Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Would that all the Lord's people were prophets
Scripture Lessons: Numbers 11: 24-30 and Acts 2: 1-21 Sermon title: Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets Preached on June 4, 2017 Last week Bojangles opened in Columbia. The fried chicken establishment officially opened on May 30th. I didn’t make it by until the day after. I wanted to avoid the opening day crowd, but the line was still pretty long the next day when I just couldn’t stay away any longer. Now you might say that another fried chicken establishment in Columbia is superfluous, but this is different – this is Bojangles! I feel strongly about this. The chicken is that good, but my first visit was frustrating. The line was still pretty long, and what irritated me is that even after standing in the line, watching people order again and again – still, the two people right in front of me stepped up to the register and asked the lady, “So what’s good here?” It blew my mind. Not only does this question not make any sense – I mean, it’s a fried chicken restaurant – the fried chicken is good here. The other thing is that they had all this time in the line to figure out their order – but still, I’ve known what I was going to order since I heard that Bojangles was coming to Columbia two months ago. As soon as I got word that Bojangles would be coming to town I knew that the first time I had the chance I’d be ordering a large sweet tea and a chicken biscuit, but this is the human condition – sometimes we just don’t know what to say. Sometimes – when we should speak – we hesitate. Sometimes we freeze up. How many of your regrets have to do with the failure to speak some words like: “Would you go out with me?” “I love you too.” Or, “I’m so excited that you’re pregnant.” But instead, momentous occasions, momentous opportunities, were met either with silence or meaningless words or sounds like, “uh, uh, uh.” Not Peter though. We’ve heard about all the times when Peter waffled – when he tried to walk on water but sank and the time when he could have claimed Jesus as the friend and savior that he was but denied him instead. That’s not what happened on Pentecost. On Pentecost Peter spoke. He walked right up to that register and he ordered. You heard the story from the book of Acts: The Holy Spirit came just as Jesus promised. The Disciples spoke in languages they should not have known. All these people were trying to figure out what was going on. “All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” This account from the Book of Acts reminds us that if no one speaks sometimes there’s silence or confusion. Sometimes rumors get started, but more than that, in this instance, one of God’s greatest miracles could have gotten lost without someone to help the crowd understand what this miracle means. Peter’s words are crucial. “Standing with the eleven, [he] 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 – [this is the sign that God is pouring out the Holy Spirit on all people.]” That’s a big difference. When one guy says they’re drunk, another guy says it’s a miracle. So much hinges on who speaks and what is said; how this moment is explained. And thanks be to God Peter didn’t hesitate. He spoke. Now, if only all the Lord’s people were prophets. People like me, preachers – we talk a lot about church attendance. Numbers. Is the church growing or losing ground or what’s going on? More and more people wonder why folks don’t go to church like they once did. Is it that the culture has changed? Is it that the church has lost its relevance? What’s happening? I have an answer: God still provides, but at some point or another we went silent. I remember it well this one morning at the last church I served outside Atlanta. Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church. We had a men’s breakfast one morning and the organizer, a guy named Corey Duncan, he says, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had even more people come to this breakfast? Can’t you all think of someone at work or in your neighborhood who would get a lot out of something like this?” We all agreed, so he went on saying, “Well, I know we’re Presbyterians so I won’t ask you to invite someone to the next men’s breakfast. I just challenge you to tell someone about it.” That’s it. I just challenge you to speak. That doesn’t sound so bad – just tell someone what’s going on here – just tell someone about what you see. Here we are in Pleasantville, TN. Do you know how many people signed up to come today? Nearly 200. That’s around 100 more than last year. Why did that happen? There are plenty of explanations, but when you look around this place, who wouldn’t want to spend a day here? So, if you want the number to grow beyond 200 next year, tell someone about it. Today we’ll be confirming 9 fine young men and women. For the past year they’ve dedicated themselves to learning about their faith and what this church is and what we stand for. Wouldn’t it be a pity if all of this, if all of who we are, if the gift of this congregation were the best kept secret in Maury County? I’m not asking you today to go knock on doors (it would be great if you did) but all I’m saying is that you know someone who would benefit from just this kind of miracle – the miracle of what God does here, but a miracle without an explanation gets misunderstood or dismissed. Peter spoke. He had to. And it’s hard to believe that a miracle as profound and magnificent as disciples speaking in languages they didn’t know proclaiming the mighty works of God to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but miracles go unspoken and misunderstood all the time. You can change that. You can speak. You can speak words of hope in the midst of hopelessness. You can speak words of faith in a culture of fear. You can speak words of righteousness in our world of cultural relativism. You can speak, so tell someone about this day and about this place. Tell someone about what God has done in your life, because I’m sure they need something this good just as much as you and I do. Amen.