After Words: #4
What Jesus Taught After The Resurrection
Once upon a time there was a quiet little village in the French countryside, whose people believed in tranquility. If you lived in this village, you understood what was expected of you. You knew your place in the scheme of things. And if you happened to forget, someone would help remind you. In this village, if you saw something you weren’t supposed to, you learned to look the other way. If by chance your hopes had been disappointed, you learned never to ask for more. So through good times and bad, famine and heat, the villagers held fast to their traditions, until one winter day a sly wind blew in from the North. (1)
The members of the congregation in the movie Chocolat, didn’t understand the significance of that “sly wind which blew in from the North” that day. They were probably asking themselves, “What was that all about?” Or “What does this mean?”
If you’ve seen the movie you know that this “sly wind from the North” would affect the whole community. And change their lives forever.
That “sly wind from the North,” changed the lives of that French village forever. The same could be said of the wind and the flame described in Acts 2:1-21. It came as “a sound like the rush of a mighty wind.” And then “divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue of flame rested on each of them.”
Let’s look at that passage.
Acts 2:1-21 (NRSV)
 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.
 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
 Cretans and Arabs, in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.
 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.
 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
They began to speak in other languages so that those gathered from all across the known world could hear and understand the Good News of Jesus Christ. What an awesome, confusing, frightening sight that must have been. And as a result, they were all filled with a burning question: “What does this mean?”
A question Peter answered by reminding them what Jesus said right before he ascended to heaven.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NRSV)
The Holy Spirit is the power of God. While it’s hard to actually define the person of the Holy Spirit we do know that:
I. BREATH OF GOD:
FIRST THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE BREATH OF GOD
Scripture describes the Holy Spirit as Wind and Fire. Both here in Acts and in other places as well. From the very beginning, the Spirit of God has been described as a wind. In Genesis 1:1-2 (NRSV) we read: [1-2] “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”
At creation, God breathed that wind, the breath of life into Adam and Eve and gave them life.
One of the things we know is that The Holy Spirit is the Breath of God.
That breath of God gave life to us and in the form of the wind that swept through the Upper Rom that day, it also gave life to and birthed the church. Today is Pentecost, the birthday of the Church.
The Church is nearly 2000 years old. Sometimes it limps along like it’s close to death. Sometimes it has the energy and excitement of a new born. But when it was first born God threw a party called Pentecost. And when you throw a birthday party you usually bring gifts, right? Well, God didn’t forget. God gave two gifts to the world at that party: the Church and the Holy Spirit.
II. FIRE OF GOD:
A. SCRIPTURE ALSO DESCRIBES THE SPIRIT AS FIRE.
Fire is one of those great symbols of life. Teams and players always get fired up for the game. We talk and sing about lighting the fire of love. We use phrases like keep the home fires burning. Somebody who is filled with energy as called a ball of fire. When you’re passionate about something people can see the fire in your eyes and you can feel the fire in your belly. When we try to motivate someone we talk about lighting a fire under them. When something is dangerous we’re playing with fire. And when we’re being grilled about something we come under fire.
But this is more than symbolic. This fire is real and it’s God’s fire. There are a number of places in which Scripture describes God’s Spirit as fire.
First there is the way God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, that wasn’t consumed. And then the Bible describes God leading the Israelites through the wilderness as a “cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night.”
Symbolically, the Holy Spirit sets our hearts on fire. Wesley described it as having his “heart strangely warmed.”
Fifty days after the resurrection, 10 day after Jesus’ ascension, still a little frightened and uncertain, even though their numbers had grown, the disciples and believers gathered. And then God did more than Breathe new life into them. God opened their hearts and poured out the Holy Spirit upon them and the Spirit rested on them like tongues of fire. Their hearts were “strangely warmed.” That warmth, that fire, gave them the power they needed to carry out the mission of God.
They received new life and a brand new source of power, the Holy Spirit.
B. Monsters, Inc. is a movie about a monster world that is fueled by fear, literally. The company motto is “We scare because we care.” Each day, Mike, Sully, and the other monsters line up on the shop floor as a machine carries dozens of closet doors to individual scaring stations. A scream collection canister rests beside each closet door, which is a portal to the room of a small child. If the monster does his job correctly, he will elicit a scream from the child that will be sucked into the scream canister and, voila, it is converted to power.
Mike and Sully are the number-one scare team. Sully, an easygoing, large, blue, fluffy creature, is the primary scarer. Mike, his assistant, is an impatient green Cyclops, 90 percent eyeball and 10 percent arms and legs.
By the end of the movie, the scream-collection business isn’t going very well and the company is scheduled to shut down. Mike and Sully lament the closing of the company as they depart Monsters, Inc. for what appears to be the last time. (Let’s pick it up from there.)
Mike responds, “Yeah, but we had a lot of laughs.”
We see an idea crossing Sully’s face. “Laughs,” he says thoughtfully.
In the next scene, the closet door of a child’s room opens and an ominous shadow falls across the frightened child and his bed. The light comes and we see Mike, who pulls out a stool and begins a comedy routine. “Hey, it’s great to be in your room! You’re in kindergarten, right? Hey, I loved kindergarten. Best three years of my life!” The jokes are so bad that Mike has to resort to lowbrow burping humor, but the results are magnificent. The child begins to laugh hysterically, and on the other side of the closet door, a canister fills up with laugh power. (3)
It turns out that laughter is ten times more powerful than fear. I personally think there is a ton of truth in that line. The Monsters of Monster’s Inc. discovered a new and more powerful energy source.
And when we ask the question the witnesses of Pentecost asked: “What does this mean?” We’re reminded that the disciples received new energy source. They no longer had to try to do it on their own. Through the Presence of the Holy Spirit, Christ was with them.
“What does this mean for us?” The same thing. We don’t have to rely on our own skills and energies, we don’t have to rely on just us. Now we can be filled with the presence of the Risen Christ every moment of every day. Which means, the Holy Spirit both Fills us and Fuels us with the ongoing presence of the Risen Christ.
C. The Promise was fulfilled. The disciples were filled full of God’s Power so that they could fulfill God’s Purpose. The Holy Spirit, this birthday present from God, is really God with us, the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ with us always. Rev. 21:3 is fulfilled. “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.”
Our challenge is to let the Breath and the Fire of God’s Holy Spirit fill our lives so we can carry out God’s purpose for the Church. May it fill our lives as it filled the lives of the Disciples on that first Pentecost.
In an old Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, Calvin is wearing a pith helmet and he’s up to his shoulders in a very deep hole, and he’s digging away. Hobbes asks: “Why are you digging a hole?”
Calvin says, “I’m looking for buried treasure.”
“What have you found?” asks Hobbes.
“A few dirty rocks, a weird root, and some disgusting grubs.”
A great big smile fills Hobbes’ face, there’s excitement in his eyes and he says: “On your first try?”
And Calvin says: “There’s treasure everywhere.” (4)
Calvin was right. There IS treasure everywhere. And, because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can be part of that treasure and a part of God’s Gift to the world, the Church. We don’t have to speak in tongues. We don’t even have to be bilingual. All we have to do is trust in the presence, the power and the purpose of the Holy Spirit.
Let God breathe new life into your faith today. Let God light the fires of your soul. Let the wind of the spirit sweep through your life like it did in the lives of the disciples. It will mean More Power To You.
Come, Holy Spirit, Come.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Chocolat, Miramax, 2000
2. Acts Chapter Two, the Watch Word Bible
3. Monsters, Inc. (Disney/Pixar Production, 2001), rated G, directed by David Silverman and Pete Docter, produced by Darla K. Anderson, written by Andrew Stanton.
4. Bill Watterson, June 3, 1995.