The upper room. This is where they still were that day. We get the end of the story. That is probably all we hear or actually many of our congregations have all the people reading it in different languages and we never really pay attention to the story itself. Except for the fact it may have sounded this way. The day of Pentecost so long ago. But still they were shut in the upper room. And why not?
They knew the penalty for being associated with a traitor of the state of Rome. Death on a cross. They knew first hand what that meant. Fear of the Judeans turning them in, fear of being recognized as Peter was at the trial, fear of being killed has held them in the upper room. And then the promised Spirit shows up, driving them out and onto the street and the church is born.
What a change for them. We forget they are Jews. What they are proclaiming in Christ is the Jewish promised Messiah. There is belief and there is doubt. Most of these men end up facing horrible deaths because of their belief and that doesn't stop them once the Spirit has arrived. Out they are forced out of the walls which made them safe, out into the crowd, out to tell a new story, the story of the Spirit.
It was a new thing. This good news of Jesus. It was a story of love, of the lost being found, of being made whole, of inclusion in God's kingdom no matter who you were. Eventually the Jewish synagogue leaders will kick out the leaders of this new way from talking there. Another wall they inhabit of safety and Paul comes along pushing them further out. Out beyond Jerusalem, out beyond the walls of practicing Jews to those lost out in the empire of Rome.
See the Spirit isn't some safe thing that comes and tells us what a fine job we are doing or that we have God all figured out and can rest on our laurels. The Spirut is always pushing us into new places. It is why the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's message is so hard to receive. Evangelize and strive for racial reconciliation in your communities. Spirit pushing again.
We would rather remain comfortable and safe. One parish in New Jersey put it this way "Once we realized the Presiding Bishop wasn't going to show up to do this for us..." We are being pushed out band this is a real growing place for Episcopalians, for the church in general because it carries so much baggage. The church in New Jersey made it their own. They walked door to door with a gift of walnuts to their neighbors and they listened. They didn't come with an agenda. They didn't arrive with let me tell you. They presented the gift and listened.
Listening is a part of the Spirit too. We do so little of it today. Truly listening to another's story, seeing where we might be the most help. Pushing ourselves out beyond the walls with the good news of hearing. It is something we need to ask ourselves. Something we need to pay attention to. Can we answer the call? Can we push out beyond our fears and take the opportunity to listen to what the Spirit has to say to the church? It's a question we must engage if the church is to go forward. Are you ready?