“Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.” Now, I can imagine the sound of a rush of a violent wind. I can get my head around understanding the native language of each. I can even understand those who sneered and thought the disciples were drunk at 9 o’clock in the morning.
But this whole business of divided tongues, as of fire, resting on each of them quite literally leaves me scratching my head. And then I watched Bishop Curry preach at the RoyalWedding. At the end of the homily, he referred to something a Jesuit Priest named Telihard de Chardin once said. If we can harness the energy of love, then we will have discovered fire for the second time.
Today, on Pentecost, we celebrate how the power of the Holy Spirit breathes life into Church. We celebrate how the power of the Holy Spirit makes us one despite our many cultures and languages. And we celebrate how the power of the Holy Spirit harnesses the energy of God’s love in the lives of those who have decided to follow Jesus.
What better image is there to capture harnessing the energy of love than divided tongues of fire resting on each of the disciple’s heads? But what does it mean to harness the energy of love in practical terms? I’ll share a few images that I hope will bring this beautiful image down from the clouds.
Imagine you are a golfer. You’ve practiced every day of your life. You’ve read every magazine. The mechanics of your swing are perfect. You are having a great round, and you’ve done everything right until the sixth hole.
You’ve hit the ball where no one has gone before. You see a small opening through the trees. You visualize the shot. You tell your body what it needs to do to make it happen. All your practice and prior experience give you the confidence.
At that moment, you forget everything else - the trees, the prior knowledge, the risks involved – and feel your way through the swing, feel your way through the thing you do best. The ball comes off the club just right and rolls up to a few inches from the hole.
You’ve harnessed the energy of your golf swing into that one shot. First, by remembering what you’ve been taught. And then by forgetting it all and trusting yourself and your body to feel your way to the perfect swing.
Maybe you’re not a golfer. You are a performer. You are a singer. You know you can sing. Your family and friends know you can sing. People from your church and community know you can sing. But what about all those people who don’t?
You’ve been invited before a national audience. You step out on stage to a blinding light. You can’t see any of your family or friends. You can’t remember why you agreed to do this in the first place. But you remember your voice singer saying, “just start singing.”
So, you start singing. You feel your body and spirit hit the right note and you forget about everything else. You feel your way through the song you love to sing, the song you were born to sing. When the song is over, your mind is buzzing with an excitement so loud you can’t even hear the shouts from the crowd. You’ve harnessed the energy of your voice into that one performance.
Maybe you’re not a golfer or a singer. You are a cook. You’ve mastered every recipe from every cookbook you’ve ever owned. You’ve even come up with your own recipes, recipes that others are always calling to ask about.
You’ve been asked to cook for a big church function and you must use the church’s kitchen appliances, et. al. You’ve cooked for a large group of people before. You’ve cooked using kitchen appliances other than your own. But never at the same time.
It’s getting hot in the kitchen. The pots are boiling, the oven is smoking, disaster looms. You take a deep breath and say, “I can do this. I know I can.” You start working your magic. You turn the oven down, crack the door. You move the pot of water off the hot eye.
And you feel your way through the rest of the kitchen. You never even touch a measuring cup or teaspoon or cookbook. You’ve harnessed the energy of your culinary skills into a church dinner that will be talked about until the end of the ages.
If you are still searching to understand what it looks like to harness the energy of love, look at Jesus – the One who was governed and rule by love at every level of his being, the One whose love oozed out of every word and action, the One whose love turned everything around and upside down.
By your presence here today, the Holy Spirit is poised to harness in you the energy of Christ’s redemptive love. And that makes you a part of something that has and will change the world. Using the words of Bishop Curry, that makes you a part of the Jesus Movement. In my words, the Jesus Movement is about living according to a love that brings healing and wholeness to a broken and sinful world.
Even more, it is about recognizing that living according to this love will put you in situations where you will not always be comfortable. The love of Jesus will call you deep into the woods or in front of bright lights or into environments that you are unfamiliar with. The world is more broken and wounded than you would like to think.
But the Spirit has the power to help you remember your training in righteousness and help you forget it all at the same time in order to feel your way through any situation through the power of love, through the power of Jesus’ love. The Holy Spirit is harnessing the energy of the love that is already in you to change the world around you – wherever you find yourself.
One of my favorite prayers in the Great Litany says, I confess my failure to commend that faith that is in me. These divided tongues of fire resting on your heads are outward and visible signs of the love God has already harnessed in your hearts, harnessed in your hearts when you were created – a love that we misused, a love that Jesus redeems on the cross.
And now the Holy Spirit comes to give us confidence to use this love for good, to use this love to bind up the broken hearted, to give hope to the sorrowful. The Holy Spirit comes to inspire us to love like Jesus loves, to love the poor and even enemy like Jesus.
The Holy Spirit comes to encourage us with a love that will make a way out of even the darkest places, encourage us with a love that will gladly make sacrifices not only for the common good but also for the most vulnerable among us – children, widows, orphans.
The Holy Spirit commends the faith that is in us not simply by reminding us of the words of our faith - in the scriptures, of the Creeds, of the prayers in the prayer book -, but also with sighs too deep for words, by reminding us of what it feels like to be loved and to love, by reminding us of what it feels like to forgive and be forgiven, by showing us what the peace that suppresses all understanding really feels like.
The Holy Spirit is humanity’s chance to discover fire for the second time, and when we do, discover fire for the second time, when we do harness the energy of love that is within us, lives will be healed, lives will be saved, communities and nations will be healed and saved, bridges will be built, barriers will be erased, sin and disease will be burned away with the fire of a love that will not stop until, like Bishop Curry said yesterday, this earth is a sanctuary for all.
As we see in today’s lesson from Acts and as we saw at yesterday’s Royal Wedding, when our words and actions are directed by the unstoppable force of God’s love, then others will sneer at us, others will look at us like we are speaking a different language, Elton John might even give us the biggest sad face ever, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can continue to feel in our hearts the burning power of a love that changes the world, the burning power of a love that has already changed the world through Jesus Christ.
On this Pentecost, may the breath and fire and word of God speak to you in such a way where your heart burns with a love that has the power to make every relationship, every word of bad news, every disappointment, to make everything that is broken new with the love Jesus has redeemed the whole world with. Amen.