Day of Pentecost 12 June 2011
(Acts 2:1-21 Psalm 104 1 Corinthians 12:3-13 John 20:19-23)
I absolutely love this festival day of Pentecost! It is a day that speaks to who we are; and it is a day that calls us to be who we are called to be.
Pentecost is such a great day for diversity, for multiculturalism, for variation, for differences! On Pentecost, more than any other day, we realize it is okay to be different! The world as it was known by these follower of the risen Christ was flipped in a way never seen before and what came out of all this was the glorious manifestation of the grace of God!
I always think it is a tough day for the person reading this passage from Acts—with all those names! In Luke’s geography they represented “every nation under the sun.” They were all gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the harvest festival and the Passover. And, although connected by a common religious heritage, their languages of the day were as diverse as those I remember hearing as I sat in the airport in Tel Aviv, the night I was returning from Israel.
The disciples of Jesus were there. Then something utterly scandalous and wondrous occurred. God happened! Scandalously, wondrously, God happened! And it was so incredible that today we must rely on symbols to tell the story: wind and fire and spirit! The whole place is smoking! The disciples looked like those trick birthday candles, crowned with tongues of fire that even the mighty wind could not blow out! We are not told exactly what these guys said in their Galilean, fisherman, tax collector dialects, but we know the miracle: everyone understood each other. In a world too often numbingly sober, sour and acerbic, these guys looked like a bunch of happy drunks ready to take on the world. And they did! They took on the world by preaching the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
At last they knew they belonged to God—every last one of them—and that God was love for all people. And they learned that in belonging to God they belonged to each other. And they went out and shared that message! And God’s outlandish love found its way into empty hearts, and the world has never been the same since.
As part of our Confirmation service today we had hoped to hear the voices of our confirmands as part of this sermon. Since we did not have the students fighting to take over the pulpit this morning, the way we will hear their voices is from their reflections on the five responsibilities they will affirm in just a few minutes. I’d like to share some of their explanations on these promises.
…to live among God’s faithful people,
There was a lot about continuing to come to church. Several spoke of remaining close to each other in this confirmation class. They spoke of believing in the goodness of people, of respecting others and treating others as they wish to be treated. I heard words of surrounding oneself with caring people and truly embracing this congregation as examples of persons who are faithful to the Gospel. What an amazing gift for these students to say this, but what an awesome responsibility for each of us to live up to for these young members.
…to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper,
We heard of the desire to continue to read the Bible and come to Holy Communion. We heard of keeping the 10 Commandments and staying connected to church. We heard of really trying to interpret God’s Word into one’s life so that it has meaning. We even heard of the hope to pay attention to sermons.
…to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
Here we heard that we ought not be ashamed of God; to show to others one’s love for God. We heard of being who we are and trying to see through the eyes of others. We heard of the importance of knowing how my actions affect others; and the importance of keeping one’s faith especially in tough situations. We heard examples of work camp and Youth activities.
…to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,
Here we heard of the importance of reaching out; it’s not always about me; not always to be focused on oneself. We heard about spending time with family, even when we prefer to be with friends. And to use Jesus as the example in doing good deeds, as Jesus did so much for each one of us.
…to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.
We heard a lot about not judging people who are different, about treating people equally, and in so doing, spreading peace. We heard about the deep belief that God is always with us, especially to help. We heard a lot about standing up for those who are innocent, knowing every person is a child of God, not picking on others, being patient with God, and in doing so much of this, peace will spread outward into the world.
In all of what we heard from these students, we heard God’s Good News. We heard Pentecost, because in the freedom to live into these hopes and dreams is where God truly happens! This is where God truly happens! What a marvelous way to live into Pentecost!