Are you phoning it in? With your family…with your job….with your spiritual life…with church…. It’s Pentecost Sunday…which is why I’m asking: Are you phoning it in?
Pentecost Sunday. We usually go all out on Pentecost Sunday. We invite everyone to wear red. Then, as a way of mimicking the wild, unexpected movement of the Holy Spirit, we do wild, unexpected things in worship—we speak different languages, we fill the place with helium balloons, we scatter the place with flames—paper and literal (though after that one experience, not at the same time). I think one year we even had fans blowing on Pentecost…or was that when the AC went out? Last year, we had planned to do this thing with a parachute…but my mom got sick and we weren’t able to follow through…
We’ve done so many wild and unexpected things on Pentecost in the past, it’s getting harder and harder to come up with more wild and unexpected ways to mimic the in-rushing of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost. We could have done the parachute thing-y this year, but with the handbells set up, we thought maybe we’d pass on that. Actually, the Music Director insisted that we pass on that.
So, since the parachute idea won’t work and since we’ve pretty much used up all the other ideas, I thought we’d try something different this year. Instead of doing something wild and unexpected to mimic the coming of the Holy Spirit—I know. This is just crazy talk…but instead of doing something wild and unexpected to mimic the coming of the Holy Spirit, why not open ourselvesto the real thing? Balloons are fun. Flames are fun. Speaking in different languages is fun. Creating a rush of mighty wind with fans is fun. That parachute thing would have been fun, too, I’m sure.
Butthose things are just representations of the Spirit, playful metaphors, cutesykitsch. They’re a way of phoning in Pentecost.
But is that what we want? Do we want some cutesy representation of Pentecost? Or do we want the real thing? Do we want to phone in Pentecost? Or do we want to usher it in? Do we want to hear some ancient story about how God’s Spirit moved in the distant past? Or do we actually want the Spirit breaking out and moving among us here in this community today?
Do we?Do we want to experience God’s Spirit moving among us in wild and unexpected ways?
Before you answer, in the interest of full-disclosure, I need to let you know that mimicking the in-rushing of the Holy Spirit is a whole lot easier than creating space for the real thing. All mimicking the in-rushing of the Holy Spirit requires is re-telling the story of Pentecost. We remind ourselves that Jesus has died and risen and ascended back into heaven….We hear again about disciples from all over the region gathering for the ancient Jewish holiday of Pentecost… We hear again about how the Spirit of God rushes in with wind and tongues of fire and about all those people speaking in different languages and still understanding each other… We listen to the Scripture reader try bravely to pronounce those weird city names, secretly offering a prayer of thanks that it isn’t our Sunday to read…
If mimicking the in-rushing of the Holy Spirit is our goal, then all we have to do is re-tell the story, employ a few balloons and streamers, and practice those place names a few times. If re-telling the story is all we want to do, then, once the story is retold, we can go on about our business. We can pack the story away until we’re ready totell it again next year.
If we only want to mimic the in-rushing of the Spirit, we don’t have to change a thing about the way we’re living our lives, or living out God’s love in the world, or participating in the life of this community of faith. If all we want to do is re-tell the Pentecost story, then, yeah. We can just phone it in. And why not? If everything is just like it always has been for 2,000 years, why not sleep in and go to the lake and read the sermon online when you get home? Or not.
According to the religious researchers, that’s what most folks of faith are doing these days. They phone it in. Or Facebook it. Or email it. Or Youtube it.Or Second Life it.Or ignore it all together. I mean, if everything is exactly the same way it always has been, if nothing ever changes, if we don’t have to change, if we already know everything there is to know, if we already know how the story’s going to turn out, why not phone it in?
But….if we’re looking for something more, something deeper, something that really will make a difference in the world….if we’re looking for God’s Spirit to break into our lives and wreak a little holy havoc….if we’re looking for a way to change this world for the better—at least our little corner of it….then phoning it in won’t work. If we really want to usher in the wild and unexpected movement of God’s Holy Spirit among us, we have to show up.
Even in this age of email and texting and Facebook and Skype, even today—especially today—we have to show up. Because something happens—something unique and palpable and unrepeatable happens when we show up….and especially when we show up together.
That’s exactly what happened on that first Pentecost Day 2,000 years ago. “Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.” That’s the first verse of this story. That’s how Luke introduces all the phenomenal things that are going to happen—the mighty wind, the tongues of flame, the different languages, the understanding across cultures. THAT is what creates space for God’s Spirit to rush in…the people’s togetherness. “They were all together in one place.”
We were all together in one place Friday night. Thirty four people from Pilgrimageshowed up for the Family Promise fund raiser at Unity Church. What a time we had! And it might have been because I was thinking about today’s sermon—but it felt a lot like Pentecost. Several choirs from participating Family Promise churches sang. The styles—and theologies—of the songs varied wildly…in a way, we werehearing people speak in different languages. Yet, despite our differences, we stillheard each other, we still understood each other.
At the end, all the choirs joined together to sing one song called, aptly, “One Song.” I don’t know how it sounded in the audience, but from within the choir—all our voices blending together—it was beautiful. And full of energy. And full of life. And God’s Spirit was so very present! When I saw Juliann at the Yard Sale yesterday, she said, “I just wanted to keep singing and singing and singing!” Yeah. It was that kind of experience.
I know everyone wasn’t able to come Friday night. We’re so over-scheduled these days and sometimes we’re just flat-out too tired to do one more thing. Some Sundays I look out at you all and think, “My goodness, they look so tired. I hope they can go home and take a nap. After the sermon, that is.”
But here’s the thing….this isn’t a guilt-trip or nagging or preacher-talk. This is simply a statement of fact: there are some things we can’t phone in. Sometimes and for some things the only way to make it happen is to show up…to get up out of bed and put on some clothes and transport ourselves and turn off our electronic devices and fully BE in a place.
We can come up with all sorts of reasons for the in-rushing and out-breaking of God’s Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost Sunday—Maybe it was some kind of benign mob hysteria. Maybe it was one of those strange group hallucinations. Or maybe it was an out-and-out supernatural miracle.
But if we take the cue Luke so clearly gives us in his introduction to this story—“they were all together in one place”—then we have to acknowledge that a key contributor to the Spirit’s moving that first day of Pentecost was the people’s togetherness. They showed up. Which somehow paved the way for the Spirit’s showing up.
The same is true for us on this Pentecost day in 2013. If we want to experience God’s Spirit moving among us in wild and unexpected ways….If we want God’s Spirit to rush in and wake us up and inspire us and light a fire in us….If we want to be surprised by all the miraculous things God is doing in our midst…If we want to be effective in sharing the good news of God’s love for every person…. If we want to come alive as a church and as people of faith….If we want God’s Holy Spirit to rush in and wreaksome holy havoc…
If we want these things….If we want to live a life and a faith that is fully authentic…if we want something more than we’ve always had….if we want to wake up to the life we were meant to live…then we, too, have to show up. We can make all the excuses in the world, we can make all the other choices in the world, we can rationalize our way around it, but the simple, clear truth remains: the thing that creates space for God’s Spirit to rush in is our showing up.
So, will you? Will you show up? Now that summer is here. Now that school is out. Now that the choir is going on hiatus.Will you show up for the community? Will you show up for God? Will you show up for yourself?(Phone rings) Will you show up?
In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness. Amen.
KimberleighBuchanan © 2013
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The Coming of the Holy Spirit
2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’ <!– 14 –>
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, 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.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”