Acts 2:1-20 “Spirit Is Moving”
On Wednesday I was at the airport in Los Angeles, LAX, just looking out the window when I saw this huge moving word outside the window. It said “SPIRIT.” At the same time I saw the television monitors turn to yellow and also display the word “SPIRIT.” I did not realize at the time that there is a “Spirit” Airlines. I just took it as a sign from God that His Spirit had arrived on earth. God talks in mysterious ways. By the way, this does not constitute an endorsement of Spirit Airlines. I am rather endorsing the true Spirit of God. “Now arriving at gate 22, the Spirit of God!”
As we read from Acts 2, all the people were gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish festival of Pentecost. This is already an annual event there. So, naturally there are people from all over the Levant gathering to celebrate this Jewish Festival. The biblical text starts to list all the different peoples and their respective languages. Poor Tom, as our liturgist, had to struggle through reading all the different nations of people.
Last week my family and I attended a wedding in Temecula, California. This town is just about an hour-plus from the border with Mexico. The day after the wedding we drove down to the border and walked into TJ for the day. Naturally, we were speaking English, but everyone around us was speaking Spanish then. So, we were isolated. That is what these people in Jerusalem must have felt like. They kept to their own little language groupings and did not share fully with others.
Of course, when we went into the shops to buy curios, we soon discovered that the people there could all speak English at least well enough to barter a deal with customers from “El Norte.” Something really funny started happening. They would speak English, and I would answer in Spanish in an attempt to get the Spanish-speaker’s price on the item. Then, they would speak back to me in Spanish or English, and I might reply again in either language.
This reminded me of a story I heard from a man in Washington State about his father who was a rancher who had hired a ranch hand from Mexico. For more than 40 years they worked together. The rancher never learned Spanish, and the ranch hand never learned English. Now in their old age, they would still sit together drinking beer. The one man will speak in English, the other in Spanish, and after forty years of friendship and working together they have developed an understanding that goes beyond words.
I always like to say that the Bible never really talks about miracles as being “unnatural” occurrences. They are natural. And, they are super. So, they are “supernatural” happenings. The miracle of the Pentecost is that spiritual connections were being made instantly that would otherwise take forty years to develop!
Do you catch my meaning? The Pentecost experience of becoming spiritually connected to one another is a natural godly process that takes place with all humans when they come together in one place, but it is being sped up into a “miraculous mode.”
By the way, to be sure, my family and I did go to church last Sunday! We went to the church in the plaza in Tia Juana, Mexico. The priests were all speaking in Spanish. The people were praying in Spanish. And, honestly, I felt right at home there sensing a spiritual connection immediately to what was happening around me. Through the body of Christ, we are spiritually connected to all other believers. That is the Pentecost experience in its essence.
I love the fact that we have people who live off-island who claim our little church in Waimea as “their church.” A couple who come in the winter every year to be with us once told me that from the moment they first worshipped here, they knew in their hearts that this was their church. Even though they live most of the time elsewhere, this is where they feel that great spiritual connection between God and God’s people! So, this church in its very essence is part of the Pentecost miracle, and is therefore a “Pentecostal” church! The spirit is moving in Waimea.
Sometimes, we connect immediately, and sometimes we do not. The Spirit is fickle that way. As a counterpoint, I know many people who have come into the church only once and have left here stating, “Well, I went to church, and nothing happened to me.” They might even complain that they were bored. Believe it or not, often times a spiritual connection with another person and with God takes longer than an hour to develop.
We have become so used to instant connectivity in our world today that we have become “point and click” Christians. So, many folks today will think: “If I am in need of a spiritual connection, I will go online to the church and point and click some content that might appease my brain in that moment.”
Newsflash: the Holy Spirit is NOT the internet of God! The bible is quite clear and Jesus himself makes it super apparent the Spirit of God is not a thing but rather a PERSON. The Spirit is one of the three Persons of God: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Being a person, the Holy Spirit has a definite “personality, too.”
Follow with me to Zechariah 12:10. This is a prophecy of the coming of the Holy Spirit. “And, I will pour out my spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”
Yes, the Spirit has compassion and supplies us our needs. That just does not sound like the internet at all to me. If one were to ascribe a personality to the current Social Media on-line, “compassionate” would certainly not be the word I would choose.
Now join me in Romans 8:26. Many of you will already know this passage by heart, I think. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” The internet does not sigh or weep for you. The internet might cause you to cry, but it not be there to cry with you, to counsel you, or to comfort you.
Jesus describes the Holy Spirit with the word “paraclete,” a Greek word that is in fact in the English dictionary. We are not sure how to translate this Greek word. We can read it in John 14:15-17, “. . .I will ask the Father , and He will give you another Advocate (helper, comforter, companion, counselor, or paraclete), to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides in you.”
So, how does this Pentecostal Spiritual Connection with people actually work? This is a bit of a long story, so bear with me. I am sure that some of you will remember our hanai daughter from Russia, Nelli. We also called her Henry, and I wrote a book about her experience here as an exchange student. She was also the recipient of our Grace Scholarship recently.
She decided that this summer she would come back to the United States on a work program called Inter-Exchange. The group brings in students from around the world on a temporary work J1 visa to experience the US and make money at the same time.
Well, Nelli had a housing arrangement with a family in Ocean City, Maryland. She paid the $250 deposit, then the first month’s rent of $300. Then, the woman told her that she had to leave the house. If she did not leave, the woman would call the police on her. So, in the middle of the night, she and her friend Nastiya from Russia who was with her, walked a long road back to the town and sat there on the boardwalk in Ocean City at midnight not knowing where to go.
That is when Nelli called us here Waimea. I told her to just go to any hotel that she saw open there on the boardwalk. It did not matter if they did not have a room for her, they would help to find accommodation elsewhere if needed. I told her that we would pay the bill.
She and her friend walked to the first hotel she saw: the Plim Plaza. They were warmly welcomed. She explained what had happened to her and asked if it were possible to just sleep in the lobby—not wanting to spend my money. The lady behind the counter had heard the Spirit telling her that the two girls would be coming to her that night. She took the two girls to a vacant room and let them stay the rest of the night for free. I called her later to thank her. I invited her to come to Waimea one day, so maybe we will meet this angel who heard the Spirit’s voice to help Nelli.
That settled the first-night issue. Where would Nelli stay then? Again the Spirit spoke to me. I went on-line and got the number of the local Methodist Church there. I do not know why I chose that one. . . .strange when I think about it. A person picked up on the first ring and said indeed that their church had an outreach to the international students that came in the summer to work. Pastor Steve Young would be happy to help Nelli and her friend. And, that is where Nelli is now—under the care of the church again!
Throughout this whole episode, I could see the Spirit moving! That is what we celebrate today! The Spirit coming down and causing us to connect with one another in a way that would be impossible otherwise. Feel the Spirit over you lives this morning.