This Sunday we will hear again the familiar story from the second chapter of The Acts of the Apostles about the Spirit coming upon the twelve disciples and all those others gathered in Jerusalem fifty days after Jesus' Resurrection. It's the story of Pentecost, the day we celebrate as the birthday of the Christian Church.
A phrase that always stands out for me, no matter how many times I've heard the tongue-twisting litany about all those people from "Cappadocia . . . Phrygia . . . Pamphylia . . . etc.," is that simple five-word phrase "all together in one place."
Yes, they're all together in Jerusalem -- all together in one house -- but, more importantly, "all together" in one spirit, a spirit receptive to the Spirit that comes upon them as if with tongues of fire. Suddenly barriers of language and culture are broken. Jesus' promise of the Spirit coming upon the faithful -- a promise grounded in the words of the prophet Joel -- is realized. And the Church is born.
What a wonderful promise not only fulfilled in ancient Jerusalem, but devoutly to be wished for in our own time. That, once again, people gathered "in one place" might feel the power of God's Spirit come upon them, as if tombs of death are opened to the freshness of new life.
I'm wondering if there was something of that spirit some years ago in South Africa when finally the bonds of entrenched apartheid were severed and the stranglehold of racism loosened? Or in Northern Ireland where two sides of our own Christian family were able to breathe the same air again?
And where in our world and in our church today do we long for the Spirit to come powerfully upon us to break down barriers and walls that divide and oppress?
The ancient story from The Acts of the Apostles calls us every year to remember and to hope. To remember the powerful hand of God that has wrought wonders unimaginable -- and to hope for that same Spirit to break upon us as if on tongues of fire that burn the chaff and refine and renew that which will yet glisten with newness.
Perhaps our prayer this Pentecost might be that our own spirits come together in one place, open and receptive for God's own Spirit to fill us with the promise of new possibilities for life full and abundant as promised by the God of Easter.