Sermons 2007
Pentecost C, 27 May 2007

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Pentecost 2007C Acts 2:1-11

Within North American culture, Christian congregations have widely different denominational backgrounds, widely varying understandings of Pentecost, and prejudice for or against the phenomena described in Acts 2. Here in this congregation we run the gamut from former Presbyterians (including me), Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics among others, including at one time some from deeply fundamentalist backgrounds and charismatic tendencies and others with deeply agnostic leanings for whom Trinitarian language and terms were extremely difficult. And, of course, we have the leavening of birthright Episcopalians.

All in all, a mix not unlike what was present in Jerusalem on the day of the first Christian Pentecost almost two thousand years ago in Jerusalem.

Perhaps the useful thing on this Pentecost in this place and in this time is to look again briefly at what Pentecost really is.

When we retell the story and the history of Pentecost, with its symbols of wind and fire, gift and response we in a real sense are there with Moses on mountaintop with the burning bush, with the disciples on that Pentecost of flame and wind and voices, whether we can see the flames or not, whether we can feel the wind or not, whether we can hear the different tongues or not.

A few years ago ABC's Peter Jennings hosted a documentary called, "In the Name of God." He investigated the rapid growth of independent mega﷓churches in North America and contrasted them with the decline in older, mainline denominations. Of particular interest was his interview with John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Fellowship. Wimber said that when he became a Christian, he visited various churches in search of "the stuff." The real stuff, the right stuff. "Where's the stuff?" he'd ask over and over again. What he meant was, "Where are the healings, and speaking in tongues, and seizures of ecstasy, and faith healings, and other miracles that were part of the apostolic church?" He assumed that the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit would be manifest in a "real" church. And only in a real church.

Wimber's comments evoked strong responses, both favorable and unfavorable. The old one﷓liners about the charismatic movement have a ring of truth among contemporary Episcopalians:
Q: What is a charismatic?
A: It's an appliance for chopping up the church.
Q: What is charisphobia?
A: It's the fear of anything not printed in the bulletin or found in the prayer book.

If there is a single word that captures the mood of every person present when the Spirit was poured out on that first Christian day of Pentecost, it is surprise. The company of disciples, around 120 in all, had no clue about how their lives would change after Jesus rose and ascended. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come upon them ﷓ but didn't say exactly how or when this would occur. After all, no sensible group would sit in that house if they expected to find tongues of fire threatening to set their hair ablaze.

The crowds that witnessed the strange phenomena on Pentecost were surprised, too. The exact words used by the writer of Acts are "bewildered and amazed." When the Spirit was manifested that first day of Pentecost, they asked, "What does this mean?" And well might they ask that. And well might we should it happen here in this place and time. Some, who found the gift of speaking in other tongues deeply disturbing, jeered and accused the disciples of being drunk.

What the Spirit of Christ did on Pentecost was entirely unexpected by these people. Peter had to explain the meaning to them: that prophecies were coming to pass; that this was all connected with Jesus of Nazareth. The one called Jesus, who himself taught them and did wonders, the one who was crucified and raised up, this Jesus was the one who "poured out this which you did see and hear."

The apostles ﷓ the inner circle of Jesus' followers ﷓ were also surprised by what happened at Pentecost. They didn't expect the Spirit to appear in that way, with a violent wind, tongues of fire on their heads, and speaking in tongues. The Spirit was poured out. It was received by the followers of Jesus, and their witness and the Spirit's power led to the conversion of thousands.

In short, then, the quiete passive ordinary stuff that regular religious people of the day expected to take place did not happenr, in spite of their knowledge of the Scriptures and the faithful hours spent in worship services. So we're in good company, whatever "real stuff” we think should be happening in the household of God today.

But mark this: Whatever errors we make in judgment, however feeble our efforts at evangelism, no matter how the church divides against itself over what kind of people can be included or excluded, God's work in the world will not be stopped. The power manifested at Pentecost belongs to God and to all of God’s people -﷓ not only to any self-selected exclisive group ﷓- and the Lord is free to show that power in whatever way serves God’s purpose.

Are we charismatic or charisphobic? Does our church want "the stuff' or want no part of it? Those aren’t the real questions that Pentecost poses for us. The real question, the right question, is this: Do we believe that the power and purpose of God are beyond our human understanding? Are we open to that power working in us to bring others to saving faith in Jesus Christ?

There is a church which has a sign in front with the inscription: "The sure sign that we are following Christ is that he leads where we did not expect to go." Our Pentecostal task is to follow wherever that leads.