Monday, May 28, 2012

Pentecost Sunday 2012

Catching Fire or Something to Say
Acts 2:1-12
Grace and peace to you from God: Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer,
I have really been struggling with this homily the last few weeks and it took a long while before I put anything down on paper. I hadn’t decided what aspect of the Holy Spirit I wanted to talk about.This allusive member of the Trinity is called by so many names--comforter, paraclete, sustainer; you heard one in John-- advocate. The Spirit has been described as dove, breath, wind and fire. It is unpredictable, violent and at the same time it creates a space of safety and security. Jesus breathes the peace of the Spirit into the locked room as he surprises the disciples.

I thought it would be cool to try and explain this Spirit called Holy by asking do you remember me talking about the incredibly popular book, now a movie the Hunger Games? It is the first of a trilogy, the story of Katniss Everdeen from district 12 who becomes a hero by the end of the first book and movie.
The plot is that two children from every one of twelve districts is forced to compete. The are called tributes and the competition is basically a fight to the death. In the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss and the male tribute from District 12 survive. This was not supposed to happen, there was supposed to be a sole survivor. Peeta is allowed to survive because Katniss convinces the television audience that they are in love and threatens to kill herself if Peeta dies. So, for the first time in 74 years there are two victorious tributes and the organizers of the games are furious at Katniss’ defiance.
As the second book of the trilogy Catching Fire, begins, Katniss and Peeta are warned that they must continue this act of being star crossed lovers as they do a victory tour. As they make their first stop on the tour Peeta and Katniss give speeches and it is clear that Katniss’ initial defiance and her strength have already begun to incite a rebellion. By the end of the book, we see that the rebellion has ‘caught fire.'
This story helps me talk about how this idea of catching fire is related to the text for the day. There are tongues as of fire that land on the heads of the disciples as they are gathered for festival. These tongues of fire spark a new movement, a movement of those who follow Jesus the Christ. This moment and this movement is a mass visitation of the promised Holy Spirit. This day of Pentecost, where everyone around catches fire is the day that marks the beginning of the Christian Church. I was going to end this homily by saying: “may the Holy Spirit blow through St. John’s and might we Catch Fire!”
Because certainly that’s what we need -- to catch fire and for sure the Holy Spirit has been talked about as that thing wind, breath, flame that stirs us up and gives power to all sorts of things in Jesus name. This Spirit even has the power to breathe new life into the Christian Church of the 21st century, a Church that seems to have lost some of its fire and excitement, a church that we speak of as the church at the end of Christendom and in decline as she faces the distractions of a culture that is more and more secularized. I wanted to tell you of this Holy Spirit that holds up the institution of the church even while it sends us out in a new ways as the body of Christ in the world.

I was going to remind all who will listen, that Pentecost ---the giving of the Holy Spirit  is not simply an occurrence that happened---long ago and far away but the Holy Spirit is present and active in our lives here and now.
I was going to tell you about the places here at St. John’s where I have seen the Holy Spirit at work: I have seen the movement of the Spirit as this congregation moved from deficit budgets to surplus....I have seen the Holy Spirit in the generosity of this community as we have raised money for world hunger, as we send youth on mission trips, and as we supply goods to those in need.
I felt the presence of the Spirit on Easter Sunday when two ten-year olds stood in the midst of the congregation and proclaimed the days scripture. I watched as your faces showed amazement and how some of you twisted and turned to see where this proclamation was coming from.
I see the movement of the Holy Spirit when anyone offers their musical talent or any talent as gifts in worship. I was struck with the joy of the Holy Spirit as I opened a card and read that little Charlotte baptized in the hospital just a few weeks ago is on the road to recovery. I could go on and on talking about how I see the work of the Spirit in many of you as you live out your faith in so many ways.
So many things I wanted to say in this sermon to Isabella, Emily, David and Brett, so much about faith, and doubt. I wanted to them how God promises that the Holy Spirit will hold us up in the midst of uncertainty, to emphasis that they were given this gift in the baptism they are affirming today:
the spirit of wisdom and understanding
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord,
the spirit of joy in God’s presence.
We can’t touch or see when these gifts are active. So, what I want these four young people and all of you to know concretely is that the Holy Spirit is indeed a gift, the gift of something to say!
I want to explain that the day of Pentecost was that day when people gathered together and tongues of fire landed on their heads and they began to speak in languages so all could hear the good news. When the words of the prophet Joel were once more announced in the assembly:
“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.”
They will prophesy, we will prophesy and have a word to speak to a broken and sinful world, a word to speak in the hardest of times, a word to speak in silence or in deafening noise, a word to speak in the midst of disease, disaster, even death, a word of faith in the middle of doubt....The Holy Spirit is the gift of something to say, a word to speak. This word was made flesh and dwelt among us; this word spoke out on a cross for our sake. This word rose, ascended and now sends the holy spirit that we might be witnesses. So that this generation and the next generation and the next generation and the next generation, might hear and tell the story of Jesus and his love.
Pentecost….. yes, long ago and far away, but also here and now
The Holy Spirit is the gift of something to say. So, instead of may we catch fire this homily will end with me pleading “Come, Holy Spirit, come!” that we might have something to say, in this 21st century world when no one wants to hear. .... a heart wretching plea of  “come, Holy Spirit, come! Amen

Just Rambling!

****The idea of Holy Spirit as something to say comes from a sermon by Thomas Long "What is the Gift?" heard of

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