“Being There” (Version Two)

I will let you in on a little secret.  This is actually the second version of the sermon I preached on Pentecost.  I had written one sermon and it just didn’t work for the situation.  So, with about 40 minutes to spare before the service, I made some major edits.  So, here is the second version.  You can listen to the sermon podcast by going here.

“Being There”
May 27, 2012 (Pentecost Sunday, B)
Acts 2:1-21 and Romans 8:22-37
First Christian Church
Minneapolis, MN
It was about ten years ago that I was in Clinical Pastoral Education, which is something I had to before I could get ordained.  CPE, as its called is a for pastors and pastors to be to be placed in expiriences where you have to kind of “work without and net” and reflect on how you responded.  I worked at Luther Hall here in Minneapolis and was blessed to have Jay Hillestad as one of my supevisors.  I went to through a lot of experiences, but there are two that I remember vividly.  The first was a family gathered around man who seemed comatose.  He had a brain tumor that seemed fatal.  The wife saw that I was a chaplain and gathered me in and asked prayers for healing for her husband.  She told me that the family hoped he could leave the long term care faculity and get therapy.  I had seen his chart and I looked at him and knew there was no way he was going to get better.  I prayed the best way I could, not praying for a mircale as much as praying God be with the man and the family.  The other situation was a short time later when I met a man in his early 20s who lost a leg in an ATV accident.  Maybe he was the quiet type normally, but this guy said nothing much.  You can tell he was angry.  I really didn’t know what to do in that situation.  There was no place for glib talk.  Heck there was no place for talk.  All I could do was just sit with him.  I always felt that I had failed him in some way, but I also felt that I learned that there were times a pastor just needs to shut up and just be with a person.

Where is God in the midst of all this?

Pentecost seems to be a holy day about action.  It’s about mighty winds and fire and people speaking in strange tounges.  It’s about the young church leaving the bounds of Jerusalem and doing as Jesus said, going throughout the known world spreading the good news.
e is yet another language and then another and another.  After a while the folks in the room realized the voices where coming from each other.  Something strange was happening to them.  None of them totally understood what was going on, but they did know that they couldn’t stay in this room; they had to get outside and keep talking to anyone who would bother to listen.

We hear this story every year.  We hear about the wind and flame, about the 3,000 people and all that.  If you are familiar with this story, you probably have heard it over and over again and think you know everything there is to know about it.  I know that I at times think I do.

It’s easy to look at this story and not give much thought to it.  We associate this text and this day to things like kites and wearing red things like that.  We hear this text and wonder what in the world does it have to do with us, with our day to day lives as working folk, dealing with the hurts of the world.

Our other Pentecost text in the book of Romans seems to have nothing to do with today.  Paul is telling Christians in Rome that all creation is waiting for God, waiting for hope.  He tells them that the Spirit is there, helping people in their weakness and interceding for us with “sighs to deep for words.”  The Spirit is present with us in our daily walk, allowing us to be with others when their lives fall apart.

I didn’t have the worlds to help that family of the dying man or this young man that had to deal with life now with one less leg.  But God’s Spirit was present and was present in me and present in all of us as we feed the hungry, knit a prayer shawl for someone who’s sick or welcome the outcast.

We, this gathered community called First Christian, gather in this space this morning waiting.  We wait for God to show up.  Like the disciples, we aren’t very sure why we are here or if what we heard was really true.  But we wait on God, wondering if anything is going to happen.

And then something does happen.  It might not be the sound of wind or being set on fire, but it might be something that shocks us out of our doldrums.  We see the Spirit of God show up, and when that happens, get ready for some weirdness.  We may not be speaking in French or Swahili, but we might do things that makes people wonder about us.  Spirit of God might empower us to do odd and wonderful things, like, sell our buildings and move in with two other congregations.  It might send us out into the streets because we can’t keep quiet about what is happening to us.  It might bring together people who had been separated.  The Spirit can do amazing things through this gathering called the church, if we are open to where God is moving. And if a church is powered through the Spirit, you can be sure of one thing; like the disciples of old, it will be on the move.

Like the first disciples, God is calling us out our rooms and into the world.  God is calling us to hear the wind and see the flames.  We are called to testify of the good news seen in Christ and tell everyone we see.  And that’s scary, because we will face situations where we fear we aren’t up to the task to bring hope and healing.  But the God’s Spirit is there forming us and shaping us to be agents of hope.  We called to be in a ministry of presence in the world, not always shouting our presence, but sometimes sitting with someone in the midst of their hopelessness to let them know that God cares for them and that there is good news in the midst of sadness.

Since this is Pentecost and we are receiving the annual Pentecost offering for new churches, I want to leave you with a story of being led by the Spirit. Many of you have heard the story of Stephen and Rebecca Haney, the clergy couple who left their native Oklahoma to move to Rochester, MN (in the winter, no less) and plant a church.  It has been a challenge for them, but I am amazed at how they have heard the call to follow Christ and be wiling to go on a journey with Jesus, telling the good news slowly but surely.  Here’s a little of a letter that shows how the Wind and Flame of God is moving in Rochester:

Open Source (Disciples of Christ) , a newer Jesus centered spiritual community in Rochester, Minnesota has been doing all it can to build relationships and make a difference. Not only do we build relationships with God and others, but we are working to make love real in the Rochester community and beyond.

As a community, we engage both art and intellect to begin to know Jesus and the Gospel. Open Source just recently held its first Wine 2 Water event, raising funds ($700!!) for clean water sustainability in Nicaragua. Additionally, our Open Source Artist Network is selling art and sharing the Open Source story at a local Art on the Ave event next Saturday. On the very same day, we will be partnering with Christ United Methodist Church to feed hungry people lunch. This meal may be the best meal those present may receive all day.

On Sunday, we will have a picnic, where we intend to play, laugh, tell jokes, share a meal, and then have communion. Even though the picnic is not one of our worship experiences, we acknowledge that God is still present, and the Lord’s Table is definitely a distinctive part of our community life. Even in our play we embrace the idea that “we are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.” We do welcome all to the Lord’s Table, even as God has welcomed us, and In this, we rejoice!

The Spirit is alive in God’s world.  We might not be called to plant a church, but we called to share the Good News.  How will you respond to the wind and flame?  Thanks be to God. Amen.

Note: The pictures are of paper airplanes flown by the kids and the rest of the congregation at the beginning of the service.  Thanks to Dan Adolphson for the photo.

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