May 24, 2015
“What’s All the Fuss About?”
Rev. Mark M. Norman Vickers – St. Timothy’s UMC
We had been busy at the funeral home that day! I was tired and it was a Tuesday and I was finally going to be off on Wednesday. I arrived home around 5:45 and Susan greeted me at the door and said we were going to meet our friends the Dooley’s at Mexico Restaurant on Hill Street for dinner. That was a bit odd since most weeknights Susan wanted to stay home and eat as a family, but I was hungry and tired and didn’t think twice about it and went along to the restaurant.
We pulled into the parking lot and there were a lot of cars in the lot for a Tuesday evening, I remember thinking, but once again I didn’t think much about it and proceeded to get out of the car and walk to the restaurant. When I opened the door and walked through the entrance way, I was greeted by a loud, thundering, HAPPY 39 ½ BIRTHDAY!! There were people everywhere, people I knew, people whom I had worked with all day, people I hadn’t seen in years, relatives I hadn’t seen in years! All gathered in the rented out restaurant, to celebrate my 39 ½ year birthday as a surprise. Why not 40? Because I would have figured it out, but 39 ½ , now that was pretty clever on my wife’s part. It was loud, it was a surprise, it was together in such a way that I understood every word that was uttered and shouted. It was a Pentecost moment!
It was a life changing event that shaped the way I would look at the next year. All my friends and family gathered to celebrate my event! It was special in that it was different, different because it was done at an unusual time, ½ a year, not a full year birthday celebration- it was different because I didn’t have any control over it, much like the Pentecost event we read about this morning. I was changed but not because I wanted to be changed, but because the event changed me, the relationships changed me, just as Pentecost changed the nature of the Christian community of the time. This ½ birthday celebration changed me because I thought about how it felt to be a ½ year older and a ½ year younger. It gave me a new perspective.
When the Holy Spirit descended upon all the people at Pentecost and they all heard the same thing, it changed their perspective on their identity and their actions in a God given way and fashion. When the Spirit descended with “the sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting” it came in a way that changed their lives!
We often don’t do well with life changing events! It takes a tremendous amount of faith to move through a life changing event, I know, I’m getting a lot of practice lately. But in terms of a life changing event such as Pentecost, it requires us, as the church to move through it together. As was the case with Pentecost, we, as 21st Century Christians, have a difficult time in dealing with the Holy Spirit. Especially us mainstream United Methodists. However, the Holy Spirit is as real for us today as it was for those gathered then at Pentecost. One of the reasons we have difficulty is because we can’t hold onto the Holy Spirit! We cannot put it in a box, label it, and use it whenever we want. Will Willimon says it so well, “We cannot pin the Spirit down. It is difficult to contemplate or to speak about her in her own right. The Spirit doesn’t stay in the same place or keep on doing only one and the same thing forever. By virtue of the Spirit, Jesus’ good news always contains the possibility of change and growth, of adaptations to new situations and addressing new audiences”.
By the simple means, we understand that the Holy Spirit is always moving in a new direction, in a new way toward something new and preparing us to meet those new challenges with faith and grace. We cannot be a stable people. We have to be a people of change and movement in order to advance the Gospel and good news of Jesus Christ.
In Rachel Held Evan’s book, Searching for Sunday, loving, leaving, and finding the church, she quotes Sara Mills as she talks about the Spirit. Dr. Mills says, “None of us can control what God does, but we can open our eyes and see what God is doing.”
That is the key my friends! To be observant in the presence of the Spirit. To be observant to what God is doing in our midst and then figure out how to be a part of that action, that is what the Holy Spirit intends to do in our lives. “The Spirit is never my own potential, but always God’s power and gift.” Reminds us says Will Willimon.
Just as those present at Pentecost, we have to be ready to move with God’s potential (ever present) energy! We have to be ready to make a move and a statement on behalf of the Holy Spirit being interjected into our lives. When we become stagnant in our lives and we become complacent in our “way of existing”, the Holy Spirit is always the motivator. The Spirit keeps us from trying to fix the good news in a permanent unchanging form- a process that can only fossilize the movement. Yet in order to respond faithfully to God and the Holy Spirit we have to believe in the Holy Spirit. How and what does that mean? It means to have a simple and trusting acceptance that God, God self, can be inwardly present for you and me in faith and through God’s power and grace, God can gain control of me in my innermost self and in my heart! Through this never failing grace, God’s Holy Spirit blows where it will and who cannot be claimed as a justification of any absolute power?