His friend Bassano requested him to lend him some money. Antonio agreed, but, as all of his assets were tied up at sea they went to Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. Shylock agreed to lend them 3000 ducats, but only if Antonio would sign a bond offering a pound of his flesh if the loan was not repaid in three months’ time. Antonio assented to the arrangement. Unfortunately, Antonio was not able to keep his word. The case reached the court. Shylock refused Bassanio's offer of 6,000 ducats, twice the amount of the loan. He demanded his pound of flesh from Antonio. Everyone present at the scene pleaded for the life of Antonio. But Shylock was adamant that he wanted the will to be carried out. Thus, the court must allow Shylock to extract the pound of flesh. At that very moment, a young lawyer arrived offering to defend the case of Antonio. The young lawyer argued that the bond allowed Shylock to remove only the flesh, not any drop of "blood", of Antonio. Thus, if Shylock were to shed any drop of Antonio's blood, his "lands and goods" would be forfeited under Venetian laws. The young lawyer stepped in at a moment when Antonio was in utter hopelessness. He was sure that he would lose his life. But the young lawyer’s arguments and reasoning brought hope to Antonio who began to be reassured. The presence of an Advocate brought great change in Antonio. The disciples of Jesus too were in great hopelessness after the Ascension of Jesus. The message of Resurrection gave them hope and courage. However, it lasted only for forty days. Again, after the Ascension they confined themselves behind closed doors. Then came the great miracle. They found the great Advocate in their midst. The Holy Spirit descended upon them like tongues of fire, rekindled their hopes and ignited their courage. It was t eh Holy Spirit Who transformed the ignorant men into possessors of Divine Wisdom. It transformed the cowards into heroes and desperate men into dreamers. (Fr. Bobby Jose)
23) Carnal versus Spiritual:
There was once an Eskimo who used to take his two dogs for a bet-fight in the town square. One was a black dog the other was white. The people gathered week after week to see the dogs fight and betted heavily. On some days, the black dog won and on others the white. No matter which dog won, the Eskimo made money. The secret behind duping the people was that he would feed the dog well which he wanted to win. Do you feed your spiritual self and keep it strengthened by the daily anointing of the Holy Spirit to win over the carnal person? "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." (Daniel Sunderaj in Manna for the Soul; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
24) Film: 'Being John Malkovich':
In the very strange 1999 surrealist movie Being John Malkovich, someone discovers a portal into Malkovich's mind, enabling visitors to see and experience things through his body and to influence his actions. He becomes aware of what's happening and finds the portal himself. At the climax of the movie, there is a bizarre but powerful scene when he enters the portal, being swept down a dark tunnel with a roaring sound to emerge as a participant/observer in his own world. He discovers that everyone has his face and his voice, and every word spoken is in his name. Connections with the Pentecost story: -- the paradox of the Creator entering his own creation by an unexplainable power; the potential of the portal to connect people in an unprecedented kind of indwelling. But the exploitation of the portal by those who find it -- selling access, allowing it to be used to violate someone's integrity -- reminds me of all who abuse the gift of the Spirit for their own ends or to manipulate others. Seeing the face of Malkovich everywhere reminds me of the Spirit making Jesus present through us in a new and all-encompassing way. We are recognizably Christ-like, though still ourselves, and all we say and do is 'in his Name'. It's a frightening moment in the movie, because Malkovich has no wish to become omnipresent as a Christ-figure, but the image is powerful. (Marnie Barrel -Film insights in The Text this Week; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
25) Holy Roller Service:
A little girl was visiting her grandmother in a small country town in the Southern United States. They attended a very emotional religious service, where people expressed their feelings by jumping about and shouting what we might call a "Holy Roller" service. The little girl asked her grandmother if all that jumping meant the Holy Spirit was really there. Her grandmother said. "Honey, it don't matter how high they jump up, it's what they do when they come down that will tell you if it's the real thing." It would be good if we were a little more enthusiastic about our religion, but what matters is what we do in everyday life. Does the Holy Spirit have a practical effect on our daily life? In what way? (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
26) High tide of the Holy Spirit:
A ship strayed off course near San Diego some years back. It became stuck in a reef at low tide. Twelve tugboats were unsuccessful in their attempts to budge it. Finally, the captain instructed the tugs to go back home. He sighed, "I'll just be patient and wait." He waited until high tide. All of a sudden, the ocean began to rise. What human power could not do, the rising tide of the Pacific Ocean did. It lifted that ship and put it back into the channel. Something like that happened to the early Church on the Day of Pentecost. They were all together in one place – confused, unmotivated and fearful – when suddenly the tide of Holy Spirit rolled in.
27) Niccolo Paganini on one string:
The renowned Italian violinist, violist, cellist, guitarist and composer, Niccolo Paganini, was due to perform one night in a very prestigious Concert Hall in Paris. Even as he walked on to the stage, the audience stood up and cheered with irrepressible excitement and heart-warming esteem. Resting his violin under his chin, the celebrated musician began to play with such dexterity and brilliance that the audience listened with spellbound silence. Suddenly one string of the violin snapped. But the consummate professional was not deterred. On the contrary, he continued to play with three strings, and the music was just as fascinating and impressive. Moments later a second string snapped; and minutes later the third. The audience gasped in stunned disbelief. What was Paganini going to do? Would he bow and leave regretfully? Without losing his cool, the famous maestro raised his hand, called for silence and announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to hear Paganini on one string." What followed thereafter literally took everyone's breath away - the performance was flawless, the music exquisite, the entertainment heavenly and just on one string! Such is the incomparable touch of the Master's hand. This extraordinary story aptly describes the singular and marvelous role of the Spirit in our personal lives. (J. Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho).L/17
Power can be used in at least two ways: it can be unleashed, or it can be harnessed. The energy in ten gallons of gasoline, for instance, can be released explosively by dropping a lighted match into the can. Or it can be channelled through the engine of a Datsun in a controlled burn and used to transport a person 350 miles. Explosions are spectacular, but controlled burns have lasting effect, staying power. The Holy Spirit works both ways. At Pentecost, he exploded on the scene; His presence was like "tongues of fire" (Acts 2:3). Thousands were affected by one burst of God's power. But He also works through the church--the institution God began to tap the Holy Spirit's power for the long haul. Through worship, fellowship, and service, Christians are provided with staying power.
If people would have been asked in 1968 which nation would dominate the world in watch making during the 1990s and into the twenty-first century the answer would have been uniform: Switzerland. Why? Because Switzerland had dominated the world of watch making for the previous sixty years.
The Swiss made the best watches in the world and were committed to constant refinement of their expertise. It was the Swiss who came forward with the minute hand and the second hand. They led the world in discovering better ways to manufacture the gears, bearings, and mainsprings of watches. They even led the way in waterproofing techniques and self-winding models. By 1968, the Swiss made 65 percent of all watches sold in the world and laid claim to as much as 90 percent of the profits.
By 1980, however, they had laid off thousands of watch-makers and controlled less than 10 percent of the world market. Their profit domination dropped to less than 20 percent. Between 1979 and 1981, fifty thousand of the sixty-two thousand Swiss watchmakers lost their jobs. Why? The Swiss had refused to consider a new development—the Quartz movement—ironically, invented by a Swiss. Because it had no main-spring or knob, it was rejected. It was too much of a paradigm shift for them to embrace. Seiko, on the other hand, accepted it and, along with a few other companies, became the leader in the watch industry.
The lesson of the Swiss watchmakers is profound. A past that was so secure, so profitable, so dominant was destroyed by an unwillingness to consider the future. It was more than not being able to make predictions—it was an inability to re-think how they did business. Past success had blinded them to the importance of seeing the implications of the changing world and to admit that past accomplishment was no guarantee of future success.
James Enery White, Rethinking The Church, Baker Books, 1998, p. 20.
The miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2) is the Spirit’s overcoming the barriers of language and perception to open not only the minds of the Apostles’ hearers but their hearts as well to understanding and embracing the Word of God.
The glassblower’s art
The process has changed little in the last 3,000 years. A long, narrow metal tube is dipped into a pot of sand, soda, lime and any number of metal and chemicals. Then the artisan blows carefully into the tube and creates a bubble – and glass is formed. As he blows, the glassmaker will shape and form the bubble into the final piece: a vase, a bowl, a pane of glass. During the shaping process, the piece is frequently returned to the furnace in order to keep it soft enough to work.
By the breath of the glassblower and the fire of the kiln, sand is transformed into glass – glass of beautiful color and transparency, glass that protects and preserves, glass that warms and illuminates.
In the story of Pentecost, the Spirit of God is experienced in images of breath and fire. The word Hebrew word for “Spirit” in is ruah, meaning breath or air (in Greek the word is pneuma). Pentecost is the “breath” of God blowing through our community, re-creating us and forming us into the Church of the Risen Christ. In the Pentecost story from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes “tongues” of fire appeared to “rest” on each of the Apostles. Such “fire” moves them to articulate what they had seen and heard and experienced in their encounter with Jesus. On this feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the Spirit of God within our own hearts and dwelling within our Church community: the breath of God giving life to us and animating us in his grace to live lives of compassion and mercy; the fire of God forming us become a people of loving service and humble love, reflecting that of his Christ.
The Holy Spirit's distinctive role is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. So far as this role was concerned, the Spirit "was not yet" (John 7:29, literal Greek) while Jesus was on earth; only when the Father had glorified him (John 17:1, 5) could the Spirit's work of making men aware of Jesus' glory begin.
I remember walking to church one winter evening to preach on the words, "He will glorify me" (John 16:14), seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed. When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are placed so that you do not see them; in fact, you are not supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you can see it properly. This perfectly illustrated the Spirit's new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.
Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder on to Jesus who stands facing us. The Spirit's message to us is never, "Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me", but always, "Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him and hear his word; go to him and have life; get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace." The Spirit, we might say, is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker, whose role it is to bring us and Christ together and ensure that we stay together.
James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.
Gordon Brownville's Symbols of the Holy Spirit tells about the great Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first to discover the magnetic meridian of the North Pole and to discover the South Pole. On one of his trips, Amundsen took a homing pigeon with him. When he had finally reached the top of the world, he opened the bird's cage and set it free. Imagine the delight of Amundsen's wife, back in Norway, when she looked up from the doorway of her home and saw the pigeon circling in the sky above. No doubt she exclaimed, "He's alive! My husband is still alive!"
So it was when Jesus ascended. He was gone, but the disciples clung to his promise to send them the Holy Spirit. What joy, then, when the dovelike Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. The disciples had with them the continual reminder that Jesus was alive and victorious at the right of the Father. This continues to be the Spirit's message.
******The well-known author and preacher Fred Craddock tells a rather funny story about a lecture he was giving: A few years ago, when he was on the west coast speaking at a seminary, just before the first lecture, one of the students stood up and said, "Before you speak, I need to know if you are Pentecostal." The room grew silent. Craddock said he looked around for the Dean of the seminary! He was nowhere to be found.
The student continued with his quiz right in front of everybody. Craddock was taken aback, and so he said, "Do you mean do I belong to the Pentecostal Church?" He said, "No, I mean are you Pentecostal?" Craddock said, "Are you asking me if I am charismatic?" the student said, "I am asking you if you are Pentecostal." Craddock said, "Do you want to know if I speak in tongues?" He said, "I want to know if you are Pentecostal." Craddock said, "I don't know what your question is." The student said, "Obviously, you are not Pentecostal." He left.
What are we talking about this morning? Is the church supposed to use the word Pentecost only as a noun or can it be used as an adjective? And so I ask you: Are you Pentecostal?
In spite of the fact that the church doesn't know what the adjective means, the church insists that the word remain in our vocabulary as an adjective. The church is unwilling for the word simply to be a noun, to represent a date, a place, an event in the history of the church, refuses for it to be simply a memory, an item, something back there somewhere. The church insists that the word is an adjective; it describes the church. The word, then, is "Pentecostal."
If the church is alive in the world it is Pentecostal. And you thought we were Methodist! [Insert your own tradition here.]
How do we keep this aliveness, this fire burning, this spirit moving? What must exist in us, around us, and through us, if we are to be Pentecostal? Simply these three things:
1. We Are To Be Of One Accord2. We Are To Join Together Constantly in Prayer
3. We Are To Repent
___________________________Happy Natal Day, church!
As a kid did you ever terrorize a sibling by scuffing your feet on the carpet and walking towards your "prey" with an index finger pointing at them? The threat, of course, was "static electricity." If you touched you brother or sister, it meant a small but smarting little zap. A small shock - big fun!
A local grocery store (actually, the local Orcas Island Supermarket where we live) recently bit the bullet and spent big money on some major renovations. Among the improvements was all new flooring, a snazzy laminate that looked like real hardwood. The store also bought new shopping carts. These were sleeker and more "user friendly" than the previous model. An upgraded misting system in the produce section required new de-humidifying equipment for the rest of the store.
But all these various upgrades resulted in a "perfect storm" for this grocery store. The contact between the new floor and the new shopping cart's wheels coupled with the dry, de-humidified air resulted in perfect conditions to create tremendous static electricity. Suddenly every shopper with a grocery cart was getting electrified by the lemons, zapped by the chocolate chips, zinged by a loaf of bread. The pain for those local shoppers was no longer confined to the check-out counter. Now every item the shopper selected brought a painful static electric wake-up shock.
Our ancestors took one giant technological step after a thunderstorm. Lightning ignited a fire - a fire that offered both light and warmth to the cold darkness of night. It gave our ancestors an idea. Figuring out how to keep a fire going, without the thunder and lightning, was the beginning of human civilization. Taming "fire" was the first great human achievement.
In 1957 a young musician named Jerry Lee Lewis, one of the first to be called a member of a new genre called "rock and roll," recorded a huge hit. Primarily a piano player, Jerry Lee pounded out at hit called "Great Balls of Fire." The title came straight out of Lewis' traditional Christian upbringing - recalling a familiar Southern expression describing the miraculous events of Pentecost...
___________________________You Are in the Spirit
It's like the story of the shark and the whale. Both were swimming in the sea when the shark swam up to the whale to engage in conversation. As they swam along, the shark said to the whale, "You are so much older than I, and wiser too. Could you tell me where the ocean is?" The whale responded, "The ocean is what you are in now." The shark would not believe it. "Come on, tell me where the ocean is so I may find it!" The whale repeated, "The ocean is here, now; you are in it." Unbelieving, the shark swam away searching for the ocean.
The moral of the story, I believe, is this: don't spend too much time looking for God because the Spirit of God is here in the now of your life, dwelling within you, within me, within this community. And that truth is nurtured in prayer.
Susan M. Fleenor, The Indwelling Spirit of Pentecost
The peace Jesus gives to us through the Holy Spirit is more than we can ever imagine:
Peace means the cessation of all warfare, but it also means much more.
Peace means a feeling of inner well-being, but it also means much more.
Peace means an end to psychological tensions, but it also means much more.
Peace means halting interpersonal conflicts, but it also means much more.
Peace means the settling of silence on the soul, but it also means much more.
In Valyermo, California , the Benedictines converted a 400-acre ranch into a religious community called St. Andrew's Priory. As you enter the grounds, you find that the land is posted: "No Hunting Except for Peace." The world is hunting for peace. What will we give it?
Leonard Sweet, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
______________________________________Shaped by the Winds of God
Most times, when I'm called to conduct a funeral of a loved one from the church, I'm asked by the funeral director if I'd like to ride with them rather than to drive my own car. And most times, I take them up on the offer, for it is more relaxing not to have to worry about driving. I must say that I've had some interesting and informative drives out to the cemetery. One director told me about the effect God's Wind has on things that grow. It seems that over time, trees that have to stand out in the open become shaped in the direction the wind is blowing. Unless there are other trees around to block it from happening, a tree will eventually be shaped by the force and direction of the wind. Then, as living proof, the funeral director began to point out to me tree after tree that had all been shaped in this way, trees that I confess I had passed by many times, but had never really seen until then. Once this was pointed out to me, I began to see them everywhere. The cemetery was literally filled with them! All shaped by the Winds of God!
I leave you with this question. Like those trees in the cemetery, do we, as individuals, and as a congregation, show any evidence of being shaped by the Winds of God's Spirit? Is the new beginning Pentecostal experience a fresh, yet continuing presence in our lives?
David R. Cartwright, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost (First Third): Guided by the Spirit, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
________________________________________Waves of Worry
Several years ago a submarine was being tested and had to remain submerged for many hours. When it returned to the harbor, the captain was asked, "How did the terrible storm last night affect you?" The officer looked at him in surprise and exclaimed, "Storm? We didn't even know there was one!" The sub had been so far beneath the surface that it had reached the area known to sailors as "the cushion of the sea." Although the ocean may be whipped into huge waves by high winds, the waters below are never stirred.
This, I believe, is a perfect picture of the peace that comes from Christ's Spirit. The waves of worry, of fear, of heartbreak, cannot touch those resting in Christ. Sheltered by His grace and encouraged by His Spirit, the believer is given the perfect tranquility that only Christ can provide.
Adrian Dieleman, Receive the Holy Spirit
_______________________Humor: How Were You Attired?
Recently, a judicial friend was presiding over a case in a small, rural county. The defendant was charged with drunk driving and trying to assault the police officer who arrested him. To convict the defendant on the assault on an officer charge, the District Attorney had to prove that the defendant knew the person he was assaulting was a police officer. And the easiest way to do that is to show that the officer was wearing a police uniform, and therefore the defendant knew that this was a police officer.
So the District Attorney asked the officer on the witness stand "And how were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?"
The witness looked at him blankly. It was clear he didn't know what the District Attorney meant by "attired". Everyone saw this but the District Attorney.
"Would you repeat the question, please?"
In a slightly irritated voice the District Attorney said, "And how were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?"
The witness still was puzzled. "Say that again", he pleaded."How were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?" barked the District Attorney.
My friend said you could suddenly see the light bulb come on in the officer's head, and he proudly proclaimed "I was traveling on standard issue radial tires!"
This officer needed an interpreter even within the English language!
That's what I'm getting at: We all need our own personal interpreter, full time, 24/7. So much of what we hear, even within the English language, we don't understand. And nowhere is that truth more evident than with people who are new to the church.
Leonard Sweet, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
_____________________________Lost and Found
Picture a little girl lost in a big city. There she sits, crying on the curb. A policeman finds her, puts her in his cruiser and drives her up and down the streets, hoping she'll recognize something familiar. Which, at last, she does. She sees a steeple with a cross on it. Tears vanish. Speech returns. "That's my church," she says. "I can find my way from here."
You're not the only one, little girl.