Acts 2:1-21; John 14:8-17, 25-27
Have you ever picked a dandelion and blown away the seeds? As adults who have to get the pesky weeds out of our lawn, we shudder at this simple action. But as children, we love to see the wind take the little seeds away and carry them to who knows where.
That is sort of how Spirit works. She takes the Word of God, the love of God and spreads it far and wide, wherever she wants it to go.
Today, we have two very different stories about the coming of the Holy Spirit. The story on John is a quiet, simple event, and the one from Acts is a raucous affair, designed to draw a lot of attention.
The story from John occurs on the evening of Easter day. The disciples are gathered in a room with the doors locked. They are afraid they will be arrested and crucified because they are known associates of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus tells them and us that he is sending his Spirit, an advocate, a companion to be with them in his absence. He breathes on them, they breathe in, and they are filled with Jesus’ spirit.
As I reflect on this story, I believe this is just what the grieving, terrified disciples needed at that moment. They needed to be reassured that what Jesus had promised would continue through them. They needed to know that he was not leaving them alone for the ministry he had charged them with continuing.
In John, there are a couple more stories of his appearing to the disciples after the resurrection. He appears to the disciples and Thomas; to Peter and the disciples as they returned from fishing. The disciples seem to have returned to their homes, and resumed their normal lives, perhaps waiting further instruction. In one of these encounters, Jesus tells Peter to feed the sheep. This is the further instruction they have been waiting for. They apparently now begin spreading the Good News like blowing on dandelion seeds.
For the coming of Spirit in Acts, Luke gives us the specific timing of 50 days after the resurrection, which also happens to be 50 days after the Passover. It is the Jewish festival of Shavuot, a harvest festival which includes the giving of the first fruits. It is also a celebration of the giving of the Torah, which marks the covenant of the relationship between God and God’s people.
Because Shavuot is an important festival, Jews from far and wide are gathered in the city for the celebrations. There are more tourists than residents of Jerusalem in the city. Over the centuries, Jews have scattered around the Mediterranean and made their homes there.
Their first language is that of the place where they have settled; Greek, Egyptian, Latin, Persian, Arabic and more. Some archaeologists have even found evidence of Jews in China. They have forgotten Aramaic and many have even forgotten their biblical Hebrew. The disciples are probably speaking Aramaic, and Spirit is instantly translating what they say into whatever language their listeners can understand.
This coming of Spirit into the people gathered that day must have been an amazing event – with fire and wind and noise. It makes me think of a rock concert in its enthusiasm.
There is concern among the leaders and other people that the disciples are babbling in their drunkenness, but Peter suddenly realizes he has been called the Rock for a reason. He gathers his wits and his courage and explains that this is the result of Jesus’ spirit in them. Those who hear and believe are baptized that day, thousands of them.
It was what we often call a mountain-top experience. In the days, months, years, centuries since that day, there have been smaller events where people have felt Spirit’s movement and presence, but this was most likely the biggest event ever.
Most of the time, our experience of Spirit is more subtle, more like the event in John’s story. Most of the time, we are not aware of Spirit’s presence until we look back and reflect on an event.
Congregations in transition spend time intentionally seeking Spirit’s wisdom and guidance. They need to be as open to Spirit’s movement as a dandelion seed on a windy day. They need to learn how to speak the language and culture of the people in the neighborhood today, even as they look back to discover and celebrate the languages and cultures of the people in their history.
For example, few of our charter members are still living. Their culture has changed - think about what has happened with telephones in the last 50 years.
For example, young people today may understand this version of the Lord’s Prayer better than many older folks.
For example, with Lori as our intern, we may all learn some American Sign Language and begin to welcome others who are deaf or hard of hearing in their language.
For example, we may be led to try something so old it is new again as a way to reach our neighbors. In this example, Dinner Church is a gathering of people with worship and conversation over a simple meal.
As Spirit guides us and speaks to us, we want to take time to listen to her. In order to listen we want to spend time in prayer and silence. We want to spend time in prayer together. We want to spend time imagining a future where our passions are recognized and put to use in Jesus’ name.
I encourage you all to spend time each day praying for Spirit’s wisdom and guidance for St Matthew’s Lutheran Church. How is Spirit calling us to blow the dandelion seeds of the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection into the neighborhood today? Amen