Sunday June 9 2019 Too much to drink? Martin Baker
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
2 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13 But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 “In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Let us pray…
A little story – my daughter LouLou, flats in a house on the corner of Newton Road and Upper Queen Street.
It’s an old house. For the last 100 years the house has been called ‘the Loft’. The Loft was the home of New Zealand’s first air mail service. It was the home of Pidgeon Post. It began in 1897. The place that pigeons carried messages from was Great Barrier Island. It was a service that was established to overcome the isolation of Great Barrier. It was introduced following the terrible shipping disaster when the SS Wairarapa sunk in 1894.
The pigeons could carry up to 5 messages each on light weight paper that were called flimsies. And it would take less than an hour to fly the distance. ( I looked it up on google - a pigeon can fly at over 100 km an hour!) Before the pigeons it could take a week to get a message back to Auckland and after them, less than an hour.
We hear today about the power of the Holy Spirit coming on these first followers of Jesus. And we discover God’s presence, the birth of the church, manifest in communication. In speaking and listening.
God manifest in a new speaking and a new hearing. But let’s just think for a moment how much human endeavour is committed to communication.
It was all very well telling people that everyone should have a Bible of their own to read. But it couldn’t have happened without the printing press. Having a Bible, Being able to read. A lot of us take that for granted. But we forget about the power to transmit information. To learn to read. How powerful such a simple thing. From those I know involved in adult literacy programmes – the transformation that happens when someone learns to read. The opportunities, the power that gives you.
And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared tongues as of fire distributed and resting on each of them and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability... And at this sound the crowd gathered and were bewildered because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
So keep in mind those words, and let’s hear some words right from the start of the Bible.
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said let there be light.
Spirit, hovering, descending. Light, fire.
Creation and new creation coming into being. Do you see the connections here?
I can remember that big red plastic dial phone in Kohimarama 1965. Our first phone number. It was 5 digits. You had to make toll calls through the operator. (Hello operator I want to ring someone in Hamilton). We moved to the country our phone number was 487. A party line. Wound a handle, 3 longs two shorts 3 longs.
In 1996 I think it was I sent my first email message. I had to push 6 floppy disks one after the other into the computer to load the programme. And my first message was to Betty our head elder - our session clerk, like Cameron. And I said hello Betty. And she wrote back - hello Martin. And in that moment some small thing changed.
And at the same time my office filled with people coming in to watch images slowly appear on my computer with my internet dial up. Some said, the internet just a passing phase. Don’t think it will be much use.
On Wednesday night we were doing a Bible study on the Holy Spirit and the word ‘carousing’ came up in a Bible passage. And we weren’t quite sure what exactly Paul was getting at when he said that was best to be avoided. Someone looked up Google. It means the activity of drinking alcohol and enjoying oneself with others in a noisy, lively way.
You can listen now to the greatest preachers in the world, you can look up your medical condition, you can instantly find the meaning to the word carousing.
This speaking and listening and astonishment and praise and celebration and shock. In a small way they are part of every new moment of communication. The Spirit comes and some look and say they are filled with new wine. They are drunk.
The work of the spirit - happening right through our readings we’ve had over these weeks.
Something new coming into being. A new creation. Jesus’s continuing presence close, empowering, shocking.
11 disciples on a hill in Galilee and the risen Jesus says go into the world and make disciples. Were they drunk?
Peter a denier of Jesus and perhaps his closest friend meets Cornelius an Italian solider and part of the occupying forces. Cornelius is baptised and a strict Jew and follower of Christ discovers that God shows no partiality that every person can be embraced by God’s love and grace. They must have been drunk. And then Paul and Barnabas sent by a tiny little church group in Antioch made up of Africans and people from Crete and Libya . They are sent to an obscure little village in Turkey called Lystra where they all worship Zeus and Mercury and they bring healing and speak of God who brings bounty and joy and this new relationship to Jesus. Drunk?
Robyn spoke last week about this word with the Spirt the breath of God and the start of creation becoming flesh in Christ. And now God out pouring the spirit upon us, Christ’s continuing resurrected presence with us in the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Are they drunk. Are they all carousing? In the word the men’s group pondered. How else do we explain what is going on here?
This wonderful story of Pentecost. It acts as a real birthday event but also a point of evaluation for us. What have we become? What languages have we remembered or forgotten. Drunk with the spirit people joyfully proclaiming, eagerly listening, a new community founded on a new communication and a new mutuality of speaking and listening.
The spirit filled community speaking as the spirit gave them power.
All around us we see our view of ourselves, our world expressed in language. If we ever needed evidence of the presence of goodness and chaos we find it here. Why don’t you speak to them anymore?
What we also find in the story in a word of judgement. What follows the end of speaking and listening is death. If the spirit or the breath leaves us, we are dead. If relationship with others with God. Even at a literal level nation to nation the talking stops and the killing begins. Our bible tells us that at the beginning was the word. Words preceded creation.
It’s hard to learn a new language. How many of us could close our eyes now and hear the same language that’s being going around in our heads for as long as we can remember, same old fears, same words to describe our world and ourselves. What does it take for us to begin speaking a new internal language?
We need this Holy Spirit. Because at the end of the day we can only communicate effectively what we believe is true ourselves. This excited amazed awestruck people we hear of today are brought together by a common discovery that they have not been abandoned. They have not been let simply to sink or swim fail or win. That they are not at end of the day the arbiters of their own salvation or destiny. We know how contagious excited speech and wonderful news can be. What amazing thing is this? This wonderful news is contagious and universal. To be open to the spirit to be open to the new language. This is the news that we can embrace ourselves and confidently proclaim to our world.
God’s deeds of power.
Visions and dreams fulfilled.
The spirit poured out on all flesh.
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