Monday, June 5, 2017

Pentecost Sermon - from Angels to Blitz!

June 4, 2017
Day of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
John 20:19-23

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable and suitable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Kelly Fryer, has written many books and Bible Studies about what it means to be church in the world around us today.  She is a little shorter than me, and a little rounder than I am…but we have the same spunky personality.  She and I both like to tell stories when we share our faith journeys. 

One of my favorite stories that Kelly shares is an experience she had back in November 2001, when she was flying to Washington, D.C.  As you can imagine, things in the airport in the months following 9-11 were a bit stressful due to heightened security.
While Kelly arrives at the airport three hours early, she is still the last one on the plane, shuffled to the back by the bathroom as she carried her little suitcase, a guitar and a briefcase….

After squishing into her tiny back row seat, one of the flight attendants starts chatting her up, asking about the guitar, why she’s traveling to Washington, you know the normal flight attendant chit-chat.  Then he goes off to do something else…

As the plane is backing up, preparing for take-off, Kelly is in her seat, eyes closed, and trying to relax for the flight. When she hears, “Kelly.” She slowly opens up her eyes and sees the attendant crouched down next to her.

He says to her, in a soft voice, “You see that man two rows in front of you? If he does anything suspicious, let us know.” And he stands up and walks away. 

Kelly’s mind starts spinning….woah, this attendant is hyper-alert…and then woah…what if this guy actually does something suspicious!?!?!

Well, she pulls out her laptop, because it’s the heaviest thing she’s got with her, (and I guess easier to wield than a guitar) and settles in for the flight, keeping a solid eye on the guy, two rows up. 

The plane lands and she is the last one off, following this guy, where as they enter the terminal is surrounded by a huddle of D.C. police officers and FBI and hauled off in handcuffs. 

And Kelly thought to herself, “Are you kidding me? You must be kidding….I’m the best plan you’ve got??” 

And yet in that moment, she was called…and chosen to be the best plan in that situation. 

How often do we wonder if we are the best ones for the job?  We, like those apostles who were nearly knocked over the by the wind, breath and fire of the Holy Spirit are flawed, smug and confused…yet we are the very people to whom God sends the Spirit.  Because see, God just like that Pentecost, God still breaks in to do the work God is prepared to do.  And we will accomplish that work, powered by the Holy Spirit. 

And why does God do all this? 
Well, because God is not kidding. 
We are the best that God has to work with…

Sometimes I think we let ourselves get in the way of the movement of the spirit.  When the spirit blows we can have a sense of doubt or concern or uneasiness when thinking about letting go and letting God.  It’s almost as if when the Spirit blows, we hold our breath.  We hold our breath, hoping the Spirit will blow right by and we can continue on our own path. 

Yet this celebration of Pentecost calls us to keep breathing.  It challenges us to keep ourselves open to the Spirit who seeks us. 

The Spirit that, in the beginning, brooded over the chaos and brought forth creation; the Spirit that drenched the community with fire and breath on the day of Pentecost: this same Spirit desires to dwell within us and among us.
Amidst the brokenness and chaos and pain that sometimes come with being in community, the Spirit searches for places to breathe in us, to transform us, to knit us together more deeply and wholly as the body of Christ, and to send us forth into the world.

The Spirit moved through the Pocono retreat last weekend.  Laughter and stories were shared, relationships were build and strengthened, songs were sung, prayers were prayed, scripture was lived out and food was eaten…lots of food was eaten.  And while there were so many moments when the Spirit was at work…here are two that I want to share. 

In the rec hall, we gathered for games and ice breakers.  The volume in that hall was overwhelming with laughter, shouting, running, laughing and singing.  But after finishing the games and the goofiness, with a verse or two of the song Sanctuary, we moved as a group of 60 people from chaos to quiet study and prayer.  We dove into a passage from Romans and shared what it meant to each of us that we cannot ever be separated from the love of God.  Those responses are on this cross.  The Spirit blew in our midst, in our living space and in our hearts to share the love God has for us. 

On Sunday morning, the spirit moved in a completely different direction…with a little music, our breakfast was rockin’.  Yes, we started of slowly…with a favorite tune…(Angel of the Morning)  and ended with this…. Ballroom Blitz 
The whole dining hall was chanting, tossing a stuffed teddy bear around the room and laughing.  The energy in that place…was amazing.  

And that was our prelude to worship.  Good times, right?

But here’s the thing…again, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we were united in silliness and shenanigans and enjoying the moment.  We were united as a community who was ready to laugh and have fun together.  We were also united as a community ready to worship, ready to praise God and ready to pray.   

The Ballroom Blitz moment was the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit is not to be confused with a gentle spring breeze, it’s a full force gale! 

The Spirit will blow as God wishes and we are to go along for the ride, out of these pews and into the community, to serve the poor and needy, to share the good news of Jesus Christ, to proclaim the good news about a God that loves us unconditionally. 

The Spirit will move us and shake us.  It will comfort us when we are scared or frightened, as it did when Jesus breathed on his disciples in that locked room. 

When we are situated and comfortable, the Spirit will move and shake us into areas outside our comfort zone. 

The Spirit will comfort the terrified, and terrify the comforted. 

As the Spirit moves and shakes us, we give thanks to God that we are always being moved in ways for our faith to grow and for Jesus’ good news to be shared with all. 

So with the wind of the Spirit at our backs, may we be strengthened at this meal, and blown out of here to serve God within our community. 

And now may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 

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