+ A sermon for Pentecost Sunday (Year C) at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Bellevue, WA on June 9, 2019 +
Text: Acts 2:1-21; John 14:8-17, 25-27
There they were, in that same upper room where so much had happened, where their lives had been so dramatically changed.
The same room where their teacher and friend brought them together for a dinner unlike any they had ever experienced before.
The same room where they gathered with him one final time before seeing him handed over to the police and religious authorities, betrayed by one of their own.
The same room where they huddled in fear after he was crucified and buried.
The same room where they heard that strange news that he was somehow alive again.
The same room where he appeared to them again before taking them to the hillside where he commissioned them as apostles and then ascended into heaven.
And since he told them to remain in Jerusalem for a time, they returned to that same room, that room of transformation and even a strange comfort.
So there they were that morning, all of Jesus’ followers gathered together anxiously waiting to find out what would happen next, how their lives would again change.
And then they heard that noise, like a rush of a violent wind, as the Holy Spirit burst into that room and fell on each of them like a tongue of fire.
And suddenly they were doing things they never thought they would do, speaking in languages they had never spoken from all over the known world and they were pushed out of that room and into the world and began praising God and proclaiming what God was doing in their midst.
And while our reading stops there, a few verses later we learn that through this work of the Holy Spirit, this little band of apostles touched the lives of 3,000 people where were all baptized that day.
And that is the event that we commemorate today—the day we call Pentecost.
It’s a day of celebration and wonder, one of the primary festivals of our faith, and sometimes is even identified as the birthday of the Church.
We deck the church and ourselves in red as we remember the work and the power of the Holy Spirit.
And this is great! It’s one of my favorite celebrations of the year.
I love the festivities of this day as the church remembers our founding mission and the promise of the Spirit.
But I also worry that if we relegate all this celebration to a single day, we risk compartmentalizing the Holy Spirit.
If we remember the promised coming of the Spirit as this single dramatic event, we may miss out where she is moving today.
I think we Lutherans can be especially prone to do this, perhaps other mainline Protestants too.
Because while we talk a whole lot about Jesus and a whole lot about the Creator God, we sometimes leave out the third person of the Trinity—the Holy Spirit.
I don’t think we always know what to do with her.
Sure we pray that the Spirit comes during the Eucharistic prayer at the Table and we invite her presence during baptisms and confirmations and ordinations, but so often we only call upon the Spirit in these big and more notable events.
And by doing that, I worry that we inadvertently limit the Spirit’s power; that we try to tame the untamable.
And what is this Holy Spirit?
What is this Spirit of God that we are asking to fall upon us today?
Our scripture provides us so many images of this hard to define Spirit.
The breath of God that blows over the waters of creation bringing all things into being.
The spirit that anoints prophets to proclaim good news to the oppressed and liberty to the captives.
The wind that brought life to a valley of dry bones.
A dove that descends upon Jesus at his baptism and pushed him into the wilderness.
An assurance of truth that lets us see God.
Our advocate and “paraclete”—the one who goes along side us.
The force that Jesus tells us empowers us to continue his ministry and even to do greater things than he did.
This is the Spirit that Jesus has promised to each of us.
This is the Spirit that comes down upon us in our baptism, that is stirred up when we affirm that baptism.
This is the Spirit that descended upon the apostles that Pentecost morning and that fills this room today.
And this is the Spirit that gives us life, that fills our lungs and moves our bodies.
So with every breath we take we breathe in and out the very Spirit of God that is raising us up to go where she leads us, opening our bodies to new possibilities, inspiring us to do God’s work in our lives and in our world.
So maybe rather than remembering Pentecost as the day the apostles were given the Holy Spirit, we can remember how on that day the Spirit stirred up the apostles and pushed them into something new—how she worked within and among them to push them out of their comfort zones, from stasis into action.
Maybe we can remember how through the wild working of the Spirit, the apostles found all sorts of abilities that they did not know they had, how allowing the Spirit to move through them sent them into the world to do amazing things.
And maybe we can remember how they were assured that they were never alone, that they were going out with each other and with the Paraclete who is ever with them, walking with them, moving through them, empowering them, and never abandoning them.
My friends, like our ancestors in faith, we have gathered here in this room where so much has happened in our lives.
This room with so much history for us, so many memories for our congregation.
This room where we were baptized, where we were married, where we brought our children, where we have committed our loved ones to God’s eternal care.
This room where we have met Jesus in bread and wine, in preaching and singing, in the community that has surrounded us and walked with us the journey of faith.
And like the apostles that first Pentecost day, we are anxiously waiting to figure out what is next for us, to see how our community of faith will again be transformed.
And on this day especially, we are calling on that Holy Spirit to descend upon us, to lead us and guide us; to help us discern God’s will for us.
And while we may not hear a violent rush of wind and while I hope we will not see flames on each others heads, we know that the Spirit is here, that she is leading us.
And like the apostles that day, I would bet that the Holy Spirit may be leading us somewhere where we may not expect, somewhere wild and new, somewhere outside of our familiar comfortability and into her infinite possibility.
So I wonder: if we allow the Holy Spirit to work within and among us, what abilities will we find within ourselves that we didn’t know we had?
What people will we meet and share the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed and whose lives will we help transform?
How will we find new ways to praise God and proclaim what God is doing here in Bellevue, here in Factoria, here in this place?
Yes, my friends, the Spirit is at work in this place and I thank God for that.
She is leading us onto paths as yet untroden and perhaps even through perils unknown.
But our Lord Jesus says to us again today, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
Because we are not traveling this journey alone, we have this community that surrounds us that is walking with us.
We have the prayers of our siblings in Christ from those first apostles on through to today that continue to support us.
And we have the Holy Spirit, our Paraclete, our guide, and our path who is always with us, who will never abandon us, who is present in every breath we take.
So beloved people of God, full of the Holy Spirit, I ask you to feel the Spirit within you now.
Please breathe with me.
Breathe in the Spirit of God—and breathe out the breath of God.
Breathe in the Spirit of abundant life—and breathe out the ways that rest in complacency.
Breathe in the Spirit of community—and breathe out the thought that you are alone.
Breathe in the Spirit of new ideas and infinite possibilities—and breathe out the worries and fears that keep us idle.
Breathe in—and breathe out.
Feel the Spirit raising us up—and comforting us.
Feel the Spirit that leads us—and will never abandon us.