Sunday, June 4, 2017

Day of Pentecost

Today we’re celebrating Pentecost and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, and we are reaching back through the ancestry of our faith to build upon a tradition of God’s spirit being sent among God’s people.

Throughout Scripture, in both old and new testaments,
the Spirit of God has been making its presence known
and equipping us to do the work that God wants us to do.

In Numbers, there’s a story of God sharing the gift of the spirit with seventy others who would help Moses lead Israel in the wilderness of their life together;

And the setting for today’s Gospel — the Jewish Festival of Booths — that celebrated God giving the law to Moses at Mount Sinai recalls an event that defined God’s covenant relationship with the people of Israel.

And finally, in Acts, we get the story of Pentecost when the spirit visibly comes in tongues of flame as a sign that different groups of people have received God’s Spirit,
that the Spirit has broken into the lives of a community.

These different stories show us God speaking through many different voices and kinds of people, and giving us a new common or shared language – the language of faith.

Learning a new language works best by immersion, when you are surrounded by other people who are learning alongside you, and you can turn to others who are have been speaking it longer than you. Instead of studying phrases and vocabulary from a book or listening to a recording, you hear the words in their context and you can pick up on all the other clues that help the new language make sense.

You will trip over new sounds and foreign words, and it may feel just as awkward as rowdy experiences of the Spirit, with raised hands and voices, or thunderous noise from clapping or shouting, might feel in many of our Lutheran worship settings, but immersion helps you soak up the new language, like new wine, so that it becomes part of your identity.

It sounds a lot like the past three years of faith formation with Landon and Devyn and Rainey who will be confirmed later this morning in worship.

We began by learning together the big-picture ark of God’s story in the Bible that shows us how we are created for relationship with a loving God and given responsibility to live out of the grace that we have been given.

We spent time reading Luther’s Small Catechism and the language he gives us to better understand God’s commandments and the profession of faith that we make in the apostle’s creed.
We practiced praying for each other even as we learned more about the prayer that Jesus gives us in scripture.

And we tackled hard questions that we face when faith and life intersect; questions like “Why do bad things happen?” and “Is it ok to be mad at God?”; questions that come up when our world is scarred by brokenness and doesn’t measure up to the promises we hear from God.

We didn’t find all the answers. In fact, I would bet we found more questions, but we also discovered that God is big enough for our questions and, even, for our anger and our sadness.

We discovered that living a Christian life is about learning how to live in relationship with a loving God, where you talk to God and listen to God, and where you show up just like you would to build any new friendship.

In the story of Pentecost we hear a babel of voices,
but unlike the story in Genesis, on this day, by the power of the Holy Spirit in their midst, everyone understands each other.

When we celebrate Landon, Devyn and Rainey affirming the promises made on their behalf at their baptisms, we will also be celebrating that God brings us together in our differences, and, by God’s Spirit, unites us and helps us find understanding together.  

Today, even as our joy is tempered by loss, we rejoice that the Spirit is here, moving among us, reshaping and redefining who we are as we are joined together be God’s people in the world.
The story of Pentecost reminds us that we do not live in faith only for ourselves but for the sake of the world. God promises that the Spirit gives us just what each of us needs to go out and take the Good News of God’s love and mercy and forgiveness to our neighbors, and to show the world who Jesus is in our words and actions.

Like the acts of the Spirit we heard in the story of Pentecost, and like learning a new language, learning to live filled with God’s Spirit can be messy and hard and even awkward.

But it is also really very beautiful as you see the Spirit working right here in our corner of the world, as we come to understand that we are brought together intentionally by God,
and who we are is who we are by the work of the Spirit and not by any effort or merit of our own.

Let us pray.
Holy God,
Pour out Your Spirit upon us and renew us for the work you want us to do. Help us discern the gifts you have given each of us.
Kindle the fire of Your Spirit in us that we would share your Good News with our neighbors with joy.
Continue the good work you have begun in us and strengthen our community, for the sake of the world.


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