5/20/2018 Day of Pentecost The text is Acts 2:1-21.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
According to the author of Acts, when the day of Pentecost came, all the disciples of Jesus were together in one place, much in the same way we are all gathered here. And as they were gathered, the spirit came like a rush of wind and implanted itself deep within their hearts and souls. This was a life changing event for the disciples. And from that moment forward, faith in Jesus Christ trumped their fear of what could happen to them if their dared to step out and step up by sharing the good news with the world around them.
Because of the transforming power of the spirit in the lives of those who preferred to remain anonymous, behind closed doors, the church was born. It was born of the spirit and of the power of God. And this spirit and the Body of Christ formed by the event that took place before our parents, parents, parents were conceived lives on as the spirit wind blows where it chooses and sparks the fire of faith in the hearts of many.
We may think of Pentecost as a past event, having very little to do with us other than creating the church in which we find ourselves today. But nothing could be further from the truth as the day of Pentecost marks a beginning and not an ending. For, we are a Pentecostal people, a people empowered by the same spirit that invaded the lives of a group of fearful men who had witnessed the crucifixion of our Lord.
How sad that is for a church that finds its beginning with fire of the spirit to be in the shape it is in this day and age. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center poll, over 1 in 4 of us who live in this country find the church and religious institutions to be detrimental to American society. That means 1 in 4 find the church to be more than irrelevant, more than archaic – 1 in 4 find it dying or dead – all because as the people of God we are no longer alive with the zeal to spread the good news about Jesus. We have gone back to the way of the first disciples, keeping our faith quiet and hidden…afraid to speak up, afraid to reach out and share the blessings of the relationship given to us through Jesus. So, it’s no wonder that we’re taking a beating here in this country and around the world.
There are many prophets of doom saying that the age of the Christian Church, at least mainline denominations like ours, is over for the church has lost its zeal! And yet the spirit lives on, even if we try to contain it and limit its power. For the Pentecost was and is more than a one day event.
Fred Craddock, a well-known author and preacher, was confronted with his own personal limitation on Pentecost as he was beginning a lecture at a west coast seminary.
Just before the first lecture began, one of the students stood up and said, “Before you speak, I need to know if you are Pentecostal.” The room grew silent. Craddock said he looked around for the Dean of the seminary! He was nowhere to be found.
The student continued with his quiz right in front of everybody. Craddock was taken aback, and so he said, “Do you mean do I belong to the Pentecostal Church?” He said, “No, I mean are you Pentecostal?” Craddock said, “Are you asking me if I am charismatic?” the student said, “I am asking you if you are Pentecostal.” Craddock said, “Do you want to know if I speak in tongues?” He said, “I want to know if you are Pentecostal.” Craddock said, “I don’t know what your question is.” The student said, “Obviously, you are not Pentecostal.” He left.
What are we talking about this morning? Is the church supposed to use the word Pentecost only as a noun or can it be used as an adjective? And so I ask you: Are you Pentecostal?
In spite of the fact that the church doesn’t know what the adjective means, the church insists that the word remain in our vocabulary as an adjective. The church is unwilling for the word simply to be a noun, to represent a date, a place, an event in the history of the church, refuses for it to be simply a memory, an item, something back there somewhere. The church insists that the word is an adjective; it describes the church. The word, then, is “Pentecostal.”
If the church is alive in the world it is Pentecostal. And you thought we were Lutheran! (adapted from sermons.com).
My friends, our church and each of us are Pentecostal for we are alive with God, keeping the fire burning, and the spirit moving. If we are not Pentecostal, then our church is dead and we just haven’t buried it yet.
But we are not dead. We are alive for we are gathered here and God is not giving up on us without a fight. The spirit resides with and in each of us, whether or not we acknowledge it, use it, or embrace it. For most of us, that spirit entered our lives when we were baptized. For some of us, the spirit drove us to the waters of baptism, making us members of the Body of Christ.
We may be apathetic at times. We may become disillusioned, disappointed and disenchanted at times. Yet, the spirit remains as much a part of us as the noses on our faces.
As Pentecostal people we have been gifted by God so that faith will trump fear. We have been gifted by God to strengthen and encourage one another to be the child of God that we are. We have been gifted by God, each in our own way, in order that the ministry of Jesus Christ can live on through us. We are not alone. We are never alone. For the church of Pentecost is not a building like this one, but is the Body of Christ that is united through the spirit.
As a body has many parts and each is needed for the body to function as it ought, so it is with the Body of Christ. No one person or no one individual congregation has the market on all gifts. And, no one is without gifts. Everyone and every place have what is needed. And every one gets life from the same place – for our life source is Jesus Christ and the spirit that dwells within.
And so, it is appropriate that on this Day of Pentecost in which we celebrate the beginning of church and the gift of the Holy Spirit, that we are holding a gift awareness workshop to discover your gifts in order that we can find out where we are gifted as a church in this time and place. For although many prophets of doom are saying that the age of the Christian Church is over, we are not dead and God has not given up on us yet.
May faith trump fear as we live as Pentecostal people, and may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.