… there’s one theme in our text from Acts that tends to get overlooked, and it’s one of the most important gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially, perhaps, for this congregation gathered here today – but for many others like us too. That theme is prophecy.
As Peter addresses the assembled throng, he explains the event with reference to the prophet Joel and the long-awaited gift of the Spirit. What is happening, he tells them, is just as that prophet foretold: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
So what do we mean by prophecy? What is this thing we’re all of us called to do? Prophecy has little to do with predicting the future. It has everything to do with seeing possibilities, of having visions and dreaming dreams. … Prophecy breaks into the present moment of our lives and shows us what God is prompting us to do; it shows us where God is present and wants us to be active and creative, assisting in the process of transformation which has begun for us and in us through Jesus. It points towards the future in the sense that it shows us what’s possible when we’re empowered by God and we put our reservations aside and allow ourselves to act for God. The prophetic message of Pentecost points to the day when God’s salvation will finally be accomplished, and as we live our lives in this waiting time, the Spirit of prophecy enables us to work for the coming of the Kingdom.
And so let’s ask ourselves, in the spirit of prophecy, what can we be as a community of faith? Based on a new awareness of our gifts, do we have a vision of what we could be and what God wants us to become? As one commentator on our Acts passage puts it: “Our churchly Pentecost observances fail if they create nostalgia instead of equipping interpreters or prophets.” Do we have the confidence to let the Spirit show us the way forward in our congregational life? Or do we spend too much time looking back? Do we trust God so completely that we will never hesitate in acting upon our visions to turn them into reality?
Today we are open to the working of the Holy Spirit as we ask God to inspire and renew our common life. Amen.
Do read the whole sermon, which is available at this link.
Our picture by Jen Norton entitled “Pentecost and the Holy Spirit”, comes from her blog.