People always get het up about Pentecost.
What is its significance?
What does it mean?
Maybe it is because I have spent over 30 years trying to write Pentecost sermons that I am not as phased as I used to be.
I remember when I first came to Alva there was a young reader called Alan Kimmet. And a policy I had at the start of my ministry was that when I went on holiday I tried to get the best people I could to fill in doing pulpit supply. Believe it or not many ministers do the opposite. They pick rotten fill-ins so that when they come back their congregation are so grateful for their return.
Anyway, as many of you know, one guaranteed holiday I take is the two weeks after Easter because by the time I get to Easter Sunday I am shattered.
So Alan used to take those services.
Over a decade later and Alan is with me as a probationer and one of the first things he commented on was how many sermons he had on the Road to Emmaus, because that is often the first reading after Easter. And he said that he didn't want to do that Sunday here because he had so many sermons on it and they all had been heard here and he wasn't sure if he could think of anything else to say about it.
Well here we are at Pentecost and 99% of the time the reading that is used is this one. I’m not too sure that there is much more for me to say about it.
Except just to remind ourselves of the main point of it.
And that is to say that Pentecost is the ‘So what?’ question of our faith.
It always has been.
The original Pentecost was a ‘So what?’ question.
Pentecost isn't an isolated celebration. It is part of a two part celebration.
The first part of the celebration is Passover.
Passover is the Jewish celebration acknowledging the moment that God freed the people from slavery in Egypt and they started their journey to the Promised Land.
Who cares? What difference does it make? Why should it matter?
Just because something good happens to us doesn’t mean that life stops there, we then have to decide what happens next.
And the answer to that was Pentecost, when the people celebrated the giving of the Ten Commandments to the people at Mount Sinai. It happened about fifty days later hence the Greek word Pentecost which literally means fifty-count.
If God just freed the people from slavery and then they went on to become a country just as bad as Egypt, deciding that they would be the new pharaohs in a new land and having people as slaves, then what would be the point of freeing them?
If God freed the people from slavery and they then went the Promised Land and were captured by the rulers there and made into slaves in a new land, then what would be the point of freeing them?
God didn't free the people so that they could either become just as bad as their captors or just go back to being what they had been. God freed them for a reason, to be different, to be better.
And at Pentecost God gave them that reason. He gave them the Ten Commandments, he gave them the guidelines to become a people of faith that could be a light to the nations.
The same thing happened thousands of years later when Jesus reflected that same journey in his life.
Jesus celebrates a Passover meal and tells the disciples that just as the slaves were given a gift of a lamb to save them from the angel of death who would pass over Egypt that night, so he would be their gift that would save them from the spiritual death they were facing.
And as the Passover lamb was sacrificed, so Jesus was sacrificed on the cross.
Then resurrection morning comes and they are all excited.
Jesus has risen, everything Jesus spoke about was true.
They are forgiven.
Then comes the question, ‘So what?’
What difference does it make?
And we have seen in the narrative over the last few weeks the disciples struggle to know what to do next.
We are going to Emmaus, no we are going back to Jerusalem.
We are staying in Jerusalem, no we are going back to Galilee, no we are back in Jerusalem.
We will hide, we will go back to fishing like we did before Jesus came.
It is hard to answer that ‘So what?’ question.
The most significant thing in history has happened to these disciples, and they don't know what to do about it.
There seems to be thousands of ways to get the wrong answer and no clue as to how to get it right.
And then comes Pentecost, they are celebrating in an upper room, maybe the same room that they shared the Passover meal in 50 days earlier.
And the, ‘So what?’ question is answered. Jesus has given them this forgiveness so that they can go out into the world and share that forgiveness with others.
They can tell these people how to move forward in their own language because they once were those people.
They were a people that were lost, and now they are found,
they were a people in despair, and now they rejoice,
they were a people with no hope, and now they have found a path to follow.
They can talk the language of the lost and the unforgiven and the sorrowful; because they have been there, done that.
They were those people.
And Jesus showed them another way.
And now they can help others on the journey to find the same joy and love and pardon the way Jesus showed them.
This season of the church between Easter and Pentecost just seeks to remind us that we are just like the disciples; we are following their journey of faith.
At Easter Jesus is the gift that God gives to free us from those things that hide God from us,
those things that destroy our lives,
those things we are a slave to.
At Easter we are forgiven and we have the chance to start again.
But then we have to face the question, ‘So what?’
If we are just going to behave the same way,
if we are going to use our freedom to attack others the way we have been attacked, if we use our freedom to hide from the things we are afraid of,
then so what?
What was the point of it all, nothing has changed. We are just as bad as we were before or maybe even worse.
Pentecost reminds us that we have been forgiven for a reason, to be better;
to use the gifts God has given us to look outward rather than inward,
to move forward rather than backward,
to act out of hope rather than fear,
to relate from love rather than mistrust.
I suppose the great miracle of Pentecost was that moment that the disciples decided to take the first steps out of the upper room and share what had happened to them to the people they met.
They decided that what Jesus meant to them was significant.
They decided that they were going to live their lives and act as if their lives were meaningful, because they were.
No more hiding, no more acting out of fear, they were going to be...people who acted in faith.
And now it is our turn.
Our turn to answer the ‘So What?’ question.
Will we carry on the miracle?
Will we decide that Jesus in our life is significant?
Will we decide to live our lives as if they are meaningful? Because they are.
Will we decide not to hide who we are, that we won’t act out of fear any more, that we are going to be?...People who live in faith.