Sermon for May 20, 2018 Pentecost “Stir me from being Settled”
Pentecost is like the third or fourth cousin compared to Christmas and Easter. There is no media blitz encouraging us to spend on this toy or that bit of jewelry. There are no hints of chocolate bunnies or cream eggs. To the rest of the world Pentecost and for that matter even in the church, it is all but forgotten.
That Pentecost does not have the consumerism frenzy of Christmas, is for the church and us, great news. It means Pentecost can be focused on us, you and me, the community of disciples known as the church. It is the story of how, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the church is gifted with an identity and an authority centered in the proclamation of the Gospel.
We know that the 21st century church is far different from the church started by Jesus and the disciples. It is different from the church of the first two millennium. It is even very different from the church of our childhood when church buildings were filled to overflowing with people and the church was the centre of the community and family life. Pentecost is not intended to be a benchmark of what the church should look like but a teaching moment to communicate how important the church is and inseparable it is from Jesus. On Pentecost, we are reminded of who we are as a church, what we proclaim and the source of that proclamation. It is a message passed on from church to church through each successive generation.
In the first years of the United Church, our statement of belief was the Apostle’s creed and by times the Nicene Creed. In 1968 the United Church creed was introduced and then revised in 1980 and again in 1995. It currently states:
We are not alone, we live in God’s world. We believe in God: who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit. We trust in God. We are called to be the Church: to celebrate God’s presence, to live with respect in Creation, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
Kathy was chatting with one of her Buddhist friends this past week and in the conversation, Kathy indicated that she was leading worship this Sunday and that it was Pentecost. She asked: what’s that? Kathy replied it was the moment just before Jesus left the disciples when he gifted them with the Holy Spirit, the advocate, comforter, translator and enabler. And then the 12 became hundreds and the hundreds became thousands and then millions. She thought about that for a moment and said; so the Holy Spirit is sort of like the web, reaches out all over the world touching the lives of millions.
Then I said to Kathy, well it seems to me that would be the equivalent to a modern day message going viral. Maybe the first time a message went viral and it just took us 2000 years to realize that.
The Holy Spirit is that force that moves us into and out of our comfort zones, ever beckoning and nudging us forward, ever opening us as individuals and congregations to newness and oldness. And always requiring our attention and our voice. We might think we are settled and set in our ways. Then comes the Holy Spirit. Stirring us from placidness. Demanding that we not be silent. Propelling us into creative and dynamic ways of proclaiming the Good news in the 21st century. We can resist and insist our way is the best. The Holy Spirit is a persistent Spirit and once we get a glimpse, we will desire more. So I say, come Holy Spirit come.