Now His Spirit had been around before. The Old Testament mentions many people being filled with the Spirit: David, Samson, Moses, etc. On Pentecost (a festival marking the day when God gave the Law to Israel on Mt. Sinai 50 days after the Exodus; it also is a Festival of First Fruits) the disciples of Jesus gathered together as they had been doing since His crucifixion.
As they were together, God poured out His Spirit upon them; it came noisily like a rushing wind as tongues of fire settled upon each man and woman present (see Acts 2:1-21 for the story as we heard it tonight). Then they all began to speak in foreign languages, and the people passing by were surprised to hear this as many foreigners were in town and didn't expect to hear familiar tongues. So Peter explains to them that this was all a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy:
“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth...And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls." (Joel 2:28-32)The beauty of the day was that it was a communal event. God didn't pour out His Spirit on Peter and then John and then Mary and then James and then Salome...He poured it out on everyone who was gathered at once.
And it wasn't just the Jews who were a part of this. The people who heard their own language being spoken came from every continent in the known world at the time: Asia, Africa, Europe. They were Jews and Gentiles. Men and women. Anyone who called on the name of the Lord was saved.
That's a message we need to remember today. The church isn't just for those who are already within its walls. The church (by which I mean the people of God) gather together in worship of God so that everyone--Americans, Iraqis, North Koreans, addicts, ex-felons, the unchurched, homosexuals, hipsters, IRS agents, gang members--may see wonders, may see the works of God as done by His servants, and know Him as Lord and Savior.
The Holy Spirit came with power (the text said it sounded like a violent wind), but also with grace. That power is ours. Not only to do good works, but also to be able to stand strong as we do bold things--things that might not be popular, but that are right. The things Jesus did got Him killed. He asked us to follow Him. But we follow not to die, but to live fully so that others might experience that same life.
Tonight at church we wore red to celebrate Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out on Jesus' followers and the church was born. May we walk boldly, filled with the power and grace of the Spirit, so that all the world might believe.