Pentecost A

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Pentecost 2013:
Water, Fire, Wind Symbols:
Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:
The Church on Fire 

Two persons were talking together before a large church which was being destroyed by fire. The first man spoke in a voice which could be heard above the voice of the firemen: "This is the first time I ever saw you at church." To this the second responded: "This is the first time I ever saw the church on fire." There are many prophets of doom saying that the age of the Christian Church is over - that it has lost its zeal! We're taking a beating right now in this country and around the world. Our theology is being questioned. Everyone is writing a critical book against the organized church. We have had to take some unpopular stands on social issues. Magazines are attacking the ministry, and it isn't the thing to do anymore to join the church. John Kelman said, however, "God pity the nation or city whose factory smokestacks rise higher than her church spires."  

Why Belong To The Church?, anthology, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.

Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration 

Today we are celebrating a feast that was celebrated by many of the Jews who lived at the time of Jesus. Many of his early followers continued to celebrate it after the resurrection, and so it became part of the annual celebrations of all Christians. However, over the first few decades of the church, this feast took on a new meaning: Jesus has risen and ascended to the Father, but he promised us his Spirit. So today we rejoice that the Spirit is moving in each of our hearts making us a people, inspiring us to understand the mystery of our faith, and strengthening us to follow Jesus the Anointed One.

Michel de Verteuil
General comments

 The Mass of Pentecost has two accounts of the sending of the Holy Spirit, one from the Acts and one from St John’s gospel. Don’t combine the two accounts in your meditation. Each in its own way is true, in the sense that it helps us recognise moments when God sent his Spirit into us, as individuals or as a community. Sometimes it happens in extraordinary ways, and at other times it happens in quite ordinary ways.

 I am inviting you to meditate on the gospel account. It is less spectacular than the one in the Acts, but no less true.

 - In verse 19 imagine well how the disciples felt as they gathered in the room on that Easter Sunday evening; you will feel then the drama of Jesus’ entry. Read it as a sending of the Spirit.

 - In order to interpret verse 20 let your memories explain for you the meaning of Jesus’ showing his hands and his side.
 - Verse 21 has very little for the imagination, so you must make an effort to enter into it. It speaks of two sendings:
 - Jesus sent by the Father, which we know from the New Testament;
 - we sent by Jesus, which we know from experience.
 Let the two shed light on each other.
 - Read verse 22 by itself, entering into the symbolism of Jesus’ breathing on the disciples.
 - Verse 23 in our Church tradition evokes memories of the sacrament of reconciliation. You might like to remember other times when we have forgiven or retained one anther’s sins. 

Prayer Reflection 

Lord, we celebrate today our personal Pentecosts:
 we were going through a difficult time -
 - a relationship had broken down;
 - a movement we had given ourselves to disintegrated because of internal conflicts;
 - our prayer life was totally dry.
 We turned in on ourselves,
 afraid to meet others lest we had to relate with them.

 Then quite suddenly something happened:
 - friends came and shared their journey with us;
 - we went on a retreat and had a deep sense of being loved;
 - we were invited to join a group who shared our values.
 It was as if Jesus had come through the closed doors of the room we were in,
 stood with us and said, “Peace be with you.” 

“The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another,
       the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”    James Baldwin 

Lord, humanity today is deeply divided.
 Groups of people have cut themselves off,
 afraid to mix with others lest they lose their identity.
 Send us people like Jesus who will pass through the locked doors,
 stand among others, share their own humanity,
 and say “Peace be with you.” 

“Why can’t Christians see the poor wounded part inside themselves?
       Can they not see Jesus there?”     Carl Jung 

Lord, we spend so much energy denying our hurts,
 hiding the marks of the nails in our hands and the deep wounds in our sides.
 Give us the grace to look with compassion at the truth of ourselves,
 like the disciples letting Jesus show them his hands and his side,
 so that we may be at peace. 

“It is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us;
       but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin. ”

Hebrews 4:15 

Lord, you sent your Son Jesus as one of us.
 He shared the weaknesses of the human condition,
 he knew uncertainty and anxiety about the future,
 he was limited to living in one culture and in one period of history.

 Help us, Lord, to accept that as you sent Jesus so he sent us. 

Lord, the modern world knows many ways of influencing others:
 - advertising;
 - the power of weapons;
 - aggressive argumentation which forces others to agree.

Forgive us, Lord, that we followers of Jesus
 use these methods in preaching his message.
 Teach us to trust in his power -
 love, gentle as breath, the kind that leaves others free and creative,
 and comes from the very depths of our selves. 

One day St Catherine of Siena had a strange experience:
 Jesus came to her and removed her physical heart saying:
“I am giving you my heart so that you can go on living with it forever.”

Lord, lead us to deep union with your Son Jesus,
 let him breathe into us,
 so that when we breathe he is breathing in us,
 and when we love, he is loving in us.

Lord, we remember with gratitude
 the times when a priest of the Church forgave our sins
 and we knew that they were forgiven. 

Lord, we remember parts of the world that are torn by civil strife -
 the Middle East, Northern Ireland, Sudan.
 So many sins of the past are being retained because they are retaining them.
 We pray that they may forgive one another
 and so their sins may be truly forgiven. 

Homily notes 

1. The focus of Pentecost for Christians is as a celebration of, and a thanksgiving for, the presence and focus of the Spirit in our lives as Christians. The Spirit is the one who brings unity – unity with one another and with Christ, and so the church is ‘his’ work. Today is a thanksgiving for this gift, member­ship of the church, which we profess in the recitation of the Creed: ‘we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church’. Significantly, it is this gift of belonging to the People that made Christianity so attractive in the early centuries of its life where the emphasis was not on a set of peculiar doctrines which were shared by a group (e.g. the eastern mystery cults), but on belonging to a new community which had doc­trines peculiar to it. We see this concern with belonging to the church in one of the simplest creeds that has survived from that time: ‘I believe in God, the almighty Father and in his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit and in the resurrection of the flesh in the holy catholic church.’ Belonging to this universal (i.e. catholic) group that cut across social, ethnic, linguistic, and political boundaries, was central to their self-understanding and was the on-going work of the Spirit.

2. If Luke wants us to use a festival fifty days after our Passover to recall the fundamental belief that the presence of God, the Spirit, dwells within and activates the church, how does he imagine that presence? It is with this question we should look at his carefully crafted story in Acts 2. 

The Spirit is the one who gathers us – all the different ‘nations’ are brought into contact with one another. Then the Spirit unites them into one church gathered around Jesus – so the followers of Jesus everywhere are linked through the apostles. The Spirit then inspires them and sends them forth to be the witnesses to Jesus to the ends of the earth. As Luke writes he has in mind the many individual churches where his work will be read and wants to ensure that each individual church recognises itself as a node in a great web that stretches not only across the empire (the oikumene) – ‘visitors from Rome’ – but even beyond its borders (Parthians and Medes) and so is universal. 

3. We tend to think of ‘the church’ firstly as the worldwide institution and then of the local church as only ‘the local office’. Hence we have tremendous concern with making sure that everything is the same universally – just look at the old arguments for a single liturgy in Latin or the present arguments over translations. This attitude blinds us to much of Luke’s ecclesiology. He did not see unity as a unitary glut: but rather that the gospel could adapt itself to each nation – hence they did not hear the message in the lingua franca (in which he himself wrote) but in their own tongues. Unity between the churches is a gift of the Spirit, not a function of uniformity of practice. This reflected the real situation in which Luke wrote, where Christianity was already present (and this is pointed out in Acts) in, at least, four major linguistic areas: Greek (Asia and eastern Europe) and so Latin, Syriac (the spread of Christianity eastwards from Palestine), and the vernaculars of Egypt/ the Nile valley. He assumed that they would each be different but would be bonded together not only by common rituals and books, but by a vision of themselves that was larger than their own Eucharistic group, region, nation, or any political boundary. While they would live and act locally, they would think globally, and so testify that the new covenant meant Christ through them was offering his risen life to every human. 

John Litteton
Gospel Reflection

Jesus did not abandon his apostles, even when departing from this world to return to his Father in heaven. Ten days later, at Pentecost, one of his most significant promises — the promise to send the Holy Spirit in abundance on them — was extraordinarily realised. 

After Pentecost the apostles were never again the same. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit impacted dramatically on their convictions and on their enthusiasm to carry out Jesus’ wishes. The effects were immediately noticeable to the watching and listening crowds. 

The apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and given the gift of speech. As they spoke, their listeners — many of whom were foreigners — could hear and understand them in their own languages. The apostles now acted as members of a united and committed community. Although Christ had established the Church while still on earth, at Pentecost it became manifest in the world for the first time. It became obvious that God was working powerfully through the Church. 

At Pentecost the Church earnestly began its mission to the whole world. This mission centres on preaching about the saving name of Jesus and about the wonders of God. God’s greatest wonder is that, through the suffering and death of Jesus the Messiah, people are saved from the consequences of their sins:  alienation from God. 

Jesus’ fundamental promise to his apostles was that they would never be without his presence and his help. He knew that they would be unable to contribute successfully to the universal mission that he had given them unless he sent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would bring courage to his disciples, and restore unity and harmony between people. There is evidence of this in John’s Gospel when Jesus, after rising from the dead, said to his apostles: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained’ (Jn 20:22-23).

Significantly, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church at its beginning corresponds to the earlier coming of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry when he was baptised in the River Jordan. In the same way that Jesus was always accompanied and guided by the Holy Spirit during his earthly life, so too is his Church as it brings repentant sinners to him. Repentance is necessary for salvation.

 The feast of Pentecost celebrates a promise realised. It acknowledges that the Holy Spirit is at the heart of the Church’s life. Because that is so, the Church cannot ultimately fail in its task of witnessing to Jesus’ death and resurrection. It will eventually succeed in communicating the message of God’s salvation to everyone in the world. 

The sacrament of confirmation, which celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives and is the sealing of the graces given in baptism, is our personal Pentecost experience when we are transformed into witnesses to the teaching and example of Jesus and his Church. We willingly take on the responsibility to share our Catholic faith with others. 

The Feast of Pentecost is a wonderful celebration of the missionary Church. Let us reflect on our missionary efforts in our homes, schools and workplaces. How are we willing to demonstrate that we are serious about our confirmation (Pentecost) responsibilities? In what ways do we explain the authentic teaching of the Church? How do we experience Pentecost as a promise realised in our lives, leading us to make the urgency of the gospel message of salvation a reality for everyone we meet?
1.     From the Connections: 


Pentecost was the Jewish festival of the harvest (also called the Feast of Weeks), celebrated 50 days after Passover, when the first fruits of the corn harvest were offered to the Lord.  A feast of pilgrimage (hence the presence in Jerusalem of so many “devout Jews of every nation”), Pentecost also commemorated Moses’ receiving the Law on Mount Sinai.  For the new Israel, Pentecost becomes the celebration of the Spirit of God's compassion, peace and forgiveness -- the Spirit that transcends the Law and becomes the point of departure for the young Church's universal mission (the planting of a new harvest?).

In his Acts of the Apostles (Reading 1), Luke invokes the First Testament images of wind and fire in his account of the new Church’s Pentecost:  God frequently revealed his presence in fire (the pillar of fire in the Sinai) and in wind (the wind that sweeps over the earth to make the waters of the Great Flood subside).  The Hebrew word for spirit, ruah, and the Greek word pneuma also refer to the movement of air, not only as wind, but also of life-giving breath (as in God's creation of man in Genesis 2 and the revivification of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37).  Through his life-giving “breath,” the Lord begins the era of the new Israel on Pentecost. 

Today’s Gospel of the first appearance of the Risen Jesus before his ten disciples (remember Thomas is not present) on Easter night is John’s version of the Pentecost event.  In “breathing” the Holy Spirit upon them, Jesus imitates God’s act of creation in Genesis.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so the disciples’ new life of the Spirit comes from Jesus.  In the Resurrection, the Spirit replaces their sense of self-centered fear and confusion with the “peace” of understanding, enthusiasm and joy and shatters all barriers among them to make of them a community of hope and forgiveness.  By Christ’s sending them forth, the disciples become apostles – “those sent.”


The feast of Pentecost celebrates the unseen, immeasurable presence of God in our lives and in our Church -- the ruah that animates us to do the work of the Gospel of the Risen One, the ruah that makes God’s will our will, the ruah of God living in us and transforming us so that we might bring his life and love to our broken world.  God “breathes” his Spirit into our souls that we may live in his life and love; God ignites the “fire” of his Spirit within our hearts and minds that we may seek God in all things in order to realize the coming of his reign. 

Today we celebrate the gift of God’s Spirit -- the Spirit that enables us to love as selflessly and as totally as God loved us enough to become one of us, to die for us and to rise for us; the Spirit that takes us beyond empty legalisms and static measurements of “mine” and “yours” to create a community of compassion, reconciliation and justice centered in “us”; the Spirit that enables us to re-create our world in the peace and mercy of God. 

In Jesus' “breathing” upon them the new life of the Spirit, the community of the Resurrection -- the Church -- takes flight.  That same Spirit continues to “blow” through today’s Church to give life and direction to our mission and ministry to preach the Gospel to every nation, to proclaim the forgiveness and reconciliation in God's name, to baptize all humanity into the life of Jesus' Resurrection. 

The Spirit of God enables the Eleven – and us – to do things they could not do their own: to understand the “truth” of God’s great love for his people that is embodied in the Risen Christ, and then to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Christ.  The Spirit empowers us with the grace to do the difficult work of Gospel justice, forgiveness and compassion.
From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection:  Pentecost literally means 50th. It is a feast celebrated on the 50th day after the Passover feast by the Jews and a feast celebrated on the 50th day after the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus by the Christians. The Jewish Pentecost was originally a post-harvest thanksgiving feast.  Later it was celebrated to remember God’s Covenants with Noah after the Deluge and with Moses at Mt. SinaiThe event: On the day of Pentecost 1) The Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and Blessed Virgin Mary as fiery tongues. 2) The frightened apostles were transformed into fiery preachers and evangelizers by a special anointing of the Holy Spirit. 3) The audience experienced a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit with the gift of tongues, hearing Peter speaking in their languages. 4) The early Christians became powerful witnesses and brave martyrs for faith.
The role of the Holy Spirit in Christian life: 1) As an indwelling God, He makes us His Living Temples (I Cor 3:16). 2) As a strengthening God, He strengthens us in our fight against temptations and in our mission of bearing witness to Christ by transparent Christian lives. 3) As a sanctifying God, He makes us holy through the sacraments: a) He makes us children of God and heirs of heaven through Baptism. b) He makes us temples of God, warriors and defenders of faith, through Confirmation. c) He enables us to be reconciled to God by pardoning our sins through Reconciliation. d) He gives us spiritual nourishment via the Holy Eucharist by converting bread and wine into Jesus’ body and blood through Epiclesis. 4) As a teaching and guiding God, He clarifies and constantly reminds us of Christ’s teachings. 5) As a listening and talking God, He listens to our prayers and enables us to pray, and He speaks to us mainly through the Bible. 6) As a giver of gifts, He gives us His gifts, fruits and charisms.
Life messages
We need to permit the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives: 
1) By constantly remembering His holy presence and behaving well. 
2) By praying for His daily anointing so that we may fight against our temptations and control our evil tendencies, evil habits and addictions.  
3) By asking His daily assistance to pray, listening to God through meditative Bible reading and talking to Him. 
4) By asking the help of the Holy Spirit to do good for others and to be reconciled to God and others every day.  


1: Fly like an eagle:

There is an old fable about a changeling eagle. A tribesman who lived in a forest, one day found an egg of an eagle. He took the egg home and hatched it along with the chicken eggs. This eaglet started growing up with the other chicks. It started eating white ants and little worms, pecking and hopping here and there like the other chicks. But it never learned to fly like an eagle. One day as it was foraging for food from the ground, it saw an eagle majestically soaring high in the sky. As the eaglet was admiring the grandeur of the soaring eagle, the other chicks came and said to the eaglet, “Look that is the eagle – the king of the birds. You and I are chickens. We cannot fly like the eagle.” – Often we lead poor lives without realizing the power of the Holy Spirit residing within us. Let us learn to connect ourselves to this great spiritual powerhouse of the Holy Spirit by daily praying for His anointing. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies). 

2: Treasure within:

An old beggar lay on his deathbed.  His last words were to his youngest son who had been his constant companion during his begging trips.  “Dear son," he said, “I have nothing to give you except a cotton bag and a dirty bronze bowl which I got in my younger days from the junk yard of a rich lady.”  After his father’s death, the boy continued begging, using the bowl his father had given him.  One day a gold merchant dropped a coin in the boy’s bowl and he was surprised to hear a familiar clinking sound.  “Let me check your bowl,” the merchant said.  To his great surprise, he found that the beggar’s bowl was made of pure gold.  “My dear young man," he said, “why do you waste your time begging?  You are a rich man.  That bowl of yours is worth at least thirty thousand dollars.”  We Christians are often like this beggar boy who failed to recognize and appreciate the value of his bowl.  We fail to appreciate the infinite worth of the Holy Spirit living within each of us, sharing His gifts and fruits and charisms with us.  On this major feast day, we are invited to experience and appreciate the transforming, sanctifying and strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit within us.  This is also a day to renew the promises made to God during our Baptism and Confirmation, to profess our Faith, and to practice it.   

3: "Did you and grandma ever get into any fights?"

A little girl asked her grandfather, "Did you and grandma ever get into any fights?" The grandfather replied: "We don't talk about it very often, but there was a time when we were not getting along very well. We seemed to be picking on each a lot and finding all kinds of things to argue about and really getting on one another's nerves. Well, one day I came in from the garden and I heard a voice upstairs. I went to the stairs and heard your grandmother telling God what she could not bring herself to tell me." "Well, what did you do?" asked the grand-daughter. "I quietly walked up the stairs," he replied, "and knelt down beside her and told God my side of the story. And from that day to this, we have never had a problem which we couldn't resolve by talking it over with each other and with God." Do you think the Holy Spirit was active in that couples' marriage? There can be no doubt. Conflict will always remain part of every relationship. The fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control – will always remain critical for happy relationships with others. 

4:  "Oh, it sleeps about eighty."

A family driving a large camper pulled up in front of the church just as the pastor started toward home. Desiring to be friendly, the pastor introduced himself and expressed his admiration for the camper. The man of the family told him rather proudly: "This camper sleeps eight people." Then he asked: "What is the capacity of your church, Pastor?" The beleaguered pastor replied rather glumly, "Oh, it sleeps about eighty." It is embarrassing sometimes how little the modern day churches resemble the Church that first Pentecost: the sound of a wind-storm, tongues of fire, disciples speaking in different languages, thousands being added to the Church and lots of excitement – excitement everywhere!



Power can be used in at least two ways: it can be unleashed, or it can be harnessed. The energy in ten gallons of gasoline, for instance, can be released explosively by dropping a lighted match into the can. Or it can be channelled through the engine of a Datsun in a controlled burn and used to transport a person 350 miles. Explosions are spectacular, but controlled burns have lasting effect, staying power. The Holy Spirit works both ways. At Pentecost, he exploded on the scene; His presence was like "tongues of fire" (Acts 2:3). Thousands were affected by one burst of God's power. But He also works through the church--the institution God began to tap the Holy Spirit's power for the long haul. Through worship, fellowship, and service, Christians are provided with staying power.

Source Unknown.  

If people would have been asked in 1968 which nation would dominate the world in watch making during the 1990s and into the twenty-first century the answer would have been uniform: Switzerland. Why? Because Switzerland had dominated the world of watch making for the previous sixty years. 

 The Swiss made the best watches in the world and were committed to constant refinement of their expertise. It was the Swiss who came forward with the minute hand and the second hand. They led the world in discovering better ways to manufacture the gears, bearings, and mainsprings of watches. They even led the way in waterproofing techniques and self-winding models. By 1968, the Swiss made 65 percent of all watches sold in the world and laid claim to as much as 90 percent of the profits. 

 By 1980, however, they had laid off thousands of watch-makers and controlled less than 10 percent of the world market. Their profit domination dropped to less than 20 percent. Between 1979 and 1981, fifty thousand of the sixty-two thousand Swiss watchmakers lost their jobs. Why? The Swiss had refused to consider a new development—the Quartz movement—ironically, invented by a Swiss. Because it had no main-spring or knob, it was rejected. It was too much of a paradigm shift for them to embrace. Seiko, on the other hand, accepted it and, along with a few other companies, became the leader in the watch industry. 

 The lesson of the Swiss watchmakers is profound. A past that was so secure, so profitable, so dominant was destroyed by an unwillingness to consider the future. It was more than not being able to make predictions—it was an inability to re-think how they did business. Past success had blinded them to the importance of seeing the implications of the changing world and to admit that past accomplishment was no guarantee of future success. 

 James Enery White, Rethinking The Church, Baker Books, 1998, p. 20. 

The miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2) is the Spirit’s overcoming the barriers of language and perception to open not only the minds of the Apostles’ hearers but their hearts as well to understanding and embracing the Word of God. 

The glassblower’s art 

The process has changed little in the last 3,000 years.  A long, narrow metal tube is dipped into a pot of sand, soda, lime and any number of metal and chemicals.  Then the artisan blows carefully into the tube and creates a bubble – and glass is formed.  As he blows, the glassmaker will shape and form the bubble into the final piece: a vase, a bowl, a pane of glass.  During the shaping process, the piece is frequently returned to the furnace in order to keep it soft enough to work.   

By the breath of the glassblower and the fire of the kiln, sand is transformed into glass – glass of beautiful color and transparency, glass that protects and preserves, glass that warms and illuminates. 

In the story of Pentecost, the Spirit of God is experienced in images of breath and fire.  The word Hebrew word for “Spirit” in is ruah, meaning breath or air (in Greek the word is pneuma).  Pentecost is the “breath” of God blowing through our community, re-creating us and forming us into the Church of the Risen Christ.  In the Pentecost story from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes “tongues” of fire appeared to “rest” on each of the Apostles.  Such “fire” moves them to articulate what they had seen and heard and experienced in their encounter with Jesus.  On this feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the Spirit of God within our own hearts and dwelling within our Church community: the breath of God giving life to us and animating us in his grace to live lives of compassion and mercy; the fire of God forming us become a people of loving service and humble love, reflecting that of his Christ. 


The Holy Spirit's distinctive role is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. So far as this role was concerned, the Spirit "was not yet" (John 7:29, literal Greek) while Jesus was on earth; only when the Father had glorified him (John 17:1, 5) could the Spirit's work of making men aware of Jesus' glory begin. 

I remember walking to church one winter evening to preach on the words, "He will glorify me" (John 16:14), seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed. When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are placed so that you do not see them; in fact, you are not supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you can see it properly. This perfectly illustrated the Spirit's new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior. 

Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder on to Jesus who stands facing us. The Spirit's message to us is never, "Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me", but always, "Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him and hear his word; go to him and have life; get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace." The Spirit, we might say, is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker, whose role it is to bring us and Christ together and ensure that we stay together.  

James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986. 

Gordon Brownville's Symbols of the Holy Spirit tells about the great Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first to discover the magnetic meridian of the North Pole and to discover the South Pole. On one of his trips, Amundsen took a homing pigeon with him. When he had finally reached the top of the world, he opened the bird's cage and set it free. Imagine the delight of Amundsen's wife, back in Norway, when she looked up from the doorway of her home and saw the pigeon circling in the sky above. No doubt she exclaimed, "He's alive! My husband is still alive!"  

So it was when Jesus ascended. He was gone, but the disciples clung to his promise to send them the Holy Spirit. What joy, then, when the dovelike Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. The disciples had with them the continual reminder that Jesus was alive and victorious at the right of the Father. This continues to be the Spirit's message.   

Thomas Lindberg.

The well-known author and preacher Fred Craddock tells a rather funny story about a lecture he was giving: A few years ago, when he was on the west coast speaking at a seminary, just before the first lecture, one of the students stood up and said, "Before you speak, I need to know if you are Pentecostal." The room grew silent. Craddock said he looked around for the Dean of the seminary! He was nowhere to be found.  

The student continued with his quiz right in front of everybody. Craddock was taken aback, and so he said, "Do you mean do I belong to the Pentecostal Church?" He said, "No, I mean are you Pentecostal?" Craddock said, "Are you asking me if I am charismatic?" the student said, "I am asking you if you are Pentecostal." Craddock said, "Do you want to know if I speak in tongues?" He said, "I want to know if you are Pentecostal." Craddock said, "I don't know what your question is." The student said, "Obviously, you are not Pentecostal." He left. 

What are we talking about this morning? Is the church supposed to use the word Pentecost only as a noun or can it be used as an adjective? And so I ask you: Are you Pentecostal?  

In spite of the fact that the church doesn't know what the adjective means, the church insists that the word remain in our vocabulary as an adjective. The church is unwilling for the word simply to be a noun, to represent a date, a place, an event in the history of the church, refuses for it to be simply a memory, an item, something back there somewhere. The church insists that the word is an adjective; it describes the church. The word, then, is "Pentecostal."  

If the church is alive in the world it is Pentecostal. And you thought we were Methodist! [Insert your own tradition here.]  

How do we keep this aliveness, this fire burning, this spirit moving? What must exist in us, around us, and through us, if we are to be Pentecostal? Simply these three things: 

1. We Are To Be Of One Accord
2. We Are To Join Together Constantly in Prayer
3. We Are To Repent
Happy Natal Day, church!  

As a kid did you ever terrorize a sibling by scuffing your feet on the carpet and walking towards your "prey" with an index finger pointing at them? The threat, of course, was "static electricity." If you touched you brother or sister, it meant a small but smarting little zap. A small shock - big fun!   

A local grocery store (actually, the local Orcas Island Supermarket where we live) recently bit the bullet and spent big money on some major renovations. Among the improvements was all new flooring, a snazzy laminate that looked like real hardwood. The store also bought new shopping carts. These were sleeker and more "user friendly" than the previous model. An upgraded misting system in the produce section required new de-humidifying equipment for the rest of the store.  

But all these various upgrades resulted in a "perfect storm" for this grocery store. The contact between the new floor and the new shopping cart's wheels coupled with the dry, de-humidified air resulted in perfect conditions to create tremendous static electricity. Suddenly every shopper with a grocery cart was getting electrified by the lemons, zapped by the chocolate chips, zinged by a loaf of bread. The pain for those local shoppers was no longer confined to the check-out counter. Now every item the shopper selected brought a painful static electric wake-up shock.  

Our ancestors took one giant technological step after a thunderstorm. Lightning ignited a fire - a fire that offered both light and warmth to the cold darkness of night. It gave our ancestors an idea. Figuring out how to keep a fire going, without the thunder and lightning, was the beginning of human civilization. Taming "fire" was the first great human achievement.  

In 1957 a young musician named Jerry Lee Lewis, one of the first to be called a member of a new genre called "rock and roll," recorded a huge hit. Primarily a piano player, Jerry Lee pounded out at hit called "Great Balls of Fire." The title came straight out of Lewis' traditional Christian upbringing - recalling a familiar Southern expression describing the miraculous events of Pentecost...
You Are in the Spirit  

It's like the story of the shark and the whale. Both were swimming in the sea when the shark swam up to the whale to engage in conversation. As they swam along, the shark said to the whale, "You are so much older than I, and wiser too. Could you tell me where the ocean is?" The whale responded, "The ocean is what you are in now." The shark would not believe it. "Come on, tell me where the ocean is so I may find it!" The whale repeated, "The ocean is here, now; you are in it." Unbelieving, the shark swam away searching for the ocean.  

The moral of the story, I believe, is this: don't spend too much time looking for God because the Spirit of God is here in the now of your life, dwelling within you, within me, within this community. And that truth is nurtured in prayer.  

Susan M. Fleenor, The Indwelling Spirit of Pentecost

The peace Jesus gives to us through the Holy Spirit is more than we can ever imagine:  
Peace means the cessation of all warfare, but it also means much more.
Peace means a feeling of inner well-being, but it also means much more.
Peace means an end to psychological tensions, but it also means much more.
Peace means halting interpersonal conflicts, but it also means much more.
Peace means the settling of silence on the soul, but it also means much more.  

In Valyermo, California , the Benedictines converted a 400-acre ranch into a religious community called St. Andrew's Priory. As you enter the grounds, you find that the land is posted: "No Hunting Except for Peace."  The world is hunting for peace. What will we give it?  

Leonard Sweet, Collected Sermons,
Shaped by the Winds of God  

Most times, when I'm called to conduct a funeral of a loved one from the church, I'm asked by the funeral director if I'd like to ride with them rather than to drive my own car. And most times, I take them up on the offer, for it is more relaxing not to have to worry about driving. I must say that I've had some interesting and informative drives out to the cemetery. One director told me about the effect God's Wind has on things that grow. It seems that over time, trees that have to stand out in the open become shaped in the direction the wind is blowing. Unless there are other trees around to block it from happening, a tree will eventually be shaped by the force and direction of the wind. Then, as living proof, the funeral director began to point out to me tree after tree that had all been shaped in this way, trees that I confess I had passed by many times, but had never really seen until then. Once this was pointed out to me, I began to see them everywhere. The cemetery was literally filled with them! All shaped by the Winds of God!  

I leave you with this question. Like those trees in the cemetery, do we, as individuals, and as a congregation, show any evidence of being shaped by the Winds of God's Spirit? Is the new beginning Pentecostal experience a fresh, yet continuing presence in our lives?  

David R. Cartwright, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost (First Third): Guided by the Spirit, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
Waves of Worry 

 Several years ago a submarine was being tested and had to remain submerged for many hours. When it returned to the harbor, the captain was asked, "How did the terrible storm last night affect you?" The officer looked at him in surprise and exclaimed, "Storm? We didn't even know there was one!" The sub had been so far beneath the surface that it had reached the area known to sailors as "the cushion of the sea." Although the ocean may be whipped into huge waves by high winds, the waters below are never stirred.  

This, I believe, is a perfect picture of the peace that comes from Christ's Spirit. The waves of worry, of fear, of heartbreak, cannot touch those resting in Christ. Sheltered by His grace and encouraged by His Spirit, the believer is given the perfect tranquility that only Christ can provide.  

Adrian Dieleman, Receive the Holy Spirit
Humor: How Were You Attired? 

 Recently, a judicial friend was presiding over a case in a small, rural county. The defendant was charged with drunk driving and trying to assault the police officer who arrested him. To convict the defendant on the assault on an officer charge, the District Attorney had to prove that the defendant knew the person he was assaulting was a police officer. And the easiest way to do that is to show that the officer was wearing a police uniform, and therefore the defendant knew that this was a police officer. 

So the District Attorney asked the officer on the witness stand "And how were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?"
The witness looked at him blankly. It was clear he didn't know what the District Attorney meant by "attired". Everyone saw this but the District Attorney.

"Would you repeat the question, please?"
In a slightly irritated voice the District Attorney said, "And how were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?"
The witness still was puzzled. "Say that again", he pleaded.
"How were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?" barked the District Attorney.
My friend said you could suddenly see the light bulb come on in the officer's head, and he proudly proclaimed "I was traveling on standard issue radial tires!"
This officer needed an interpreter even within the English language! 

That's what I'm getting at: We all need our own personal interpreter, full time, 24/7. So much of what we hear, even within the English language, we don't understand. And nowhere is that truth more evident than with people who are new to the church. 

Leonard Sweet, Collected Sermons,
Lost and Found 

Picture a little girl lost in a big city. There she sits, crying on the curb. A policeman finds her, puts her in his cruiser and drives her up and down the streets, hoping she'll recognize something familiar. Which, at last, she does. She sees a steeple with a cross on it. Tears vanish. Speech returns. "That's my church," she says. "I can find my way from here." 

You're not the only one, little girl. 

William A. Ritter, Collected Sermons,