In preparing for last week’s sermon, I ran across a WorkingPreacher commentary from 2009 written by the late, Richard Jensen, the Carlson Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. One of the things I loved about Jensen’s piece was how he described the ongoing unveiling of the Spirit as various Pentecosts through the book of Acts. There was the Jerusalem Pentecost in Acts 2, which we will celebrate in a few short weeks. There was the Samaritan Pentecost unveiled by Philip in Acts 8. And there was the Gentile Pentecost which we will hear read this coming Sunday from Acts 10. It is a good commentary, and I commend it to you as a framework for preparing for a possible Easter 6B sermon on Acts.
I find it helpful to frame the experience of Peter and the Gentiles as a Pentecost story because of how caught off guard everyone is. Think about it. In Acts 2, the disciples are still huddled together 10 days after the Ascension. After three years walking with Jesus, forty days learning from the resurrected Christ, and ten days after receiving their final commissioning, the Disciples still aren’t quite sure how to be Apostles. They are waiting for a sign from the heavens when, all of a sudden, there is wind and fire and a cacophony of voices as the Spirit arrives in power and might, and Peter finds himself standing before a crowd of thousands, sharing the Good News.
Fast forward to chapter 10. The fledgling Christian community has seen the Spirit at work in all sorts of unexpected ways. Three thousand were baptized that first day. Stephen spoke words that were not his own before the Council; as did Peter and John. The ground shook as they prayed for boldness, and Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for their lack of faith, while Saul was converted on the road to Damascus. Even the Samaritans had received the Holy Spirit! Pentecostal experiences were happening everywhere the Apostles went, and now it was the Gentiles turn.
“While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.” The Holy Spirit does not discriminate. She’s ready and willing to fill the heart of all who put their trust in Jesus Christ. The Gentile Pentecost of Acts 10 can be, and is, replayed over and over again as the Good News is shared and people believe. The floodgates of the Kingdom have been forever opened, thanks be to God, so that we Gentiles can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, know Christ and make him known.