Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sober Prophets - Pentecost 2012

Acts 2:1-21  (note: much of the framework and general ideas for this sermon were inspired by Tom Long's sermon:

I'm a bad gift giver and receiver.
Watch (stumble over someone giving me a gift)

See, how awkward I am receiving a gift.

And then, giving – watch (I really wanted to get you something in mexico, but I couldn’t find the perfect gift…sorry.  Here’s a sucker.)

My handicap for giving and receiving gifts doesn’t help my marriage….

I don’t know how well it helps me in my Christian walk either.  
And I reminded of this each Pentecost.
Pentecost – is the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the church.

And if I’m awkward about receiving a regular gift like a new shirt from my mother in law, how awkward am I about receiving the gift of the holy Spirit?

Uhh, thanks God…what do I do now???

And I’m not the only one who has some uncertainty and awkwardness when it comes to the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The church has never really known exactly what to make of the Holy Spirit

The evangelist John describes the Spirit as wind that blows where it will...
Then later as a counselor (14:16) and then an Advocate 14:26),

At Jesus’ baptism the spirit descends like a dove.
And at Pentecost the Spirit descends as tongues of fire.

The Creed we recited earlier called the Apostle’s creed, written in the 6th century, says a few thing about God the Father, and about Jesus the Son;
but what did it say about the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Ghost….
And that’s all I have to say about that...”

We have yet to even dare assign any gender to the Spirit...
and I have heard people refer to the Spirit as an it!!  

Is the gift of the spirit speaking in tongues?
Have you ever sensed you were being led by the spirit?
What is baptism in the Holy Spirit?
What does it mean to be filled with the holy Spirit?
Something we just prayed would happen to Emma when she was baptized.

The church seems a little awkward when it comes to this gift of the holy spirit.  

Still we dress in colors of the flame and celebrate Pentecost, the gift of the Spirit and the birth of the church.

In some ways, by having a big celebration of Pentecost, and doing new and exciting things, it gives us a sense that the spirit is about energy and excitement!

Wind and fire--that's exciting! Unless you’re in the middle of the forest….

Do we say the gift of the Spirit is when there is energy and excitement in church?

We know we have the gift when God is ready to blow “the cobwebs out of the sanctuary” and breathe new life into the body of Christ (Long,

So does this mean that when things, church related aren’t exciting and energizing...they’re not really of the Spirit?

A long confusing sermon...?
A hymn that falls a little flat.
too many meetings
too much confusion about what we should be doing,
Let’s start the stewardship campaign! Yeah!
The church newsletter is going to be going out next week...I can hardly wait!   
Let’s do something about the stage...did I say that?

And oh, my, just when we’re done cleaning up after Café Juntos here comes someone on crutches asking for some food and a sleeping bag.  
You know, if you’d of just come a little earlier there would have been plenty of food and maybe someone would have been willing to take him to get a sleeping bag since we don’t have anymore right now….

rather than being energizing, church life can be draining.

How many of us because of our life in the Spirit are pumped up about being Christians - ready to share our faith with our neighbors and live it out in a radically loving way and invite people to take part in this exciting faith community?

Where is this awkward gift of the Holy SPirit?

It’s just recently come to my attention, when we read the story of Pentecost in context, it falls right after the apostles elect someone to replace Judas, and just before a story about the early church breaking bread, attending to the teachings of the Apostles and trying to care for the poor.  In other words, the exciting story about the gift of the Holy Spirit falls between a nominating Committee meeting, and struggles over programs of Christian education, worship, and service.  Right between institution and mission.  
However awkwardly we receive this gift of the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t lift us up out of these earthbound realities that come with the humanness of life in community;
it may in fact drive us more deeply in—and the spirit may just be what sustains us when it comes time to do the grunt work

aah, the gift of the Holy Spirit….

How many of us associate the gift of the Spirit with a sense of Power.  Any of you remember that anthem we’ve sung several times on Pentecost Sunday…
Holy Spirit, be the Power, be our strength and be our might!
…. Singing Christ the Lord over all the earth…da da da da da daaa

The spirit is about Power, right!  
Jesus said to the disciples: “When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you shall receive power!”
When we feel we are on God’s side, and God is on our side, then we have power.  And power, of course, is about influence and clout!  
Oh, how easily the church has been deceived throughout her history.
-That kind of understanding of power has manifest itself in Crusades, Inquisitions, and “ex-Cathedra”.  
-That kind of power mixed with church has resulted in institutionalized slavery, manifest destiny, and codified marriage between one man and one woman.

To be sure, that kind of power which the church has had a various points in history may be gone with the wind....

Some years ago, the Wall Street Journal carried a story about a congregation that went to the local zoning commission with plans for a new church building, only to be shocked to find in the meeting dozens of their neighbors protesting against the church's plans. As one of them said, "A new church building will just generate traffic and noise." Another said, "I don't want to get up in the morning and look out of my window and see a church. I want to see the mountains, not a cross." So they reached a compromise. The congregation redesigned their church so that it looked like a split-level house, like all the other houses on the street. And they placed a tiny cross discreetly over the doorway so that no one will be bothered by the church.  (As told by Long:

As a clergy person, I'm sometimes encouraged to speak out publicly on certain issues, but sometimes not, because it really doesn't have much of an effect due to apathy, or even an adverse effect simply because I’m a “man of the cloth”.

The church's loss of influence and clout of previous generations may not be such a bad thing...
Holy Spirit…be the Power, be our strength and be our might…..
Or Holy Spirit remind us that the way Jesus demonstrated power was by a way of humility, vulnerability and weakness...
The new song Power in the holy spirit..
the world behind me, the cross before me.

Holy SPirit filled Church...I’m hurryin to a close.

One of my favorite lines in the telling of the story is when the sneering onlookers, describe those who have been filled with the Holy SPirit as a bunch of DRUNKS!  

Can you say, “Ackward....”

Peter has to say something in response to this! So he stands up and assures everyone they’re not drunk, and he reminds anyone within ear shot about an ancient poem in the book of Joel about prophesy:

"Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. 16 No, 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. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy...

In other words, Peter says that those who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit are sober prophets.

At the risk of muddling the waters even more when it comes to the gift of the Holy Spirit and Pentecost….It seems that much of what this gift of the Holy Spirit is about is the ability to prophesy…
What is that?
Sober prophets?
Can we predict the future?
Are we supposed to be standing in the public square pronouncing doom and gloom!?
The ability to prophesy...another awkward gift?

BUt when we look at what happened to the disciples:
the disciples who had previously been uncertain about what to say and do, receive the gift of the holy spirit and they go out and speak...
not just any speech, but a kind of talk that Peter calls prophecy.

Speak as a prophet.  
Walter Bruggemann, who's kind of the guru when it comes to understanding the biblical prophets, says this about who prophets were and what their message was about:  
"on the one hand, they were rooted in the covenantal traditions [such as that of] Moses and Sinai... The other thing is that they are completely uncredentialed and without pedigree, so they just rise up in the landscape.
They imagined their contemporary world differently according to that old tradition.
So it's tradition and imagination."

From their tradition and with imagination they were able to see the world differently.
In a world where powers seemed overwhelming and immovable,
the prophets spoke in order to dismantle the powers for the sake of the poor and vulnerable who suffered as a result of the existing power structures.  

From their tradition and with imagination the prophets were able to share their vision of an old world passing away and a new world forming.
In other words, the gift of prophecy is the ability to say, “the world is not as it seems, God is doing something new!  

Where there was despair a prophet could speak a word of hope.  
Where there was hatred, love.
Where there was confusion, a prophet could give meaning.

What kind of gift is this...courage to speak with imagination? must be drunk...

Think about your everyday experiences...

What happens when someone is wallowing in despair, can we speak a word of hope?
Sober prophets.  That takes real imagination! A gift of the Holy spirit

What happens when it seems like the world is going to hell in a handbasket?  Can we affirm that God is at work redeeming the world!
Sober prophets. That takes real imagination! A gift of the Holy spirit

What happens when someone is sick and dying, and we affirm that death is not the last word...that everything is going to be okay...!
Sober prophets.  That takes real imagination! A gift of the Holy spirit

It may just be when we are able to share hope, speak life, and give courage--prophetic acts--that we share the great gift the spirit!

When the tumor appeared growing in Zia in an ultrasound last July we were torn, uncertain, scared….
We nearly left Santa Fe in order to be closer to family.  
But in some mysterious way,
we were given a sense that this is where we needed to be.

Words of hope, encouragement, and life from this congregation became part of our daily experience.

When the surgery to remove the tumor took place last December,
we were overwhelmed by the sense of love and prayer coming forth from this Spirit filled community.

The lab report  from the surgery came back revealing that the tumor was benign!
Yet, it also revealed the margins weren't clean--the tumor cells were still in Zia’s body—and we later learned this tumor type was fast growing with a high chance of recurrence.

Love, encouragement, hope, and prayers of sober prophets continued...

At the urging of the surgeon, who detected some abnormality, Zia had another MRI done this past week.  

Love, encouragement, hope, and prayers of sober prophets continued...

We got the results back Thursday that there had been no growth of the tumor, she couldn't even see any abnormal cells in the report!  

We're not out of the woods yet, but it was such a huge relief and great gift to get that news.

What a gift to be part of this community of faith filled with the Holy Spirit,
full of sober prophets who are willing to see the world as it is, and yet, with imagination see God is doing a new thing.  

As awkward as it may seem, I pray we can share this great gift of the Holy spirit and prophecy with any with whom we come into contact.
Share hope, speak encouraging words.  
Live with loving kindness in all circumstances.  
And in so doing, make of this old world something exciting and new!  

What a great gift!  Thanks be to GOd

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