When the day of Pentecost had come, [the apostles] were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that 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 I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ” (NRSV)
Grace to you and peace from God, our creator, from Jesus the Christ, our redeemer and friend, and from the Holy Spirit, our sustainer and guide.
There is the story of the chaplain who is out on a training bivouac with his Marines. It will last several days, so they are all packing in their gear, including the chaplain. He is loaded down. They are crossing some rough terrain. They are tired. The chaplain’s foot slips on a loose rock and he lets out an expletive. He raises his eyes to the heavens and says, “Sorry Lord. I shouldn’t have said that.” and gets up to carry on.
Pretty soon he slips again, this time landing hard. He lifts his eyes to the heavens again and says, “Lord, you didn’t have to push, I said I was sorry!”
Sometimes the Lord pushes.
In the story of that fateful Pentecost, when the Spirit came upon the faithful, the Spirit pushed them out of the house where they were staying. The Spirit came upon them and pushed them out to where they would encounter the people who had gathered from far and wide for the Pentecost celebration. These were the people of the Diaspora, the scattered people of God. Their ancestors had been taken captive in Babylon. When Babylon was conquered, some were scattered to other places. A few were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city. Most people had to make a life in other places. They settled in, learned the language and made the best of it. They always knew, however, that Jerusalem was their spiritual home. These people were faithful Jews who were in town just to be in Jerusalem for the festival, to visit the temple and worship there. They were there on a pilgrimage. They wanted to feel closer to God.
These pilgrims had NO IDEA that God was going to come after them. But God did. You see, I am quite convinced that the Spirit pushed them too. The text doesn’t say it. But it seems right to me. The Spirit pushed them toward the disciples who had a story to tell, just as much as the Spirit pushed the disciples toward the people who needed to hear it.
I suspect we have all been pushed by God one time or another. Most of you know I was a Navy Chaplain for 20 years. You might not know that Ed was enlisted, a Machinist Mate First Class, when we were dating and when we got engaged. I was working in a church and entering seminary that next fall. When I announced our engagement, people started asking me, “Oh, are you going to be a Navy Chaplain?” I said “No, I am going to be in the parish and Ed will be in the Navy. I will be our home base, wherever my church is.” After it felt like 40 people asked me that question, I realized (knocking on my skull) that maybe I was supposed to be getting a message here…
I have often said God hit me over the head with a sailor to get me to hear my call to the chaplaincy, but it would be equally appropriate to say God was rather pushy.
When have you been pushed by God? I bet you have a story. I am going to take a risk here, and ask you to turn to someone near you… not someone you live with on a daily basis, though. Find a partner and tell them about a time when God pushed you. It may be a time God pushed you toward something or away from something. I’ll give you a couple of minutes for each of you to tell your story to the other.
(Lots of conversation going on!)
Yes! I thought you would have plenty to say! There was not dead silence here!
God is moving in your lives. And just so, the Spirit is moving in this congregation and FOR this congregation.
The Spirit is likely to push you in this season of your congregational life; during this time of transition. But remember, you have nothing to fear. The Spirit will provide you the words to speak and the power to do what you are called to do. Your faith may be stretched when the Spirit is pushing… In fact, it is most likely to be so. When I say you have nothing to fear doesn’t mean you won’t face fearsome circumstances. Look at the lives of the disciples. They had to go to unfamiliar territory and many of them were martyred in the end. I don’t expect you to be martyred, but I do expect you will be called upon to pour your whole lives into following Christ.
The Spirit provided the faithful the ability to speak in the languages of the people gathered. That is a really important point. There is no point in speaking good news to the other unless we are saying it in ways they can understand. Also, the Spirit didn’t change the hearers, at least not at first. God certainly changed the disciples to prepare them to speak. WE ARE THE ONES that have to expect to be changed as the Spirit calls us into service. WE ARE THE ONES who will never be the same. WE ARE THE ONES who have to be faithful and obedient when that push from God comes.
And that push will come, assuming we have packed our gear and set out on the hike, the journey of faith. What might that be for us? It might be that God is pushing us to talk more freely about our faith. It may be that God is pushing us to push the city for a Dreams for Change parking lot. It may be that God is pushing us to reach out to our neighborhood in a more intentional way. It may be that God is pushing us to support the Joyful Noise Camp or the Santee Food Bank (or both!) even more fully than in previous years.
There were a four resolutions passed at Synod Assembly. Two were for our action here in Pacifica Synod, and two were memorials, to be passed along to be considered at Churchwide Assembly in 2019. The two for our action were one setting the Compensation Guidelines for Rostered Leaders; dealing with how we, as a church, pay our professional staff. God may be pushing us as Carlton Hills Evangelical Lutheran Church to do better in this regard. Churches in general don’t pay their people very generously. More often than not, pastors get offered at the low end or below synod guidelines when they are called and also more often than not, don’t get a raise during their tenure at a congregation. That is not how any of you would like your employers to treat you. It is possible God is giving you a push in that direction as you prepare to call a new pastor.
The other resolution for local action was Encouragement to Study “Women and Justice,” the social statement draft that is open for feedback now. As I said in yesterday’s daily devotions, I had forgotten about this in the focus on the transition, but we still have time to get involved, as well we should. This is an issue that involves us all. If you don’t get the daily devotions by email, I encourage you to sign up or to pick up one of this week’s hard copies on the table in the back. If you do read it, more details are in there and I encourage you to give it a look. It is quite possible that God is pushing us through that resolution as well.
It may be that God will push us in ways we can’t even foresee. But when God does push, it will be in the direction of those who need us… in the direction of those who are yearning to be closer to God (even if they don’t know that’s what it is yet)… in the direction of those who need to be fed, healed, comforted and forgiven.
A few days ago in the daily devotions, I think Thursday, when I first wrote about the Pentecost passage, I suggested you all might wear red today to signal our readiness to be touched by the Holy Spirit. I’ll tell you a secret, the Holy Spirit doesn’t really need the red clothing. That is for us… It is to remind US that we are ready to be used by the Spirit. This is Pentecost Sunday. Whether you are wearing red or not, get ready, because the Spirit is moving in this place.
Please join me in prayer.
Holy God, come into our hearts and increase our faith. Inspire us in serving your people and being the church for the good of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
blessings to you,
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.