Let me set the scene for you in Numbers: the people are complaining. Give us meat to eat, Moses! We had meat in Egypt. Give us leaks or cucumbers or anything other than this manna! Day in and day out – all we have is manna. Moses!
So Moses and God talk about this. And God says it is too much for Moses to be the only one leading the people. Gather up seventy men, God says, and I will gift them the Spirit. Then they can help lead.
So Moses obeys God, gathers up the seventy, and they go outside of the tent village where God descends upon them like mist, or a cloud, and they speak wonders.
Speaking the word of God has a lot of power. Scripture tells us that it was God’s Words that created everything from Light to you and me. It’s no wonder that people told Moses that Eldad and Medad were acting as prophets. Moses’ friends probably thought these two were trying to take control of the camp. And if they weren’t, at the least, they weren’t part of the 70 chosen to be prophets and so God may be furious at their speaking God’s Words.
Moses’ right hand says — stop them!
But Moses isn’t worried, or upset, or slighted, or jealous. He’s thrilled that others are speaking Gods words, spreading God’s message and says he’d be glad if everyone did this: “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put the Spirit on them!”
Indeed, if you recall, later in the letter to Corinthians we hear that it is only by the Holy Spirit we are able to say “Jesus is Lord.”
Moses knows anyone that is working for God, even if they don’t have official permission to do so, or aren’t pastors, or maybe even aren’t of the same faith… as long as they are doing God’s work and speaking the Spirit of Truth – let them be!
In the days of Joel, the prophet foretells the end of the world. A scary end times full of blood and fire and smoke. He calls these the Last Days.
In the days after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, there were people prophesying without official authority. Without official permission. Without clearance. Once again.
We hear how the early Christians are gathered together when violence strikes. This microburst of wind bellows through the house and tongues made of fire appear above the heads of everyone there — every person — and every person suddenly spoke other languages.
Just like at Babel, languages are spread out.
Just like at Babel, confusion reigns.
People come running to the house – what was that roar from heaven? What is this that everyone is speaking all these languages eloquently and they are NOT from our home counties? How are we to understand this?
Like with Moses, some said — stop them! They’re drunk and out of their minds.
Like with Moses, a leader stands up: this time it is Peter. And Peter, like Moses, says don’t stop the Spirit! Interpret what is happening through the prophet Joel — in the last days, God will pour out the Spirit on sons and daughters, young men and young women, old men and old women, babies and toddlers and preteens and teenagers and the married and unmarried and those who are free and those who are repressed; those who are upstanding citizens and those with criminal pasts — everyone will speak of God and God’s wonders.
As Joel said — there will be signs from heaven. And signs have happened. The Lord’s Great and Glorious day is here: the reign of God, Heaven itself, has come close. All who call upon God are welcome in.
In our days, now, there were people prophesying without official authority. Without official permission. Without clearance. Out of the mouth of babes are words praising the wonders of God. Out of the dreams of the elderly are visions of heaven and God’s good work. Out of the work of the middle aged are glimpses of the Kin-dom of God. What is to be done?
Wherever the Spirit moves, inspiring people to praise God and spread goodness, love, mercy and forgiveness — it should be permitted to flow freely. ((I also don’t think we could stop the Spirit if we tried.))
God’s Holy Spirit comes upon us at all ages and all times infusing us with the power to have faith, keep hope, and do good to one another. It is outside all establishments, cannot be ordered about, cannot be silenced — as Christ told us, we do not know where the wind comes from or where it goes. The Spirit moves, enlivens, and we move and are enlivened with it.
What does that mean? It means in our days, now, the Spirit is testing our church and our lives. Showing us how we need to be more open, more inclusive, and speak words of love and welcome to people we’d rather not… but the Spirit gives us that language and Jesus tells us to go. Go and speak of God’s wonders wherever you find yourself in whatever languages you are gifted to whomever you meet.
The official authority, official permission, official clearance to be a prophet, a witness of God, a pastoral presence, has been given to you. You here today received this when you were baptized with water and with the fire of the Spirit.
Therefore, we are all God’s prophets. All God’s witnesses; because we are all God’s children.