Pentecost—Year A—June 8, 2014
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let us pray: Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Fifty days after leaving slavery in Egypt, the Israelites came to Mt. Sinai, and Moses went up at go the Law, the Torah. Now many of you know that there is much more to that story, but that is not so important to talk about today. The reason I mention this event from the ancient past is it the remembrance of that act that we gathers us today. We are not here to eat extra dairy products or read the book of Ruth, but are here to hear the story of what happened on this holiday the year of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
A week of so after Jesus ascended to heaven (according to the Gospel of Luke & book of Acts), a group of men were gathered with Peter in one place. We assume they were gathered together to commemorate God’s giving of the Law, but we cannot be sure. But either way, this was no normal gathering. For we read, “a sound [from heaven] like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting,” tongues of fire appeared, and they gained new language skills instantaneously.
The Festival of Weeks, that marking of time of anticipation until the Israelites are made God’s favored nation through a covenant of commandments—instructions of how to live as a person in right relationship with God and in right relationship with the rest of the community—concludes with Pentecost, just as the time of anticipation between the Jesus’ ascension and the obvious arrival of Spirit occurs.
It was not a reversal of the tower of Babel—human community is not totally restored to utopia—they did not all start speaking the same language again. It was instead an event of extension. Instead of everyone being incorporated into Judean culture, the Judeans were equipped to relate to every other culture. Community was established among diversity, not by eliminating it.
Joel speaks of a variety of dreams…a variety of visions…a variety of prophesies…not of a bunch of sons & daughters, men young & old having one unified vision, dream, or prophesy. In the same way, we know that the Holy Spirit works in each one of us, equips us, with a variety of gifts—wisdom, knowledge, faith healing, the ability to perform miracles, prophesy, discernment, the gift of tongues. No one person is the church has all of these (and the many various others listed throughout the Bible). The only way the church universal has all it needs to do God’s work in the world is to join together, to add our variety of gifts together into the whole. We need each other to complete our set.
If we work individually, someone might have the gift of compassion and faith, but be lacking the gift of language to fully communicate God’s love to others. Or a group might have the gift of cooking and baking, but not know how to share it to the glory of God, because they are not connected with a person with the gift of knowledge and connection.
We are each gifted in our unique ways. Just look at our Confirmands—no two are alike—Will has the gift of leadership & athletics, while Brian is good with electronics and follow through, Nicole brings joy and energy to our classes, while Frannie brings wisdom and peace. But because we joined together, we were able to explore God’s word and think about the promises of Baptism they will affirm today in a different way. We shared each others’ questions, instead of having to ask them all for ourselves…How does 1+1+1=3? What does it mean to live among God’s faithful people?
In the same way, we gather together as a congregation, synod, denomination, church, town, country, and human race to share all that God has given us. We each have different gifts and experiences, and so we envision how God is at work in your life differently. Because we all have different perspectives and priorites, we dream differently about how God might have in store for us (individually and as a community). Because we are brought together among our diversity, we prophesy differently about how God up to in the world. All of this affects how we live together, how we communicate, how we worship & encounter God. But life together, as the people of God, is not about finding the one right way and conforming to it, but listening to the abundance of voices, the variety of gifts, and working together to discern the way forward.
Sometimes as church we must compromise our personal preferences, visions, and dreams for those of others, just as we would hope they would do for us from time to time. And I’m not talking about offering all the options and coming when you are comfortable and letting others come when they will be, but instead existing together. Coming whenever you can…no matter if we are singing your favorite hymn or not…because it is bound to be someone’s favorite and they will experience it differently if you are here to help sing it. It is about bearing with one another through seasons of the church year or holidays that are not so important or moving to you, because your presence is necessary for the whole.
The President-elect of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, David Lose, thinks this is one of the reasons that sometimes we neglect to dream—It might turn out to be divisive. We would rather stick with the status quo than risk sharing a dream and having it shot down, overriding, altered, or cause strife. But this is part of being community—working through our differences thoughtfully and respectfully, for the good of the whole (not just of one), and not just glossing over them, reverting to the lowest common denominator, the least about of risk, immediately every time. As Rev. Laura said last week when it comes to wondering where we are going or what is next: let the uncertainty of the future fuel holy expectation, not unholy anxiety.
It is fears like those that get in the way of our Pentecost life together. Joined together and equipped for a common cause—spreading God’s good news to all—in the midst of our diversity and disagreement.
We have made it to Pentecost…there is no longer need to wait, live in the in-between, linger in the lacuna, but we continue the preparation of the in-between as we begin to put together plans, to visit visions, to deliver dreams, to proclaim prophesies. Today we hear the assurance once again that the God’s Spirit is with us, blowing among us, empowering each and every one of us. We are not alone. We do not fend for ourselves. We do not exist without a larger purpose to guide our paths.
So I encourage you this week to dare to dream. And I seriously invite you to share those dreams with me this week…on one of these index cards, in an email, a tweet, or over a cup of coffee. Let the Holy Spirit guide you. There is no need to be scared of the unknown, change, conflict, or failure. God is with you.
You have had a week to prepare, “to be ready to go where the Spirit sends us next.” So today—remember that God loves you and Jesus died, rose, and ascended for your benefit, breath in the Spirit he offers this and every day, encounter God in a new way, and vision how all this might be part of our life together as Pentecost people…for we are always being made new! Amen.
 Acts 2:2, NRSV.