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Pentecost (A)
Text: Acts 2:1-21, John 20:19-23
June 12, 2011      

Come, Holy Spirit.  We say these words during communion.  Make us one body.  Give us one heart.  Teach us to love. 

Come, Holy Spirit.  Weekly, we gather together and pray for God’s guidance and that God’s will might be done on earth as it is in Heaven. 

Come, Holy Spirit.  We celebrate when we baptize another person into the family of God and pray that the Holy Spirit will lead him/her into knowledge and faith, fear of the Lord, and wisdom and understanding. 

Come, Holy Spirit.   Do we really know what we are getting into when seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit? 

In Annie Dillard’s book Teaching a Stone to Talk she writes this, “On the whole, I do not find Christians…sufficiently sensible of conditions.  Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke?  Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it?  The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning.  It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets.  Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.  For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.” 

Come, Holy Spirit.

The work of the Holy Spirit does not fit into a tiny, neat, well-organized file marked, “Plans of the Holy Spirit.”  In fact, we find that there are disagreements about what the work of the Spirit even looks like, at times.  Not only can it seem confusing, it can be downright upsetting. 

I learned a lot about the Holy Spirit while in seminary.  I remember several conversations in seminary as we tried to understand how we were going to be assigned to synods to find jobs.  We kept hearing that it was best to trust the work of the Spirit and that we would be assigned where we needed to be assigned.  Right.  More than one comment was heard about the work of the Spirit versus the work of the Bishops.  What exactly does the work of the Spirit look like?   

Our denomination has come through a rough couple of years and we may not be completely through with the conflict.  Biblical interpretation has been seen in multiple ways.  Assemblies of believers have gathered to talk and make decisions, and the prayer of those gathered was that all might hear the voice of the Spirit.  So at the end of the day, we have this group that hears the Spirit speaking this way, and that group that hears the Spirit speaking that way… What does the voice of the Spirit sound like? 

There is a man with whom I attended seminary.  He is well thought of by many, many people, but we, he and I, were not friends.  I can not speak for him, but for my part, I often went out of my way to avoid him.  I have a feeling he felt the same way about me.  In my entire time of seminary study, I never doubted that I was on the right track until I met him. And after being in classes with this man for over a year, I finally asked God, “How can we both be hearing the voice of your Spirit calling us to serve your church?  There is either something wrong with his hearing or with mine because I am pretty sure that there is not room in your church for the both of us.”  How can we be sure of what the Spirit is calling us to? 

Come, Holy Spirit? 

It is not a new thing, to have different experiences of the same Spirit.  Today, we read in Scripture, two very different experiences of the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 2 there is the chaotic excitement of a large group of people speaking in many different languages all at once and everyone being able to understand each other.  Peter is inspired to preach—now I realize that may not sound that exciting to you who are veteran sermon listeners, but if you have ever had to write one, you would know how exciting it is when the Spirit inspires you, especially at 9 pm on a Saturday night!!  Later on in this chapter we read that over 3,000 people were moved to conversion by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amazing!!  Then we pop over to John 20.  The Spirit comes quietly with words of comfort to people who are afraid; with peace from a friend who once was dead.   In one story, the Spirit is bold and mighty and awesome in power.  In the other it is calm and quiet, bringing a small group of people closer together. 

Come, Holy Spirit!

Last week was the Sunday of the Ascension.  I love medieval paintings of this event.  It was the tradition of the medieval era to paint this event with just the feet of Jesus showing from a cloud.  All you can see are the feet of Jesus hanging in the air and gathered around on the ground are the disciples.  I find these pictures adorable--probably not what the artists were going for, but adorable, nonetheless.  What I love most about these pictures are the faces of the disciples.  Sometimes there are disciples who are gazing calmly and saint-like towards the heavens; smiles on their faces and confidence in their eyes.  But my favorite disciples are the ones looking up at Jesus' toes with worry and confusion as Jesus disappears into a cloud.  Huh?  You’re leaving?  You just got back!  What do we do now? 

Today is supposed to be the answer to that question.  Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit given to us to guide and direct, to inspire and instruct us.  Four weeks ago I attended a preaching convention.  There were over 2,000 preachers from 37 different countries and many different denominations.  It was a wonderful time of learning and inspiration.  But I realized that we in the Church, are still wandering around looking up in confusion and worry wondering "What do we do now?" 

The Spirit is supposed to guide and direct us?  Well, we seem to be going all different directions.  Did we take a wrong turn and the heavenly GPS failed to recalculate?  The Spirit is supposed to inspire us?   How come the same 20% of the people are still doing 95% of the work?  The Spirit is supposed to instruct us?  Why don’t we all get the same set of instructions?

Come, Holy Spirit. 

There is more to this Holy Spirit than we often want to give credit.  At Pentecost we are reminded that we are part of a reality that is much bigger than our own.  The Spirit of God is beyond our imagining and yet we are constantly trying to fit her into that neat little file marked “Plans of the Holy Spirit.”  Today we are reminded that, in the words of Annie Dillard, we have no idea the kind of power we are trying to invoke.  We are talking about the Spirit of God.  Not the spirit of our own understanding and personal agendas but the Spirit that moved over the waters at Creation, that rested on the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me…he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.”   It is the Spirit that calls each of us to ministry in different ways.  The Spirit calls us all and it takes a mighty Spirit to call us…we who argue about scriptural interpretation, we who wonder about what God is doing in the Church, we who are asked to leave behind what we know and love so that we might start on a journey that will change our lives and bless the world.   

Come, Holy Spirit!


Pastor Charlane Lines

418 W. Main St.

Sidney, MT 59270