Pentecost 2024

(Acts 2: 1-21)

Today marks the end of the Easter season, our 50 day celebration of

Christ's resurrection from the tomb, is now complete, and today we

welcome the gift of the Holy Spirit into our lives.

Pentecost was a turning point in the lives of the disciples, the barriers

which had prevented them from telling others of the wonders of God had

been removed, and everyone within the sound of their voice could

understand the things they were saying. They now had the gifts they

needed to proclaim God’s message of love and forgiveness to anyone

they encountered. Well that is the theory.

But I wonder how the disciples really felt? And I wonder how you would

feel if what happened to Jesus’ first disciples on the Day of Pentecost

happened to you? There they were, gathered in an upper room, waiting,

praying, but not really sure what for. After all Jesus had told them that

God would send his Spirit on them to help them in the mission he’d

given them, that task of taking the good news of his love to the ends of

the earth. At this point, they probably didn’t even know how they’d take it

to the end of the road, so how would they even find the courage to


But then, suddenly something happens. They aren’t sure what, but it’s a

pretty emotional experience. Luke is obviously struggling to find images

to describe it. It sounded like a rushing wind, he says, but there was no

wind. It looked like they were on fire, but no one got burned. And

somehow their stumbling Aramaic words communicated to people from

all corners of the known world, each in their own languages. They can’t

explain exactly what is happening. They can’t control what is happening.

All they know is that they have been suddenly swept off their feet. Their

rationality has been bypassed. They’ve been caught up in something

bigger than themselves, something that blows them out of their comfort

zones, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  

It’s a dramatic story. And we might enjoy hearing it. But how would we

feel about experiencing it for ourselves?

The symbols of fire and wind that Luke used to describe the Spirit on

that first Day or Pentecost weren’t primarily symbols of excitement. Fire

and wind, for ancient people, were about movement and transformation.

Wind filled the sails of their ships. There’s evidence that it was used to

power irrigation systems and other machines too. Fire was an agent of

transformation. If you had fire you could turn rock into metal, sand into

glass, mud into pottery, raw food into something delicious and


Likening the Spirit of God to wind and fire was a way of saying that the

Spirit caused real change in real lives, real movement from somewhere

to somewhere else. Jesus’ disciples – the word literally means learners

– were transformed into apostles, literally people who are sent out.

Our worship, our faith, should touch our hearts, but it’s not just about

stirring up emotions. We may describe our experience of spirit filled lives

or worship as “moving”, but the question should always be “where has it

moved us to?” A roller coaster moves us- it throws us about and churns

us up – but it then deposits us right back where we started.  Genuinely

being Spirit-filled changes us, and it can’t be engineered by beautiful

surroundings, music or words. In fact, it can’t be engineered at all. The

Spirit is God’s gift to us, God himself with us, far more than a passing

moment of excitement. The Spirit, as the Gospel says, guides us into

truth, speaks to us and through us, gives us the words we need when

we have none of our own, and strength beyond our strength and wisdom

beyond our wisdom. We can’t make the Spirit come to us by the way we

organise worship. All we can do is know our need and open ourselves to

God’s gift, and then, according to God’s promise, he will show up,

whether that is in wind or fire, or in that still, small voice.

That’s what happened to those first disciples on the Day of Pentecost,

and it can happen to us too. And we surely need the Spirit’s strength and

wisdom; in our personal lives, in our families, church communities and

neighbourhoods, in our world. We surely need it in a world where

millions still go to bed hungry, where people are still oppressed and

marginalised, where people still need to hear good news as much as

they did in Jesus’ time.  We surely need God’s help, God’s Spirit,

because we can’t do the work we’re called to on our own. 

So, however we worship, however we encounter God, quietly or

exuberantly, privately or for all to see, let’s be open to God’s Spirit – in

our heads and our hearts. Let’s be ready to be changed, ready to hear

good news, and be good news to those we are sent to, in the power of

the Spirit.