The third person of the Trinity – and the one that sometimes seems most mysterious…
Jesus promises the disciples that he won’t leave them comfortless – and today – he promises us, too, that the Holy Spirit will be our comfort – and guide.
Tongues as of fire appear – and pause over the disciples.
Giving each of them the ability to speak languages that are entirely new to them – in order to grow the church and share the good news.
The disciples lived in a world completely divided by language. There were some people who could translate, of course – but the common person wasn’t able to communicate with folks from different places.
There were no dictionaries – you couldn’t go online and look up a word or a translation.
And so learning a new language was even more difficult then – than it would be for us.
This was a world where communication was very difficult – and yet so important.
And so this first gift of the Holy Spirit – makes it possible for the disciples to communicate with people who have never heard of Jesus Christ.
It may seem hard for us to imagine a world like that – where communication isn’t really possible… Or is it?
Language is really one of the only barriers between us. A real one, to be sure – ask anyone who’s ever traveled to a place where English isn’t the native language. If you don’t speak it – traveling suddenly can become a difficult – sometimes even frightening experience.
But we are divided by many other things that keep us apart, too.
Other more problematic things like : Politics. Violence. Or poverty.
And – of course – these aren’t just global problems – they’re local problems, too.
We, too, live in a world where there is less communication that we might think.
This day is not just about the gift of language for the disciples.
It is about the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we all receive.
Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…” And then later “in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.”
To you, too, the Spirit has given something - a gift for the common good.
Something special to communicate – whether it is faith, or wisdom – or the gifts of healing – or the gifts of organization – or hospitality – or if you’re Marty Zeiser – the gift of painting.
The Spirit has given us each something – a gift for the common good – that is necessary for the whole body.
Like the disciples though – the Spirit has also given us the language in which to communicate these gifts.
Perhaps you don’t speak Parthian – or Hebrew – or Greek.
But as a community – we speak many languages.
We are learning to speak in the language of technology – how to use websites, and facebook, and technology in order to welcome and serve our neighbors.
In order to tell folks that we have a story to tell – that we have good news to share – and a life to share as we live into it.
We are learning to speak in the language of hospitality – how to better partner with our community – we are talking about new ways to welcome visitors and friends into these walls.
We are learning – as all of us do throughout our lives – to speak words together in our own community that are respectful – and transparent – and that foster love and nurture commitment to each other.
Like the disciples, we have work to do.
We need to remember, though – that this probably wasn’t an easy thing for the disciples – it probably wasn’t joyful all the time.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is also a mandate – calling them ever outward.
Out of their homes. Out of their city. Out of their comfort zones.
It was just as scary – and uncomfortable – as it was exciting and joyful.
This tiny, fragile community of the early church was about to be stretched – and pushed – into doing wonderful things.
They would have been much more comfortable, I’m sure – speaking their own language.
Doing their own thing.
Talking about Jesus to folks they knew – and loved – and trusted.
Surely – amidst their commitment – and their faith – there was also a stab of reluctance – of uncertainty.
But the Spirit called them outward – and beckoned them onward.
That sweeping wind of the Holy Spirit – that broods over the whole earth – and pushes us out – even to the ends of the earth.
We might be more comfortable, too, living like we always have.
Doing what we’ve always done.
And yet – the Spirit has given us gifts to use – words to translate – and new languages to speak – in service of the Gospel.
And this same Spirit calls us to go places and do things – for the sake of Jesus Christ – that we might not have chosen for ourselves…
To speak whatever language we have to – to get through to the folks who haven’t yet heard the good news.
This is what it means to witness to Jesus in the world – to continue his ministry by welcoming – and serving.
What other languages is the Spirit calling us to speak to the world?
To the city of Meriden?
What language – what gift – has the Spirit given you for the common good?
What specific communities can you speak to – that the rest of us may not be able to speak to?
The communities of folks with whom you work, perhaps?
Your neighbors? Your children? Grandchildren? Friends?
This past week I was talking with someone about the Holy Spirit – and about how we know the Spirit is moving.
And how we know that whatever voice we heard – or urge we had – or call we felt – was from God – how do we know the difference?
And the first part of the answer – is practice.
We learn to listen better when we practice – and when we pray.
And when we commit ourselves to a faithful life.
But the other clues are in our texts today…
First – in the Collect – we said – “On this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth”
We know we are seeing the gift of the Holy Spirit when it opens the way for other people to know God.
When it clears a path for all people – no matter what race or nation they come from – to draw nearer to God.
We know the Spirit is present when we have dreams – and visions – when we prophesy and believe – and when these things lead others to God.
When they inspire other people to call on the name of the Lord – and to believe that in so doing – they will be saved.
We know the Spirit is present whenever we are able to confess the truth – that Jesus Christ is Lord. And whenever we are able to live into this truth by giving glory to God – and loving our neighbors.
We know we are experiencing the gift of the Holy Spirit when God’s people are being built up – when we are living in right relationship with each other.
When we come to experience and know more profoundly – and more deeply that there are no more divisions. That we are one body.
In the ancient world – Jew and Greek – slave and free – were two of the biggest divisions there could be.
And here – and in many other places, Paul indicates that they are no longer relevant.
Those structures – which isolated – which created hierarchy – which encouraged one group of people to believe that they were above – or better than another group of people --
Those structures no longer exist. Not even a little bit, according to Paul.
For there is one body. One Spirit.
And finally – and perhaps most importantly – we know the Spirit is present when we experience the Peace of Christ.
Twice today – Jesus says “Peace be with you.”
Because Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit so that we might live – together – peacefully. As one body.
So that we might not be afraid.
So that we might have – living within us – breathing within us – this Spirit that promises that we are beloved.
These are the signs – the effects of the Holy Spirit – that God’s kingdom is built up.
Peace by with you, Jesus says. As my Father sent me, so I send you.
And though that sending may be uncomfortable. Though we may be asked to go places – and do things we may not have chosen for ourselves – we have the strength – and the power – and the mandate – of the Holy Spirit.
A Spirit that heals, and anoints, and blesses, and sanctifies.
A Spirit that loves – and moves – and performs miracles.
A Spirit that breaks down walls. That blows up barriers. That destroys labels – and boxes. That defeats hate and darkness.
A Spirit that lifts up those who have been hurt – and left out.
A Spirit that lives within us – and yet pushes us ever outward.
Out of these walls. And into the world.
To speak whatever language we have. To try new things for the sake of the Gospel.
Whether that is a new song – a new blog – a new time of fellowship – a new reading of Scripture – a new time for worship – a conversation with someone you haven’t spoken to before – and invitation to church…and far greater things than these…that help us to begin now – here, in our own place…
To tell the truth – that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The Spirit is here this day – moving among us. Call you to work for the kingdom. And promising to be your comfort and guide if you find yourself in a new place – speaking a new language.
Reaffirm your vows to God this day. Recommit yourself to the work of the Spirit. And lay your gift at the altar – so that God my show you how to use it for the building up of God’s kingdom.