When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 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. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Acts 2:1-4

38307_Divine_Fire (1)Have you ever had the need for something supernatural? A physician tells you that she is concerned with the x-rays. You need peace that passes all understanding. The phone rings in the middle of the night and desperate voice comes through the line. You need words of wisdom. You become the target of a personal attack. You need a love that restrains revenge. You are faced with a life-changing decision. You need to know God’s will.

When the boat is rocking, we need a God that can calm the storms. When the enemy is at our back, we need a God that can part the waters. When the pain is too much, we need a God that can heal the hurt. When our strength is gone, we need a God that can conquer enemy armies. When we feel inadequate, we need a God that is more than adequate.

For three years, some of Jesus’ closest friends walked by his side. They got a front row seat on the blind given sight, the lame made to walk, and the dead raised. For three years, they traveled with Jesus along the dusty streets of Galilee.

And now, they witness as his bruised and beaten body hangs from a cross. They watch as a spear is thrust into his side. They see his lifeless body wrapped in burial clothes and placed in a tomb.

But before all this, he gathered them in an upper room. He tells them not to fear his leaving because he says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever” (John 14:16). He says this is all part of the plan. “If I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you,” Jesus tells his disciples (John 16:7).

Three days after his death, Jesus is resurrected. It is after his resurrection that Jesus says, “I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:40). So, they wait. Under a cloud of suspicion from the religious leaders, they wait. As Roman guards roam the streets trying to put an end to the Jesus movement, they wait. They wait in fear and trembling. They wait, not sure what exactly they are waiting for, but they wait.

Then it happens. A mighty rush of wind sweeps through the house bringing with it the gift of new languages. They didn’t hear Yanny or Laurel. They heard the sound of a mighty rushing wind. The witnesses describe it as divine fire resting on each person. The Holy Spirit shows up and the world is turned upside down. Jesus is proclaimed with boldness through the lips of a man who just days before had cowardly denied him. When the crowd of people heard the message, they were cut to the heart and asked, “What should we do?” (Acts 2:37). This from the same crowd who days before stood as witnesses to Jesus’ violent death.

Peter saw all of what was happening through the lens of the Old Testament prophet Joel who envisioned a time when God declares, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28). For the early church, this was that time.

Two years after we moved to Canton, Georgia we had a big storm come rolling through the neighborhood. The tornado sirens went off and we headed to the basement to our designated spot behind the stairs. In my stupidity I went and opened the side door that leads to outside. I looked up and saw the rotating clouds. I stood in awe of the power. I stood there until my wife brought me back to my senses and I joined the family under the stairs. It is said when a tornado passes it sounds like a freight train coming through. We didn’t know what to expect.

When the divine fire fell it was unexpected. The disciples were in awe of the Spirit’s power. What they discovered is that when the Holy Spirit shows up life gets unexplainable. After Pentecost, they were determined that their life would not be explainable without the Holy Spirit.

When the divine fire fell on the early Jesus followers, they took it to mean that they were loved deeply and they were to love widely. They spoke truth to power. They sided with the vulnerable. They spoke with conviction. Love replaced fear.

Two thousand years later and we are once again in need of that divine fire. We need a divine fire that will consume hate, a divine fire that will bring bigotry to ashes, and a divine fire that will stir up the holy imaginations of sons and daughters, young and old, to dream new dreams and see visions of a better future.

If truth be told, we need more divine fire and less gun fire. Our hearts were broken once again this past week when a student opened fire on his classmates killing nine students and one teacher at Santa Fe High School in Texas.

We need the divine fire to stir our imaginations to consider that there is another way. Jesus carried a cross, not a gun. He is the Prince of Peace in a world of violence. When he told Peter to put away his sword, he told all his followers that violence would not be the way of His kingdom. We need the divine fire of God’s Spirit to show us another way. We need the courage to protect our children.

O come Holy Spirit, set your people on fire!

We need a divine fire that turns political cowards into courageous leaders. We need a divine fire that sets preachers on fire and sends the world to watch them burn. We need a divine fire that unsettles the settlers and disrupts the comfortable. We need a divine fire that shakes the complacent and humbles the arrogant. We need a divine fire that sends us forth from the church to show the world what divine love is all about.

O come Holy Spirit, set your people on fire!

We need the divine fire to re-ignite hope. We need the divine fire to spark joy. We need the divine fire to burn away the hardness of our hearts and turn us into healers, forgivers, and peacemakers.

O come Holy Spirit, set your people on fire!

We need the divine fire that gets us off church pews, sets our feet in motion, and sends us out into the world with a divine boldness proclaiming the redeeming work of God.

O come Holy Spirit, set your people on fire!

The story of Pentecost takes us to the heart of the church that Jesus envisions. A church that turns the world upside down with His mission of love. As Bishop Michael Curry said in the sermon at the Royal Wedding, “If humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.”

O come Holy Spirit, set your people on fire!

Imagine what would happen if the divine fire gave us a vision for a better future. Imagine a time when our children no longer fear for their lives. Imagine if our lust for violence was transformed into a passion for peace. Imagine if we had the courage to not waver in the struggle for justice, to be relentless in the pursuit of peace, and fearless in speaking to power. Imagine God’s people set ablaze with divine fire!

O come Holy Spirit, set your people on fire!


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