Pentecost is God’s answer to the story of Babel. The Spirit of God turns the community’s memory into a promise. Pentecost is the transformation of their pain into a promise, with power in the present.
And that is because the unique thing the Spirit does, in every time and in every place, is to make Jesus present. The Spirit presents Jesus: the Spirit makes Jesus present, for all peoples, in their places, and in their languages they hear him and see him and know him as the risen and living Lord.
So this bunch of Jewish people, from all over the known world ((in the story in Acts 2)), they hear the word of God in their own languages. They are united in their differences. This Spirit makes Jesus present to them: he whose name means the Israel of God, the salvation of God, for all the people: he is now present with them and to them.
Peter stands up and explains this to them, in a sermon we did not read, but which is very powerful in the way it presents Jesus, and thousands of them responded there and then.
This is what Pentecost is: it is not just a day; it is not just an event, long ago: this is a process, in which the Spirit of God is continually involved. Pentecost is a gift and promise, into which we can live. Pentecost gives them, and it gives us a future, to be lived into.
For thousands of years people have told the story of Babel. It’s a story, which tries to come to terms with the divisions of the human family. Why are we so divided? It’s the same reality we all wrestle with … Why do nations divide, why is there racism, family tension, and all that wracks the life of human kind?
But in response to that, God has done something else. Pentecost is God’s answer to the story of Babel.
In the Pentecost vision, God brings all the dispersed nations of the world together, to hear, not in one language, not by making them all fit into one pattern, not by demanding that they all shape up or ship out: no, they each hear in their own tongue, in their own language.
God gathers their differences into one community of difference and yet unity. This is what Pentecost promises. This is the healing of the memory into a promise and a presence.
God gives us a future: and the Spirit of God does this by giving us Jesus: the Spirit allows us each to see Jesus, in our own way, but as our saviour, the one who meets each of us, and our situations: the Spirit presents Jesus, and presents Jesus to us, for us:
And thus it is that sons and daughters, older ones and younger ones are drawn into a new song, a new and richer life together, in spite of differences, in spite of the old rules which said the young must be quiet and women are not to be part of it: no, all that is broken open, when Pentecost makes Jesus present.
Here is the promise, the hope of a new community. And this, you see, becomes the life of the church. The church is the people, people of all sorts, among whom the Spirit presents Jesus.