Pentecost Sunday

There is an evaluative tool called the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, which seeks to measure the impact of stressors in one’s life that might lead to resulting personal vulnerability. In using the tool, you can choose from a list of emotionally challenging events that you have encountered in the previous year. The list includes things like the death of a close friend, a change in living situation, and uncertainty about the future, among others. The ratings suggest that if you come up with a score over 300, you will be highly susceptible to stress-related illness. 1

holy spirit window 5.16.24It had been a harrowing time for Jesus’ disciples. Just over the previous seven weeks, they had gone through experiencing a death, terrible loss, chronic fear, certain fatigue, and significant anxiety about what the future would hold for them. It is a little hard to rate the stress level for the disciples – the test doesn’t have the option for the stress induced when one of your closest friends is resurrected. But I put in events that they had been through just over the previous seven weeks, and their stress score would have been well over 400, which means they were all fortunate not to have had a heart attack or stroke.

After Jesus’ resurrection, knowing what his followers had been through, he urged them to wait in Jerusalem for when God’s Spirit would be poured out upon them to enable them to carry out their calling. It was on Pentecost morning that the Spirit came in a powerful way. Jesus’ closest followers, the very people who had shown a significant lack of courage, unity, and common purpose when the confusing events of Jesus’ execution took place, were in a waiting room of sorts that Pentecost morning. Within themselves, they clearly did not have what was needed to hold together as a group, much less become a world-changing organization. They were in dire need. Their leader was gone. They showed no capacity to carry forward his ministry. They were dead in the water. But the same God who brought Jesus back from the dead brought those who loved Jesus back to life as well.

Mysteriously, wondrously, sounds of wind filled the room. Could it be the same as the wind of creation, the wind of God, which once again was bringing something to life? Something that can’t be seen, something that moves, something we feel, something whose effects we do see? Then there was fire, yet another symbol of God’s presence, going back to the story of the burning bush. Somehow, suddenly, they were on fire for God, filled with a desire to tell what had happened in Christ’s coming, filled with a God-given ability to communicate even across the normal bounds of languages. The disoriented, the tentative, the timid, and the orphaned were filled with the same Spirit that had enlivened Jesus. The Spirit of the resurrection suddenly took hold of them, and they were utterly transformed, from a wavering and fearful paralysis to a focused and passionate boldness. Peter, who so recently couldn’t bring himself to admit to one person in the middle of the night that he even knew Jesus, was now in the light of day publicly proclaiming that before thousands of people.

Could it be that the wind of God is blowing still? Was it only a brief spark of a holy flame that appeared a long time ago? Or are there, by the Spirit of God, new connections with God and others that move us out of our experiences of stress to stress that there is good news God has for all? This Sunday, May 19, is Pentecost Sunday. It is also when our confirmands will be joining the church. Something tells me the Spirit of God is still needed around here and that, by God’s grace, there is a wind that blows, a fire that burns in our midst, that can bring a new birth of God’s love, God’s presence, and God’s gifts!