“Holy Spirit Power!”
Acts 2:1-4 – May 28, 2023
Wear red for Pentecost! This is a joyful, even beloved tradition in some churches and certain denominations. As you all can see, I am wearing red today! My stole is red, and the altar cloths are red, too. Red is a celebratory color, the color of today’s Pentecost celebration. We can praise God for the birthday of the church that happened almost 2000 years ago today!
Red is the color signifying the Holy Spirit, and a reminder of the flames that appeared above each believers’ head on that first Pentecost, too. “A reminder of that first startling presence that came and rested on them that day. Did you catch that, the resting? What does that mean? This amazing moment, this throbbing with power moment, is … comfortable?”  Is it??
Exactly what our Bible reading for today says. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.”
Yes, the presence of God has been described in the Bible as comforting and gentle – sometimes. But, here, in this Bible reading today, we have anything but!
What is happening? I thought that our Lord Jesus was gentle and mild, like the Good Shepherd, cradling a lamb in His arms. I thought the Holy Spirit was the Holy Comforter, coming alongside of people in sorrow, trials and grief. Not a violent wind! Not with tongues of fire! That sounds earth-shaking and like the sounds of a powerful locomotive! That looks really scary, that each believer had fire on top of their heads! What on earth would you think if God sent such signs of God’s presence right here, right now? Wouldn’t it be scary, even earthshaking?
Looking back at the Hebrew Scriptures, fire is a clear sign of the presence of God. Let’s think of the book of Exodus, with Moses looking upon the ever burning bush, burning and yet never consumed by fire. The voice of the LORD spoke out of the flame, telling Moses to take off his sandals, because the very ground he stood on was holy. This is the very presence of God, who identifies as “I AM WHO I AM,” the ever-present God.
And, later in Exodus 19, we are told about the fire on the mountain where the presence of God, indeed the LORD descended in power. Can you imagine? The whole of Mount Sinai was shaking! The text said the mountain “trembled violently!” And, everyone in the camp where the nation of Israel trembled in fear, too, at such mighty displays from heaven!
We read about such things, today, and put them back in history. Oh, those kinds of things just happened in Bible times. That was a long, long time ago! But, was it? True, those kinds of awesome, mighty, violent displays of God’s power did happen long ago. But, can they happen today, too? What kind of God do you believe in? How powerful is our God, today?
The coming of the Holy Spirit was described by Dr. Luke as a violent, rushing wind. Or, to make it understandable to us folks from the modern day, Dr. J. Vernon McGee says: “A friend of my daughter lives in Kansas and went through the experience of a tornado. It did not destroy their home but came within two blocks of it. When she wrote about it to my daughter, she said, ‘The first thing we noticed was a sound like a thousand freight trains coming into town.’”  In Acts 2, Dr. Luke said that something very much like that kind of awesome, violent power was what that group of believers experienced on the Day of Pentecost!
We can see the many symbols and metaphors that are used in the Hebrew Scriptures. These are physical things (and phenomena) that are used to signify spiritual matters. There are several symbols that show us just how mighty and powerful the Holy Spirit can be! (Like wind, which would be a whole sermon unto itself!) But, what a wonderful symbol is found for the person and work of the Holy Spirit in fire. Fire illuminates, and is warm. Isn’t it fitting that Christianity – the founding of the church – is characterized by fire?
One of my commentary writers suggests a grand celebration for the Day of Pentecost. “So, send out the word, “Come wearing red.” Give everyone red ribbons as they enter, drop red confetti when the worship begins, bind everyone together in red yarn, fly red kites. Do something dramatic, something memorable, something that might—let’s be honest—upset some of those who gather as not being “proper” for church. We have tamed worship, tamed Pentecost, trying to be proper and reserved. There is a time and place for proper, and for calm and reserved. But Pentecost is not that time or place.” 
Whether the presence of the Holy Spirit is powerful and earthshaking, or quiet and gentle, whether our church’s celebration of Pentecost is loud or not-so-loud, we all need to acknowledge the mighty power of God in the church today. Right now!
“Oh yes, the Power of the Holy Spirit is not really to be found in the wind and the flames which only seem to foretell the amazing events yet to come. The Power of the Spirit is discovered between us and among us and through us.”  One way is through the awesome power of believers coming together, the power of all of us here in this sanctuary between us and among us and through us, that power of the Holy Spirit manifest among us today!
So, we can celebrate today! We can make noise, dance in the aisle, do something that could even upset the more staid members of any congregation! Pentecost is truly the day to celebrate! And, the day to recognize that God’s mighty power is present among us. How is the power of the Holy Spirit active in your life today? We all have access to God’s mighty power. Believe it! Claim it! And, rejoice in that power and blessing of the Holy Spirit, today and every day. Alleluia, amen.
(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!
 McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 4 (Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville TN, 1983), 516.