Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pentecost - 2010 - "What's It All About?"

It was a stormy day on that Pentecost Sunday.  The rain was coming down hard and off in the distance there was lightning and thunder.  Nevertheless, at 1st Lutheran Church the mood was festive.  It was Pentecost Sunday and on this day 5 young people would be confirmed.  Like young Lutherans in many congregations, these 5 had attended classes faithfully every week for two years and had learned the catechism and the bible.  And today was the day when they would affirm their Baptism and become members of the church.  So amid a sea of red the service continued - "O Day Full of Grace;" "This is the Feast;" "Reading from Acts 2." And as the storm raged and the lightning got a little closer the Pastor preached a sermon telling a couple interesting stories of his own experiences as a confirmand and then the moment finally came.  "The following young people desire to be confirmed..." and the names were read.  Dutifully each of the young people stepped forward. "Do you renounce... Yes, and I ask God to help me... Do you believe... I believe..."  And then the young people all kneeled at the railing and one at a time the Pastor placed his hands on their heads and prayed "Stir up in... the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the Spirit of joy in your presence."  Each in turn had this prayer prayed.  He finally reached the last young person - a boy named Scott.  He placed his hands on his head and repeated the prayer: "Stir up....... The Spirit of..... joy in your presence."  And immediately at that moment there was a blinding light!  Lightening struck right outside the church and the church was rocked with deafening thunder.  And then the lights went out!  Everyone sat stunned and motionless.  The Pastor still had his hands on Scott's head as the boy slowly looked up and said, "Wow, is that what it is all about?"

Is it?  Is that what it is all about?  Are our celebrations of festivals such as Easter, Ascension and Pentecost all about the spectacular miracles: Jesus is raised from the dead, Jesus ascends into heaven, the disciples receive the Holy Spirit in a very dramatic way!  This is, of course, part of the story.  The miracles which we remember and mark on these days are important – but is that it?  Is that all that the festivals focus on?  As important is they are, it is, nevertheless, easy to get side-tracked by these miracles.  They are so dramatic and so exciting.  The image that always comes to me about this time of the year comes from the Acts reading for Ascension.  The disciples have watched Jesus ascend into heaven and there they stand gazing into heaven.  Two angels speak to them: “Men of Galilee…” stop gazing into the heaven.  The Kingdom has come and now it is time to get to work!
These words are especially appropriate on Pentecost.  Amid all of the rushing winds and the tongues which seemed to be like fire what happens on this day is a manifestation of that instruction from the angels on Ascension.  The disciples HAVE finally gotten to work, and God has provided them with the Holy Spirit to help them.  No longer are they cooped up and hiding in a secret hide-a-way.  No, they have come out and have begun the work to which they had been called from the beginning: Proclaiming Christ – in word and deed!  And the Holy Spirit drives them out into the streets not just on any normal day – but right in the middle of the Feast of Weeks (Shauvot); right when the city would again be filled with travelers and pilgrims.
Sometimes God works in big dramatic ways – like at Pentecost; sometimes God works in more subtle ways.  But the proclamation of Pentecost is that God works; God acts!  God acted on Pentecost and God continues to act among us and will continue into the future.  The Holy Spirit is present here and now leading guiding and empowering.  How do you see and experience God working in the world today; in the midst of our community and in your life?  How have you experienced the Holy Spirit?  Have you had dramatic experiences of God’s presence and work?  Are you open to and do you notice the subtle ways that God is at work in your life?  In what other ways is the Holy Spirit leading you to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus crucified and risen in word and deed?
Finally, on this Pentecost weekend we celebrate the bestowal of God’s amazing gifts of love, grace and the Holy Spirit upon three of our young people: Austin, Mackenzie and Brenden.  They will affirm their Baptismal vows on Sunday and be confirmed in their faith.  We pray that God would always bless them, and all who are confirmed now and into the future.  And may they and all of us always be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  May be allow the Spirit to enter into our lives now and always.  Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

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