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SERMON

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									Westwood Presbyterian Church, Winnipeg SERMON Pentecost – Acts 2:1-13

May 31, 2009

You will find greeting cards in stores marking Christmas and Easter – two of the big three days in the church year – but you will be hard pressed to find greeting cards for Pentecost. Now I am not suggesting that “Happy Pentecost” cards should be available to buy – I am just noting that Pentecost has not been commercialized like Christmas and Easter. And while I am glad Pentecost has been commercialized – I am sad that in many segments of the church Pentecost is an almost forgotten day – or if it is remembered, we are not quite sure what we are marking. Back to Christmas and Easter for a moment. Those days mark dramatic events – God took on human form and came to our world; God raised Jesus Christ who had been dead to life again – those are dramatic, powerful events. And Pentecost is no less dramatic. The high feast days, of which Pentecost is one, mark dramatic events. The disciples were together away from the crowd in the upper room. They had stayed out of the eyesight of the rest of the people of Jerusalem as best they could ever since Jesus’ death and resurrection – and certainly since his ascending to heaven 10 days earlier. Jesus had told them to wait for the Holy Spirit to come on them. They had not been told anything really about what the coming of the Holy Spirit would be like, or when the Holy Spirit would come, and it had been ten days of waiting and nothing had happened. And then suddenly from heaven came the sound of “rushing wind” that filled the whole place where the disciples had been sitting. This was no sound a gentle breeze softly blowing through the branches – this was a rushing wind sound – the sound of wind like gale force wind – the sound of a wind that rearranges things, that blows cobwebs out of things, that makes one think “anything that is not tied down is going to be flying”. The sound was the sound of change. And then what looked like tongues of fire came a settled on each person. This had to be the coming of the Holy Spirit – nothing else made any sense. Suddenly from heaven the Holy Spirit came and it caught everyone by surprise. Certainly the disciples were caught by surprise – and they were blown out of the safety of the upper room – out of the safety of their holy huddle. They were blown out on to the streets of Jerusalem. And when they got out in public, and started to talk about God’s mighty deeds – talking in the native languages of the people who were gathered in Jerusalem – the crowd was caught by surprise. The text tells us a number of times that the crowd was astounded, amazed, perplexed, asking questions. This was outside of the realm of anything they had heard and seen before – this was new – this was strange – it did not fit any of the nice safe categories that people had developed to deal with the world. This was a complete surprise – it broke all the rules. The coming of the Holy Spirit is like that – the Holy Spirit’s actions catch us off guard, lead us into new areas we never thought possible. The Holy Spirit blows out the walls on our safe lives and invites us into something we never even thought of. I thought I knew what I was supposed to be doing – I was supposed to teach – either high school or preferably university. The last thing I wanted to be was a minister. But the Holy Spirit had other plans – the Spirit blew doors shut, and blew others open – and I ended up at theological college on my way to becoming a minister. At the time that the doors were shutting, I was not happy, in fact I wondered what on earth was going on. Later I realized that what had happened

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was part of God’s good plan. Then about 6 years ago a door seemed to open, a door that would allow me to do a Ph.D. – and I jumped at the chance – only to experience the Holy Spirit blowing that door shut. I still am not sure I understand why the Spirit blew that door shut. All I am saying is that the Holy Spirit is in the business of taking our plans, our thinking, our boxes in which we think things are supposed to work – and we discover that the Spirit has come suddenly from heaven and changed the landscape. And while living with a changed landscape is disorienting, in the end we discover God is doing more than we could ever imagine possible, that the wind of the Spirit has opened new vistas, doing things we never would have dreamed of. The wind of the Holy Spirit, the disciples discovered, is not just a private thing. It blew the disciples out into public, out to where they could tell of “God’s deeds of power” – the wind of the Spirit blew them out to where they could tell the story of God’s working in the world. It was not a Jesus-and-me kind of thing, not the Holy Spirit as just being my personal comfort – no, among the Holy Spirit’s goals is blowing us out of the private boxes we put our faith in – to challenge us – to force us – to tell of what God has done in a larger context. We as Canadians have bought into the idea that faith – religion – is a private matter and something that has no place in our public lives. The disciples wanted to keep the fact that they were followers of Jesus hush-hush – but the Holy Spirit blew them out the doors to tell of what God had done for them. And the Holy Spirit still does that – still blows us out the doors, out of the safety of out private world – and says “I invite you to tell of what God is doing – out here.” Notice that the disciples were speaking languages, languages they had never spoken before, never learned in school – and they were being understood by those who heard them speak. The Holy Spirit was giving them the words to say While we may not be given the ability to speak in other languages, the Holy Spirit promises to give us the words to say, we do not need to worry about what we will say when the Spirit blows us out into public. When the wind of the Holy Spirit re-forms the landscape and blows people out into public telling of the great things God has done – it is going to lead to controversy. There were people who sneered at the disciples – who chose not to see this as the work of God – but rather the work of new wine. The action of the Spirit will cause people around us to have one of two kinds of reaction. On the one hand there will be those who are intrigued by what the see as something out of the normal – they will be open to hearing of God’s great deeds (and on the day of Pentecost 3,000 people heard and believed that Jesus had been raised to life again by God) and there will be those who reject the action of the Holy Spirit – saying this can not possible be from God. There will be a difference of opinion – there will be controversy. But when God breaks into our world – there is always controversy – there will be those who rejoice and there will be those who reject. The invitation of the Holy Spirit is that we follow God – and rejoice with those who see God’s hand at work – rather than being worried by those who criticize because they are unwilling to see what the Spirit of God is doing. (A tangent for a moment – notice that in this case – it is not one or two people who are saying “The Holy Spirit has told us to…” rather it is all the followers of Jesus which numbered about 120, and there are the 12 disciples who are acting as leaders. The Spirit invites us into the community of faith, and to follow the Holy Spirit’s guiding as confirmed by the community.) Following the call of the Holy Spirit will mean making a choice – choosing the narrow way of following God even though that will be controversial at times – or choosing the wide way that

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goes along with the peer pressure, but which never experiences the excitement of letting the wind of the Holy Spirit blow us to new places we never thought possible. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is a picture of the fact that the Spirit comes again and again to church – blowing into the life of the church. We are invited to let the wind of the Spirit blow us, blowing us to the places and situations, to the adventures and opportunities that the Spirit has prepared for us. We can choose to not let that happen – to resist the wind – may we have the courage to let the wind blow us. Trusting – for while the way is unknown God is with us. We are open to the wind of the Holy Spirit when we allow that wind to blow us out of our private faith and into public places where we can tell of God’s great deeds. Taking the opportunities to say something to a friend about God’s love, telling someone who is going through a hard time that we will pray for them, saying grace together as a family in a restaurant, inviting a neighbour to an event at the church, and so on. We are called to live boldly not out of own courage, but out of the courage that comes from the Holy Spirit who has blown wind and fire into our lives.

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