Today’s airports are deadly. Pick your poison – JFK in New York, Chicago O’Hare, Washington, Denver, Dallas, LAX. These places don’t just have gates - they have graves. Most who enter these death traps contract the same terminal illness and never come out alive! You know the feeling - you're trying to make a connecting flight - you find the “You Are Here” sign – gate 65 – and then begin looking for the gate for your next flight – Gate 997! And you have to be there in 15 minutes!
As you realize your situation you begin to mutter to yourself, but with no other options you take a deep breath, grip your suitcase in one hand and garment bag in another, and set out for what would typically be a three day hike! And then, up ahead, like an oasis in the desert, you see it. “Could it be? Is it a bird? Is it a plane?” No - even better. As you get closer your face lights up - for there in the distance is a people mover!
A people mover is the yellow brick road of the airport. It’s a horizontal escalator, a moveable sidewalk. While you get a chance to stop and catch your breath for a minute, it continues to carry your body along. When you take one step, you gain two. What you thought would take thirty minutes, now only takes 5 or 10. What a difference a people mover makes! Deep sighs are dismissed. Fatigue is forgotten. Groans are gone. I may be overstating my case about airports, but I could never overstate the power of a people mover!
Today is the Day of Pentecost, and Pentecost is all about gifts, and today's gift from God's Word is a People Mover, as God finally answers Moses prayer from our Old Testament reading, "Oh that all of God's people would be prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit on them". That promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Christ's resurrection.
It's the same promise Jesus spoke of in the synagogue at the beginning of His ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to bring recovery of sight to the blind, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
We need to hear these words of promise from Jesus today just as much as they did then. For we too are poor and blind, deaf and dumb, and held captive by our sin and rebellion. We find ourselves stuck, enslaved, and in bondage. Because of bad decisions, bitter words, embattled relationships – we can begin to feel trapped and locked in a life of darkness and depression and despair.
But look! Can it be? Is it a bird, is it a plane, Superman? No - even better! We have a Pure and Perfect People Mover - and his name is Jesus. God’s good and perfect gifts of freedom and forgiveness and salvation come through this Supreme Super Hero. This is the Great Avenger, the Servant of the Lord who has been anointed to announce the year of the Lord’s favor. This Gospel message first spoken in Is. 61 and repeated in Luke 4 is defined by seven verbs: “to bind up,” “to proclaim”, “to open”, “to comfort”, “to place”, and “to give.” Get it? Seven is the total, complete, and perfect number in the Bible. This people mover is absolutely perfect!
“The year of the Lord’s favor” in the Bible means the Jubilee year. In the Old Testament on the fiftieth year, or Jubilee year, everything and everyone under oppression and bondage was free. All slaves were released and all debts were erased. Everyone who was bankrupt had their debts paid. People were free at last. In that same vein, the Day of Pentecost is the 50th day after the OT festival of Passover and the NT festival of Easter. In the OT it was the time you gave your first fruits gift to God, but now in the NT it is the day we remember God's great gift to us - the Holy Spirit.
Often our thoughts tell us that God is against us, that we have exhausted all of his grace, and that our life is a waste. In our dark moments we lie awake at night, overwhelmed with our failure, feeling like our chance at life is over. But the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, comes to comfort and console us and to point us to Jesus, the One and Only Son of the Father, His Anointed Servant who binds up those with broken hearts, releases the captives, opens the eyes of the blind, proclaims liberty and the Lord's favor throughout the land, and sends out His spirit to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify all those who love Him and belong to Him.
The jubilee is scattered throughout the Gospels. Jesus says to a dead son in the village of Nain: “Young man, I say to you, get up”. To a sinful woman at the house of Simon the Pharisee he announces: “Your sins are forgiven”. To a woman with a flow of blood: “Your faith has healed you”. To Jairus’ daughter: “Little girl I say to you arise”. To the disciples: “Have no fear, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom”. To the starved, the famished, the empty: “Come, for everything is now ready”. To the Romans who scourged him, spit on him, and spiked him, he says: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”. And to all those who believe He will one day announce with a loving gleam in his eye: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”.
Today we celebrate the Day of Pentecost, the giving of the Holy Spirit, the birthday of the church, and the fulfillment of God's gracious plan of salvation in Christ. We come together to hear God's Word, to receive His gifts, to sing His praises, to offer prayers, and to share in the Holy Communion of the Lord's Supper, as Jesus moves us from bondage and sin to forgiveness and freedom. He is the One who moves us from emptiness to fullness, from fear to faith, from despair to delight, from death to life.
Jesus moves us into the Father's house as adopted members of His own family, and the Holy Spirit then moves us out into the neighborhood to shine His light to the world, to bring more and more into the life of the Father through the Son by the power of the Spirit.
Dear friends, we have a ticket home - and God's not going to let us miss our connecting flight! He is our Perfect People Mover, indeed.
ht - reed lessing