Pentecost Sunday May 20, 2018

Pentecost Sunday May 20, 2018 (Psalm 104, Acts 1:12-15a, Romans 8:22-27) Acts 2:1-21   A conversation on Pentecost themes – Dottie Cotter, Susan Goux, Ann Marie Seitzinger, Tim Atwater

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On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit goes into over-drive – manifesting as a rushing violently-stormy-wind – and as flaming-tongues-of-fire dancing on gathered disciples – who catch fire with the Spirit, and speak in foreign languages they didn’t know they knew, praising God – and people from all over understand what they’re saying in their own native languages.

Many come to listen, drawn by the Spirit to learn what God’s doing… Others are skeptical, suggesting believers have been drinking….

Yesterday I watched a video of Presiding Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry passionately preaching biblical love at the royal wedding. Quoting Rev Martin Luther King Jr who said – when we learn to love as God loves this will be like mankind discovering fire again – as if for the first time. The royal bride and groom (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle) wiped joy tears from their eyes. In spite of the formal setting, many seemed to be feeling the Spirit. Some, however, appeared bored or cynical, like those in Jerusalem who accused disciples of being drunk…

But the Spirit gets the last word… as… By the end of the day of Pentecost three thousand have come to Jesus, baptized, giving lives now to serving Jesus as disciples…

That first Pentecost is a tough act to follow. We have very few reports of the Spirit appearing as fire and stormy wind, and very few examples of the Spirit gifting people to speak in foreign languages in all the years since… But Holy Spirit-led communication across all kinds of cultural and linguistic barriers has continued… Usually in quieter, less obvious ways… but…

Anytime we live together in love and harmony this is perhaps still certifiably miraculous. And yes, the first Pentecost is still a tough act to follow…

Yet ever since – all of us who believe in Jesus have the Holy Spirit living in us, Scripture tells us. So as we look back at our Pentecost family pictures, let’s remember – as our Thought for the Week says – “When it is a question of God’s almighty power, never say, ‘I can’t.’”

This morning we’re blessed to have three of our Certified Lay Servants – members who have taken at least two two-day Methodist Lay Leadership classes – speaking with us on themes arising from our Pentecost readings and traditions. Thank you very much – Susan Goux, Anne Marie Seitzinger, Dottie Cotter. And thanks God, I get to be here with you, in a helping role.

Let’s welcome Susan as our first speaker.

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[concluding–]

All the spiritual gifts are given through the one Holy Spirit… Under the Spirit’s guidance all the spiritual gifts work together in harmony… And the greatest – and by far most necessary – of all the gifts – is love…

Whenever we love God– neighbor – and one another – the Holy Spirit is living in us and working with us…(So…) Like the early church of old – may we do as Jesus says – and continue to gather together – waiting – prayerfully, expectantly – for the Spirit’s leading… Ready to be amazed and blessed anew… As we pray – Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us…

Thanks be to God. Amen.

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Reflections on Pentecost by Susan Goux

Acts 2:1-21

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Pastor Tim is in a very powerful position – every time he asks me to speak he forces me to examine my relationship with God.  Being asked to speak in church at various times is an opportunity to think deeper about our—more specifically, my faith.  I recommend this experience to everyone.  Not necessarily to stand up in front of everyone – I know that’s not for everyone.  But if you do you are more likely to actually complete the exercise, rather than just think “That’s a good idea, I should do that.”  I do recommend taking a topic, reading up on it – even a little, and thinking about it long enough to write down your thoughts on the subject.  If you get that far, you are 2/3rds of the way there and might as well share it with your friends in the congregation.

Today is Pentecost, often considered the birthday of the church.  Before the events of the first Pentecost, which came a few weeks after Jesus’ death and resurrection, there were followers of Jesus, but no movement that could be meaningfully called “the church.”  To be able to speak to you today I had to consider what I knew about Pentecost—I know we are supposed to wear red, we hear the story about the flame coming down, the big wind and speaking in tongues.  Like other major occasions in the church calendar, we listen to the scripture, we sing, we hear a sermon, and we think we understand about the significance of Pentecost.  And then someone says I want you to talk about it.  Whoa – that’s an entirely different thing!

With three of us speaking today and Tim adding information from time to time I don’t have to be the theological scholar on this subject, I only need to talk about what these verses in Acts cause me to think about – much as I expect you are also doing when you read them and contemplate them; I just wrote this down.

Do remember when first believed, when you first knew God?  We all heard the stories from our parents and our Sunday School teachers but when did you realize you believed in Jesus and when did the Holy Spirit come into your life?  Do you remember the day – the time – where you were?  Think about that for a minute.  Was there a moment when your heart was “strangely warmed” as John Wesley said?  Was there a time when you were filled with the Holy Spirit?  I hope you have had such an opportunity but if you can’t recall such a time, I would strongly recommend spending some quiet time communing with God and seeking that moment – inviting Him in.

I remember two things:  One was what a minister at my Methodist church in upstate NY said to me in my confirmation class when I was 13.  He said that your conscience is the voice of God speaking to you in your heart.  I’d always wondered whose voice that was – this explanation turned on a light.  That was the first time I thought about God speaking to me every day, and it felt comforting.  And the second time was when I was 17.  I can remember where I was sitting in my Methodist church in Santa Barbara and I was filled with the Holy Spirit.  I could feel it, I just knew, the light that was turned on at 13 was much brighter in me.  I knew from that day on, I would never be alone, and that He would be with me.  I also knew at that time, that God expected things from me — that I was walking with God – he had expectations of me but I just didn’t know what.  I still don’t know what so I have to keep up that conversation in my heart every day.

Pentecost is a story about the disciples a couple thousand or so years ago   When we read the story of Pentecost, it feels like we are talking about history – 2000 years ago.  That happened to those people.  I can picture it as a live action movie with special effects and a large stereo sound orchestral score.  It would be a spectacular movie especially in one of those new lounge chair theatres with popcorn.

In order to truly understand and experience this story, I have to put myself into the moment – what if I had been there.   A movie could make it feel like I am a spectator to an historical event.  The emotions of being a spectator can make us feel like we know God and when the event is over, we go on with our lives.   But I think you already know that we can never rest on living a good life in an easy chair watching a movie– we must to always be searching to find out what we can be doing in this life to spread God’s love. We are told in the scriptures that we are all disciples of Jesus; we are not THE disciples, the 12 who were with him, but we are the disciples of today – each and every one of us.   We are not spectators; we are disciples.  We must support each other and help others find the way to God and know he is walking with us, all of us, every day.

I hear people talk nostalgically about how the church used to be – what went on in the church in years past.  When we think fondly and longingly of the past we really aren’t even thinking too far back – 20, 30, 50 years.  But if we look at the church historically, not just in the nostalgic past, the church goes back thousands of years and it has changed/evolved many times.  What we need to be thinking about is today and the future.  We need to listen to the Holy Spirit in our hearts and be guided by that feeling.  We need to be talking with God in our hearts.  Just as the Holy Spirit guided and gave strength to how Peter and John approached what they did next after Jesus left them, the Spirit can guide us, also.  When we feel weak or afraid or tired, the Holy Spirit gives us strength, if we listen.

On Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Jesus’s first followers, thus empowering them for their mission and gathering them together as a church.  We too can be empowered.  We are not all asked to do big things like form a church and change the world, but we are empowered to do the every day things that spreads God’s love in the world.

Pentecost is the church’s birthday – your are the disciples — you are the church — Happy Birthday to you!