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#Whoa! is the reflection for May 24, 2015, Pentecost Sunday. Exactly what does it mean to encounter the Holy Spirit? Find out in “Whoa!”, the podcast for this week. Available on itunes and android. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #LeasChapel #HolySpirit #Pentecost #Eucharist #Baptism #DynamicLife
For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 5/24/2015 Pentecost Sunday.
Please pause this audio and read the entire Second Chapter of Acts.
On a hot, hot Sunday in May, between 1992 and 1996, I was preaching in the un-airconditioned sanctuary of Lea’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Roxboro, NC. Lea’s Chapel is situated upon a hill along U.S. Hwy 158 five miles west of Roxboro. It was my privilege to serve as the pastor of Lea’s Chapel for four years with some of the most beautiful people I have ever known. It is a little church building that has a door in the Northwest corner as its entryway and another on the diagonally opposite corner that leads to a parish hall. They were both opened in the hopes that at some moment, the wind would eventually start to blow and bring some relief, any relief, to those of us who gathered to love Jesus in worship that day.
On that hot, sweltering morning, twenty years ago, I was preaching on this very text from the Acts of the Apostles on the dynamism of the person of the Holy Spirit. At the end of my sermon, I exclaimed in the passion with which I preach, “Holy Spirit, come!” Just at that moment, both doors on opposite corners of the church slammed shut. The noise stunned even me. I heard Mr. Doug Carter, sitting near the front row, say in his deep, deep voice, “Whoa.”
It is a moment that I can just hear my teens say, “That was random!” Maybe in the mindset of a world where God is disconnected from reality and the world is not connected to anything but chance and happenstance would the Holy Spirit slamming the doors of a church in rural North Carolina to get our attention be random. But that is not what we Christians believe. We do not believe that life is random. No. We do not.
It is not random that Pentecost is the day that Jews traditionally celebrate the giving of the Law to Moses on Sinai. It is not random people from all over the world were in Jerusalem on the first Christian Pentecost. It is not random that the world around Peter and the crowds thought the mighty gift of speaking in multiple languages was actually the Christians being drunk. It is not random that after Jesus ascends on high to sit at the right hand of the Father that we see the Church enlivened, given mission, and being the fulfillment of the prophet Joel. It is on purpose.
As I sat in the Cardinal’s parlor on that Pentecost Sunday evening, there was this sickening feeling that somehow the understanding of the Holy Spirit had been reduced to a force in life that forced order, compliance, and regularity. This is the downfall of the Catholic practical application of understanding the Holy Spirit. The Protestant downfall is just the opposite: the Holy Spirit breaks all the rules and is constantly creating new. Both of these misguided notions have a kernel of truth to them, but neither is entirely correct.
There is one Lord. There is one Faith. There is one Baptism. There is one God and Father of us all. There are the same Sacraments. There are new people. There are new contexts. There are new situations coming to light that need to know the love, the inclusion, and the joy of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, the Church was set on fire to go out into new worlds that included people with whom we would not normally associate, speak to, or with whom we would never share a meal. The earth was shaken and a loud noise was heard that gathered all the people like they were running to the sound of a fire engine siren on Azalea Drive in Munster, IN, where I live.
The Holy Spirit came upon the Church in a palpable way, not that the Holy Spirit has not always been with us. It is in the Holy Spirit that the Universe was created through the Son by the Father. The Holy Spirit is not a servant of God. The Holy Spirit IS God. If this were not true, then Jesus would not have told us to Baptize in the name of the Holy Spirit, as well as of the Father and of the Son. We baptize in the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So, on THIS day, Pentecost Sunday, the Church celebrates that we encountered the manifestation of God in a palpable way.
Much like the doors slammed at Lea’s Chapel United Methodist Church and Mr. Doug Carter shaken to take this Jesus thing a little more seriously, the Church was shaken by the mighty acts that were being done that day in Jerusalem. In response to this mighty act, Peter got up and told us some very important things. He got up and told us that the prophet Joel told us THAT day was coming. Peter said that this day was for all people-Jesus was and is the fulfillment of the prophecies that have come to us from the Chosen People for all people. He is the Messiah, says Peter. He ascended to the Right Hand of the Father, says Peter. He “has poured out this Holy Spirit that you both see and hear.” Jesus will come again to establish a reconstituted heaven and earth. Peter calls on us in the rest of this sermon in Acts to “Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” and this call to repentance is for everyone, young and old, rich and poor, gay or straight, black, white, every shade in between, conservative or liberal, religious or non-religious, right or wrong.
So, if our lives are part of this great story of salvation, then what exactly are we doing? It seems like all we want to do is fight or cower in fear. What exactly are we doing? It seems like all we want to do is tame the Holy Spirit to make others fit our rules or unleash the Holy Spirit so that we can break all the rules. What exactly are we doing? It seems like all we want to do is create another program to revitalize our churches or rewrite our mission statements to make us feel like we have achieved the will of God. What exactly are we doing? What doors need to be slammed so that we will sit up, shut up, stand up and rise up to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ beyond our own comfortable spaces?
Whose story do we think we are living here? We are not living our own random story. We are living the story that is preached by Peter in the entire Second Chapter of Acts, which I suggest you read as if it were your clarion call to live life. Repent. Even if you have believed since you were baptized as a baby, repent. Turn from your own sin and stop worrying about the sins of others. Believe that the Holy Spirit is real and is the Giver of every moment of YOUR life. Devote yourself to the teaching of those called by God to teach you. Devote yourself to fellowship with other Christians and other religious people. Devote yourself to the breaking of the bread, aka The Eucharist. Devote yourself to the prayers for yourself, the church, the world and the universe.
The answer to persecution; the answer to a world that doesn’t believe is not legislation, it is evangelization. What exactly are you doing in your life that would make people suspect that you are a Christian? When was the last time you stopped, thought of the Holy Spirit as a person, and listened instead of talking your way through the conversation?
How hot does it have to get? How loudly do the doors need to slam? How many Pentecosts do we need to celebrate before the dynamism of being a people who are enlivened by the Holy Spirit to live joyful lives that live for God and for others is evident in our every move? Amen.