May 15, 2016 – Year C – Pentecost
Wow! What a fabulous day it is. We have heard the most amazing scripture passage – not once but 3 times, with one more time coming up. You might be wondering why we are hearing this awesome account of spirit stirring, and dreams fulfilled, and doves descending, and people changed. Well – it is such an incredible account that just one telling doesn’t really do it justice. It rather rattles your bones when you breathe in the wonderful story of Pentecost.
Imagine that you are amongst a crowd of some 3,000 people and a violent wind stirs us. You grab your hats and pull your jackets a little tighter. Flames of fire dances – shooting up copper, blue, yellow, red, and orange tongues. They lap around you but do not consume. Differing languages are spoken. It is a cacophony of sound. God’s Spirit is at work, as we sing and dance, waving our hands and proclaiming the Good News. If you listen closely you hear Peter proclaiming the powerful words of the prophet Joel: “Your young shall see visions and your old shall dream dreams.”
Perhaps you are thinking that the impossible has happened. The birthing of the church into a community of people who are so turned on by God’s spirit at work – well, that is just pretty amazing. Something dramatic happens when a birth takes place. There is first a lot of dreams and aspirations for the new, young one. But for Mom there comes birth pangs. Birthing is not a gentle, quiet process. There is grunting and groaning. Oh – the words that are spoken! But the end result is awesome!
Pentecost is not some flash in the pan magic act. It is not a rock concert where the crowd is drunk and stoned. It is a birthing celebration where the church takes form and we are forever changed. Our tongues are loosened and we are bold enough to proclaim the blessing of Christ’s radical love. We sing boldly the hymn “Arise, your light is come! The Spirit’s call obey; Show forth the glory of your God, Which shines on you today.” Even though this hymn is associated with Christmas, it reminds us of the glory of the community of faithful who dare to honour the One who continues to birth new possibilities.
But, in this world of “Spiritual but not Religious,” we encounter many people who jeer and ridicule us for being part of the church. They suggest that they can be just as moral and righteous as we who regularly attend church. They say the church is a crutch. They criticize the church for being irrelevant and out of touch. They don’t get Pentecost. As people who are touched by the Pentecost spirit, we are transformed. We are filled with joy! Loud, excited, exuberant joy. In fact – nothing can keep us silent about how excited we are. We want everyone to know that the Spirit is at work in us. Don’t we?
Every thing available to experience this dramatic time of transformation is offered to us. Our sanctuary is decorated to be a feast for the senses. The red as a backdrop reminds us it is a high Holy day. The tongues of fire are depicted in the many drapes. The pin wheels whirl with the wind, breathing on us hope and dreams. And the dove brings us the message of new beginnings. Songs that stir reach deep into the core of our being. Gentle whispers reach mellow places.
Can you imagine our voices united proclaiming that Penticton United Church is the place to be for a warm welcome where everybody knows your name? Will you invite friends and neighbours to join you on Sunday mornings, because you know that you are warmed from the inside out and you wish your neighbour to have that experience. Will you talk about your Sunday morning worship experience while you are eating supper this evening? All this, and more is what being filled with the spirit is all about!
Will the words we utter each moment be filled with compassion and tenderness? Will our phrases be passionate but kind, so that they are no longer divided. Will we stop and hear the other for what they are not saying, as much as for what they are saying.
Can you imagine the Gay, Lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered community hosting a dinner for the ultra conservatives of our community? Can you imagine the young people who hang around our stair-wells and steps volunteering to help with Sunday School? Can you imagine the Hells Angels taking over putting on the Spring Tea and serving tea and coffee and the plates of sandwiches and dainties to our predominately seniors crowd. All of this Pentecost possible.
So it is that we dream. We dream big. We dream of our congregation celebrating the fact that we do good ministry. We celebrate that we care for the hungry, the lonely and the bereaved. We celebrate that each Sunday we congregate so that our voices can blend in wonderful harmonies. We celebrate that we are on fire with the Spirit. We dream that we will continue this vital ministry for many long years to come.
We may have come today to worship at church as individuals, but we leave it as community. We are a community that is strong, vibrant, and excited!
Spirit of God, unleashed on earth
With rush of wind and roar of flame!
With tongues of fire saints spread good news;
Earth, kindling, blazed its loud acclaim.
You came in power, the church was born;
O Holy spirit, come again!
From living waters Raise new saints,
let new tongues hail the risen Lord
With burning words of victory won
Inspire our hearts grown cold with fear,
Revive in us baptismal grace,
And fan smouldering lives to flame.