First Congregational Church
May 19, 2013
Pentecost, Bring a Neighbor to Church and Picnic/Potluck Sunday
"Holy Spirit: So What?"
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Like every good institution, the church has a birthday, and today is that day. It's OUR birthday. We don't have an exact, exact date, but we are - as a body - about 1,980 or 81 years old. It was nice that it happened on Pentecost, because it made for a good number of people to celebrate the day that the Holy Spirit came on the everyone in Jerusalem.
We modern Christians don't really appreciate the depth of Pentecost, because it was originally the Feast of Weeks, a Jewish holiday that celebrated the giving of the Law - the Ten Biggies - pitched to Moses at Mount Sinai.
And I truthfully, I didn't "get" the divine irony of the Holy Spirit coming on the folks until more recently. The Law was given so that "we" would know how to show our love back to God. If we loved and honored God, then we didn't have any other gods before God - capital G.
In Minnesota, that first commandment is, "Der's only one
God, ya know." "Don't make dat fish on yer mantle an idol.
Cussing ain't Minnesota nice.
Go to church - even when yer up nort.
Honor yer folks.
Don't kill. Catch and release.
If it ain't yer Lutefisk, don't take it.
Don't be braggin' about how much snow ya shoveled. Keep yer mind off yer neighbor's hotdish.
The Biblical Big Ten came so that people had black and white rules - so they new exactly when they stepped outside the boundaries. The problem was that people got so much more focused on the rules, they forgot about the love they were supposed to be reflecting back to God. So, to help the disciples, apostles and everyone,
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.
5-11 There 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!”
12 Their 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?” 13 Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”
14-21 That’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.
The writer of Acts - Dr. Luke - went on to include more of what Joel prophesied, but that part leads to another discussion, and I wanted to stay with the "so what" part of this Holy Spirit - coming - thing. For today, it's about relationship - and the relationship we have with an active God.
Bill: When you come to church you need to know the key players . . . you know, the ones who are worthy of honor and praise.
Ron: Honor and praise huh? Well who are they?
Bill: O.K., now listen closely. There is one God.
Ron: One God. That seems easy enough. What do you call this one God?
Bill: This one God is called, "God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit."
Ron: Now wait just a minute. You told me that there is only one God.
Bill: That's right!
Ron: So which is it?
Bill: So which is what?
Ron: Which name do you use for this one God?
Bill: The name I gave you.
Ron: But you gave me three names.
Bill: That's right.
Ron: What's right?
Bill: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Ron: So you have three Gods?
Bill: No, one God.
Ron: So which is it?
Bill: Which is what?
Ron: Father, Son or Holy Spirit?
Ron: Yes to what?
Bill: That's God's name.
Ron: Which God?
Bill: Our one God.
Ron: Why did you give three names.
Bill: Because they aren't the same.
Ron: But you just told me there is one God. So which is it?
Bill: Which is what?
Ron: Which name is the name of your God?
Bill: I told you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Ron: But that is three.
Bill: Yes, but it's only one.
Thank you, Bill and Ron. I suppose I should say, thank you, Abbott and Costello. For those of you too young to get that reference, go home and look up Abbott, Costello and who's on first. I wouldn't mind if you looked it up while I'm still preaching, but everyone around you will want to read it with you.
The point of this little "routine" is perfect - it is hard to make sense of this Holy Spirit for some folks. But therein lies some of the beauty of God - that God having three "persons" allows for God to make more sense to more people, allowing more people the opportunity to understand and appreciate God's love, so that they can reflect back that love to God.
Some of us are wired to connect with God in terms of creation - from the multitude of galaxies to the ever revealing composition of compositions to the beauty of a spring time forest or this crazy thing we call a human body, some of us get God better that way. Some of us connect better to God understanding the sacrifice God made in giving us Jesus, a real person with skin and bones and emotions and thoughts. And some of us are wired in such a way that we get the world of spirit, the world of the unseen yet sensed.
It is so much easier to understand that which is black and white; it's clear. But no one can obey every single command from the Bible, because it simply cannot be done - which is another day. The fact is is that there are few that can make it through this life not understanding that we live in a much more grey world. Maybe it's not even grey - maybe it's a much more colored world. How much more appropriate that we commemorate this day with red - the color of the fire that danced on the heads of those that first "Christian" Pentecost.
And how much richer this day, when we realize that the Holy Spirit - relationship - came on the day of Law - to remind us of the new commandments: to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind, and to love our neighbor as ourself. The Holy Spirit - the Comforter - the Advocate - the Guide - the Intercessor - the Revealer of Truth - came - comes - that we are reminded that we live in a world of relationship and love - even if we don't fully understand or appreciate or get our arms around this whole God thing. That the Spirit comes is a pretty incredible and awesome thing. So let us pray.
Great God of love and relationship, we have taken some time to pay attention to the complexity of you, us and our relationship with you and each other. In our time, we have hopefully been reminded of the richness of our lives, of the life to which you have called us. As we go into this week, send an extra measure of your Holy Spirit to guide and comfort, relate and reveal. May our days this week be bright reflections of the love and grace and mercy you have so freely bestowed on us. For these requests and all your blessings, all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.