Thursday, May 15, 2008
Mothers Day we honor our Mom's and thank them for all the things they do and have done for us. Think for a moment about the life your Mother gave to you. The time it took to wait for your arrival, the time she takes to care for you now. How many times do we consider the gift we have in simply being here? The gift of life, energy and breath are so valuable and we rarely take the time or thought space to consider them. This morning we pause to marvel at the creation of our lives and the life we life in and through God's Spirit.
Pentecost is the church's celebration of it's beginning as well as the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Some explanations or descriptions of the Holy Spirit we are familiar with are comforter and adviser. This morning, I'd like to consider the expression of the Spirit of God according to the passage in Acts 2:1-21
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."
Peter Speaks Up
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.
When the time comes,
I'll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they'll prophesy.
I'll set wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help
to me, God, will be saved."
When we listen to the reading we hear of the dramatic arrival of the Holy Spirit that is described as: loud, fiery, and earth shattering. Listen to how Luke recounts the story of Pentecost, " Suddenly from the heaven there came a rush of violent wind, and it filled the entire house…divide tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and the tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit." Did you hear Luke's descriptive words?
Suddenly, rush, violent wind fire…
There is nothing subtle here. The Holy Spirit arrives loud and dramatically. And the Spirit sets the disciples on fire. They were never the same after that – and neither was the world.
The Spirit brought about radical change. In that moment on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit transformed a ragtag gathering of Jesus disciples into the body of Christ, the church. Peter was impulsive, James and John the competitive, Mary the meek, Thomas the doubtful – everyone in that place was changed that day. Some became prophets, some healers, some preachers, some caregivers – some would travel the world preaching, others would stay behind-the-scenes caring for the poor – but all of them were set on fire. With the power of the Holy Spirit they changed the world.
Now here we are today – the Church of the twenty-first century. All over Chautauqua County churches are celebrating Pentecost. Some will have a birthday cake to celebrate the birth of the church, some will have red and white balloons, and some will ask people who attend to wear red. We know very well how to celebrate Pentecost. But how well do we know the Spirit that we are honoring today? Where is the fire? Have we truly invited the Holy Spirit into our worship this morning? Do we really know whom and what we are asking for? How did Luke describe the Spirit? We are willing to experience a gentle presence, a little nudge or so - but do we really want the fire? Do we really want to be changed? Would we call on the Spirit if we knew it meant that we'd have to live and love differently? Do we realize what we're doing when we call upon the Holy Spirit?
When the disciples were anointed with the Holy Spirit, it was a wild scene. People thought the disciples were drunk. The disciples were so excited, so fired up, so full of the Spirit that the people thought they were crazy.
Do people on the street ever look at us Christians and think we're crazy? Do we look different enough from the world, in our words and actions, that people notice us at all? What I want to know is, are our hearts really on fire? Is God really at the center of our lives? Do we actually love in radical ways? Are we extravagantly generous? Do we forgive the unforgivable? Do we reach out to the least and the lost? Are we so loving, so compassionate, so giving, so humble that the world thinks we're crazy?
Church life needs to be more than an activity to keep us busy. Our church's life should be a reflection of our individual and corporate relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. That relationship is the most important thing in this precious, cherished and unique experience of life. Your relationship with God needs to be your everything.
When we invite the Holy Spirit into our worship and our lives – WATCH OUT! Get ready because the Spirit will set a fire in you heart. If you say yes to God, then you need to be ready for change.
The Spirit will make you do crazy things like loving your enemies, reach out to people who are outcast, spend your money differently, and cry for the suffering of others. The Spirit will make you want to change the world.
As we as a church work together on the mission of reaching out to our friends, families and neighbors we must let the Spirit do the Spirit's work. We dare not quench the fire that the Spirit is stirring in each of our hearts this morning. We dare not cool down the powerful message of the gospel.
Let's make the decision this morning to not be sensible or moderate. Let's not try to fit in. Let's be drunk with love for God, crazy in our compassion for others, unsinkable in our faith, extravagant in our kindness and empowered in our commitment to God and God's people. And let's do more than that. Let's stir up the world by pouring out heart's and lives by demonstrating love – real love – all for the sake of revealing God, Jesus and all aspects of the Holy Spirit to a world so ready to see the real thing.