In pm's words
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June 10, 2019, 12:00 AM

The one about stirring things up...


Sermon from Pentecost Sunday - June 9, 2019

Text: Acts 2: 1-21

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Risen Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, here we are. We come to the celebration of the in-rushing of the Holy Spirit. In many ways, this is the birth of the church itself. Not Redeemer, but the church to which Redeemer and all other congregations belong. The day that Jesus promised his disciples came. The Holy Spirit – the advocate – the helper – rushed into creation and set everything on its side.

This morning, we get to read on of my favorite biblical stories. The text from Acts depicts what that event was like as many gathered in that space around the disciples. Where the Spirit rushed in and… confusion took over.

Confusion because no one really knew what was happening. So much so, that Peter utters one of my absolute favorite lines in all of scripture – this must be the work of the Holy Spirit, because it is too early for these guys to all be drunk. I always chuckle at that, because obviously Peter has never been to college.

But, there is confusion as to what is going on. Everyone is speaking in their own native languages and everyone around them can understand them in their own native tongue. Imagine if that would happen today? People speaking English, Spanish, Farsi, Danish, Italian, and more and we would all be able to understand what was being said. In fact, when I was younger, that is exactly how I thought learning a new language would be like. It would just ‘click’ and like a universal translator on Star Trek or the opening scene to Hunt for the Red October, you’d just start hearing everything in English.

This of course, doesn’t even mention the tongues of flame that alight upon the foreheads of those who are speaking.

I’m pretty certain, if I had walked into on this event, I’d slowly start backing out of the room and turning tail and run. It’s a weird event. It turns the world on its side.

I think we like to believe that the Holy Spirit is something that only gives us warm fuzzies. Opens our mind to new ideas, and altogether kind of makes us feel at peace. Somewhat like how the two on the road to Emmaus felt when they exclaimed that their ‘hearts burned within them’ as the walked and spoke to Jesus on the road.

Or perhaps the feeling I get when I venture up the mountain once again and pass through the entrance to Lutheridge. That feeling of God’s presence, amazement, emotion, and more. That feeling that makes me think and ask, “What does God have in store this time?”

But, I’m not so sure that is only what the work of the Holy Spirit does. Those feelings are definitely NOT what the disciples, the faithful, and the ones speaking are living in at the moment. They are confused, they are confounded, perhaps there is a bit of hesitancy and fear running through their minds as well.

Something has changed, something has made this different. Something is at work in the world far beyond our control. And that, my friends, is scary.

The Holy Spirit moves us into unease. The Holy Spirit guides us into uncomfortableness. The Holy Spirit pushes and drags us out of our comfort zones. The Holy Spirit rushes in and stirs things up. The Holy Spirit does all the things we’d rather not be a part of – because we like to be at ease, and ‘at peace’ with what is going on.

We don’t like to be pushed. We don’t like to be uncomfortable. We want to be in control.

Yet, still, the Holy Spirit rushes in, breathes into us new life, and we are sent out and into places we couldn’t imagine. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are guided into ways and ministries that we wouldn’t expect. It isn’t comfortable, it isn’t easy, it can be a little scary.

Scary like seeing flames dancing upon the foreheads of people around us as they utter the praises of God’s work and life in languages of the world. Putting them in a position that makes others sneer, perhaps drives others to ‘squash their proclamation’ in decisive ways. Causes others to turn around and walk the other way.

Perhaps even puts their life – their physical, social, political, and economic lives – at risk. Risk of humiliation. Risk of loss. Risk of death.

The Holy Spirit rushes in and stirs things up.

We are going through that moment now as we continue to move through this visioning process this year. Where at the end of this month, we will gather as a community to reflect on the past, look at the present, and vision for the future. Where is God leading us? How is the Holy Spirit guiding us? Where will we see Jesus in places and ways we’d never expect?

It can be scary. It can make us hesitant. It can cause disagreements. It can make us uncomfortable as we follow the movement of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit rushes in and stirs things up.

Two things happened this week that remind me of how the Holy Spirit works. One was I saw a movie, and the other was I read a news article.

They both centered on similar issues. Both were powerful. Both made me feel uncomfortable.

While at the SC Synod Assembly this past week in Spartanburg, I and about 70 other attendees were able to watch the movie The Hate You Give. The movie centered around the death of an unarmed young black man by a police officer. The main character – a teenage woman – was witness to the whole thing.

The Spirit moved within her as she was able to use her voice to speak out against the broken system in our country and how it views young black men. She speaks out and she loses friends, she’s torn between the two ‘worlds’ she lives in. But, she also doesn’t speak out just against the broken justice system, but also speaks out on the cycle of life that keeps and locks young black men like her friend in a terrible cycle of drugs, gangs, and violence. Speaking out puts her and her families’ lives at risk.

I highly recommend everyone watch that movie.

The Holy Spirit rushes in and stirs things up.

I recently read a news article about a high security prison in Texas. Where the most violent of criminals are placed in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, behind thick steel doors with just a few airholes. That if they are taken anywhere, they are chained and shackled. Where prison guards are in front and behind them, with two others holding on to their arms. Just in case they act out on their violent tendencies.

Yet, this article was about a church that went into this prison full of violent individuals. Men who were part of numerous and rival gangs. Gangs and groups where the other is considered a mortal enemy and the only way to get ‘out’ of that life is to be killed. Either by one of your ‘friends’ or by a rival gang member.

The church came to those men. The Spirit moved through not only those church members, but also through these men as they shared their stories. As they shared and heard the gospel. As they discerned that they too are a part of this new life that God has promised in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus who is the Christ. The Spirit moved through them all as they uttered the same words of the Eunuch to Philip – what is to keep me from being baptized?

And so, these men were baptized. As one man told the campus pastor, “I have tried it my way my whole life and it’s gotten me here. I want to try it God’s way…we’re going to come out of the water as new men."

These men were baptized. Not separately. But together. Each members of rival and violent gangs. Where the mere friendly interaction with one another could mean their own death at the hands of the group they pledged loyalty to.

The Holy Spirit rushes in and stirs things up.

So, my sisters and brothers. So, my friends. Where is the Holy Spirit rushing in and stirring things up for you? For this community? For this world?

Where do we go boldly proclaiming God’s way, coming out of the water as new people – in spite of what others say? Where do we go as we lean into God’s love and ministry for all when it makes us uncomfortable and hesitant? Where is the Spirit flowing through us, around us, in us, and moving us towards ministry and service where we don’t feel quite in control?

Wherever we go. Wherever the Spirit leads us – we remember that God is with us. We remember that as we go proclaiming God’s goodness, love, mercy, and forgiveness to a world in desperate need to hear of that peace that we do this work and ministry of God – together. As one body, working together – not doing the same thing – but, working as one to bring about the new life that God has promised to the world through Jesus who is our Christ.

The Holy Spirit rushes in and stirs things up. Amen.


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