Summary: Are we waiting in eager expectation for the gift of the Spirit? A heavy re-work of a much earlier sermon from many years ago, which is looking to provoke a change in peoples perspectives.
In the Name of the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Very, very occasionally I will head off somewhere on a train, and as I look around the platform, it doesn’t take too long to see that there is a difference between how adults and children wait for its arrival.
As you stand watching you will see a variety of people, some heading to or from work, going shopping, or heading to another destination, and more often than not they look bored! They may be reading an actual newspapers, or most often these days using some sort of device to keep themselves occupied. No-one seems to be talking to anyone else, or if they are, it’s rare and most likely only because they are travelling with family, friends, or perhaps someone they work with, but invariably they will already know the person, it’s the concept of waiting at its worst.
By contrast, I had the opportunity to see a video posted to YouTube of a little girl called Madeline. It’s such a sweet video, and I wish I could show it you this morning, as it would probably mean I could slice my sermon in half as Madeline’s face and reactions would say everything that needs to be said today on this feast of Pentecost.
Instead I will try to describe it to you, in this short video, Madeline, for her third birthday, asked her parents if she could ride on the train and the video shows her waiting at the platform as the train arrives. But Madeline is not like those bored adults. She is waiting for the train in the very best spirit of waiting.
Her eyes are virtually popping out of her head. She’s jigging up and down with excitement, ‘Here it comes’ she says ‘here it comes’... ‘Look how close it is to us’ she says ‘Oh my goodness’. Her mouth wide open when the train finally rolls into the station.
She is full of awe and wonder, and her enthusiasm not only makes you smile, but draws you effortlessly into the array of emotions she is feeling. It’s absolutely adorable, and its no wonder its racked up over 12 million hits!
These first moments, experiences in anyone’s life are precious, and they become etched into our memories as significant events in our life, but as we grow older we sometimes forget how amazing these things were, and it can sometimes be the same in our faith.
We all remember celebrating the resurrection, but we sometimes forget the preciousness of the following 40 days where Jesus spent time with his disciples, teaching, training, appearing to them.
There’s a wonderful passage at the end of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in which he recounts how Jesus appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. Paul continues,
“Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain.” 1 cor 15:6-9
Paul knew that he wasn’t worthy of the gift Christ had given to him, the gift of transformation and restoration, and because he received and accepted this, he, in his own way mirrored the awe of Madeline, and became all the more resolved to be the best he could and to share the good news as far as possible.
At the end of the forty days, Jesus ascended to the Throne of Heaven taking our humanity with him into the very heart of who God was and who God continues to be to this very day.
But we also remember that when he left, he told his disciples... to wait.
I don’t know how those apostles waited. We don’t know whether they even understood what they were waiting for. But on the Day of Pentecost, St Luke writes in the Acts of the Apostles, that:
‘suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.’
Why? Well tongues have a purpose, they can be used for good or harm as we are all very much aware, but on this day, it was most definitely for good. They received the Holy Spirit and were then were blown forth into the world, beginning in Jerusalem, which was busy for the Pentecost Festival, originally a Jewish festival to celebrate the harvest, and these tongues, this gift, this boldness, this power in the disciples, was given to them with a specific purpose.