“Thanks for offering to come over and help me, Tom!” said Bill.
“No, problem!” was Tom’s reply. It had been about a year since Bill and Jessica had moved in next door to Tom and Janet. Tom and Janet’s three boys were older and were about to leave the family nest, but Jessica was just a few months pregnant with her first child. As ambitious young couples often do, Bill and Jessica began decorating, renovating and landscaping their new home and yard with great enthusiasm shortly after they moved in. Today’s project was to cut down and remove an ugly, old tree to beautify the back yard and allow in more sunlight on those rare days when the sun shone in the Lower Mainland of BC.
Bill had inherited his grandfather’s Husqvarna chain saw and he expected that with the Swedish machine purring like it did for his grandfather, Bill and Tom would soon make this tree into firewood and sawdust. Bill placed the old Husky on the ground, turned on the switch and flipped the choke on just like his grandfather had taught him. Bracing the chainsaw on the ground with his foot and his left hand, Bill pulled on the starting rope once, twice, thrice. The motor fired briefly, and then died. Flipping the choke off, Bill pulled the starting rope again, and again, and again. After losing count of the number of pulls, Bill stopped to catch his breath and to try to figure out what was wrong.
Tom asked, “When was the last time you had it running?”
“Probably a couple of years ago,” Bill replied.
“I wonder if the gas has gone stale,” Tom thought aloud. “Do you know how long it has been since the fuel was mixed up?” Since the chainsaw was a two-cycle engine, you had to mix gasoline with two-cycle engine oil to make the fuel mixture. Over time, the more highly volatile parts of gasoline tend to evaporate and the volatility and combustibility of the remaining fuel degrades to the point where an engine won’t run properly on old gasoline.
“I don’t know how old this fuel is,” Bill replied. “My grandfather gave it to me with the chainsaw years ago.”
“I think that might be the source of your problem. Let’s go get some new fuel and see if that makes a difference.”
“Okay, it’s worth a try,” nodded Bill. “We are never going get this tree down if we can’t get this chain saw working.”
The two men jumped in Tom’s pickup truck and headed down to Canadian Tire. In the store, they picked up a small jerry can and a small bottle of 2 cycle oil. At the gas pumps Bill bought 2 litres of premium gasoline.
Back in Bill’s backyard, they mixed up the correct amount of oil with the new gas, drained all of the old fuel out of the chainsaw into the old container, and then filled the chainsaw with the new and hopefully more potent fuel mixture. The chainsaw roared to life on the third pull and ran just as smoothly and as powerfully as Bill remembered it doing in his grandfather’s hands. It didn’t take long for the two men to cut down the tree, strip off the branches and cut the trunk into logs. Bill set the chainsaw down, wiped his brow and said, “I’ll hire someone to remove the stump. Thanks so much for helping me cut this tree down!”
“No problem,” Tom replied.
“Thanks again for suggesting that we get some new fuel. That sure made a lot of difference,” said Bill.
“You’re welcome!” I’m glad it worked!” answered Tom.
“Say would you two hard-working men like some iced tea?” Jessica called out from the deck.
Bill looked at Tom, and Tom smiled and said, “That would be great!”
The first glass of the cold, refreshing tea tasted so good, the two men soon followed it with a second and as the three of them sat in the sunshine, Jessica spoke up during a lull in the conversation. “Tom, you and Janet go to church, right?”
“Yes, we do.”
“Which church do you go to?”
“We go to Pecan Forest Lutheran Church over on 77th Avenue.”
“How do you like it?”
“We like it a lot. We have been going there for ten years.”
Jessica paused, looked over at Bill and then continued. “Bill and I both went to church when we were little kids, but not too much since then except maybe at Christmas or Easter if we are at home visiting family. But since we have a little one coming along in a few months,” Jessica patted her tummy, “we both though that it would be good for us to raise this child in a community of faith. We’ve checked out a couple of churches, but the one that we went to last Sunday was talking about the Holy Spirit, and that felt kind of weird to both of us. We’re just not sure what to think about all that Holy Spirit stuff.”
“Well, that would make sense that they would be talking about the Holy Spirit last Sunday, because last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday,” replied Tom. He felt comfortable talking with his neighbours about Christianity because they had asked him about it before. “Did they talk about people speaking in other languages and tongues of fire and a sound like a mighty, rushing wind?”
“Yeah,” Bill piped up. “It all seemed a little strange.”
“Well,” Tom responded, “sometimes when God does stuff it may seem a little strange to us. I think I may know what they were referring to. Is it okay if I read something from the Bible to you?” It was not a usual thing for Bill and Jessica to listen to someone read from the Bible to them on their deck, but Tom was someone they already knew and trusted, and he was so gentle in his approach that they agreed. Tom pulled out his phone, found his Bible app and began reading.
1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
5-11There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”
12Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”
13Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”
14-21That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:
“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams. (Acts 2:1-17 The Message)
“That sounds like the same reading,” Jessica said, “but it’s different, I can understand it better than what I heard read in church last Sunday.”
“There were probably using a different translation,” Tom responded.
“What was happening there?” Bill asked inquisitively.
“The Holy Spirit has always been around,” Tom responded. “Even at the time of creation, he was there. And throughout history, everyone who believed in God had the Holy Spirit with them to help them to trust in God. But with certain people, like kings and prophets and craftsmen, God the Father gave an extra measure of his Holy Spirit to them for a special task, like leading or speaking a message from God or creating items used in worship.
“But on the day of Pentecost, and ever since, God poured out the fullness of his Holy Spirit on all believers. Now everyone who believes has full and complete access to the Spirit of God at all times.”
“So what difference does that make,” asked Jessica, “having the Holy Spirit with us?”
“Well, think of the colour red,” Tom continued. “It is a colour that is often associated with the Holy Spirit. If we think of red like an acronym, it can help us remember what the Holy Spirit does for us. The letter R reminds us that the Holy Spirit helps us to Reconcile, reconcile with God and reconcile with the people in our lives by helping us to realize that we have done something wrong and then go and say, ‘I’m sorry.’”
Bill looked at Jessica, smiled and said, “I think that I have experienced the Holy Spirit’s help in that area.” Jessica smiled back at him.
Tom noticed their exchange and then went on. “The Holy Spirit also brings reconciliation between people of different ethnic and language groups. That’s what was happening with the languages on that first Pentecost Sunday. God is bringing people of every tribe and language and nation together under his leadership.”
“The E stands for Empower. The Holy Spirit makes us able to do things that we do not normally do. The Holy Spirit gives us the courage to step into situations that we would normally avoid. I never thought that I would ever do something like lead a small group in our home, but after someone suggested it to me, Janet and I talked about it and prayed about it and we did it. And so far it has been working out very well.”
“The D stands for Direct. The Holy Spirit guides us through the words of Scripture. He advises us through the wise council of fellow believers and he leads us through the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to our spirit.”
Smiling, Jessica piped up, “I think I might have experienced that. When we decided to move to the Vancouver area, it seemed like there was something drawing us to this neighbourhood. And I am sure glad that we are living here in Pecan Forest!”
“Sounds like the Holy Spirit is already at work in your lives,” observed Tom.
“Yeah,” Bill thoughtfully replied. “I guess that there is more to this Holy Spirit stuff than we realized.”
“Yes, there is,” Bill responded. “I think of the Holy Spirit kind of like that new gas we put in your chain saw.”
“Well, that sure made a world of difference,” Bill laughed.
When the chuckles died down, Tom gently asked, “Is it okay with the two of you if I pray?”
Bill and Jessica looked at each other and then Bill responded, “Sure.”
(This message was shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC on 12 June 2011.)