Sermon June 8: New Era

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Faith United Methodist Church
June 8, 2014
Pentecost Sunday
Rev. Krista-Beth Atwood

Scripture:  1 Corinthians 12:3b-13, Acts 2:1-21

Prayer of Illumination:

With hope and joy we hear your word, O God.  As people of Pentecost, may we be filled with wonder and delight, may we claim our heritage as people of wind and fire.  Filled with the Spirit, may our hearts and minds be transformed to dream dreams and see visions, that we might sing your praises and do your will.  Amen.

Sermon:  New Era

Well, today I have the task of explaining the unexplainable.  It is Pentecost.  The birthday of the church.  Yet what is, who is this Holy Spirit that blows into town?   Who is this breath, wind, spirit?  This Advocate, Counselor, Comforter who shows up just as expected, yet takes us completely off guard?  Who is this One who guides our steps and speaks to our hearts but is not seen or heard?  Who is this Holy Spirit?  Who is this herald of new visions and new possibilities, a whole new era, that was there before even the beginning began.

It is Pentecost and we can describe the effect the Holy Spirit had on those first followers of Jesus long ago.  We can talk about how they spoke in languages they did not even know and caused such a ruckus that some people thought they were drunk! We can see the bewilderment on the disciples’ faces as the wind whipped through their gathering.  We can celebrate that the Holy Spirit ushered in a new era in the life of faith, an era where no intermediary is needed, an era where God speaks directly to our hearts.

Yet, despite all of this, ~ or more likely because of it ~ we have trouble explaining the Holy Spirit.  We know the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Theologians have tried to break it down. One seminary professor, when asked how to respond to the question, What is the Holy Spirit?,  suggested, “Tell them it’s a mystery and then get out of the room as fast as possible before anyone can ask follow-up questions.”

It may be that sometimes we shy away from talking about the Holy Spirit because we don’t want to appear too fanatical or enthusiastic ~ too Pentecostal.  We don’t want people to think we’re holy-rollers.  We’re Mainline Protestants after all.  We sing together “Spirit of the Living God.”  Yet we’re not sure what the Holy Spirit can do for us today, and we’re not really sure if we want to find out.  Most of us probably don’t think a great wind will fill this house and we will start speaking in tongues.  In truth, we probably don’t really think anything too exciting or earth shaking will happen at all.

So let me go out on a limb here and ask the un-askable question.    How do you experience the Holy Spirit?   We are not fanatics if we have an experience of the Holy Spirit.  As Mary Ogus writes:

There is Pentecost
Whenever, in the depths of the most destructive forces of our own hearts
We discover a more creative force compelling us toward
Reconciliation, toward kindness, toward forgiveness.
There the spirit is rushing in,
Giving us new eyes to see, new ears to hear
New voices to speak God’s love.
There is Pentecost

This reminds me that the Holy Spirit is not finished with us yet.  The Holy Spirit didn’t act once, long ago, but continues to act in us and through us today.  In many ways this new era ushered in by the Holy Spirit is new every day.  Every day we have the chance to be touched, to be changed by the Holy Spirit.  Every day we can start again, embark on a new era of reconciliation, of kindness, of forgiveness.  Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me…. on us.

So, I end up right where I began.  Trying to explain the unexplainable.  What is, who is this Holy Spirit that blows into town?  I can’t say I can explain it, but I certainly celebrate it.  I feel blessed when I experience it and when we experience it together.  So, while I can’t explain it, what I can do is pray.  Come Holy Spirit, Come.  If you would, say it with me:  Come Holy Spirit, Come.

… that we may feel your comfort and your challenge.  Come, that we may be filled with expectation.  Come that we may experience your mystery.  Come that a new era of reconciliation, kindness and forgiveness may open among us.  Come, you that are both new and old, both gentle and firm.  Come, not that we may be satisfied or content, but that we may do great things in Jesus name.  Come Holy Spirit, Come.  Amen and Amen.