Sunday, May 20, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Acts 2:1-21, Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
What do you think of when you hear the word Pentecost – the 50 days after Easter- the celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit? Can you feel the rush of the wind around you or is it only something that happened to the first disciples over 2000 years ago? The early disciples – men and women – gathered together after Jesus ascended into heaven – gathered together in one place and then whoosh- the rush of the wind, tongues of flame – it all started. The Holy Spirit descended on them and they would never be the same again.
Do you see visions and have dreams? Or do the words of the prophet Joel only speak about a time that has already gone by? “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” The Holy Spirit is an unpredictable force. Perhaps that’s why people in our churches don’t like to talk about it, because we want to be in control, and you can’t control the wind. But you can’t avoid it either. It draws you in.
My grand puppy, Zoey, is twelve years old and she loves to stick her head out the car window and feel the rush of the wind in her face. When I’m riding in the car with her, I always get a little nervous when her mom rolls the window down a little too much. I’m afraid she’ll fall out. But Zoey loves the feel of the wind against her face. The faster you go the more she loves it. She loves to breathe in that wind to the point where she almost can’t breathe. It’s exhilarating and a little disorienting at the same time ….even for a little dog like Zoey.
That’s how the wind is. It’s unpredictable. It feels wonderful when the cool wind touches our skin on a blistering hot afternoon. We need the wind.
It’s useful to harness with turbines and use it for energy. Yet when the wind violently tears up nature and buildings in a hurricane or tornado, we’re frightened by the destruction it causes. That’s exactly what happened earlier last week when a violent wind, several tornadoes actually, hit CT where my mom lives. It took me a while to get in touch with her and other family members there, and they were without power for four to five days. When I finally was able to talk with my mom she said, “the wind shook the whole house. It’s been a long time since I’ve been through a storm like that.” So while we may love the wind on the one hand, we are also a bit afraid of it as well. The wind is a formidable thing, and the Hebrew and Greek words for Holy Spirit – ruach or pneuma – mean breath or wind. It is a formidable power.
Wild wind that takes your breath away, tongues of dancing fire, visions, dreams, prophesies, noise…. these are the experiences of the first Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out and nothing was the same. Things were stirred up. Doors were unlocked. That same Spirit is still active today. And when touched by the Spirit, people do things they never imagined doing. They are changed, transformed, and change is scary for many of us even if it is prompted by the Holy Spirit.
But Jesus was right. We need that Holy Spirit. Jesus had to go away from this earth for a while, yet Jesus has not abandoned us. He has sent the Holy Spirit to breathe new life into us. Pentecost is not something that happened 2000 years ago. Pentecost is still happening today! Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to be with us and in us. We first received this Spirit in our baptism. Next week Grace Goellner will be baptized and she will be sealed by the Holy Spirit. It will be her first Pentecost. We will celebrate three baptisms over the next three weeks, and three First Communions. Now that is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit!
The Spirit is with us always breathing new life into us, and igniting in us a holy fire. Can you feel it? Those times when an answer becomes clear to you? Those times when you are literally on fire with a passion to do something that you hadn’t ever imagined doing? That knowing, that passion, is the Holy Spirit.
Can you feel the Spirit in our congregation or are we afraid to call upon the Holy Spirit? Are we afraid that it might take our breath away and cause us to feel disoriented, confused, upset, lost, or out of sorts like the early disciples? Are we afraid it may cause conflict? Maybe some of you are feeling that way right now. Maybe you’re conflicted, at a crossroads between the past and the future, and you don’t know how to move forward.
You may not realize it, but the Holy Spirit is stirring within you to transform. Conflict, or a stirring up of things, is not bad. Growth and change require a certain amount of conflict. Even in nature, the storms that thunder in the clouds are necessary to clear the way for new fresh air. The sand in the shell of an oyster is just the irritant needed to produce a priceless pearl.
We don’t always have to feel terrific to know that the Holy Spirit is working in our lives. Faith is not about feelings – faith is believing even when our feelings and our intellect tell us something different. Faith is trusting in God even when we are in the midst of a whirlwind of chaos and uncertainty. We may not know what the future holds, but we don’t have to know. We only have to believe Jesus when he tells us that the Holy Spirit or Advocate is here to help, comfort, guide, and transform our lives. The Holy Spirit is the bridge between the past and the future – the ultimate time traveler –
whose power is in embracing the now. The Holy Spirit is the one who will lead us to all truth. Sometimes the truth may be hard to accept, but the truth will set us free.
Jesus said that there were things he wanted to tell the early disciples before he ascended to God the Father, the Creator, but that he knew they weren’t yet ready to understand them. But he promised that the Holy Spirit would teach them the things they needed to know when they were ready. That same promise is for us today. Are we ready? Are we individually and collectively as the body of Christ ready to let the Holy Spirit teach us? When we pray for the Holy Spirit to come among us we need to be ready to be changed into who God wants us to be – witnesses of the gospel of Jesus’ love. The Holy Spirit will help us to lead courageous lives of faith by showing us the truth – the truth of the mystery of grace that surrounds us even when we cannot feel it. The truth of the injustices that plague our neighborhood, our country, and our world. Once we see this truth, we can listen to the Holy Spirit for ways we can be the answer to prayer. The Holy Spirit will lead us to a deeper faith, a deeper relationship with God that cannot be reached by our intellectual searching.
The Spirit of Truth that the Holy Spirit reveals to us uncovers the grace and beauty in life. The Spirit opens our eyes and helps us to see that there are more possibilities than we can imagine. The Spirit takes away our worries and infuses us with hope and courage. The Holy Spirit will open us up to listen to our dreams and visions. Like the character Ray in the movie Field of Dreams who heard “build it and they will come”, God has dreams and a purpose for each one of us, for this congregation, and for the entire Christian Church. The Holy Spirit will help us to realize those dreams.
Visions and dreams are not things of the past. They are manifestations of the Holy Spirit active today. We need not fear them. We need not fear the Spirit, for it will guide us into all truth. Good Shepherd Lutheran Church has been given by God a collective dream and mission here in this world. We exist to be the instruments through which God will be revealed. Pray for the Holy Spirit to blow through your life, to blow through this church. If you don’t know what to say when you pray, that’s okay. The Holy Spirit is praying for us with “sighs too deep for words.” Trust in that promise.
The Spirit of the Living God, the wind and fire of that first Pentecost is available each and every day – ready to transform us, ready to continue the movement of what Jesus started and carry it wherever we go. Just open the window to your heart. Close your eyes and feel the rush of the wind in your face, the wind of the Spirit that wants to give you new life. Breathe it in. Breathe out fear, and breathe in courage. Breathe out desperation, and breathe in hope. Breathe out resentment and guilt, and breathe in peace. Breathe out sorrow, and breathe in joy. God’s Holy Spirit is with you always. Breathe in the Holy Spirit and live fearlessly in God’s amazing grace, and let the fire of the Holy Spirit renew the face of the earth through you! Amen!