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Pentecost Sunday
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
John 7:37-39

Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday and the new thing that God is doing.   Pentecost is about a defining moment; a time, place, and space that marks a new awakening; something radical in the life of a person or persons; community, place or thing in which we reorient ourselves and pledge ourselves all over again to something new: a new way of being, a fresh start, a new mindset, a greater determination to move forward from one place to another.

Today is Pentecost Sunday.  Are you up for something new?  And what might that look like for us?  Will today be just an ordinary day like so many ordinary days?  A Sunday like so many ordinary Sundays or will this Sunday be something different?

Are you waiting for a fresh wind to blow in on you?  Tongues of fire?  Utterances of languages; or something so beyond yourself that you can neither request nor explain?  Something to remind you that the world has not gone mad; not completely regardless of how it seems? That strength of character and doing the right thing still matters? That terror and hatred and injustice are not normative?  That we keep striving and working for something better for ourselves and for our world simply because we must?  That the things that bind us together are far greater and far more important than the differences that might otherwise tear us a part?  Are you ready to be reminded of the rare possibility that people can work together, be civil and respectful to one another; that peace is possible?

As the Body of Christ gathered in this place, are we anticipating the Spirit of God to be with us through every situation?  To challenge us, encourage us with a new sense of purpose, awe, and wonder?

The disciples had gathered themselves together in Jerusalem and they were huddled together in the upper room.  Jesus had promised that they would receive power from on high and they were to carry out the mission of the gospel.  It would be unbelievable and unrecognizable; radical and transformative – God’s love and the overwhelming power of the Resurrection.  They were to spread this message far and wide for all to hear and experience.  It will be dangerous work; dangerous and arduous; unbelievable, lonely, and desolate at times.  It would be confusing and they would want to give up and quit – but they were to persevere anyhow.

You’ll feel like that sometimes; but don’t give up because you won’t be alone.  For I will never leave you nor will I ever forsake you – was the promise.  Come what may; I will hold you as my own deeply beloved.  I will place my spirit upon you and within you and strange things will happen because of me.

Wait awhile, Jesus had told them.  Wait in Jerusalem.  Don’t try to do it on your own – oh, how we want to do it on our own sometimes, don’t we?  We want to rely upon what we know – or think we know.  And who we know.  We want to see our way and have everything already worked out, but faith doesn’t work that way, does it?

No, there are times and circumstances and issues so far removed from ourselves that we need power from another source.  We need alternatives and powers that are not our own.

But some things are worth waiting for, is that not true?  Somethings can only be seen or recognized or appreciated through the passage of time.  And so, it was there in an upstairs room that the disciples had come together.  And they were waiting to be empowered.  And they were praying and coming on one accord because they wanted something new.

Now, there were also other pilgrims in the city that day.  They had traveled from neighboring towns and around the world to celebrate Shavuot.  They were people from every tribe and dialect.  They weren’t paying too much attention to anything – just making their pilgrimage to the Holy City like the faithful have always done.

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound –  violent winds – was it a hurricane or the beginning of a tornado?  Cloven tongues – could the building be on fire?  And people speaking in various languages – what manner of chaos could this be?  They were bewildered and perplexed.  It seemed like so much chaos with so much rumbling.

And I like it because the Holy Spirit often comes to us amid our bewilderment; amid the complexities of our lives.  This – here is evidence that God is present! Can you imagine?

Luke tells us that when they began to hear the disciples speak – they all understood in their own native tongue.  And hearing led to understanding and they knew that something significant and incredible was happening.

They began to ask of one another “How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?  All of these people gathered; all of the dialects and syntax; this strange and rare assortment of people, believers and non-believers, and they are speaking and being heard in a common language.  And they are saying there is a God and God is powerful beyond belief.

And they thought that the people were drunk but they weren’t drunk.  No, they weren’t drunk at all.  They were not silly or stupid, naïve, or in denial.  They were filled.  When was the last time you were so filled, so possessed with your conviction of faith that others accused you of such things – because you were different?  Your response was different; so radically different from what they had expected.

Pentecost can happen anytime.  Anytime and anywhere.  Right here this morning in this church, but also riding on the bus or subway; walking in the park; over the dinner table.  Pentecost can happen when a decision is made; a step is taken.  Pentecost can and does happen all the time.  It can be loud and vociferous, chaotic and strange, but also quiet and subtle, soft and gentle – creeping in on us but shaking us up nonetheless.

How will you experience Pentecost today?  What will be your new reality moving forward?

In his book, Prayers from a Privileged People, Walter Bruggemann, says that Pentecost is about:

Holy wind that dismantles what was,

Holy wind that evokes what is to be,

Holy wind that overrides barriers and causes communion,

Holy wind that signals [God’s] rule even among us.[1]

My friends, God is calling us. It might seem foolish, radical, unbelievable.  But that’s alright.

God has spoken, and God continues to speak in every age and every time.

In the latter days, says the Lord, “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.  Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days, I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy… And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”[2]    Everyone – you see.  Everyone means everyone.  None will be excluded for all are one.

3,000 souls were added to the church that day when Peter preached so boldly.  They didn’t tell us that they had anything else – just the Word and preaching.  And the people heard and they were moved and convicted in their heart.

Can you imagine such a thing?  It is no accident that new people are joining our church; that they are visiting in search of something.  Others are finding their way back home.

God is calling us.  Calling us to be the Church in this place for this time.   For some of us, this may be a radical departure from what you grew up with.  Radical and different from the view of your early Sunday School teachers; those persons who nurtured you in the faith.  It may be a different place from the doctrines you may have known – some of you, like me, were Baptist, and Episcopalians; some CME and AME; some Catholics and Presbyterians and for some, this is a first time out the gate – your first real step to know God and the power of God’s love.

Marching in a Pride parade might be something you had never even thought about or would have ever considered but in the context of Pentecost; and in the context of Justice and in the context of loving my neighbor and whosever will let them come – it seems like the most natural thing of all.   One bread, one body, one Lord of all.  One cup of blessing which we bless and we though many throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord.

I don’t think we have gathered ourselves here from so many backgrounds, large cities and small towns, from around the world to be in this particular place at this particular time on our own.  I don’t think it’s a mistake or a coincidence.  Lord knows, I wasn’t planning on it and I don’t think some of you were either.  But here we are.  What shall we do with ourselves?

Luke said they were gathered together on one accord in one place and they were praying.  And God showed up in wind, fire, and cloven tongues and in spoken words.  Amid personalities, and cultures, dispositions, and differences – God showed up.  And they all understood the same language – the language of God’s amazing love and transformation.

[1] http://sojo.net/blogs/2013/05/17/pentecost-and-sin-racism

[2] Acts 2:17-18; 21