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Prayer for a Gentle Pentecost Breeze

 

Sunday May 31, 2020 – Day of Pentecost 

Acts 2:1-21 & John 20:19-23 

New Life Lutheran, Dripping Springs, Texas

Sermon: A prayer for a soft Pentecost breeze

Carmen Retzlaff

 

Acts 2:1 ¶ When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 

Acts 2:2 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. 

Acts 2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 

Acts 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 

Acts 2:5 ¶ Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 

Acts 2:6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 

Acts 2:7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 

Acts 2:8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 

Acts 2:9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 

Acts 2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 

Acts 2:11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 

Acts 2:12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 

Acts 2:13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 

Acts 2:14  ¶ 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. 

Acts 2:15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 

Acts 2:16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 

Acts 2:17 ‘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. 

Acts 2:18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,

in those days I will pour out my Spirit;

and they shall prophesy. 

Acts 2:19 And I will show portents in the heaven above

and signs on the earth below,

blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 

Acts 2:20 The sun shall be turned to darkness

and the moon to blood,

before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 

Acts 2:21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ 

 

Acts 2:2 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. 

 

John 20:19 ¶ When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 

John 20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 

John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 

John 20:22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 

John 20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 

 

As I’ve been preaching this Spring, from the land, with Greg, and the birds, and trees, but not all of you, the people usually here, we have been reading through the Lent and Easter texts. The stories of Jesus dying, and rising, and appearing again. Then, finally, leaving, with the promise, always, that he would be with the disciples, always. And with the promise that the Holy Spirit would be with them, too, to strengthen, encourage and guide them. 

 

And here we are, on Pentecost. The day of the promise, the day we tell this beloved story: The disciples were in the locked room, waiting, praying, hoping. And there was the sound of a violent wind. And then it was as if tongues of fire rested on each of them. And not just the 12, but all of them, all of the women, too, all of the followers. And they went out and they told the good news of Jesus - how God became one of us, and lived here, and healed and taught and showed us how to live. How God suffered just like us, as one of us, and died, and came back just to prove to us that suffering and death are not the end of our story - love is the end of the story- God’s love endures. And they told the story as they had experienced it, in their native language - Hebrew or Aramaic- but everyone who had gathered in the city of Jerusalem for the great festival of Pentecost heard it in their own language, and understood. 

 

As I’ve been preaching these Easter texts, my mind has been fixed on Pentecost. I have been praying to God for the Spirit to come and burn like fire and blow like a hurricane, and bring us strength and courage to work together to rebuild the broken things of this epidemic, and the broken things that were broken before, but now are more obvious. 

 

But today, now that Pentecost has come, I am praying for a soft, gentle breeze instead. This week, rain finally came to the Hill Country after an unusually dry Spring. May is usually our wettest month, but we’ve had few good soakers before this week. And when it finally came, and I felt that cool breeze that comes as a front blows in, and I thought, “Yes, that. Oh God, send that soft cool breeze to make us look up and smile and sigh with relief from the heat. Tousle our hair gently, Jesus.” 

 

So many years we have storms this time of year, and floods. Sometimes this time of year the rain is so much, torrential, and the winds tear things apart. I am thankful, so far, for long, soaking rains, with gentle breezes. 

 

This storm of COVID-19 has been violent enough. It has ripped through us, making us miss each other. And taking precious things: vacations, graduations, gatherings for funerals…so many big and small things. And it goes on and on. It is still so heavy. We are still afraid. We are divided as to how to proceed. And so many have lost work, business, livelihood. How will we recover? How will so many people pay rent, find jobs, buy food? When will students know if they can return to school? It is so very long and heavy. 

 

Like a hot, humid day in May. And when a soft cool breeze blows in before a raincloud, that feels, to me, like the Holy Spirit right now. Making things lighter, cooler, easier. Bringing a charge of electricity, and rolling clouds, but not destruction. That is my prayer this Pentecost: God, blow gently into our lives right now. The work of finding new normals is long and heavy: Holy Spirit, please be the wind beneath our wings. 

 

In the Gospel reading, this scene from John, we read again about Jesus coming in to the locked room, and he comes quietly. He just appears. And he breathes peace on them. Today, I read that as a whisper: “Peace, hush, peace, be still, it is OK. Shhhh.” Gentle, loving, encouraging. 

 

Today I hear this Pentecost story differently than I ever have before. Perhaps the flames are soft and warm on their heads, comforting, saying in Holy Spirit language, “Yes, yes, you are OK. Go tell the world that God is with all of them, and that it is OK.” The Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Our Advocate. 

 

Peter quotes to the crowds from scripture: 

 

this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 

Acts 2:17 ‘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. 

Acts 2:18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,

in those days I will pour out my Spirit;

and they shall prophesy. 

Acts 2:19 And I will show portents in the heaven above

and signs on the earth below,

blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 

Acts 2:20 The sun shall be turned to darkness

and the moon to blood,

before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 

Acts 2:21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ 

 

 

We’ve already seen the portents: The crowded hospitals of Italy, the mobile morgues in New York. Now is the time for the pouring of the Spirit over our flesh like soft summer rain. Now is the time for our children to speak the truth, and for us to listen and hear them. Now is the time for daughters to prophesy, and sons to have visions, and old men to dream dreams. Now is  the time for the world to have a moment to listen to those prophesies and visions and dreams - the wisdom of children and elders we were too busy to hear before. Slaves, too - the people who work and work and never get a break or get ahead - now is the time to listen to them, too. And women, too. 

 

God, gentle us into this new time together. Let us listen, let our hearts be softened to care about each other, and to hear the quieter voices. God, 

 

“Yes, that. Oh God, send that soft cool breeze to make us look up and smile and sigh with relief from the heat. Tousle our hair gently, Jesus.” 

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