Over the years our other readings for this day have varied, but we always hear Luke’s story at Acts 2 of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. It must have been terribly exciting, even frightening, scary. “And suddenly there came from heaven ἦχος ὥσπερ φερομένης πνοῆς βιαίας a sound as of a rushing wind violent, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
It isn’t as if this were the first time the wind, spirit, breath of God shows up in Bible stories. In fact, it was there from the very beginning of our history with God, before the word was spoken to bring order out of chaos; and on the day God fashioned an earthling and breathed life into us; and upon Saul and upon the Lord's beloved David. And the post-resurrection appearance on the evening of Easter Day when Jesus came into the midst of his disciples and breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.” Whether the word is ruach or pneuma, the bursting sound of it carries the sense of it.
But this is the first story of the Spirit coming upon an assembly of what will be the church. The mental picture of cloven tongues of flame dancing upon people’s heads gives us the excuse to wear red today. After all our own recent moving and shuffling, I hope I can find my fiery red orange stole that I bought at Redeemer, Houston when Linda, Tass and I went out to Texas in 1985 soon after Nicholas was born. The stole is somewhere around, but I think that parish may have disappeared, a shame because at the time they were the center of pentecostal revival in the Episcopal Church. Redeemer, Houston gave us many wonderfully uplifting music, songs, hymns. We worshiped with them that Sunday morning exactly thirty years ago, our own personal day of Pentecost, and we have felt the joy of their mountaintop ever since, being right in the middle of the charismatic renewal of the late 20th century.
Back to Jerusalem where I’m trying to know that sound of a rushing, violent wind. It must have been like my father’s memory of seeing a tornado out the school window one day in the twenties when they lived in Ocilla, Georgia. He said it stretched up into the sky, and sounded like a freight train.