Pentecost – John 20:19-23 & Acts 2:1-21
We again have very recognizable texts today: The incredibly familiar Acts 2 passage that simultaneously gives us joy and unnerves all of our lectors who have to read the many places in succession and a portion of 2nd Sunday of Easter, John 20, when Jesus meets the disciples in the upper room.
We’ve just preached on John recently (including these most recent weeks within the Farewell Discourse) and many of us have preached on Acts 2 or have looked at the many commentaries that are written on it each year.
All of this to say, I want to explore a more thematic topic in relation to John and Acts: The Two different descriptions of the Spirit.
The Two Different Spirits
We seem to hear two different Spirits within the different writings of the Gospel of John and Luke’s Acts of the Apostles.
Most Pentecost Sunday’s we explore the Acts version, this wild and untamable wind and fire. This force that drives us. A wind that blows from where she will and sending us wherever she chooses. It’s the Spirit that drives Philip out into the wilderness to meet the Ethiopian Eunuch and then the Spirit who sweeps him away never to be heard from again (in the scriptures).
But for the last 3 weeks (and again this Sunday) John describes a very different Spirit. A breath. An advocate and a comforter. As John describes it is the “spirit of truth” who will “be with you always.” To John the spirit seems to be a voice or a guide. Something within us that nudges, prods, and convicts us throughout our whole life.
When we’re reading Acts, we can’t accidentally read John’s internal Spirit into the interpretation of those readings. Simultaneously, when reading John, we can’t hear the loud rushing wind within the soft breath of Jesus. Each author is doing something different with THE Spirit.
Luke, who is interested in widespread societal change, introduces a Spirit that can deliver that change. A Spirit who can help people of different nationalities understand one another. A Spirit that inspires generosity to share resources and wealth among a whole community. A Spirit that pushes the apostles to new areas to be inspired by new people and new ideas.
John, who is interested in humanity finally seeing God among us and being in relationship with God, introduces the Spirit of God who dwells among us. Calling us to see God within ourselves and within each other. A mutual indwelling where our relationship with God grows as we grow in relation with one another.
Preaching Possibilities (What does this mean?)
As someone who emphasizes sticking to the Gospel author’s narrative, I really dislike when we intermix the purpose of the Spirit. It’s not a violent wind in that upper room. It’s not the indwelling Spirit in the crowd.
However, on this Sunday, we are talking about the Holy Spirit. The gift of God’s Spirit given to us and to the church. While John and Luke have different emphases on how the Spirit works, they are telling us something about this Spirit that is so important to our faith. So, what does the movement of the Holy Spirit look like in our lives?
Is it a voice of truth that guides us in moments of importance? A whisper or breath that move us to decision or action?
Is it a wind that blows and call us to look up and out into the world and see where God needs us?
Is it a violent rush that calls systems of oppression to be torn down?
Is it a conviction of peace that challenges us to cease the increasing violence and discord of our nation and world?
John and Luke are the two sources that give us the most imagery for the movement of the Spirit in the New Testament but they are only some of the descriptions that could describe her.
How do we talk about actually feeling the Holy Spirit in our lives? How do we help our people to know that God is active among us, around us, and dwelling within us?
Leave a Reply