They are all drunk!
There were thousands of people milling around. It was a day of obligation, they had to be there to bring the Grain Offering to the Temple. It was the “Festival of Weeks” a celebration, a day to give thanks to God for the early wheat harvest. It was exactly fifty days after the Passover, a period of seven weeks and a time of joy and festivities. No wonder then that the people misunderstood the joy and excitement of the the disciples message and thought they had been drinking too much of the new wine.
That was no explanation though for why a bunch of Galilean fishermen were speaking fluently in languages from all across the known world. There was no more language barrier as the story of this amazing New relationship with God was told and retold there in the market place.
Long before in their history, Joel had prophesied God would pour out his spirit on everyone. There would be no barriers to his love, there would be parity and unity between men and women, slave and free. And it was happening right there and then among the stunned crowd, a spirit of truth was being poured out for all to hear and many were caught up in this wonderful good news.
I remember clearly a picture drawn by our grandson when he was about five or six. The family had spent a week camping at the Canterbury Christian Family Conference. The children’s tent had been turned into the market place in Jerusalem to tell the story of Pentecost, and to explain about the Holy Spirit. Ben’s picture was of twelve children sitting in a circle. Each had a flickering flame on their head, the flame he explained was the Holy Spirit, “but I can’t draw the wind” he added. A few years later, with great conviction, he told me that without the Holy Spirit we are a bit like a torch without a battery, and we need that battery to help us become like Jesus in teaching other people about God’s stuff. Quite perceptive I thought.
Thinking more about God’s stuff, the Good News and Jesus’ promise of an advocate, comforter and helper, well it had come, come in the guise of the Holy Spirit. Paul in writing to the church in Rome, brought into focus what God had done. If they, and we, allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God we become God’s adopted children. Equal heirs with Christ. We can approach our father Abba, with confidence; if we love the Son and keep his commandments the spirit will abide/live with, and in us. The Spirit will guide us in our personal and corporate life in the church and in our communities, as we live in the world helping to bring in the Kingdom of God.
The kingdom rule or rule of God was a central focus of Jesus’ message. The theme of the Kingdom is both world affirming and world challenging. By bringing together the ideas that God is King, to whom our world already belongs, and that his rule of love has yet to be fully realised in the hearts and lives of men and women, it recognises our commitment to human society, but, at the same time, challenges it. It encourages us to see the community of this world, and especially the communities in which we actually live, as places where we can expect to find God at work, and where our work for God is not done in vain. But it also envisages the ultimate transformation of human society by the power of God. It calls us as agents of that great change by serving God (who is the real ruler of the world) and his purposes in the midst of those who recognise him only dimly or not at all.
It is sometimes said that the Church’s task is to build the Kingdom. This is too much to claim. It is God alone who establishes his Rule, but while he is doing so, it is the Church that is supposed to provide the world with signs of what the effects of his Rule are really like. So the Church’s task is to display the Rule of God in its own life, and to work always for the values and purposes of the Kingdom in the society in which it is set.
The question of the Church’s task therefore is this: what does it mean to be and to do the Kingdom of God? Or, how is the loving and just Rule of the Sovereign God to be expressed in our life and witness in the places where we are? I would suggest that it begins in the way we interact with each other in love.
Whilst we may not always agree with each other, every one of us deserves to be given the courtesy of being heard. If God can plant, in the mind of a child, a clear understanding of who and what the Holy Spirit is, then we as adults must surely be able to break down the barriers of race, religion and gender, and make Jesus visible to the people around us.
I have been re-reading a book recently that discusses our patterns of worship, ministry and life. Bishop David Stancliffe describes our Christian journey in terms of God’s pattern. A repeating spiral of attending, engaging, transforming and being energised to move out again. Each year in the life of the church, we repeat the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost (the birth of the church), and then return to Advent. We witness births, baptisms, weddings, many celebrations and during the past year, sadly deaths too, year by year learning more and more about God’s love and purposes for us as each cycle turns.
In the light of Pentecost and in the power of the Holy Spirit we are enabled to work with God, to grow in love and faith, and to share that love with others, both in our family and our community. This pattern is what I believe we are created for, and what the church was created for.
I wonder how much each of us have grown and changed in the last year, how much love and care, each of us have passed on to those around us. I know that our grandchildren have grown both in years, stature and faith. There may not have been thousands about but they will be telling those they meet about Pentecost, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They have done what we are all charged with doing, to “Go in Peace to love and Serve the Lord”.
Happy Birthday to the worldwide Church!
The Rev'd Mo Lunn, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield, 23/05/2021