Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost Year A -- June 8, 2014

Let us begin with prayer:  Bountiful Spirit, give us your gifts.  Help us to receive and use them.  Build us up in love and unity that we may witness your goodness.  Make our lives examples of Christ in our world today.  Thank you for your gifts, and may we dare to ask for more.  In Christ, we pray.  Amen.

Today is Pentecost – the completion of the Easter season, which began 2 months ago when we saw Jesus entering into Jerusalem riding on one (or two) donkeys.  Ever since that less than regal entrance into the city, our expectations for Jesus have been upended, recalibrated, frustrated and fulfilled far beyond what we could imagine.  And the same holds true for Pentecost.  Whatever the disciples were expecting from the “Advocate” that Jesus promised to them, we can be pretty sure they weren’t expecting this crazy mix of wind and fire and doves descending.  They didn’t expect the chaos that, at least in the book of Acts, looked an awful lot like a drunken party at 9 a.m.  I have no idea what plans the disciples had in mind after Jesus’ ascension, but it’s pretty certain that the plans for the early church didn’t require a PowerPoint presentation, or a ministry plan scribbled on the back of a cocktail napkins.

What they had on their hands was a mess.  A holy mess.  That’s Pentecost.  Look at your bulletin covers.  The mass of color and type fonts.  That’s Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit is messy and disruptive, hard to read, and defies any attempt to be explained by us.

Which is why I love Pentecost. Despite the fact that I am as Presbyterian as they come, and love it when things are done decently and in order, I also love that God is forever fueling the imagination and faith of God’s people with this same confusing, wanton, winsome wind that sparked the early church.

And this morning, I am going to invite you to dip your toe into this unholy mess as well.  We’re going to think together about what it might mean to be a “Pentecostal” people.  And the good news, is that you are already Pentecostal people!  You already have been gifted in your baptism with the incredible wind and power and peace and fire of the Holy Spirit.  In your baptism, you have been given the Holy Spirit who teaches us and leads us into all truth, filling us with a variety of gifts so that we do what we've been sent out by Jesus to do --  proclaim the great and good news of the Gospel.

In his letter to the members of Pittsburgh Presbytery this week, Sheldon Sorge told the story of a Presbyterian pastor who was accused by a member of his congregation as being “too Pentecostal.”  This pastor wasn’t quite certain if his parishioner was right or wrong, so he put the question out to his Facebook friends – “Do you think I’m Pentecostal?”  Many of his Facebook friends didn’t think he fit the bill, if by “Pentecostal” we mean those worship styles in which people speak in tongues and handle snakes.  However, if by Pentecostal we are talking about believing that God’s Holy Spirit is at work in everyone for everyone’s benefit, yes – this Presbyterian pastor could be considered Pentecostal.

So can we – a bunch of popsicle Presbyterians --  be Pentecostal?  That’s my goal this morning – to help us name and claim our gifts of the Spirit. 

Scripture helps us do that.  We’re going to begin by reading three texts that help us understand what gifts the Spirit gives to us.  And as I’m reading each text, I want you to shout out and wave your flames when you hear a gift of the Spirit.

(Each person in the congregation had been given "flames" to wave.  Some folks had noisemakers as well.  As the scripture was read, folks shouted out gifts of the Spirit that they heard in the text.  These were written down on a large tablet at the front of the sanctuary.  Everyone seemed to enjoy this exercise).

John 20:19-22
19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:1-21

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17‘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. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Take 3 or 4 minutes, pair up, and tell each other what gifts of the Spirit you have seen in the other person.    You are not limited to the list up here.
(2-3 minutes of conversation)

What did you hear?
(Folks shouted out the gifts they had heard, many of which were not on the list generated in the original list).

But there are other spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible.  And these gifts are universal, meaning that they are available to everyone.  Not just preachers or leaders.  Not scholars and saints.  But to all of us. 

List of gifts revealed:  wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence, and wonder/awe.

Isaiah 11:1-3
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear.

These are all gifts everyone may have.  Think about the gift you would most like to have.   Which one is most important for the life of this church, this community, this congregation – right now?

Come forward and claim your gift of the Spirit.  And then take a spark with the sign of the dove and add it to your flame.

Litany of the Gifts of the Spirit

L: With the gift of wisdom, which helps us to see clearly,
P: Let us renew the face of the earth
L: With the gift of understanding, which helps us to know God and God’s people,
P: Let us renew the face of the earth.

RESPONSE                                                                                    300
We Are One in the Spirit (verse 1)

L: With the gift of right judgment, which helps us to make good decisions,
P: Let us renew the face of the earth.
L: With the gift of courage, which gives us strength and helps us not to be afraid,
P: Let us renew the face of the earth.

RESPONSE            We Are One in the Spirit (verse 2)

L: With the gift of knowledge, which helps us to see our part in God’s creation,
P: Let us renew the face of the earth.
L: With the gift of reverence, which helps us in our just relationships with God and God’s people,
P: Let us renew the face of the earth.

RESPONSE            We Are One in the Spirit (verse 3)

L: With the gift of wonder, which helps us to be astonished at the marvels of God,
P: Let us renew the face of the earth.

RESPONSE            We Are One in the Spirit (verse 4)