Blown Minds, Warmed Hearts, Refined Lives
When the spectacular arrival of the Holy Spirit dawned on the disciples and other believers in Jerusalem, minds were blown. First, because it was a spectacle of epic proportions: the sound of wind without the breeze, the image of fire atop heads while unlearned languages came forth from the tongues within. Tongues of fire begat newly-abled fluent tongues to speak to those visiting from afar. How could your mind not be blown?
But the second reason minds were blown is what the dramatic scene itself communicated. The Holy Spirit’s greeting wasn’t simply in Aramaic – the language the Jewish people knew well. Essentially, every language was heard that day, a multilingual miracle using many disciples to communicate to many people gathered round. God was speaking to everybody in their native tongue. This implied that God wasn’t beyond speaking to people where they were in ways that they could understand. It also meant that all those people hearing the testimony about God’s creation were people God deemed worthy of hearing.
I met a foster parent recently who recognized their special role in caring for foster children. Children needing a foster home are coming from a difficult environment. Sometimes those kids haven’t been told that they are loved and that they have inherent value. This particular parent wanted to do everything in his power to correct that – because when our inherent value is communicated to us, it really does blow our minds. It blew my mind when I woke up to it, too. Have you awakened to this yet? Or are you still asleep?
While minds were being blown, we can be sure hearts were being warmed. Except for limited moments while engaged in ministry when Jesus’ disciples were endowed with the Spirit to minister miraculously in Jesus’ name, the Holy Spirit was for special characters in God’s narrative. Not fisherman from Hillbillyville. Definitely not tax former collectors. Yet on this day, many of Jesus’ followers received the Spirit in a powerful way. Message received? God was no longer limiting the Spirit to a select few. Now all access was granted to those who believed. That’s a heart warmer for sure. Jesus was gone, and they still mattered. Because we can look ahead in the story, we also know that the Spirit was given to future believers, too, regardless of previously held limitations.
When we awaken to what God is doing in the world, our hearts warm because we realize God’s love isn’t just for us, but it big enough for everybody. When we look in the mirror and marvel at the fact that God loves us in spite of our shortcomings – and perhaps more importantly because of our shortcomings – our awakening is humbling. What’s more humbling is the fact that this love extends even to your idiot cousin. And your coworker who is in perpetual Monday morning mode. And your classmate who is pretty sure his stuff doesn’t smell. And the parent who physically abandoned you, or was emotionally unavailable, or even molested you. And the drunk driver who killed your loved one. And the Barack Obama. And Donald Trump. And Vladimir Putin. And Kim Jun Un. And Bashar al-Assad. And members or Isis who become suicide bombers, crowd-plowing truck drivers, and pilots who steer planes into World Trade Centers. And undocumented immigrants. And black people. And homeless people. Every person ever created is loved by God as much as you and as much as anyone else. When we wake up to this fact, our hearts are so warmed we are changed in our perspective. It doesn’t make their horrors go away, but it does make us more humane in how we view them and address them.
A lot of people experienced an incredible display of the inbreaking of God. Pretty cool. All those people would have felt the breath of God that day – minds blown and hearts warmed – and would have likely lived in hope for the rest of their lives. But something else equally beautiful happened as well.
In the last few verses of Acts 2, we discover that the wind-infused pyrotechnics show resulted in more than people feeling inner peace and hope:
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
The experience of Pentecost didn’t remain a personal faith thing alone. Nope, this was a life changer. Minds were blown. Hearts were warmed. And lives were refined. Fire and wind have the capacity to burn off impurities and clear out debris. The experience of God breaking into life changed the lives of many people. They changed their lives to make room for ongoing learning, serving each other, hanging out together, and prayer. This led to more good stuff – the Spirit worked powerfully through the Apostles, and everybody shared their stuff with each other. They sold things so that they could help somebody else out.
Humanity, at its core, hasn’t changed all that much. We all still struggle between self-centeredness and other centeredness, between greed and generosity. Somehow, when people experienced God up close and personal on that day, a shift took place. “There is always enough for everyone’s need; there is never enough for everyone’s greed.” Pentecost acted as a refiner’s fire for people like us who struggle with selfishness. They became generous.
Oskar Schindler woke up and saved 1200+ Jewish people from extermination. Mother Theresa woke up and served the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. A friend of mine woke up (one of a series of awakenings in his life) and invested in at-risk children in Kenya instead of a fancy new car for himself. Another friend of mine woke up a couple of weeks ago realizing that our kids in Africa would trade anything to have our problems, and cut a check for $2000 to help their cause. Many friends have awakened to what CrossWalk is doing in the world and have giving generously to update our facility so that we can continue to be a space of Good News more effectively – a stage in the Courtyard, a remodeled kitchen, a rehung bell, money to remodel the façade, buy new chairs – the list is huge! Money spent not for themselves, but for the hope of what we can offer the community. Of course, time is perhaps the other great commodity we have to offer, and in many of the projects I mentioned, there are people donating untold, unseen, and unsung hours to make it happen.
In a consumer-driven culture that can’t help but determine decisions based on “what’s in it for me”, time and money given for selfless purposes is incredible. Not just time to work on stuff, but to be together, to learn, to support. All signs of being awakened or waking up.
And a final piece of good news. Some of you may long for some tangible experience of the spirit. You are waiting for the sound of wind and tongues of fire. But it could just be that the way you begin to experience that is through the behavior that aligns ourselves with God – stuff in the final scene of Acts 2. Join God in what God is doing, and you are much more likely to catch the breeze that will blow your mind, you’ll more likely sense the flame that can warm your heart, and in the process you will find your life refined into the footsteps of Jesus who totally nailed it.
In today’s dramatic reading, the Apostle Peter asked some penetrating questions:
Are you open to the Spirit speaking to you and living in you? (Pause between each question.) Do you let the Spirit act and speak courageously through you in compassionate and daring ways? Do you forgive yourself and others when mistakes are made? Do you bring hope and new dreams into the lives of others? Do you share in the passions of Jesus for a world of justice and love? All these things are possible for you. What it means for you, for your church, and for the world is your joyous challenge to discover!
Have you experienced God in some way? How have you allowed that to impact your life in tangible ways? Do you realize that the experiences of God are there to call us home? To align us more with the footsteps of Jesus? If you’ve settled simply for inner peace, the good news is that there is much, much more for you to experience, and it comes when your life gets refined, when you allow God to remove the impurities and debris that accumulates when we are focused on ourselves.