A Pentecost reflection based on Acts 2:1-21 and the gifts of the whole community. On the day of Pentecost all the followers of Jesus have gathered together in one place. And there’s this violent rush of wind which rattles the doors, blows that sand through the windows and cracks. It’s the kind of wind you do not want to be out in. Except that this wind doesn’t stay outside. It comes in amongst them and brings with it fire: fire that touches each person and equips them with the Holy Spirit.
Fire and wind may be good or bad. One of my favorite things as a child was listening to the wind blow through the tall prairie grass. But as we know, wind can also be incredibly destructive and actually kill. Fire has similar traits. In a candle or campfire it gives a sense of security, warmth, welcome. Those flames can destroy and kill if not handled with respect.
But the story tells us that this is how the Holy Spirit first came to the disciples: In wind and in flame. In something both gentle and warm and powerful and destructive. This is part of our faith. Used wisely, our faith can give life, can nurture, encourage, offer security and welcome. If we do not tend our faith well, or misuse it, our faith can lead to destruction and death for ourselves and others.
One of the things that Christians tend to be good at is believing that we have to do everything, be everything, look after everyone and be good at everything. I know for myself, it is easy to think that as a minister I have to be good at preaching and leading worship, and visiting, and administration, and Bible study, and small talk and pastoral care and teaching and baking and cooking and hospitality, and technology and organization, and tidiness, and praying, and personal prayer, building relationships, communicating, taking notes, chairing meetings, conflict resolution, keeping everyone happy, making sure everyone else gets along and uses their gifts, time management, appealing to people who are conservative and people who are more liberal, connecting with other denominations, connecting with people outside the church, working with children, teens, families, seniors, funerals, hospital visiting, writing cards, encouraging, doing outreach, lifting up all sorts of justice issues in and out of the church, leadership… These are things that I think I should be good at and that I think I need to do and do well in order to work as a minister…And there are probably many others I can add to this list. Some of these things are gifts: things that come naturally and do well. Some are skills – things that I have had to learn and have to continue working at. Some are things that are neither skills nor gifts but things I do because I have to.
Using my gifts gives me energy and excitement. Using my skills, I feel competent and able to function. Using my gifts and skills gives me life, passion, energy. I love an opportunity to be creative in worship, to try something new and different to help people engage in their faith.
And then there are the things that are neither a gift or a skill. These things are exhausting and draining. I don’t want to do them…I can if I have to but I tend to avoid them because I know that they will drain my energy. I hate going to large parties and making small talk with people I don’t know.
But there’s good news for us in the readings we heard today: The good news is that the Holy Spirit is among us and gives each of us different gifts. What does this mean? It means that when each of us use our gifts and skills all of us are more alive and more filled with the spirit. I know that there are people in this place who love chatting up other people, who love being in groups of people and who have a gift for “schmoozing” and who could be amazing at sharing the gospel. I know that there are people who love talking on the phone and could help us stay connected as a congregation. I know there are people with good leadership skills who can help us navigate a challenging time in the congregation. I know there are people who like playing with technology who might be able to connect us and to integrate technology into our life as church. There are those who lead through singing and music so the rest of us can make a joyful noise…just for starters. There’s a million other gifts too.
What does this mean? It means that I don’t have to be good at everything. I’m free to be human and have a few gifts.
What does this mean? It means that none of us have to be good at everything.
What does this mean? It means that each of us have a few gifts to share with the world around us.
What does this mean? It means that there is not one gift that is better than another or more worthy than another.
What does this mean? It means that we can be part of the same body with different functions.
What does this mean? It means we can trust others to use their gifts so we can rest and look after ourselves. It also means that we can step back from tasks that are not our gifts so others can use their gifts.
What does this mean? It means that the Holy Spirit is poured out upon each of us.
What does this mean? It means we have a choice about how we respond to the fire and wind. We can ignore it, but then it could become destructive and dangerous. We can choose to embrace the wind and allow it to caress us and allow the flame to warm and cheer us. It’s our choice.
What does this mean? It means that we are Christ’s body, We are the people of God.