My name is Justus, and I was one those gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem when that noise like a strong driving wind filled the entire house.
Ah, Pentecost – people still ask me about it every once in a while. I remember it as though it were yesterday - though it has been 20 years or so since then.
History was being made: the end of the old era, the beginning of a new - and I was there.
I was 19 or so - down from Galilee to Jerusalem for Passover. A mere kid.
It was the year they killed Jesus, a fellow Galilean, who I had met a time or two and saw him do some incredible things --
And who claimed to be the Son of God.
After that fateful Friday on which he was killed - I just stayed in Jerusalem - hanging around with some of his followers – hiding actually - for we thought we could all be the next ones the Roman authorities turned on.
And then three days later - word came that Jesus had risen from the dead!
And it was true: Jesus began appearing to his apostles and others for weeks on end.
Then, one day, he took us to the Mount of Olives where he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from our sight.
Jesus told us we were not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait, for in “a few days, we were to be Baptized with the Holy Spirit,” whatever that meant.
And so we waited - about 120 of us - meeting morning and evening in that upper room — talking, reading the Jewish scriptures, praying – and waiting.
9 days had passed since Jesus’ departure. And then one morning when we had gathered together for early prayer – the building where we were meeting was hit by a whirlwind – you could hear the wind howling – but could not feel it blowing in the room.
And then came the flames – dancing flames appeared in the room – hovering over each one of us.
“God Almighty,” a person shouted. And Peter began praying loudly and others joined in. It was eerie to say the least –
wind blowing that you could not feel – and flames that did not burn – like the glory of God on the mountain when God appeared to Moses.
All over the room flames were flickering - flaring over people.
And as those flames flickered over each of us - it seemed like the brother or sister would explode! Joy would flood their faces – tears coursed down their checks - the praise of God filled their lips.
People were laughing and weeping – kneeling and standing – dancing and singing. We were all happy and giddy – and bursting with joy.
The sounds – they were amazing, too. Moments before the room had been filled with the sound of a windstorm. Now the room was full of murmurs of voices – some loud, some soft, but all intense.
But it was NOT Greek or Aramaic I heard – languages familiar to me. No it seemed like all kinds of languages were being spoken – powerfully, joyfully, but all unfamiliar to me.
We were pouring out into the streets by then, attracting the attention of others. Since it was a major feast day for the Jews – there were thousands of pilgrims in the city from all over the place.
I did not know what I was saying – but it felt good to lend my voice to God and just speak out to express the fullness of joy I was feeling.
As I was speaking – people began to gather round and listen. A couple of families came by – and then ran off to get others and soon a hundred people or so were gathered around me.
Finally, I seemed to run out of words and just stood there with joy on my face.
Someone called to me in a language I did not know – saying in Greek once they knew I wasn’t understanding them: Don’t stop!
Don’t stop what - I asked
Don’t stop saying all the wonderful things you are saying about God’s greatness in Cappadocian.
Cappidocian? Yes - aren’t you from there like the rest of us. I had know idea how I came about speaking fluent Cappidocian. . .
Some in the street began to accuse us of being drunk. But Peter said: it’s only nine in the morning - how can we be drunk? What you are witnessing is the fulfillment of a prophecy – that your sons and your daughters will speak of the goodness of God – all because God’s Holy Spirit had come upon them.
Then these others began to ask to be Baptized – so that they all could be blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
We got the crowd moving to the Pool of Bethesda – where Peter spoke to the crowd:
“This is the baptism of repentance in the name of Jesus of Nazareth - whom God raised from the dead and exalted to the highest place. When you are baptized, I want to assure you that you are both forgiven and loved by God. And you will receive the same gift of the Holy Spirit you have seen upon us this day.”
Hundreds of people came into the pool and were Baptized that day – and they began to praise and worship God. And in that place - it seemed like the languages of all nations were turned toward God on high who had brought salvation and the joy of the Holy Spirit upon ordinary people – from Jerusalem to Cappadocia and everywhere in between.
Pentecost. Ah, Pentecost. That was the day that God began to pour out the Holy Spirit – and it has never stopped since. Over the years I’ve seen the Spirit come in many ways – sometimes like that day – sometimes quietly – sometimes in jubilation. But it is the presence of the Spirit, the Spirit of God, that matters – not our emotions or circumstances.
Pentecost? Yes, I was there, and have never been the same since. Because the Holy Spirit moves and breathes within me. Oh, I know – many of you have already received the gift of the Spirit at your Confirmation. . . but have you used the gift???
If not – why not? Get ready – because I hear that noise of a strong driving wind when you begin to sing: Spirit of God I am yours. . . come fill my heart and make me whole.
Moments in time...