Sermon–Day of Pentecost
June 9, 2019
Acts 2:1-21, Genesis 11:1-9, Psalm 104:25-35, 37, Romans 8:14-17, John 14:8-17, (25-27)
I remember a couple of years ago when my granddaughter, Eleanor, became interested in what she called chapter books. She had reached the age where short books were not capable of connecting with the growing complexity of her life. I want to suggest that the Bible is a chapter book that is capable of connecting with the deepest complexities of our lives.
The first verse of the first chapter of the first book says: “When God began to create the heavens and the earth— the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind, that is God’s Spirit, swept over the waters”…. Common English Bible
As you know, the story continues with the creation of the cosmos and 5 times we are told in the Common English Bible translation, “God saw how good it was.” Then after all was completed the story reads: “God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good.”
Of course we also know that two chapters later our people end up outside the garden and inside the nightmare of living separated from Spirit and from one another.
In the 11th chapter of Genesis, the story of the Tower of Babel, our people think they can build a city in which everyone speaks one and only one, language. They are one tribe with no diversity allowed, but this goes against God’s original plan of a world of many languages, ethnicities, and cultures seeking to know and love one another. The story ends with God creating a diversity of languages so we can grow in love.
I imagine they become like the so-called Ugly American tourists who don’t understand why everyone doesn’t speak English and in frustration talk louder and slower at people so they will give us what we want.
The beginning of the end of our story is in Genesis 12 where God calls and covenants with Abraham to lead a family that will become a great community that God can use to heal the divisions and bring together all nations and peoples.
The Spirit inspires prophets to instruct the people when they go astray how to rediscover their vocation to be a healing to the world.
Joel, one of those prophets, who lives 5 centuries before Christ, says: 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 prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.”
Joel describes a world in which every human being will be filled with the Wind of God and be a witness for the eternal, infinite, unconditional love of God for all God has made. On that great day, he says, we will stop being part of the problem, and start being part of the Salvation.
And what is salvation: Salvation is knowing God’s rescuing power revealed in Jesus as a personal and present reality, as well as an abiding hope for the future.
On the Day of Pentecost Joel’s prophecy comes to life as Jesus who has ascended to the throne of the Universe, sends the Spirit that animates him to animate us.
The Spirit is an animating force so the disciples, filled with Wind begin to speak in other languages, so all may know they are included in the loving acts of God.
Some of the people listening to the many languages spoken at once are convinced the disciples are drunk. They’d obviously been in bars when alcohol makes some folks loud and obnoxious and they want no part of that.
But there are 3000 that day who are tired of the hard slog of living in a tribal world of hatred, division, and violence. Now under the impact of the Spirit, they experience the possibility of a community in which understanding triumphs over judgment. Notice : The reason total strangers on Pentecost can understand each other is not because they have all been made the same, but because they have all been filled with the Divine Love.
The new believers are learning to let the Spirit open their hearts to experience God’s vision of creation as “supremely good.”
Here’s the thing: You and I had no say in our conception and birth into this world and we were unconscious of the whole thing. It is a free gift, and ready or not, here we come, look out world!
Our New Creation in the Spirit also comes as a free gift, but now we have a say in it and a consciousness of it. When we’re tired of living East of Eden; tired of yelling at strangers who don’t understand us, and we’re worn down by the effort it takes to maintain the illusion that we don’t need God filling our sails and plotting our course—then we can raise our sails and catch the Wind.
This is what Jesus is offering to Nicodemus when he says: “Don’t be surprised that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Too often churches vainly imagine they’ve achieved the unity of God’s kingdom when all they’ve done is make sure everyone looks and sounds the same.
Our team from All Saints under the leadership of Abby and Emerson Warren got a good picture of God’s kingdom at the Boston Pride Parade yesterday. We were for that time not a homogenous group of the closed-minded, but rather a diverse group of the open-hearted.
I loved the sign a smiling spectator was holding that said: “God is non-binary” which is a pretty good setup for Trinity Sunday next week!
Our biblical story, from beginning to end, is the story of Creator, Christ, and Spirit loving us into existence, and then loving us out of the stagnation and separation that slips in through our fear of death and dying.
We are all in different chapters of the story—some are in the exuberance of the early chapters, while others can tell the last chapter is approaching.
But no matter where we are, the Bible tells us every moment is a Pentecost moment. Even in this moment Spirit is filling our sails no matter how tired we may be. Right now Christ is urging us to throw off the lines that keep us moored to a fearful life, so Christ can sail us out into the Father’s Sea of Love.