Pentecost (Ages 6-9): Tongues, as of Fire
(Adults, almost always, I focus exclusively on the Gospel reading; however, for the feast of Pentecost, I think it is important for the children to hear the account of the coming of the Holy Spirit as it is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. For your reference, the Gospel reading for Pentecost this year is John 14.15-16, 23b-26.)
Last week, we heard about Jesus ascending into heaven and promising to send someone to clothe the apostles with the power of God, the power of Life stronger than death, the power of Love that forgives all sins. This Sunday, we celebrate the fulfilment of that promise—the coming of the Holy Spirit. We call this feast Pentecost, and the colour of the feast is red.
For 40 days after the Resurrection, the disciples are so full of joy. They know Jesus is alive, full of the Risen life of God. They know that death does not get the last word! They know Jesus wants to share his Risen life with all people. They know it is their job to spread the Word. He has told them.
After 40 days, the disciples and Mary face a new mystery—Jesus no longer with them to touch and to see, to hear and to hold. He seems to be leaving them, yet he promises to be with them always. They know what a promise means: if he says it, he will do it. And they know he has authority. What he says is done. But how? When? They do not understand. They just wait.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
The disciples and Mary wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit that Jesus has said he will send. They wait in the Upper Room, where they celebrated the Last Supper with Jesus. We wonder if they repeat those words that had never been spoken before. "This is my body. This is my blood." We wonder if Jesus is with them again in the bread and in the wine. We wonder what this feels like.
And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
Can you imagine this? The entire house is filled with the sound. Not a speck is left empty. God—the Holy Spirit—fills the whole.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit
For a moment, God is all in all.
What is the Holy Spirit doing? The disciples and Mary,
began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?...—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
People from every nation under heaven gather. What languages do they hear? We know there are so many languages. We can make a long list.
What are these deeds of power that the disciples and Mary speak about in all these different languages? What do they know?
They know Jesus is alive, full of the Risen life of God.
They know that death does not get the last word!
They know Jesus wants to share his Risen life with all people.
They know it is their job to spread the Word.
Now they can do this! He has promised, and it is done. The Holy Spirit is with them.
If we read further in the Acts of the Apostles, we hear that the disciples begin to baptize the people, and,
that day about three thousand persons were added. (Acts 2: 41)
3000 people?! From 13 people filled with the Holy Spirit to three-thousand-and-thirteen people filled with the Holy Spirit! From a little speck of light, to a huge burst of light—all those people filled with the Risen life of Jesus! The Church is born!
We can think of this light of Jesus' Risen life beginning to spread among the people. Those newly baptized people tell others about Jesus, Risen from the dead. They tell of God's abundance of love and the power of the Holy Spirit. More people are baptized. Throughout the world, throughout time. One day, that light spreads to me and it spreads to you. We are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit. And still, the light continues to spread, until...?
God is all in all.
Remember those tongues, as of fire?
a tongue rested on each of them.
After we hear about a tongue as of fire resting on each of the people in that room, we don't hear about them again. What happened to them?
Perhaps they never left.
Perhaps they are not something we see with our eyes. Perhaps the tongue as of fire is the light of Jesus' Risen life, the light that will never go out, the light that spreads to all. Perhaps there is a tongue as of fire resting in each of our hearts.