Here is an excerpt from a Pentecost sermon I preached a couple of years ago.
You might also be interested in this Call to Worship and Benediction written for Pentecost.
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At one point Jesus says to the gathered believers, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
“Wait for the gift . . . in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” What is all of this waiting for the Spirit about? Surely Jesus, God incarnate, could have empowered them right then to go forth and witness. Or, even if the time wasn’t right for them to take the Good News abroad, there must have been something more productive they could have done than just wait around. I mean, how inefficient. What a waste of time!
His followers could have been preparing speeches or sending letters. But Jesus says wait. They could have been recruiting friends and family or designing a PR campaign. But Jesus says wait. They could have made some picket signs and headed over to the temple: “No more robbers in God’s house of prayer!” But Jesus says wait. They could have been out on the city streets tending to the sick, feeding the hungry. But Jesus says wait.
And so these believers wait for the Holy Spirit. There are about 120 believers. And they gather and they wait. Obviously, they were not working with a qualified church growth consultant. They did not have a strategic plan.
But sure enough, after about ten days of waiting . . . a waiting that involved prayer and preaching and singing . . . after about ten days of waiting the Holy Spirit did indeed come upon them.
They were all gathered together in one place, and suddenly there was a loud, violent noise, and those things that seemed to be tongues of fire came down on them. This is frightening and exciting. They now have the power. The power of the Holy Spirit for which they have been waiting.
. . .
We see, Paul says, as in a mirror darkly. But our God has a deep and abiding wisdom. A wisdom that often seems as foolishness to the world. A wisdom that often seems absurd and terribly inefficient.
It is precisely in the inefficiency of waiting that those first 120 believers become a community. It is in that inefficiency of waiting that they train their hearts towards God, thus preparing themselves to receive those things that seemed like tongues of fire–without getting burned.
And after that inefficient–after that ridiculously absurd–display of Holy Spirit power at Pentecost, about three thousand people are baptized and added to the number of believers.
As followers of Christ, the Holy Spirit leads us not into efficiency, but into faithfulness.
Often, the wind of the Spirit moving through our lives calls us to wait when all around us are rushing.
To be willing to make fools of ourselves in a culture that idolizes image.
To share from our abundance despite those who say we must live in fear because of scarcity.
The powerful, comforting, compelling Spirit calls us to construct our lives not in the way that makes the most sense to us, but in ways that leave space for the mighty wind to enter. Space for the tongues of fire to dance.
Thanks be to God.