Sunday, June 12, 2011

Reflections on Pentecost - "You Got the Power" - Acts 2:1-42

Read the story of Pentecost here: Acts 2:1-42
The rushing wind – the tongues of fire – the speaking in other tongues! This story of Pentecost is well-known to us and we have heard it many times.  It is such a dramatic story!  And then Peter gets up and preaches.  Wow! Peter!  The same hard-headed disciple who never could quite understand what Jesus was talking about and who, when the chips were down, drew his sword to fight (completely against Jesus’ orders) and then he turned right around and denied Jesus three times.  THIS Peter preaches in the public square on Pentecost.  And this is no ordinary sermon.  This is the best sermon ever!  At the end the text tells us that three thousand come to believe in Jesus.  And then what?  Our lectionary Pentecost text is heavy on the spectacle but it cuts off during Peter’s sermon and we never get to hear the result.  So here it is – verse 42 – which concludes the Pentecost story:
They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
So what is Pentecost all about?  It is about the creation of community in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.  God did not send God’s Spirit upon individuals.  The Spirit is sent to the community – the church.  And how do we tap into God’s Spirit?  By devoting ourselves to the Apostle’s teaching as contained in the Bible – that is, immersing ourselves in the Word; Through breaking of bread – that is, regular participation in the Sacrament of Holy Communion; and through fellowship and prayer – that is, being together, reaching out to others, caring for others, lifting other’s needs to God – all of that is what it means to be in prayer.  The power of God is showered upon us who are a part of the community of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
We will celebrate the confirmation of 5 of our young people today.  What exactly is confirmation?  Well, confirmation is not graduation – it is an opportunity for the young people to confirm their faith and to say publicaly before the entire congregation that “yes, I want to be a part of this community.”  They will be asked to promise that they will regularly participate in worship, they will study the Word, they will share in the Sacrament and that they are committed to being vessels of God’s Spirit in the midst of this world (that would be – prayer and fellowship).  Notice that the promises sound a lot like verse 42.  It’s not an accident.
      In making these promises and confession these young people will affirm the Baptismal vows that their parents and sponsors made on their behalf when they were newly born.  This also gives us the opportunity to affirm our own commitment to the Baptismal vows that we made at our own confirmation and to recognize that one of God’s greatest gifts to us all is the gift of community.  In our very individualistic consumer-oriented culture the verses quoted above may sound odd and out-dated.  But in fact, they are one of God’s greatest gifts to us.  The church may not be perfect – but it is the community of Christ and this gift to us gives us grounding and allows us to plug into the Spirit.  It also enables us to recognize that the church is not yet another institution.  Rather, WE are the church – the community of Christ – “called, enlightened, sanctified for the work of Jesus Christ.”  Amen!

 

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