Sermon Outline On 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?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Luke tells us in Acts 2:1 that the day of Pentecost had come, and they were all together in one place. How many do you suppose were gathered there? Just a few verses earlier in the Acts of the Apostles (1:15) we are told that Peter stood among the believers and they numbered about 125. Before this Pentecost Sunday is over there will be 3000 baptized. But how many were “together in one place?”
In verse 5 we are told that devout Jews from every nation were living in Jerusalem. They heard the commotion and it was then that they gathered to see what was happening.
What was the commotion? A sound like the rush of a violent wind. It filled the entire house. I think they were in someone’s home. It wasn’t a large gathering. There was that sound that filled the house. A violent wind. Have you ever been in a hurricane? Have you seen news reports with reporters near the beach, standing in 80, 90, 100 mile per hour winds? Have you been near a tornado as it passed by? The majority of us have probably not heard that roar. They say is sounds like a train passing by. We do recognize that sound.
It was a sound like the RUSH of a VIOLENT wind! We’re not talking a breeze. We are not talking about the voice of God that comes as a still, small voice. The sound was loud and violent.
Divided tongues as of fire appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.(2:3) Tongues of fire! This was no every day occurrence. Something new and different was happening.
These that had gathered had been faithfully waiting. Jesus told them to go to Jerusalem and wait. Jesus had promised a helper who would come. Jesus had told them to wait. They were not to start their ministry in his name until they had received the Holy Spirit.
The time had come. The Holy Spirit had come. Luke wants us to know that giving of the Holy Spirit to those gathered was profound. He doesn’t describe a cool breeze blowing in off of the Mediterranean. He doesn’t refer to the sound of a babbling brook. He doesn’t describe a quiet, calm morning.
This Holy Spirit that is given to those gathered comes with gusto. This Holy Spirit is not some meek and mild manifestation of God. Violent wind and tongues of fire. This Holy Spirit is seen, heard and felt. There is no doubt in our minds that something significant is occurring.
It was this Holy Spirit that gave them ability to communicate. Those who were gathered were joined by others from many places, speaking many languages. The Holy Spirit gave them the ability to hear one another in their own language. It was the Holy Spirit that gave them the ability to come together as one people.
Frederick Buechner in his devotional book, Listening to Your Life, gives us this contrast.
Unfermented grape juice is a bland and pleasant drink, especially on a warm afternoon mixed half-and-half with ginger ale. It is a ghastly symbol of the life blood of Jesus Christ, especially when served in individual antiseptic, thimble-sized glasses.
Wine is booze, which means it is dangerous and drunk-making. It makes the timid brave and the reserved amorous. It loosens the tongue and breaks the ice especially when served in a loving cup. It kills germs. As symbols go, it is a rather splendid one.
You want a symbol for the power of the Holy Spirit? You don’t talk gentle breezes. You talk violent wind. You don’t talk of a cool morning, but rather of tongues like fire.
And what about those who have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Why, people might think they are drunk! These people make the choices of a drunk person. Giving generously to the church. Trusting others with the gifts we bring. Offering to help the needy rather than saying, “get a life.” Teaching Sunday school rather than sleeping in. Looking at someone whose skin is a different color and calling them brother or sister. Forgiving one who has hurt us deeply. Joining others in worship out of love for them and God, not looking for what’s in it for me. Being concerned for others rather than self.
Have you seen the new book that has come out? The title is something like 101 Dumb Warnings. Now that I think about it. Church ought to come with a warning label. “Caution: You may be overcome by the Holy Spirit and be radically, eternally transformed.”
But that Holy Spirit presented to us today as the rush of a violent wind and tongues of fire is active and present in this place. Luke wrote, “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…” The Holy Spirit on Pentecost came to a place no bigger than this church.
That means size doesn’t count. This church will be all God desires it to be if we but allow the Holy Spirit to rush through us like a violent wind and rest on us like divided tongues, as of fire.