Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Holy Spirit is on the loose!

May 23, 2010
Acts 2:1-21 

In our modern, scientifically-minded times, we would be very skeptical about the story Luke tells us in Acts Chapter 2. “C’mon, really?” we’d ask. Fire, little tongues of it, on every person, but nothing burning? A wind, a VIOLENT wind filling the house, but apparently causing no damage? People able to speak other languages, languages they’d never spoken before? Get real!!! But this is what can happen when the Holy Spirit is allowed to work without restrictions.
In some churches, the Spirit is more free to work than others. I remember back in the 1970’s, when the current Pentecostal movement began, many churches were worried about having people speaking in tongues during the prayers. Speaking in tongues is a prayer language mentioned several times in scripture as a gift some people may have.
It caused such a stir in Lutheran churches, there was an article in The Lutheran about it, encouraging the speakers to be polite in when they used their gift, -- not in the middle of the sermon, for instance, and for congregations to not be afraid of the gift, if members had it. A friend of mine told me recently that he used to be able to speak in tongues, but the pastor of the church he belonged to 20 years ago told him he couldn’t, and now, years later, he can’t.
But the prayer language of speaking in tongues is not what this text is about. In this passage, the disciples from Judea and the Galilee were able to speak to pilgrims from far-away places, and speak their language. This was a gift of the Holy Spirit, that they could communicate so easily with each other, and all at once in the crowded plaza where the crowd was gathered.
Some of us speak other languages. People among us speak Spanish, French, German, and probably other languages as well. I’m trying to learn German, so I can better enjoy the Reformation Tour next year. Our young people speak texting shorthand for longer words – and some of that language has crept into modern English usage. Most of us know that BFF means Best Friend Forever, for example. We know that if we wish to communicate well with others, we need t speak their language.
We also need to speak their culture. Two examples: In the Masai culture, there is respect and reverence for the ancestors. As Vincent Donovan was working among the Masai, he helped them understand Jesus best by referring to him as the Great Ancestor.
In Papua New Guinea, among some tribes, there is a forgiveness ritual between competing tribes. It involves bringing a pig to the other tribe, slaughtering it, cooking it, and eating it together. There, the Lamb of God is called the Pig of God.
As Thomas, Tanner, and Marissa are confirmed today, and serve in the congregation among the rest of us, how will you communicate with them? Will you listen for how they view the world? Will you share in their excitement of affirming their baptism; of proclaiming their faith in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in front of all of you? Do you remember your own confirmation and how you felt that day? Do you remember some other moment when the Spirit spoke to you, through you, or with you so loudly you glowed with excitement and had to tell someone about it?
That’s the excitement the disciples of Jesus felt on that first Pentecost day. The disciples did not try to stop the Holy Spirit from working in, with, and through them. And 3,000 of those with whom they spoke were baptized that day, because the listeners also allowed the Spirit to move them.
Communicating well means listening to one another and allowing the Holy Spirit to make connections. Last Sunday, while discussing with Marissa, Thomas and Tanner how they will be involved in the church, they said how much they enjoy working with Vacation Bible School. I shared with them that no one was taking the lead this year, so there would not be any VBS at Hope. They said, “We’ll do it.”
We spent the next 15 minutes making preliminary plans for a simple VBS, put together on a shoestring budget. And they could hardly wait to tell you all about it! That’s allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our midst. Now, of course, you all must let the Spirit work in you, too. How is the Spirit moving you to help with VBS?
That is the challenge for you this week. Whether your part is gathering up art supplies, or contributing cash, or helping in the kitchen, or shepherding a group of children, or helping Tanner keep everything running on time, or helping Marissa lead the drama workshop, or helping Thomas with snacks and Bible games, your assistance is vital to the success of our VBS this year.
The Holy Spirit moved these three young people to assume the responsibility for VBS at Hope. How will the Spirit move you to be involved?
Beyond VBS, how will the Holy Spirit connect the generations in our congregation, so we hear each others’ languages, hopes, dreams, and visions, and build the congregation God envisions?
Please pray with me. Open our ears, Lord, so we may hear you speaking in our language. Open our hearts, Lord, so we may know the feelings of others. Open our minds, Lord, so we may welcome your Spirit moving among us and not stop it. Open our mouths, Lord, so we are not afraid to speak our hearts and your words. Amen