There is the sound like the rush of a violent wind!
There are tongues like fire resting on each of them!
And then there is the sound of languages – lots of languages – languages that they’ve never spoken before!
(This is an ideal Bible story to tell preschoolers!
They love to make the sound of the wind!)
Something was going on in that house.
The business meeting had just concluded.
Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew,
Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew,
James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James..
All of them were there…and one more…
They had just cast lots and chosen Matthias to take the place of Judas the betrayer –
the one who we’re told in Acts Chapter 1
threw himself headlong into the field he bought,
bursting his belly open in the middle, so all his guts fell out…
(That is an ideal Bible story to tell fifth grade boys!
Yep – guts spilling out are in the Bible!)
Faithful Jews who had come to Jerusalem for the Festival of Weeks known as Pentecost,
gather around the house.
They hear commotion inside.
It is noisy — raucous even…
It sounds like a frat party…and they are about to call the cops.
But then one of the party guests – Peter – comes to the door.
He says, ‘No – no one here is drunk…this noise is the noise of people filled with a new wine –
the Spirit has been poured out upon them.’
The Old Testament prophet Joel promised that something like this would happen.
Joel promised that the Holy Spirit would come and people would begin to speak…
Lots of people….and not just the people we’d expect to hear from.
No, when the Spirit came, Joel said, voices would be heard from those
who too often find their ideas, their dreams, their visions, ignored or put down.
(And when your ideas, dreams, and visions are ignored and put down over and over again, it’s easy to give up and stop speaking.)
But Joel says the Holy Spirit will not allow that.
Joel promises that the Spirit will come and give renewed courage
for all kinds of people to share their ideas, dreams and visions once again.
Joel says the Spirit will give them the courage to speak the words of God.
They will no longer whisper it among themselves, behind locked doors,
or among isolated communities where it feels safe,
but they will go out and share boldly with the world, what they know of God.
This is Confirmation weekend.
This weekend 13 young people will affirm the promises made at baptism,
and we will dare to pray that the Holy Spirit be upon them –
we will dare to ask that they will be filled with new wine,
and we will dare to urge that they speak to our community and to the world
the ideas, dreams and visions that the Spirit has given them.
We will dare to pray that happens….
It is not without some trepidation,
because we know that young people can speak a word of God to us that we are not yet ready to hear.
This month is the 50th anniversary of the Children’s Crusade.
The Children’s Crusade happened at a critical time in the civil rights struggle in Birmingham, AL.
Marian Wright Edelman from the Children’s Defense Fund, describes the event this way :
“On May 2, 1963, class presidents, star athletes, and prom queens from local high schools led the way as hundreds of children skipped class, gathered at the 16th Street Baptist Church, and marched into downtown Birmingham in groups of fifty, organized into lines two by two and singing freedom songs.
More than a thousand students marched the first day, and many hundreds were arrested.
Segregationist police commissioner Bull Connor’s overwhelmed force started using school buses to take the children to jail. But that first wave of children was only the beginning.
When hundreds more returned the next day, Bull Connor directed the police and fire department to begin using force on the child marchers.
The decision surprised even those used to his … brutality but it was not enough to stop the determined young marchers. The … heartbreaking pictures of children being battered and tossed about by powerful fire hoses and attacked by police dogs appeared on front pages around the country and world and helped turned the tide of public opinion in support of … the national civil rights movement’s fight for justice.”
When I was in seminary, Dr. Strobert led a group of us on a January-term
trip to Birmingham.
We sat in the pews of the 16th Street Baptist Church.
We heard from a woman who had marched in the Children’s Crusade.
And then afterwards we went outside to the public park next door,
where we walked past life-sized and very life-like statues of
the dogs which were unleashed on the children – on the children – who were marching because they had the audacity
to believe that God created all people in God’s image
and who had the courage to do something about it.
I went to seminary for four years.
I heard a lot of really wonderful lectures, read some terrific works of theology,
and took part in lots and lots of insightful conversations about the Bible….
but I would have to say, the one event during seminary which impacted my life as a Christian the most,
was that trip to Birmingham and seeing the courage of those young people marching for justice.
Young men and women will dream dreams,
they will have visions, they will prophesy.
Dare we open our ears to the ideas, dreams and visions the Spirit has given them?
Dare we pray that they speak out?
Because if they do,
they may speak a word we are not yet ready to hear.
They may speak of problems they have with the church.
They may speak of problems they have with our government or with capitalism.
They may speak of gay rights and justice for the poor.
They may speak of any number of things.
We could ignore their ideas and visions and put them down.
We could say that it is merely the influence of some frat party…
…or we could consider that they may be filled with the new wine of the Spirit.
Joel says, “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.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.”
Holy Spirit – open our ears to hear.