Monday, June 9, 2014
Acts 2: 1-21, NT page 119 When the day of Pentecost had come, they 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.’ Sermon Thanks to recent legislation, here in Maury County, cursive writing will once again be a mandatory part of every child’s public school education. Cursive was a part of my education, but as soon as I was allowed to abandon it I did. Since the 6th grade I’ve been out of practice and only just recently tried to pick it back up. You may have received a note from me written in cursive – and if my letters look like they were scrawled by a 5th grader, that’s because my handwriting is picking back up where it left off. People value cursive writing, but fewer and fewer people know how to do it, so the work of addressing things like wedding invitations is sometimes left to a professional calligrapher, whereas just two generations ago, a bride could have done it herself. Home cooking follows a similar trend. Sara and I only know enough about fried chicken to properly buy it. My mother knows how to bread it, but growing up I remember the finished product was always either raw on the inside or burnt on the outside. My grandmother fried her own perfectly, but bought the birds cut up and packaged from the grocery store, so it was her mother, my great-grandmother, who knew how to start with a live chicken and finish with Sunday dinner. That’s a big, sweeping, cultural change where knowledge has been lost. Something that everyone used to do is now work reserved for the professional, and that’s the case in some areas of our life. However, in other areas you can see how the exact opposite is occurring: the Apostle Paul relied on a scribe to write Romans, Galatians, 1st Corinthians and his other letters, these letters were saved and over hundreds of years and because of who knows how many individuals, were compiled, printed, and published, whereas today you can self-publish your own book and have it delivered to your doorstep if you know your way around a computer. Then there’s web-MD, where you can successfully diagnose yourself with a whole array of diseases even if you probably don’t have any of them. There’s Realtracs, where you can do a lot of the leg work you might normally pay a realtor to do, you can receive on-line legal advice through a website called Legal-zoom, and just a couple weeks ago a bride’s older brother told me right before a wedding that he found a church on the internet who would ordain him to the ministry for just $25 so that he could perform his sister’s wedding, then decided he’d let me do the honors instead. To be ordained in our denomination requires four years of college, three years of seminary, and more examinations than I care to remember, but things are changing. But, for clergy things didn’t change with the dawn of the internet – for clergy like me everything changed at Pentecost. Pentecost is the moment when God “poured out the Spirit upon all flesh,” not upon the specially educated clergy, not just on those who were born into the priestly families, but every son and daughter, young and old, “Even upon my slaves” the Lord God says, “both men and women. In those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.” In our reading from Acts, after the room full of people proclaim the gospel to the city of Jerusalem packed with travelers from the four corners of the Roman Empire, Peter is the one who explains it, but it was that whole room of people who were preaching. “When the day of Pentecost had come, they 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 I have a degree – Master of Divinity they call it – but what does it truly take to proclaim the Gospel? What does it truly take to make the mighty works of our mighty God known throughout all the earth? Will it take more specialists? With more education? A few more saints with a stronger moral fiber? No. Making God known throughout all the earth will not require any of these things. What the Gospel requires is you, and you, and you – it will take this whole room just as it took that whole room of believers back in Jerusalem – and then it was a room not of PhD’s but illiterate fisherman, widows, tax collectors, and housewives. A room not of saints – unless you count Peter who denied Christ three times or Thomas who doubted. It was a room of disciples who were not ready so much as they were willing – and that is all that is required of you – a willingness to let the Spirit use you. And this is nothing new. When I consider the great moments of faith formation in my life – those people who God used to preach the Good News to me, I don’t think most of preachers but of a homeless man on a subway, a Waffle House waitress, and a Hispanic kid we met at Woodland Park. I think of a lady named Mary Arapian, who was a member of Druid Hills Presbyterian Church, a church I served as an intern – and when I called her to ask if I might bring a barbeque lunch to her house for us to share she told me she was so happy she was, “sitting in a puddle,” whatever that means. I don’t remember a single sermon that I preached that summer as an intern, but I remember how special her saying that made me feel, and that’s reality. I pray I’ll be here to preach a thousand sermons from this pulpit, but all my words will be dwarfed by the sermon that your life will preach if you are willing to be used by the Spirit as that room full of believers were at Pentecost. The Gospel is yours. It is yours to take and it is yours to preach, if you are ready and willing to be used by the Spirit. Tell his story. Feed the sick. And be the friend of sinners. Remember that Christianity is not a religion for special people with special gifts and special capabilities – our faith is not reserved for the high and mighty, the high-brow, or high minded. Make it known throughout all the earth that “Everyone, everyone, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Amen.