Some have said that while Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the Gospels of Jesus, the books of Acts is the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. What that statement means is that along with telling the story of the development of the early church and the initial missionary work of the church, Acts also tells the story of the Holy Spirit as the life force and galvanizing presence of God that helps both create the church and supply courage and direction to the church’s first missionaries.
Acts Chapter 2, our text for today, is the place it all begins. If you remember from our studies in recent weeks, Acts 1 finds Jesus ascending back to the right hand of God the Father. As he does so, Jesus promises his followers that they are not being abandoned. Just as he goes, another, the Holy Spirit, will soon come as God’s primary presence in the world. Between his departure and the Spirit’s coming, their job is to wait and to be ready for the Spirit’s arrival. This is exactly what the early believers do. They pray together, study together, encourage one another and they stay in Jerusalem while waiting for the Spirit’s arrival. Pentecost, as described in Acts 2, is the day the longed for Spirit finally arrives in their midst with a power and force that renews and energizes their lives and work.
The truth is, these earliest of believers, in this basic act of waiting for the Spirit between Acts 1 and Acts 2, set a pattern that we still follow today. Daily, we as followers of Jesus still faithfully wait for the next movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Sometimes we sense the Holy Spirit’s profound nearness, guidance, direction. At other times, we feel as sense of God’s absence. But, even when God is absent, we worship, pray and wait faithfully, knowing that God’s Spirit will soon blow in our midst again.
The Greek word for the Holy Spirit is pneuma or wind. And, like the wind, we wait for the Spirit to blow our way and carry us where God will.
That is why I am sitting on this sailboat on Lake Greenwood today. For a long time now sailboats have served as a great illustration for this unusual movement of the Holy Spirit and for how we best interact with this movement of God in our midst. A sailboat, you see, is the perfect, modern example of doing a little and then waiting for something out of our control to do the rest. Here is what I mean. With a sailboat, we can put the boat in the water and set the sails in place. But, ultimately, once we have prepared the boat for the winds movement, we must wait. We must wait on the wind. With a sailboat, some of the work is in our control and much of the work is out of our control. To harness the wind, the boat must be in the water and the sail must be ready but then all we do is wait for that unpredictable movement that at some point is sure to come.
Again, that is what the early believers did and that is what we must do. They prayed, they studied, they encouraged one another and they waited for God’s spirit to move trusting and believing the day would come. We do the same. We pray, we study, we worship, we ready ourselves and we watch for the Holy Spirit, God’s wind, to blow in our midst and to lead us to the next ministry, the next person who needs our love, the next act of kindness, the next opportunity to make a difference in our community. We also trust and we know that when that Spirit comes, it will do so with power and might while providing us the courage to accomplish more than we ever could on our own.
Take Act 2 as an example. One of the first movements of the Holy Spirit is the call on Peter to preach to the crowd on that first Pentecost. Peter gives himself over to the Holy Spirit’s movement. As a result, this one who had denied knowing Jesus and who had cowered in the shadows just days before finds an amazing ability and the courage to speak boldly and profoundly.
In Acts, these early followers were constantly following the Spirits movement to people, places and opportunities. And, as one movement of the Spirit ended, they continued forward with faithfulness and trust that another movement of the Holy Spirit would come along and guide them yet again.
For so many of us, summer time means a trip or two to the beach. If beach time is part of your plans for the days ahead, I do hope that you and your family will get that opportunity even in this summer when so much of our schedule will different and unusual.
When I think about trips to the beach over the years, one of the memories I have is of being out in the water with a small board or float in hand while waiting for the next wave. If you have every enjoyed an afternoon riding the waves then you know how this works. On the one hand, we have the responsibility of getting ourselves in position, having our board ready and giving ourselves over to the movement of the water at just the right time. But, the rest? Well, that is out of our control. When the next wave will come, how big it will be or what direction it will move us is a matter that we have no control over. All we know is this – another wave will eventually come, and it will take us where it will if we are ready and willing to take the ride.
So it is with the Spirit. This was the way of the Holy Spirit for the earliest followers of Jesus. It is the way of the Spirit for us. And, this will be the way of the Holy Spirit as long as people like you and I are invited to join God in God’s work on this earth. Amen.