First Congregational Church
May 15, 2015
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
I was working on the beginning of this morning’s message, and was failing miserably at finding a joke or pun that would work as the introduction. Finding nothing that fit well-enough, I turned to Facebook, and sure enough, it wasn’t very long before I came across an article - not a joke - but a true story - cuz it’s on Facebook, ya know, on a new type of wind turbine - a bladeless wind turbine for creating electricity based on the idea of aeroelasticity.
Basically it’s the idea of energy being created as wind passes by a single blade, causing a vibration that is passed along cables to a source that absorbs the vibration and turns it into electricity. It seems to me that we’re a lot like those single blades, with the Holy Spirit moving us into an energy that can be electrical.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
Thank you, Carolyn. I have to say that Pentecost jokes are hard to come by. But I did find a cartoon with a cloud up in the corner, with the words “I shall send down my spirit and it will be like a flame upon your heads.” The first of the five individuals under the cloud wonders if this means he can wear a hat. The second person suggests that “we had better have a fire drill.” The third person shouts that this is a “health and safety nightmare, while the fourth guy wonders, “What if I set off the fire alarm?” The fifth individual ponders “my church is a non-smoking church.”
The title of this morning’s message, although in Latin, is descriptive of Pentecost. “Mysterium Tremendum" means a tremendous mystery. If nothing else, it is surely that.
There are essentially three things that happened that day of Pentecost. 1. The Holy Spirit became evident. 2. The presence of the Holy Spirit touched everyone present. And 3. It freed the gospel message to be for everyone, regardless of language. While those three things are interesting, they need to mean something in order to become important.
It was Matt Skinner of workingpreacher.org who “added” those three elements together to point to the “sum” of wind and flame and tongue that day, that the prophet Joel laid out all those years ago. “I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” Mr. Skinner said, “Peter does not speak of prophecy as predicting the future. Instead, prophecy is truth-telling. It is naming the places and ways where God intervenes or initiates in the world. It is a component of proclaiming the word of God and identifying God's salvation at work.” The more you look at that his description, the more it makes sense. “Peter does not speak of prophecy as predicting the future. Instead, prophecy is truth-telling. It is naming the places and ways where God intervenes or initiates in the world. It is a component of proclaiming the word of God and identifying God's salvation at work.”
Roberto Gomez of Ministry Matters gives us a picture of Pentecost’s meaning. “At a church conference, I noticed a young man who listened attentively to the lectures. I wondered who he was. I took the opportunity to speak to him. He told me he was from Nepal, the tiny country on whose border with Tibet sits Mount Everest. He once was a Hindu and believed in many gods. While he was attending college, a student gave him a pamphlet about Jesus. He was so intrigued reading about Jesus that he got a Bible to read more about Jesus. Soon, he encountered the living Christ and became a Christian and joined a Christian fellowship.
For the first time in his life, he felt forgiven and redeemed. He left a life of confusion and uncertainty for a life of assurance, hope, faith, and love. He began living a new life, a life based on the living Christ. It was a dangerous time for him. At that time, Nepal did not allow Christians to worship openly. His family, all Hindus, ostracized him. Yet his faith in Jesus Christ grew stronger. Several years later, the government changed and Christians could worship openly. Then his family became Christian. Now, as headmaster of a small Christian college, he joyfully serves the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Mr. Gomez concluded, “How could it be that a young man from Nepal read a tract about Jesus, became a convert to the Christian faith, and now directs a Christian training school? It happened because of the movement and power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit inspired someone to write that tract, someone else to give away the tract, and that Nepalese man to read it and be touched by its message about the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As I thought about that scenario, I thought about how years ago I would have mentally talked back at a minister. “Yeah, well, that’s fine for all you preacher types of people. But I’m not going to any college to hand out gospel tracts to students - most of whom could care less, who are more likely to call me names. Thank goodness the minister isn’t talking to me.”
And that was true. It wasn’t the minister talking to me. It was the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit wasn’t likely telling me - or maybe most all of us - to hand out religious tracts, but to pass along what God has given me - us.
Maybe it’s not tracts that we hand out, but patience and compassion and understanding - even if we don’t completely understand. The Traverse City Meijer store on Thursday was abuzz, and the check out lanes were long. I’m sure I waited a good 15 minutes in line. I don’t know if the man in front of me knew a lady behind me, but he kindly suggested that she go to a different line as ours was being held up. I don’t remember what the lady said, but I sure remember her rudeness and her dissing of the cashier - and she had waited all of nearly ten seconds. No doubt it was the Holy Spirit that caught my attention to remind me that although I was tired, and I had other stops, I could choose be patient and I could either play on my phone or read one of the many rag mags available right there.
When I got to the cashier, I didn’t ask here, and I’m sure she was making conversation as much as explaining that at least five people called in that day, that she had been working for eleven hours because of the shortage, and that even the manager had been on the floor all day. And the tourists aren’t even here yet.
If we really believe that God “has” all the important stuff in the world, then our time is not our own, our money is not our own and our “talents and gifts” are not our own. Those things belong to God and we get to use them in bringing God glory. Sometimes people are counting on us to be certain places at certain times, yes. But if we pay attention to that which is in our realm, we become part of the “Mysterium Tremendum" - for God and for humanity - and even ourselves.
As Peter prophesied - told his truth about Christ and God and the Holy Spirit - so do we prophesy what we believe to be true about God and Christ and the Holy Spirit and the ways and places where God breaks out in our world. Being called out to be God’s sons and daughters, young and old, even God’s servants, can sometimes feel irrelevant or we may wish to leave our jobs for other people to do. We can do it our way, or we can do it the easy way, which is, of course, God’s way. But we don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to being part of the tremendous mystery. People have been doing it for centuries - since that first Pentecost day. We can prophesy - truth-tell - in our words, but so much more so in our actions. So before we go back to living out God’s truth, let us pray.
Holy Spirit - Breath of God, we are grateful for not just giving us purpose and direction, but for your Spirit, for the energy, the breath, and support we need to carry out those purposes and directions. Help us, in even what we deem to be un-notable and mundane, to listen and look for your nudgings, that we may be the living gospel to those who need to hear you - wherever we might be. For those who made the materials, who gave us the materials and taught us, for all those people that are a part of our lives - without even knowing them, we thank you. Help all of us to see the larger world and the larger good - in your name. And all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.