"Trust in the Holy Spirit:" Sermon for Pentecost Sunday, Year C

"Trust in the Holy Spirit:" Sermon for Pentecost Sunday, Year C

Jun 09, 2019

Passage:Acts 2:1-21

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Season After Pentecost

Category: Holy Spirit, Trust, Evangelism

Keywords: love, trust, redemption, holy spirit, pentecost


The Feast of Pentecost is a principal feast of the Church. We celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. How do we experience the Holy Spirit? What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit? This sermon explores these questions.


In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

This is quite a day in the life of our church. It is a great day of celebration. In addition to it being Sunday, the Lord's Day, on this particular day, we celebrate one of the historic seven principal feasts of the Church--the Feast of Pentecost.

I love the joy and celebration of Pentecost Sunday. This is the Sunday that we really get to think about and talk about and BE about the Holy Spirit. We wear red vestments and red clothes to represent the Holy Spirit.

So, what are we really celebrating? What is Pentecost?

We heard from Acts that the Holy Spirit came to Jesus’ closest followers at a point when they were pretty low. Jesus had been with them. He had taught them. He had loved them. Then Jesus had been killed, brutally, on a cross. But then, much to the shock, surprise, and utter joy of these followers of Jesus, he then rose from the dead to walk among them again. He finally ascended into heaven, leaving them to be only with each other. But before he left, he told them to go into all the world and spread the Good News of God's love for everyone.

This scared bunch of disciples had no real clue as to how they might go about this important task.

But now, on the day of the Shavout--the Jewish Festival of the Weeks--or in Greek, the Pentēkostē, they are all together. And the Holy Spirit of God comes upon them. It comes with the sound like the rush of a violent wind.

The rush of a violent wind.

Genesis 1 tells us: "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters."

The same Spirit that brought forth creation is now present with those first, terrified followers of Jesus gathered in that place.

We also learn that divided tongues, as of fire, rests on each of them. This does not mean, that the Holy Spirit is made of fire, but that something happens in that room, like a fire.

We hear that devout Jews from all over the Roman Empire are living in Jerusalem. Now since these Jews are all part of the Roman Empire, they could easily communicate with each other, using the language of the Empire—which was Greek. But something is different on this day.

They are hearing all about the redemptive and healing power of God in their own languages! Through the Holy Spirit, they hear in their own language, the Good News that God has redeemed them through Jesus.  

With Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes to the Church for the purpose of bringing the Good News to all of the world. ALL OF IT…

So how does this work?

What does it look like?

When I was a seminarian, I had the opportunity to spend several weeks studying at an Episcopal seminary in the Dominican Republic.

I went there to take an intensive beginner’s immersion Spanish class, but also to be part of the life of the seminary.

I loved the people and the atmosphere. But I found the Spanish immersion to be quite difficult. I had not taken Spanish since my early years in college, and that had been twenty years before. It was not coming easily to me.

As part of the program, all the seminarians traveled to a “field parish” for each weekend. I was assigned to a priest and his family in a city in the far interior of the island.

The first weekend was quite memorable.

On Saturday morning, I take a bus and arrive at that city.

The priest meets me at the bus station. He speaks little English. I speak even less Spanish. But he is wonderfully hospitable. His church is in the barrio section of the city. To get to the church, we walk down dirt paths through the barrio. This is one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in this poor country. Tin shacks and scrap-wood lean-tos make up the main shelters. There’s no running water and little sanitation. We walk down dirty path after dirty path to get to the church. People come out of their shacks—their homes—to greet us along the way. Children especially come and follow along as we walk… they laugh and skip and play. I’m overwhelmed by the sheer emotion of it all.

We finally get to the church to see what it looks like. It stands in the middle of the neighborhood. It’s about a twenty-foot by twenty-foot building with a tin roof. And it has no walls. It has no walls! Basically, it has bamboo cross hatch to show where walls should eventually go.

As the priest and I head to his house for the evening, I tell him I’m looking forward to worshiping with the congregation tomorrow.

He tells me, in Spanish, that I will preach tomorrow to these people—In Spanish!

I laugh at his joke!

But he’s not joking!

He really expects me to preach…in Spanish…to these wonderful people…at this humble church.

How could I possibly do this?!?!

I am barely figuring out what’s happening on a minute-by-minute basis. I can’t preach a sermon!

He tells me to trust “en el espíritu santo” (the Holy Spirit).

Back at his house, I grab a Bible and Book of Common Prayer in Spanish. I take my English Bible and Book of Common Prayer (these are the only resources I have). And start writing out a sermon, as best I can, in Spanish. I write out general themes, but I don’t know the right verbs or even general ideas I want to convey.

The next morning—Sunday—back at the church, the whole neighborhood has arrived to worship. It’s beautiful. The priest introduces me and I pull out my notes and begin.

My Spanish is weak. I try to explain an idea in Spanish, but can’t find the right verb. But then, someone calls it out from the congregation. “Si,” I say, and continue on. Before I know it, this becomes an interactive sermon. I start in on an idea, and when I begin to falter, mothers and children, fathers and neighbors all join in to add points and ideas. The Gospel… the Good News… the power of God… come rolling forth. I express an idea partially, in broken Spanish… then they hear it in their own way… someone finishes the idea…elaborates on it… makes it better…  takes off with it … makes it their own.

Trust in the Holy Spirit.

No matter where we are. No matter who we are. No matter how broken we are. God is with us and wants us to know that we are loved.

The Good News of God’s love for everyone can overcome barriers of language…barriers of pain and suffering… even barriers of our own sense of inadequacy.

And with the help of the Holy Spirit… We all can share that message with anyone in the whole world.