Don’t Answer the Door!

Heritage Presbyterian Church

Day of Pentecost
May 28, 2023

Scripture readings:  John 14:15-27 and Acts 2:1-21

We’ve all seen various types of police shows and movies over the years.  Each time a new one comes along, the producers and writers try to incorporate a new angle, a new approach, a new idea, something new!  Otherwise, why repeatedly invent and broadcast police shows and movies at all?

One thing that ALL of them have in common – and have since the first one was invented – is the confrontation at the door.  In this type of scene, the police show up at someone’s door, usually a suspect, bad guy, or snitch.  Whoever it is, the police show up ready with guns drawn.  In recent years, a new twist has been added: the battering ram.  In this, the police are still ready with guns drawn, badges are easily visible, jackets are worn with the words FBI or CPD or whatever in bright yellow colors.  Everything is the same as before, except now there is a burly officer holding something that looks like a small cannon.  When the signal is given, the battering ram is swung just once at the door right next to the lock, and the door swings open.  The assembled police swarm in right behind the door, and the suspects inside are quickly subdued and handcuffed.  Of course, they never really had a chance to decide if they were going peacefully and willingly.  They ARE going, but little choice was available.

In many ways, as I studied the Scriptures and the commentaries this past week, police officers ramming down a door in pursuit of a suspect reminds me of those Eleven Apostles who were behind the door of their upper room on the Day of Pentecost.  Even if they had a choice in the matter, they were coming out.  Even if the door was locked and barred for fear of the Jews (which happened before but was NOT described in the passage from the Book of Acts), that door was coming open.  Even if they thought they were ready for the Advocate that Jesus promised them, I doubt they expected what happened that great and joyful day.

No matter what…that door was busted down and those Apostles came out!

From that day forward, those Eleven Apostles were never the same.

From that day forward, the early Christian church was never the same.

From that day forward, as if we couldn’t tell previously, the Holy Spirit was hard at work in the lives of believers of all lands and languages.

Once that door was answered, there was no going back.


If we are going to embrace the coming of the Holy Spirit, and I think we all say that we do, we had better be fully prepared for what might happen.  I don’t necessarily mean that we will begin speaking in the languages of the “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs”; Americans, Yankees, Texans, and even Californians!

I mean we had better understand the ways that the Holy Spirit will become active in the lives of believers.

There are four activities of the Spirit: 

[from “The Living Pulpit,” January-March, 1996, Volume 5, #1]

First is Revolution.  In this, the Spirit stirs up chaos and change so that new things can come into being.  There are far too many examples of this in human history to list them all, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see it in our lives.  The pitiful soul who rejects all faith because of the harsh version he was subjected to as a child; now that soul somehow discovers the tender love God has for all his children.  Usually, this takes a type of a Revolution in the life of that pitiful person before this happens. 

We might say, “If only he had believed earlier!” 

But that was not how the Spirit chose to work in that person.

Think of all the trouble you have seen the Christian church go through and endure throughout the centuries, and you might have a firm grasp of how Revolution can be one of the activities of the Holy Spirit.

And yet, throughout those same centuries, many have resisted opening the door to the Holy Spirit because they are afraid of the change that will most certainly follow.

Second, the Sacraments.  Consider what we believe about Communion:

  • The bread represents the body of Christ.  We say it, we’re supposed to believe it too. 
  • The juice or the wine represents the blood of Christ.  This reminds us of the horror of Christ’s suffering and death.

How could these two elements of Communion possibly be used by the Holy Spirit?  I doubt the Spirit needs to remind us of how Jesus died on Good Friday; we have a pretty good understanding of that.  I also doubt the Spirit is literally there in the bread we eat and the cup we drink; we know those are symbols, not the real body and blood of Christ.  But think about when experience the community that comes together during Communion; I think that may be when the Spirit can do its work.  We remember the love, the closeness of each other, the sacrifice of our Saviour, and – of course – the example that he set and asked us to follow.  These amazing times need to be done properly, reverently, and inclusively.

We also have the Sacrament of Baptism.  Obviously, we remember that the dove descended upon Jesus when he was baptized.  We understand that to mean that the Holy Spirit was with Jesus.  So, when we baptize one another, as Jesus commanded us to do, we also recall the Holy Spirit’s descent upon our lives.  As John the Baptist told the people, the water reminds us that the One To Come will wash away our sins for all time.

We should be mindful of this whether we are baptizing an infant, a small child, a teenager, or an adult.  And we should not give a care or a concern as to the method of baptism: dipping, sprinkling, pouring, or wading into a body of water and being submerged below the surface.  ALL versions work and ALL versions remind of that the Holy Spirit has entered into that baptized life.

Regular practice and celebration of Baptism and Communion remind us that we regularly offer that open door to the people in those Sacraments.

Third is the Flesh.  Recall that in our reading from the Gospel of John we heard Jesus promised to send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit to those Apostles; this physically happened in the Flesh on Pentecost morning when those Apostles came screaming into the streets filled with pilgrims from all over the Roman Empire.

But it happened another time too.  Recall also in John’s Gospel when Jesus first appeared to the Apostles.  He appeared even though their door was locked and barred.  He said, “Peace be with you!” two times, perhaps to get them to calm down.  Then he showed them his hands and his feet, so they could see the scars from the crucifixion;  Then…Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  

That was also something he did to their Flesh, to their bodies that changed them forever.  in other words, they experienced the Flesh of their Master for themselves.

So, when the Flesh of human beings encountered the living Holy Spirit, those human beings are changed forever.  

No shutting that door again…

Finally, we have Creation.  When God created the heavens and the earth as described in Genesis 1, the passage tells us that the “Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the deep.”  Recall that every language has words that contain more than one meaning; Hebrew is no different.  The Hebrew word “ru-ah” means “spirit” or “wind” or “breath.” So, from the very beginning, the Holy Spirit was completely involved in Creation.  

But even today, the Holy Spirit is the source of all creative activity in the church of Jesus Christ.  You didn’t really think you came up with all those great ideas yourself, did you?  You didn’t think that the way you feel when the music swells, the choir sings that perfect stanza that brings goosebumps to your arms, when the words from Scripture or the prayer or even the sermon affect you the rest of the day…you didn’t really believe all that was just human invention and imagination alone, did you?

In the Creation of all the parts of our worship service, the Holy Spirit is the source of what we do, even if it doesn’t affect everyone the same way.  When we open that door to the possibilities, the Holy Spirit has fertile ground in which to work.

And that doesn’t even include our mission work, the way we care and pray for one another, the way we teach in our church school classes and even on-line, the way we spend the funds you so generously donate to us, the way we laugh together.  

You don’t think that all just happens…do you?

I am quite convinced that the Holy Spirit is alive, is strong, and is active in the life of this church.  We don’t have to speak in tongues or be able to tell the future or know how to interpret prophecy or signs.  As Paul reminds us, there are many, many gifts of the Spirit.  They may even include waiting on the Spirit in prayer BEFORE acting.

We just have to open the door at the right time…

if we dare!