Grace Presbyterian Church

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Sermon: The Spirit Poured Out

Grace Presbyterian Church

June 5, 2022, Pentecost C

Acts 2:1-21

The Spirit Poured Out

Here we are again, at one of those passages of scripture that we may not hear very often, but we do hear it at least once every year. It’s the kind of scripture reading that we recognize almost immediately upon hearing, but that, if we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t really know all that well.

We know the basic beats of the story:

  • All of Jesus’s followers, gathered in a room, waiting for…who knows?
  • The sound of a great wind, “divided tongues as of fire“, suddenly speaking languages they’d never learned or known before;
  • The great crowd, in Jerusalem but from everywhere (a detailed list follows, representing the entire known world) in a way reminiscent of that great multitude from every tribe and nation and language we heard in Revelation a few weeks ago; that crowd hearing all the commotion and wondering what was going on up there;
  • Some terminally clever oaf in the crowd cracking wise about their being drunk;
  • Peter responding that it’s only nine o’clock in the morning, and that nobody’s drunk, but here’s what’s happening; and then quoting some spooky stuff from the prophet Joel, launching into a sermon from there (that we only get part of in today’s reading).

Sometimes those familiar phrases, though, can get a little bit dull from repetition, so familiar that we don’t really hear them. We might just slip into the thought, “oh, yeah, the Pentecost story” and go on autopilot, not really hearing.

For example: what does it suggest when Peter, following Joel 2:28-32 pretty directly, quotes God as saying “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh“? Does that strike up any particular image in your mind? Or has it become so familiar that it doesn’t really strike up anything? 

Sometimes when I find myself in this rut I turn to the Cotton Patch Gospel, the work of biblical scholar Clarence Jordan, who not only translated much of the New Testament but created a version set in the Georgia of his day, namely the late 1950s. Jerusalem became Atlanta, the baby Jesus was born in Gainesville (Georgia, not here!), and so forth. Being born and raised in Georgia, this naturally got my attention. Jordan’s colorful and evocative language can be at times illuminating. It’s not a substitute for a more straightforward translation, but it can be an interesting supplement at times.

And for this passage, Clarence Jordan offers “I will share my spirit with all mankind.” OK, there’s the dated language “mankind,” as if women weren’t included, but the main verb is “share.” It’s an effective enough verb, to be sure, and it’s definitely accurate enough in this context, but for those who respond to imagery and vividness of language, it perhaps doesn’t offer as much help. 

Another, much more recent reading of the scriptures in a different cultural context is First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament, published only last year. This work, produced by a council of Native religious leaders and teachers and scholars, sought to perform a task not unlike Jordan’s Cotton Patch Gospel, but not exactly the same; the setting is not changed, but the names of places and persons are given in a Native idiom and the style of the account is rendered as much as possible in the style of a storyteller in the oral tradition of the many nations and tribes of North America. 

In this reading, after the “sound of a great windstorm” and “flames of fire” have come and the crowd is hearing in their many languages, Peter’s reading of Joel is rendered as “‘In the last days,’ says Creator, ‘I will rain down my Spirit upon all human beings…’.”

Now there’s something. 

The thing about something being poured out is that if you’re not directly under whatever is being poured from, you might well miss it. Rain, on the other hand, is not so easy to escape. If you’re outside when it starts to rain, you get wet. There’s no sidestepping the rain or jump out of the way of it. You get wet. 

Maybe this helps drive home the fact of the Spirit being poured out on everyone. No one is left out. Everyone gets wet. 

This doesn’t go down well for a lot of people. It’s been true in every age and it’s most definitely true now; too much of the church wants this pouring out of the Spirit to be for just us, or maybe more specifically not them. We’re the “special” ones, they insist; we’re God’s chosen, God’s favorites. Not those people who don’t look like us, who don’t sound like us, who don’t flatter us or cozy up to us or make us feel important. Not them. The Spirit doesn’t pour down on them. That’s how an awful lot of people want it to be.

But when we think of the Spirit raining down? As the old verse from Matthew says, the rain falls on the just and the unjust. It doesn’t miss anybody. There’s no getting left out, there’s no Great Replacement anything, there’s no “for me but not for thee,” none of that. The Spirit rains down on everyone, whether we like it or not. Everybody gets wet.

Does everybody respond to the Spirit the same way? No, they don’t. Think again about the rain; your first impulse is to seek shelter, yes? Or perhaps pull out an umbrella? For some people, the Spirit is a disruption, maybe even a threat. You never know what’s going to happen when the Holy Spirit gets loose. Life might get uncomfortable. We might be led places we’re not comfortable going. Best get out of the rain before you get wet. 

But no, this is one rainstorm from which we don’t need to take shelter. The Holy Spirit, raining down on all humanity? In the dried-up wilderness that is increasingly the world in which we live, that raining down is nothing less than life itself. The church, big or small, local or global, dare not try to shelter against this rain, not if we want to live up to the label “Christian,” or (even better) terms like “Christlike,” or “follower of Christ.” 

One more thing: the Holy Spirit didn’t go away after Pentecost. It keeps raining all through the book of Acts. Even more, that same Spirit is still raining down on all human beings. The Holy Spirit – third person of the Trinity, remember; in other words, God – continues to rain down upon humanity, seeking to wash us and renew us and fill us with what we need to do Christlike things in a decidedly non-Christlike world.

This is one rain from which you don’t want to seek shelter or pop up an umbrella.

It’s time to let it rain. 

It’s time to get wet.

For the raining down of the Holy Spirit, Thanks be to God. Amen.

Hymns (from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal): #289, On Pentecost They Gathered; #—, We trust in God, the loving Holy Spirit; #292, As the Wind Song


Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch Gospel, the Complete Collection. Macon: Smith & Helwys Publishing, 2012.

First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. 

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