No doubt British royalty were surprised by the lively preaching of Rev. Dr. Michael Curry at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
To some, it might have sounded like he was speaking a different language, and yet still he communicated that the source of all love is God and it is a gift given not for ourselves alone.
“We must discover the redemptive power of love,” he said, “and when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world.”
The wedding and his preaching coming the day before Pentecost reminded me of what happened when the Spirit of God came that first Pentecost. Jesus had promised His early followers that after His ascension into heaven, He would send the Spirit, the Advocate to empower them to take the gospel beyond Jerusalem, to the ends of the earth.
In Acts 2, we read that to those waiting, it did come, but surely its dramatic fashion surprised them all. With the sound of the rush of a violent wind, it filled the house. Divided tongues of fire rested above their heads. Right away Jesus’ followers began to speak in different languages, and those in the crowd could understand them in their own native tongue.
The disciple Peter, who not long before had denied even knowing Jesus, was emboldened and equipped to preach his first sermon and 3,000 believed.
The Spirit empowered and enlivened Jesus’ followers and gave birth to the church. We celebrate this animating, life-giving, church-creating Spirit every year, encouraging the wearing of red, the color of fire.
We also celebrate with birthday cake!
The arrival and action of the Spirit that day reminds us that it moves and acts in ways that we can’t plan for nor predict; that it changes things. That first Pentecost, those who would be Jesus’ witnesses were given a new way to communicate so that those they encountered would understand.
As Jesus’ followers today, called to be His witnesses, we might need to learn new languages, some of which might take us out of our comfort zones.
We might communicate God’s redemptive love through a compassionate word, through working for justice, through sharing how God has touched and changed us. Sermons aren’t required, but open hearts are.
God’s Spirt, the wind, the breath of God is still moving to bring to reality God’s kingdom of peace and love on earth and it won’t stop until – as Peter told the crowds – “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Will we let the Holy Spirit blow into us and fill us, and let the Spirit use us?
Rev. Christine Herrin is the pastor at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton.