The story of the Day of Pentecost is a spectacular one. It is ready made for Hollywood special effects masters to do their work. If Mel Gibson ever got his hands on it, we’d see the face-melting fire of Indiana Jones mixed with the cow lifting wind of Twister all culminating in Peter offering a wildly out of context antisemitic rant. I’m on vacation this week, so I hope to have a chance to rescue the actual content of the Pentecost story from the overly dramatic 21st century image I’ve just given you, but in the meantime, as you ponder cows flying on Pentecost, I want to think for a moment about what happened before the coming of the Holy Spirit.
On Thursday of last week, the Church celebrated the Feast of the Ascension. It is the day, 40 days after the Resurrection, when Jesus returns to his Father. As the story goes in Acts, just before his departure, Jesus reiterates to his disciples that they should wait for the Spirit. This makes sense, given both their impulsiveness and their lack of faith. One can easily imagine that within minutes of Jesus’ ascension, 6 of the disciples would head home, ready to return to normal life, while the remaining 5 set out to preach the Gospel without any help from the Spirit. Instead, Jesus says, “wait.”
How often does the Church take that advice? How often do we forget that it is actually a pattern in the course of salvation history. Remember how the Hebrews, having fled Egypt on the Day of the Passover, get to the banks of the Red Sea and God tells them to wait there. He commands them to set up camp while the Egyptians pursue them. The Hebrews, like many of us, have no desire to wait. They want to get out of town as quickly as possible, but God demands that they hold fast.
Waiting is often a test to our faith. It is in those moments when we are doing nothing that we have to come to grips with whether or not we actually trust God to do what God has promised. The Hebrew’s panicked, offering one of the best lines in Scripture, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” The Disciples, this time at least, were obedient to the call to wait. They elected Matthias to round out the 12, they prayed, they went to the Temple, and they waited. Faithfully, they waited.
It is easy to just keep busy: to go about the business of ministry and never slow down long enough to listen for God, but sometimes, the will of God is for us to stop, set up camp, and abide for a while. In waiting, we give the Spirit a chance to meet us. In waiting, we slow down enough to hear the call of God. In waiting, we are blessed.