The Sunday Sermon: May 23, 2021 – Pentecost Sunday
Scripture: Acts 2:1-4
Easter Life: Full of the Spirit of God
We are back!
No, not back in our sanctuary … obviously.
Yes, back together for worship … also obviously.
But even more particular to this special day in the life of the community that first gathered in Jesus’ name and later became known as the church, we’re back … in Jerusalem!
Pray with me …
We left Jerusalem seven weeks ago after we, like at least eleven others in the first century, had a strange experience three days after Jesus of Nazareth, our teacher, our friend was crucified. We called it a Resurrection experience, an experience of new life, a realization that Love had not died on that cross; that God was not dead in the world; and that Jesus himself was alive in and through our lives. Resurrection … And with this profound experience we realized there was work to do. So, we set sail on the Eastertide to get busy by “getting with the program” that our teacher and our friend had begun.
What is that “program?” The Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Because, you see (and here it comes …) in Jesus Christ the process of making the world a just place was begun. Jesus, in his living, loving, teaching, and through the sacrifice of his life, disclosed what the Kingdom of Heaven on earth looks like. He announced that the ending of the old had already begun and God’s Kin-dom was here … within us … among us when we gather as God’s annointed. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, complete, he taught, so we were called – we are called – to participate with God, as Jesus did, and fully realize it.
We make this journey this every year from Easter Sunday morning and its experience of Resurrection to Pentecost morning and its experience of spiritual empowerment in order that we may more perfectly understand what it means for us, too, to live our lives fully, to love our neighbors and our “selves” wastefully, and to have the courage to be all that God created us to be. This year we travelled with Paul to prepare for this day. We journeyed to five different cities and one province on the six Sundays between our Holy days, all of which helped us to understand what the first communities who gathered around the Way were doing to “get with the divine program” of Jesus, so that we may more easily live into our Easter life, new again this year.
In Thessalonica we learned that Easter people respect … esteem … encourage … help … and are patient with one another … by not repaying evil for evil but always seeking to do good to one another and to all.
In the Galatian province we learned that Easter people live into the freedom that is theirs in Christ. Freedom to love and to serve, “to become slaves to,” one another – not to the world around us and the fear it instills in us to keep us slave to it.
In Philippi we learned that Easter people put other’s interests ahead of their own, taking a genuine interest in one another, in the welfare and lives of others and the world in which they live.
In Rome we learned that Easter people engage “Empire”, in whatever form it manifests itself in the cultures around them by not conforming to its message of fear, but by being transformed through the renewal of their minds that they may discern the will of God.
In Colossae, we learned that Easter people share their faith. We teach it, we model it, we disciple others and send them into the world to share with even more who will listen. (We commissioned our Student Minister, Ellen Sherby, on that Sunday and sent her off to share what she learned here with others so they may come to know what we learned together.)
And just last week, in the bustling urban center of Corinth, we learned that Easter people live, love and worship together. We gathered as one for worship for the first time in over fourteen months, sixty-one Sundays, to re-unite with one another through our common faith as a community.
Our travels took us far away from where it all began. And this morning we’re back. For as our scripture tells us … Read Acts 2:1-12. The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
What happened on that first day of Pentecost for all those who began gathering in Christ’s name is exactly what we have read about, preached about, and lived into this year already! With the Easter experience already ours, we find ourselves filled with the Holy Spirit that empowers us, like Jesus the Christ before us, to say “no” to this world, to our self-concerns and claims of control, to our fear of one another and our selfish ambitions, so that we might say “yes” to the sacrificial love incarnated in God’s anointed. Whoever else they are, they are us.
The story we have read again this morning is a story of how the truth of the community soon to be called the church came into being and how the first worldly disciples found their tongues to unashamedly proclaim the truth of God in Christ, not God in Caesar. And even if they couldn’t “define” the Spirit that Christ bestowed upon them any better than we can today, we all embrace some common affirmations:
- The Spirit of God gives life … new life for all. No one is excluded.
- The life-giving power and presence of the Spirit is a gift – unsolicited, undeserved, unexpected.
- To receive this Spirit and to live by it, is to live at odds with the world around us. But …
- Life in the Spirit is life as God intends. It is to know a peace that the world cannot give (John 14:27).
Our journey over the past seven weeks has taught us nothing if it hasn’t brought those messages home time and again.
Ours is not an exclusive or condemning message of apocalyptic doom. It is the most inclusive and affirming message of hope and love that ever was. God’s Spirit is poured out on all and all must begin to speak – in their own language, as the Spirit gives them ability – that the Kingdom of Heaven is among us! Get with it, people of God!
That’s who we are as the church and individuals in it. We’re not finally here for ourselves to serve an institution. If we’ve realized nothing else since March 15, 2020, we must realize that “the church” is not first and foremost an institution or a building. We are a community, men and women, young and old, together in the world who have to share the promises of the Spirit, to live the life of Christ, and to offer the love of God.
What a challenge that we baptize two infants this morning, the latest incarnations of two families who, in all its messiness and in all its holiness, have made the church, and this one in particular, a part of their lives. The truth is we can’t get away from it. And even if we could, where would we go? This is who we are: One … gathered all together … Easter people … empowered by the Spirit … to the share the Love that can save the world.
May it be so even more fully this year. Amen.
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor
Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / May 23, 2021