SERMON 5/23/20 Feast of Pentecost, St. Mark’s Seminole; St. Paul’s Holdenville
Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Mentor, Teachers, Advocates, and Guides
Have you ever had that teacher, coach, mentor, or friend in your life, the one who saw gifts in you that you did not see in yourself? Have you ever had that someone who looked past the rough and rugged exterior and saw the beauty and potential within? I have had the gift of mentors like that. My first flight instructor, my youth minister, my friend Curt, a priest friend named Becky, my former Region Chaplain, and yes, my wife Terri, and so many more have been mentors to me. What would we do without the wisdom, encouragement, empowerment, and drive of those mentors, coaches, and friends?
Without advocates and mentors, many of us would be like the first disciples after the Lord had ascended, and before the first Day of Pentecost. We may have been like them, spending our lives locked in a room, fearful, uncertain and discouraged. Could you imagine what went through those early disciples’ minds in that room for those days? Maybe they pondered, “Well, he’s gone, let’s go back to fishing, or return to our neat, protected, and normal lives.” Maybe they thought, “We are just poor fishermen, and there is only a few of us, and we can barely keep food on the table, oh, woe is me.”
When faced with new situations, it is not unusual to speak the language of despondency, but in those times, and in all of life, we must realize that we have an incredible mentor, teacher, advocate and friend. We Christians have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit
God’s Spirit reaches into the depths of our struggles and despair and lifts us up. God’s Spirit enlivens our joy and gives us hope, and God’s Spirit sets the church on the path of mission in the world then, today, and tomorrow. The Holy Spirit, God’s active presence in the church then, and today, moved that small band of misfits from fear to action, from complacency to engagement, and from despondency to a tongues of fire, violent wind rushing new life and mission that literally changed them, and changed the world. That same Spirit is moving in us today.
Today is the Feast Day of Pentecost! In Jewish tradition, Pentecost “literally means “fiftieth” and signifies the celebration of the festival on the fiftieth day of Passover. We Christians commemorate that day with the church decorated in red, and the vestments we clergy wear are red, and many of you today have donned your red to help us remember the vision of “tongues of fire” that came over the apostles nearly 2000 years ago on the Day of Pentecost.
On that day and in a single moment with the sound of rushing wind and the imagery of flaming, divided tongues, the miraculous, life-changing, demonstration of God’s great work of salvation had come to a pivotal point, and while Jesus had left and the disciples were all alone, God’s Spirit rushed in on the scene.
The Spirit of God is always Moving
The Spirit moved and breathed as she always does, like a forcible, violent wind or breath, the Spirit filled the house in which the disciples abided. “Pneuma” is the Greek word for spirit or breath or wind, and if you think about it, breath is the essential action of life. That same Spirit that brooded over the waters of creation is the same Spirit that breathed life into dry bones and brought new life. The same Spirit that was active in the Incarnation, was that same Spirit present and active in this community. The Spirit was as she always is, pushing forward new life that emerged from the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Prior to the Pentecost event, and hearkening back to the Tower of Babel, the world had been separated by languages, but in a new way, division was being restored in the power of the Spirit coming down on this little community. The imagery of “tongues of fire” represents the divine origin of the Spirit, the divine intervention in the speaking and declaring God’s Deeds of Power. “Wind, breath, and language; these are the works of the Spirit in that historical event, that event which, is still manifested in and through the Church today.
Pentecost – 20th Century
Let me give you an example of how the Spirit works today, or at least, how she moved in two particular instances many decades ago. Two communities of faith emerged from an idea, a spark, a risk-taking adventure of faith. The Spirit breathed and moved calling them to mission, and the people responded, “We will with God’s help.”
St Paul’s and St. Mark’s began as two different communities faithfully serving as witnesses of God’s grace, and serving since the early 20th century. Those two communities have over their lifetimes received and responded to the Spirit’s call, and throughout their histories, they have grown and took on new projects. They have lived into the story of God’s abundance, God’s amazing, outlandish, out of the box call to go and proclaim the Good News. The Spirit breathed and moved calling them to mission, and the people responded, “We will with God’s help.” The Spirit that inspired those young churches has not left you all abandoned, but inspires you now in fresh ways to consider how the Spirit might be moving you now into a risk-taking adventure of faith.
Just think about it, the same Spirit that brooded over the waters of creation, the same Spirit the prophet Joel mentioned that breathed into the dry bones and brought new life, that same Spirit that was active in the Incarnation, that same Spirit present and active in Jerusalem 2000 years ago on the Day of Pentecost, is the very same Spirit active in many decades ago with these two churches, and she is still active today however, you the people must be willing to respond. You must regain the rushing fierce wind, tongues of fire bold spirit, so you might move from fear to action, from complacency to engagement, and from despondency to a tongues of fire, ferocious wind rushing new life and mission that literally will change you all and you.
Skeptics and Naysayers
Despite the events of Pentecost, there were some naysayers back in Palestine that did not believe God was acting through this group. They negatively retorted, “They are full of wine,” Like the cynics of old, if we are not careful, we too can get bogged down in disbelief and fear. Trusting God and relying on God is deeply embedded in the history of these two churches, and bold proclamation is in your DNA. We have a history here in which, God’s Spirit has guided us boldly, so we might proclaim new possibility, vision, and dreams. Our spirit led nature is to reject scarcity, discouragement, and fear.
We move boldly in mission because we have a guide, mentor, coach, and advocate that sees more in us than we see in ourselves. God is not the God of the tomb, a symbol of death, which would hinder us, stop us, or keeps us from moving forward. God turns despondency and complacency upside down, because death is not the end. God is the God of possibilities, and we are people of amazing possibilities. The same Spirit who on that first Pentecost breathed new life into that first Christian community, is the same Spirit that breathed new life into a group of people with a dream for a mission in these two villages. That same Spirit is breathing new life into you all today, because the Holy Spirit is calling us to a new vision, a new life, and a new focus.
For you see, the Spirit sees gifts in us that we cannot see in ourselves. The Spirit looks beyond our former miscalculations and mistakes, and she sees in us, greater possibilities. Nonetheless, we cannot become too self-assured, and too self-confident that we try to do this work through our own weak human effort. We cannot carry this load of mission with only a few select individuals or one or two exclusive groups.
We have to rely on the fact that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness . . . and that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” If we trust God’s Spirit to lead us, we can we achieve that which, God has in store for us. The Spirit may push, nudge and guide us out of the familiar and into the unknown, but never forget that we are never alone. God is with us, guiding us, empowering us, and giving us all we need to do the work we have been called to do.
How do I know? God declares, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” All along the way, from our earliest beginnings decades ago up until today, you all have had the help of a holy coach, a gentle mentor, a strong advocate, and an amazing friend. We have had God’s Spirit, guiding us all along the way, and we have that same spirit with us going forward. So, what do you say church, will you all respond, “We will with God’s help?”