It’s the Holy Spirit!

May 15, 2016  Pentecost Sunday 

You can listen to the sermon right here:

Narrator: Hear the Good News from the book of Acts 2:1-4, 1 Corinthians 12:1-13

Narrator: 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.

Narrator: And now, the reading from 1 Corinthians 12:1-13

Narrator 1: Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.

Narrator 2: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.

ALL: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Side 1: To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom,

Side 2: and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,

Side 1: to another faith by the same Spirit,

Side 2: to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

Side 1: to another the working of miracles,

Side 2: to another prophecy,

Side 1: to another the discernment of spirits,

Side 2: to another various kinds of tongues,

Side 1: to another the interpretation of tongues.

Narrator 1: All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

ALL: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Narrator: Stay tuned for the continuing saga that is our story and God’s story.

Thanks be to God.

Fire and wind take center stage in today’s reading about the work of the Holy Spirit.

I used to drive this highway up to the camp where I worked in Idaho. It’s my favorite drive and a few times a year I would stop to read the commemorative signs of the fires that swept through Lowman, Idaho in 1989. During the period of July 15th to 27th, lightning ignited 335 fires in this area of the Payette National Forest. At times there were over 100 lightning strikes per hour.

335 fires in one area. Can you believe it? And you can see, from these pictures I took just last summer that the land continues to heal, that scars from where the fire burned hottest are still visible, but recovering and even flourishing.

After all, fire is a natural cycle of nature. It is an awesome thing to behold. It is terrifying in how swiftly it moves and changes direction and thwarts our efforts to control it or tamp it out or harness it.

My experience of wind is from growing up in Barnesville, Minnesota, a place where the wind always blows. And I recognized the power of that wind especially in the winter, as it had substance to work with, creating white outs and impossible drifts and dangerously low temperatures. When we moved away from Barnesville, I remember remarking to my family, “I didn’t realize the wind didn’t blow like that everywhere.”  The wind was a resident of that part of MN and the Dakotas. It was just part of life, always a factor.

What are your experiences with wind and fire? While we can have pleasant experiences with kites and campfires where wind and fire are required in just the right amounts, these natural elements in today’s Acts reading are not pleasant but terrifying. More like wildfire. More like the wind of a tornado, a wind that relentlessly pushes on you or rips things apart.

Today’s reading might have you thinking, “I’m out. This is not my experience of the Holy Spirit. I don’t even know if I’ve had an experience of the Holy Spirit.”

Which is a totally legitimate reaction, especially if you’re new to this whole faith thing or have grown up only thinking of God as a majestic man with a long flowing beard looking down on you from afar. Then the Holy Spirit might as well be a good fairy, right?

But to think of it as scary and violent, even being able to infiltrate the room or the house everyone was in? It’s a little weird.

But let me tell you – River of Hope wouldn’t be here without the Holy Spirit.  The Church throughout all of history and into the future wouldn’t exist without the Holy Spirit.

If you are unaware, River of Hope was born out of the activity of fire and wind. Some of you still bear the scars of that time when you, to your shock and horror, lost your church home to a vote among church friends and family. Some of that re-growth in that scalded area of your betrayal is just starting to heal, to grow new life, to show the first fruits of forgiveness that only the Holy Spirit can work out amongst us.

And while I would never preach to you that everything happens for a reason or that God did this to you to test you or so that you would learn a valuable lesson, I will instead preach this: The Holy Spirit was all over that time. Hovering over it and in the midst of it and leading you toward a new thing, toward new life. Stirring up life where you only saw an ending, a death. And it was painful. And maybe felt violent and sudden, the lightening bolt of betrayal, the painful ripping apart of relationships, of a community.

You see, River of Hope, the Holy Spirit worked through all of that destructive fire and relentless wind to create a new thing, to stir up this community, to stir up new faith in your own life, or to stir up faith perhaps for the first time ever in your life. Just as the Holy Spirit was at work in the lives of folks at Faith and Christ the King, stirring up new faith and new life in them too. Because that is the power of the Holy Spirit – that scary, unquenchable, uncontainable power of God’s Holy Spirit. It didn’t let a dead thing stay dead.

And you know the first thing the Holy Spirit does?  Paul, the writer of 1st Corinthians, tells us right off the bat that it is the Holy Spirit that gives us each the gift of faith.  No one can say that Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit stirring that up. It’s a mystifying thing to proclaim that the savior of the world died on a cross the most humiliating death and then was raised from the dead 3 days later and then that same resurrected life is promised to the likes of you and me.  We can’t possibly believe that on our own. We cannot be the originators of faith – it’s too stupefying to wrap our minds around it, let alone our hearts.

So that’s how you’ve come to be here. Not by my persuasion. Not by our convenient location. But by the power of the Holy Spirit. So the Holy Spirit has stirred up this community, this people called River of Hope. And the gift that the Holy Spirit keeps on giving is faith in new people. As a friend of mine has been known to often say, especially on fishing opener, you never stand in the same river twice. It’s always flowing, it’s always changing, and we are witnesses to that. We are evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit gathering us together and sending us out.

And the Holy Spirit does not stir up the same kind of faith in all of us.  No, that faith and the gifts given to us, are unique to us. Our community depends on the variety that each of our lives brings. So that the endless ways we can worship and praise and serve God are represented among us here and in our daily lives.

River of Hope, you are evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit. It absolutely takes each of our quirks and gifts and even our faults to make River of Hope what it is. Do you wanna see?

Please stand up if if you met in people’s living rooms, dreaming and praying about a new church; please stand up if you’ve ever served on the Vision Table; please stand up if you’re part of the Men’s Bible study; Please stand up if you showed up at the river of at the fair or at Main Street Sports Bar for Beer and Hymns. Please stand if you’ve shown up for Wild Wednesdays or the parade on Water Carnival weekend; please stand if you’ve shown up for 55+ Diner’s club; please stand up if you hang out at the pray ground or are in confirmation or have been a confirmation mentor; please stand up if you have served in a leadership role for this community, on any of the tables; please stand up if you have ever visited River of Hope.

Just look how creative the Holy Spirit is.

Just look what the Holy Spirit has done with us!

And just imagine what the Holy Spirit will do with us in the future.

As Paul reminds us today, we exist for the common good, not just our own good!

There may be scary gusts of wind and bursts of fire, but it all leads to new life, it all leads to the new life the Holy Spirit is stirring up in us.  It’s terrifying, isn’t it? It’s awesome, isn’t it? And we are not complete, we never will be done being River of Hope. We’ll always be changing, seeing how new people shape who we are. Just as Paul said:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

Thanks be to God.