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  • Writer's pictureKendall Ellis

Wind & Wildfire

This is a sermon preview for Pentecost Sunday, May 19, 2024. Visit our "Services and Sermons" archives to hear the full sermon.

“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” -Acts 2:1-21 (NIV)

On the cusp of summer break, I’ve noticed that wildfire prevention campaigns have returned. I saw one billboard that depicted a person looking into a puddle, their reflection looking like Smokey Bear, with the caption, “Smokey Bear is within us all.” The hope, of course, is that everyone will remember to practice appropriate fire safety this camping season.

The ad reminded me of a previous time I went “glamping.” There was a wind advisory in the area, and because of that, a burn ban. Why can’t you burn things when there’s wind? Because the wind will carry the embers away, leading to a bunch of mini, uncontrolled fires everywhere! Furthermore, what does oxygen do to fire? It gives the fire fuel! 

Smokey would be proud: we didn’t burn anything during our trip (even though I really wanted smores)! But if Smokey Bear was in Jerusalem during Pentecost, he would be shaken: violent wind and fire come together in a risky combination! 

But the risk isn’t what we’d expect. 

Sometimes the familiarity of famous passages like Acts 2 can cause us to miss how truly spectacular God’s faithfulness is! The resurrected Jesus Christ appeared to his disciples for forty days, and then he ascended into heaven with a promise: stay in Jerusalem until they receive a gift from the Father. Finally, after ten days of curious waiting, a dramatic display of power unfolds…

CUE THE WIND! When my terrified dog tries to jump into bed with us during storms, I always tell him we are safe inside. But this wind is unnatural and cannot be stopped by walls made by human hands. This is a violent wind from heaven, filling the house where the disciples gathered with the presence of God.

CUE THE FIRE! The gift the Father sent was not just a display of his presence in that one house that one time. If the story ended there, it would still be a noteworthy story of God breathing a renewing breath of life into his people when they needed it. But the wind that carried the embers deposited them on everyone in the room, and started a fire that couldn’t be contained. A fire that burst out of their mouths as they began to “call upon the name of the Lord” in every language for all to hear!

As it turns out, Smokey Bear taught us right: wind carries the embers and starts an uncontrollable fire. The fire that burned within each person did not stop burning in Jerusalem. The apostles spread the fire: from Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. 

Some thought they were crazy. Others thought they were alcoholics. But others, by God’s grace, had ears to hear Peter’s testimony about what was really happening: God had finally fulfilled the promise of reconciliation he first gave to Joel (2:21-32). All of creation–from the soil, to the animals, to each beating heart–could rejoice for God had restored that which the locust had devoured. God had brought prosperity to them according to his own righteous hand. The day of the Lord’s coming has begun to break into the world with the arrival and victory of Jesus Christ, and all those who call on the name of the Lord are invited to the joyous celebration.

In the Old Testament, we see that God gave the Spirit to specific people to empower them to do a specific task. When Joel first prophecies that the Spirit will be poured out on all people, he intentionally uses the image of a liquid that is lavishly and uncontrollably dumped. It reminds us of the anointing oil that would be poured over the heads of a person–such as a priest or king–who was chosen by God for a holy purpose. Joel doesn’t specify the purpose for the Spirit in his prophecy; he is only concerned with emphasizing that it is a gift from God that serves as a sign of Judah’s salvation and God’s eternal covenant promise to live among them. The people prophecy and dream dreams because they have been so reconciled that they have direct communication with God. 

Joel’s prophecy almost sounds too good to be true. What it must feel like to have God’s Spirit poured out in such a way that you’re talking and hearing directly from God. It sounds like the Garden of Eden! It sounds like heaven!

2,000+ years later, and this wildfire of the Holy Spirit is still burning strong! Christians celebrate Pentecost because through Jesus Christ, we have been reconciled with God and we are connected directly to God. We may still be waiting for the “Day of the Lord” when Jesus returns once and for all. But even as we wait, we have the privilege of living in the constant presence of Immanuel–God with us. 

Reflection Questions

  1. Have you ever read Joel 2:21-32? Why do you think Peter chose to quote this Old Testament scripture when he witnessed to the crowds at Pentecost?

  2. When have you experienced the Holy Spirit present in your life recently?

  3. How does being filled with the Holy Spirit empower you to share your testimony of God’s faithfulness to others and keep this wildfire going?


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