Good Shepherd Lutheran

Using Those Claws – Acts 2:1-21
Pentecost isn’t some cute story. It’s a dangerous one. The story opens with that small group of believers isolating themselves; huddled together, all in one place. Maybe they were afraid of outsiders. Maybe that’s why they all stayed together. But if they’d known what was coming, they might have been more afraid of staying together than they were of strangers. Because what was about to happen would have freaked out even the bravest among us.
They were in danger, but that danger wasn’t coming from the outside. That danger was about to be delivered right where they were sitting, as they looked to one another for protection. Because as they sat together, all in one place, God was about to crash their party and bring in everyone they were trying to avoid. Those who “didn’t fit”. Foreigners, non-Jews, and proselytes. Outsiders.
Things were pretty crazy with all the wind and voices and languages. When we read those passages, it feels like all the crazy stuff that happened that Pentecost day bears little resemblance to what the church has become in 21st century America.
There was no organ music or committees or vacation bible school. There were no ushers handing the Parthians a bulletin. The Medes didn’t have a bake sale after the service. It’s tough to see any resemblance at all between how this all got started and what we’ve become today. That is, unless we look at the people. In which case there’s pretty much no difference whatsoever.
Like us, they were all there. Flawed, smug, confused, embarrassed and embarrassing. In other words, those complacent people to whom God sends the Holy Spirit to mess everything up. They were the very people God loves enough to send that crazy bird with sharp talons and a predatory beak to come and snatch out their stony hearts and replace them with comfort from God’s own heart. You know. People just like us.
The amazing thing is, God hasn’t changed. Just like at that first Pentecost, God still says ‘yes’ to all our polite ‘no thank-you’s’. God still crashes our party and invites in the very people we were trying to avoid. The people we think don’t fit.
That’s the thing about the Pentecost Spirit of truth: it feels like the truth might crush us. And it does. Just as grapes must be crushed to make new wine. But after the crushing, those grapes come back together to make something totally new. Something they had never expected to be. But something that God can use for good.
The radical, mysterious and dangerous things the Spirit does have always been for the purpose of forming us into the Body of Christ. Sometimes he works with us. Sometimes he does it despite us. But always, in the long run, he does it for us. Because that’s the only way the Spirit can turn us from “us vs. them”, into a “we”. You know. By using those claws.