Since the early 1800’s, the phrase “Fired Up” has referred to someone who is drunk, since 1850, it applied to being angry, and in the 1970s it came to reflect someone full of enthusiasm, energy, and resolve.
Those who play sports know that the locker room pep talks and conversations on the sidelines are often designed to get the team “Fired Up” to go out on the field or court, ready to do what they are trained to do, to apply the skills and knowledge of the game acquired during practices, and to push forward toward a goal of winning.
As the closest followers of Jesus are gathered, waiting as instructed, they really have no idea about what will happen. The gospel of John tells us that before he ascended, Jesus told them about the Spirit that will come to them:
The Holy Spirit is an Advocate one who takes your side
Truth-teller, whose words you can always count on
Testifier, who speaks up for you
Prover/Judge, who can see what is right and make it plainly known
Guide who knows the way and is willing to show it to you
Speaker of the words of God
Glorifier of Christ.
But the wind, flames, and speaking so people from all nations can hear in their own languages, probably not what they were expecting. The “fire” that will “fire them up” so they are compelled to testify of what they know of their risen Lord, is outside of their experience until that moment that the Spirit arrives. In that arrival, all the skill development, illustrations, examples, practice those closest followers had received walking with Jesus, were called into action by a pep talk more focused and powerful than any coach could ever imagine.
This moment of wind and flames is unique to the birth of the church. We don’t hear of it happening again as more and more come to believe into Christ. We do hear of those coming to recognize Jesus as the Son of God, being filled with the Spirit, of having the power to understand what His life, death, and resurrection means in their lives, of feeling the Spirit’s presence in real, physical identifiable ways, of being able to share their faith with others in ways and places they didn’t believe possible.
As we have talked about the Power of the Holy Spirit over the last couple of weeks I suggested that if we fully believed, or understood, the potential of that power available to us we would come to church with protective gear in place. As the fire descended on the followers’ heads that day, they may have been ducking for cover, but any apprehension quickly fades as they are equipped and overwhelmed with enthusiasm to share their story of faith with all nations.
It is an event which we might file away as an interesting story about the start of Christ’s church. It may feel like a Disney animated movie which we can discuss and then dismiss as fairy tale with a moral we can apply.
Removed by centuries from those flames, we may find it difficult to get “fired up” about following Jesus. If we are passionate about our faith, if we have felt the presence of the Spirit at points in our lives, even if we feel it daily, we may struggle with getting “fired up” to share it with others. We may find it unimaginable that the Holy Spirit fills us and allows us to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit enables us.
When our daughter was doing cancer research, she would talk to us about her day, often enthusiastically sharing some scientific process which made little or no sense to us. One afternoon we were at an event with her mentor, I was lamenting that I often didn’t understand what she was telling us. He told me to tell her that if she couldn’t explain it in language that made sense to me, she didn’t understand it herself. She now explains it to high school students, and me, in languages we can understand, no matter how many different ways she needs to frame the message.
Today, just as on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit comes to us, bringing us the power to speak in the language of who needs to hear our unique message of Jesus at work in our lives, coming to “fire us up” so we meet those opportunities with enthusiasm.
It may be the language of a hug when someone is lonely, the language of yard work for someone overwhelmed with the tasks at hand, the language of a hot meal and a warm smile to someone who is hungry, the language of a firm handshake with someone who others ignore, the language of not arguing over the small stuff, of offering hospitality to those who we don’t know, the language of technology to those surrounded by electronics, the language of encouragement to those who receive none.
On the day of the Pentecost recorded in Acts, it was about the languages those in Jerusalem used to communicate. To hear the message in their native tongue “fired them up” and filled them with enthusiasm and understanding of what they heard, so they could share it with others.
On this day of Pentecost, it can be about speaking in the native languages of those who we meet around town, but I believe it is more about feeling the Spirit moving us to meet people where they are, to find areas where we can find a common language in our stories, to listen to the Spirit moving within us to share how faith moves us, how faith makes a difference in us, reflects God’s love for us.
Many of us feel more comfortable speaking in our own language. We were checking out of Walmart one night this week and the cashier expressed relief that we spoke English. We asked if she knew enough Spanish to help her understand the customers who speak that language. She replied that she doesn’t want to learn Spanish because she doesn’t want to know what Spanish speaking customers are saying about her. I asked why she thinks they are saying “things” about her, and she didn’t have a reason, she is just sure they are.
When we don’t respond to the Spirit moving us to find a language through which we can get to know each others’ stories, we fail to experience the full power of Pentecost, we fail to follow Christ’s call for us to testify.
On Saturday morning, people throughout the world watched as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchanged their vows. US Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry, who was asked to bring the message, had an opportunity much like Peter had on the day of Pentecost. He had an audience that extended far beyond those gathered together in the chapel.
Curry chose the common language of Love, which was the reason he noted that everyone showed up Saturday morning. He brought a message of Love that is unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive. He noted that when love, as Jesus called us to love, is the way, no child goes to bed hungry in this world ever again, justice rolls down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever flowing brook, poverty becomes history, and we all lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more. “When love is the way there’s plenty good room, plenty good room for all of God’s children,” he preached.
He noted that scientist theologian, “de Chardin said that fire was one of the greatest discoveries in all of human history and that if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.”
I think that fire of love is among us. The Holy Spirit so visible on the day of Pentecost, still bringing us the power to share love in languages others can understand. Blowing through our souls, calling us to be “Fired Up” to testify to the love of God that we experience in a relationship with Christ, in the language of those who need to hear.
We need to harness that energy of fire so the world hears of Christ’s love in their own language. amen
 The Lectionary Lab Day of Pentecost for Year B (May 24, 2015)