Summary: A sermon for Pentecost Sunday. We celebrate at Pentecost the power that exceeds all other "powers" of the world!
There is a poem by an unknown author that my Mom shared with me many years ago. Her college choir director read it at every concert, and as I grew to love and study music, it was never far from my mind. It reads like this: “For the common things of everyday, God gave man speech in a common way. For the higher things men think and feel, God gave man poets, their words to reveal. But for the heights and depths no words can reach, God gave man music, the soul’s own speech.”
Many of us know of the power of music, don’t we? A few days after 9/11, my college held a concert in the campus chapel. When words were not enough, music created the space for reflection and mourning. Music can express our joys and our sorrows, our patriotism, our beliefs. Music often unites us when nothing else can or does. Just imagine thousands of people at an outdoor symphony concert. They represent every conceivable nationality, political party, religious conviction, and personal taste. But they are drawn together by a common devotion to music. If the concert, as often happens, is a great one, the whole audience is electrified by it, they will all share to some degree the same experience. When the concert is over, they will leave silently, moved by an experience too great for words, raised, for the time being, to one of life’s supreme levels of emotion. “For the heights and depths no words can reach…”
This week, as I read again the story of Pentecost; of the gathering of believers infused with the Holy Spirit, who spoke in their own tongues and yet were able to understand all that was being said, I was reminded of this quote. And I thought about the fact that even music has its limits. But, when all else fails, where everything else falls short, “For the heights and depths no words can reach,” God has given us his Very Spirit, “the soul’s own speech.” And that is what we remember and celebrate on Pentecost Sunday.
God has given us the Holy Spirit, his very presence with us. It is the Spirit that lives within us. It is the Spirit that is at work all around us. It is the Spirit which undergirds and strengthens us to serve God in the world. And it is the Spirit that unifies us despite all of our differences. We live in a world in which forces are at work each day dividing us and threatening to destroy us. Every week the news seems to grow more urgent; the Middle East is a hotbed of sectarian violence. There is an ever-widening gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Europe stands perched on the cliff of economic doom, threatening to tumble over at any moment. But the story of Pentecost is that when all else fails—all the sanctions and austerity measures, all the peace-negotiations, and non-violent protests—Christians can still have hope. And that’s because all who follow the Messiah are united by the power of the Holy Spirit, which rises above all other powers of this world.