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The Day of Pentecost                                                          May 15, 2016

This Weekend's Readings (click each reading to view the passage)

Genesis 11:1-9Psalm 104:24-34,35b; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:8-17,25-27

Pr. Steve's Sermon: The Purpose of Pentecost
Pr. Steve's Sermon: The Purpose of Pentecost

Children's Sermon: Communicating God's Love
Children's Sermon: Communicating God's Love

Choir Anthem for Pentecost: Come, Holy Spirit
Choir Anthem for Pentecost: Come, Holy Spirit

Choir Anthem: God Is So Good to Me
Choir Anthem: God Is So Good to Me

Youth Handbell Choir: THis Joyful Eastertide
Youth Handbell Choir: This Joyful Eastertide

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Sermon Notes from Pastor Steve...

Usually, when we read the story of Pentecost, we encounter two big problems. The first is pronouncing all these names! If you're a lector, this is the reading that will give you nightmares!
But the second problem is that when we read this story, we're usually tempted to see Pentecost as an event in which God's Holy Spirit gives the first disciples an incredibly miraculous gift that even they never get again. And it reinforces the notion that gifts of the Spirit are only rare, mystical and ecstatic abilities that defy explanation and even often defy even the laws of time, space and physics!
And so many of us are tempted to read this story and think, "Wow! If I had mystical gifts like that, I could really do something meaningful. I could really make a difference. But I don't, so I don't figure that this really has much to do with me."
The thing is though, this story really isn't about the disciples or their abilities at all. All they do is talk! In fact, although Luke describes them as "speaking in other languages" the sense is that they're just speaking in their own language, but the Holy Spirit makes it possible for everyone to hear them in their own language. (It really is kind of like the Spirit acting as Google Translate - except it works better!)
The miracle really isn't about the disciples getting a miraculous gift. The miracle is what God does when the disciples use a gift God has already given them - the gift of simply opening their mouths and talking about what they already know...
What the disciples learn, or at least what they should learn, is not that they need special, extraordinary powers to make a difference. Instead, what they're supposed to learn is that God can do incredible things when they use the gifts God has already given them.
The gifts they already have are important. And they can make a significant difference in the lives of others. And even though this kind of "speaking in tongues" with flames above their heads doesn't happen again, what the Pentecost story makes clear to them is that the Holy Spirit can and will do extraordinary things with them and through them when they:  
  • stick together - the Holy Spirit arrives in power when they're "all together in one place"; this isn't an incidental part of the story; Jesus calls them to work and pray and stick together for the work he calls them to do; and even though they often work individually or in small teams, they all stay connected to one another; and it's in through being part of Jesus' community that they have courage and strength to act...
  • focus on using their "regular" abilities as God calls them to use them - they don't sit inside the house, they go outside and talk; and they talk about what they already know - the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead; the Holy Spirit does the rest...
  • use their gifts to help others have a living experience of Jesus in their lives - by 50 days after Easter, plenty of people in Jerusalem had heard the rumors that Jesus rose from the dead; they knew the information; what made a difference was that through the words and actions and enthusiasm of the disciples, other people came to have an experience of the Risen Jesus, not just information about the Risen Jesus; and that's really what the disciples did for the rest of their lives. They didn't convince people by arguing or logic; they didn't draw people to God by showing off how moral or spiritual they were; instead, whatever they did and whatever they said was about helping others to have a real and living experience and connection to God ...
Those same things are true for us when we consider the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and how we can make a difference with the gifts that God gives us. Probably, none of us will ever walk around with fire over our heads. But Jesus calls us, also, to be God's instruments in the lives of others and really make a difference when we, like the first disciples:
  • stick together in the work that God gives us to do - like those first disciples, it's often the case that God works most powerfully through us when we're working together, not off trying to figure out God by ourselves... (virtually everything we do well at Prince of Peace happens when a bunch of us work together, not when one or two try to do it all themselves... )
  • focus on using our "regular" abilities and interests to serve God - it's often the case that what we really need are simply our own our "regular" abilities, or even "interests"; those are indeed, gifts that God gives us to serve him and to serve others in his name ... (even if others "could" do it, the fact that I can and WANT to are both spiritual gifts - like Habitat or VBS ...)
  • focus on using our gifts and abilities to help others have a living experience of Jesus in their lives - too often, we can get so focused on the "stuff" we do - either because we need to do it or because we like doing it - that we forget that the purpose is not supposed to be doing good things or even telling people about Jesus; instead, the purpose is supposed to be helping people to experience Jesus as a living reality in their lives ...
The real miracle of Pentecost was not the flames or the wind. The miracle wasn't that the disciples suddenly turned into people they weren't before. It wasn't even that people could hear in other languages.
The real miracle was that people who hadn't seen or met Jesus came to experience the Resurrection of Jesus not as a rumor, but as a living reality in their lives. The real miracle was that people who thought of God as an idea or a concept began to experience God as a living force of love in their lives. The real miracle was that people who thought God was far off came to experience God as a present and living reality in their lives.
That was the miracle of Pentecost which the first disciples participated in. That was and is the purpose of the miracle of the Christian community that the Spirit created. And it's the continuing miracle that Jesus calls us to be a part of today.