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Beyond the Wind and Fire: Unveiling the Essence of Pentecost

Today we celebrate the Day of Pentecost.

This is the day the Holy Spirit showed up—for real.

The book of Acts paints a spectacular picture of the first Pentecost. A sound like a violent wind, flames of fire appearing on Jesus’ followers, and their sudden and inexplicable ability to speak multiple languages. Peter preaches his first sermon, and 3,000 people line up to be baptised.

You don’t see that every Sunday in church, do you?

Would that we did…

At the first Pentecost, the church is birthed—and like many other birth stories, it is messy, wonderful, and chaotic—a day to remember and celebrate.

But is that all Pentecost is? A day to reflect on the Spirit’s chaos and beauty with nostalgia? Or is there something about the Spirit’s arrival that is true and relevant for us here? Now?

Look at this short passage from the Gospel of John from Jesus’ conversation with his friends at the table at the Last Supper.

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears and tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:12-13, NIV)

This scene is much more subdued than the scene in Acts. No fire, no violent winds, no foreign languages. It is just Jesus talking with his disciples. He doesn’t mention any particular day for her arrival.

Instead, Jesus talked about the Spirit’s continued day-to-day presence in the lives of believers and the church.

As much as I love those messy and vibrant scenes in Acts, I think I love this quiet conversation, this promise of the Spirit, even more.

It reminds us that the Spirit shows up not just on one day—and not just in loud and flashy ways with mass conversions and miraculous works.

Praise God for those pictures of the Spirit’s work—but I’ve never had flames of fire light on me—and, frankly, I can do without that; thanks very much.

And though it would be pretty helpful if I could suddenly speak perfect Greek or Hebrew—and instantly read the whole bible in its original language this afternoon—I haven’t yet been blessed with that gift either.

But the good news from Jesus for today is that the Spirit still shows up in quiet ways, too. Right in the middle of our everyday lives. Those moments when we catch glimpses of God’s activity in the world—or feel inspired or uplifted by catching sight of the glory of heaven in God’s creation.

And the Spirit shows up in our ordinary life together as the church.

We don’t gather together to maintain an ancient institution. We don’t gather to find correct answers in a dead book. We don’t gather to worship a God who is stuck back there in history or way up there in the cosmos.

We are brought together and enlivened by the God who is with us, whose Spirit guides us, gives us hope, and walks beside us NOW. God’s Spirit is here, now. As close as our next breath, as intimate as our heartbeat.

And God’s Spirit is at work among us doing something new. “I still have many things to say to you,” Jesus tells his disciples, “but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

How is the Spirit showing up, guiding us, inviting us to follow her trail now?

  • Does God still speak?

  • Can the Spirit breathe hope into our lives when we are stuck in cycles of grief and pain?

  • Can the Spirit breathe new life into ordinary congregations and churches?

  • Can the Spirit breathe new creation into our relationship with God and others?

Jesus says yes.

It doesn’t take dramatic visions or heavenly voices; you don’t have to speak in tongues or even wave your hands and shout amen (though you certainly can!).

The Spirit shows up in the parts of our life that are oh so human—the sorrow and joy, the blood and dirt and grime of everyday life.

And that makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, the God of the universe became incarnate as a real-life human man, Jesus of Nazareth—blood and sweat and tears and all.

And as his followers, God’s Spirit arrives and makes herself incarnate in us—blood and sweat and tears and all.

The Spirit is not done with us.

The Spirit shows up in a living partnership with us to continue and express the good news of Jesus Christ through making our churches into a sanctuary where all God’s children are welcomed, respected, loved and seen for the image of God that they are.

Come, Holy Spirit.

Loving God, in the quiet moments and the ordinary experiences of our lives, we catch glimpses of your divine activity. We recognise your presence as close as our next breath and as intimate as our heartbeat.

In times of grief and pain, when we find ourselves trapped in cycles of despair, your Spirit breathes hope into our lives. Your breath renews us, restores our faith, and reminds us of the greater purpose you have for us. Breathe new creation into our interactions so they may be marked by grace, compassion, and understanding.

We acknowledge that the work of your Spirit is not yet complete. Empower us to partner with you to continue and express the good news of Jesus Christ. Strengthen us to be ambassadors of your love, peace, and justice in a world that desperately needs them.

Come, Holy Spirit, and abide with us. We open our hearts to your presence and invite you to move among us. In the name of Jesus, our Saviour and Lord, we pray. Amen.


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