May 15, 2016, Pentecost Sunday
May 15, 2016: Pentecost Sunday
The Spirit Calls Us All
Loving God, please guide our thoughts and words today, You are our Potter, we are Your clay, in Christ’s Name we pray, Amen.
Please join me in picturing this in your mind. You are in a stone church, large, able to seat a few hundred worshipers. It’s a beautiful building with stained glass windows showing various people from the Bible and Christian History, a huge organ, beautiful stone tiles on the floor and wood carvings everywhere. Behind the altar is a large round window showing Jesus teaching, a reminder that we come to this this church to learn from and about Jesus Christ.
About 150 people are gathered in the church. These people are all hearing a preacher offer a prayer, a prayer of thanks for blessings and a prayer asking God to be there and or show us how to be there for people in need. At the end of the prayer the preacher asks all the people there to say the Lord’s prayer. In many ways the Lord’s Prayer is one of the most moving parts of the service.
This was what a chapel service was like for me, and my spouse Megan, when we were in seminary. Each Wednesday there was a chapel service where students, staff, and faculty of the Boston University School of Theology would gather for worship and prayer I loved when it was time for the Lord’s prayer.
The tradition was for everyone to say the Lord’s prayer as they’d first learned it. This meant that people from all over the United States would say the Lord’s Prayer in all the different accents of our nation. You could hear the Lord’s prayer with a southern drawl ya’ll, or in a wicked hard core New England accent, and many more. Different people would also say the prayer using lightly different words as they’d learned it, for instance some would say trespasses at one point, others would say debts, and others would say sins, the idea was the same, but the words weren’t, I’m pretty sure God doesn’t care which words we use. Finally, perhaps most movingly people would say the Lord’s prayer in their native language. At the seminary we had people from the Philippines, South Korea, Brazil, and more, people from all over the world come to study about the bible and Jesus Christ. So when we said the Lord’s prayer, you could also hear Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Tagalog and other languages spoken along with English, all in praise and honor to God. I loved that!
I thought of those prayers at chapel service when I was in seminary as I read the story of Pentecost getting ready for today. Our passage records that Jesus’ followers a few dozen men and women had gathered. They were praying together, on the Feast of Pentecost. That was a Jewish Holy Festival where people gave thanks to God for the scriptures and for the blessings of the spring harvest in that part of the world. Suddenly as they prayed the Holy Spirit came upon the people gathered with a sound like a rush of wind and then they started speaking in languages they didn’t know. Many languages, Greek, Elamite, Arabic, Parthian, and others were used by Jesus’ followers to praise God, to thank God, to give glory to Jesus Christ. Just as I have heard many Christians pray together in many languages, so those first Christians praised God in many languages as the Holy Spirit gave them the miraculous ability to do so. It must have been amazing to hear, and so amazing was it that it drew a crowd.
The Holy Spirit, God’s power came upon these people as they gathered and gave them the ability to speak other languages because it would allow them to tell people about Jesus. Someone can preach to me in Navajo about Jesus for hours, but I won’t understand it, and so it likely won’t help me know more about God’s love in Jesus and Jesus’ teachings. However, a good sermon in English will help me grow in my faith. Likewise, long ago God gave people the ability to speak these languages so that all the people gathered in Jerusalem that day, people who were Jewish but from all over the world so they spoke many different languages, could hear about Jesus in their native language and best understand. The Holy Spirit equips people to go out and serve, teach, preach, comfort, help, love others in Jesus’ name. And, the Spirit offers to people if they are willing to accept the gift, what they need to do that, in this case the ability to speak languages from lands far away.
We don’t all need to do the same things to share Jesus’ Good News. Just as we need many languages to share Jesus with people all over the world, likewise we need many gifts given by the Holy Spirit to do all the things that Jesus needs done in this world. That also makes me think of those chapel services in seminary. The people I worshiped with went out and became youth pastors, organists, composers, teachers, professors, archeologists, biblical scholars, army chaplains, counselors, and O yeah, pastors in local churches like this one. These students and faculty went out and did these many different things, because the Holy Spirit called and led them to many different ways they could share Jesus’ love, invite people to know Jesus Christ better, and love and help people in Jesus’ Name.
The Holy Spirit does not call us all to the same tasks, but the Holy Spirit does call and invite all of us to ministry. When a crowd had gathered Simon Peter one of the Apostles stood up and preached a sermon to them about Jesus. In that sermon he quoted from the Prophet Joel who had lived many centuries before. This quote reminds us that God will call upon and wants to work through everyone, young and old, men and women, all jobs and all ethnicities, everyone. God can and does pour out, offer the guidance of the Holy Spirit to all people, the question is not if God will call us through the Spirit, rather the question is if we will respond to the call, the gift, and the guidance that God is offering.
The very first sermon I ever preached, sort of quoting President Kennedy I said: “Ask not what God can do for you, ask what you can do for God.” My point then, and now is that God through the Holy Spirit offers us love, offers us a calling, offers us the opportunity to serve and to be a blessing and to be blessed through that service. Several years ago when I lived in the state of Washington I was asked to visit a church to talk about the work the agency I worked for was doing. At that service there was a baptism of a little baby girl. The pastor at the end of the baptism was crying tears of joy. He talked about how humbled he was and how amazing it was for him to get to baptize a child and welcome the baby into the church on behalf of the people of God. In doing his service to that family he felt a blessing that filled his heart so deeply that he filled up and overflowed with joy. When we serve as the Spirit calls to us that is the kind of blessing we can be to others something so joyful, and that is the kind of blessing we can know.
In the days following that first Pentecost nearly 2000 years ago, the Good News of Jesus spread as the Holy Spirit called, equipped, and empowered people to go share the Good News of Jesus Christ in many ways. Our lives are no different. Though we are dozens of generations removed from those first Christians we are also called, equipped, and empowered to go out and share the love of Jesus with others. The Holy Spirit is still being offered to us so that we can continue the work of Jesus. We aren’t all called the same way or to the same jobs as 2000 years ago, but we are all called, that is an eternal part of following Christ. The Holy Spirit is for all people, us very much included. Will we answer the call and like those literally first Christians bless our world, I pray we all do, Amen!