Sermon: Pentecost, Year B
Text: Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11;
In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Have you ever bought something that needed to be assembled? Ikea is of course our downfall. After struggling through the seven circles of hell to actually buy the stuff, and after struggling to get the package into the house, and further struggling to open the wretched thing, the instructions are tucked right at the bottom.
The instruction booklet is in a number of languages, the English translation — for that is obviously what it is – from Swedish, or Japanese is only to be found tucked amidst other languages and alphabets.
There’s a list of all sorts of nuts and bolts: a few odd-looking tools, which look much too fragile for the job, and then the assembling parts, heavy and awkward to manipulate.
One feels lost, confused, and even helpless. “If only Lou were here,” I’d think. She is the undeniable Queen of the flatpacks. She would know how to do this. She ordered this thing and then left us to it, assuring us that we would have the skill to get the task finished.
I often think that the disciples in that Upper Room, after the Ascension and before Pentecost, held a long, long PCC meeting. The task had been assigned. They were to go into the whole world telling about the Good News of the Resurrection, baptizing those who believed. They were to be “witnesses.”
The word for witness is martyros, from which we get “martyr”. Witness is a challenging, dangerous business. Witness is at the heart of our Christian lives. Witness can get you killed: not just back then, at the hands of a stoning mob, but today also. In certain countries, Christian witness means martyrdom.
The witness which is worth so much risk, and continues to be worth it is the witness to be a new race, tribe, a new nation. Anyone who believed could join. It didn’t matter what gender one was, or one’s race, language, nationality, customs, sexuality or religion: all were welcome.
It’s a challenge, and much as when faced with a flatpacked wardrobe, it must have looked so daunting. So what did they do? They held an election. It’s a good way of avoiding the task ahead – a bit like having yet another cup of tea.
It’s a pity we don’t know what they talked about at that first PCC meeting:
• The accounts were in disarray after Judas had gone.
• Someone must have said that there was no way they could afford to go into the entire world.
• Someone else may have suggested that it was dangerous to go outside the Upper Room. They were the chosen: Who would do the work if they were killed or thrown in prison?
• Perhaps another disciple said that they were no good at evangelism, or they were too old, too tired, too poorly educated to speak of what moves them towards God
The Upper Room must have felt so safe, so comfortable. It was in that room that Jesus had given them the Eucharist. If the disciples stayed put, then maybe others would come from outside and join them?
And then something extraordinary happened.
They were all attacked by what seemed to be wind and fire, the ancient symbols of God’s presence. That energy, that being set on fire with confidence, thrust them out into the street, where they were soon accused of being drunk at ten o’clock in the morning.
As we read in the Gospel this morning, all this had been promised, that the Holy Spirit would be received. All those fears and doubts, all those reasonable objections to Jesus’ command evaporated. The Church was on the move.
The Church was intended to be on the move. It was not intended for Upper Rooms. It was intended for the street, for people, and places everywhere.
The Holy Spirit wasn’t given so individuals could have a form of “spirituality” just for them. She wasn’t given to an elite group so that they could practice a religion close to their political opinions, left, right, or centre. The Holy Spirit was given to the Church to enable it to be the Church. In the power of the Spirit, the Church is enabled to put things together and to be together.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t guarantee that the decisions we make together are wise or good. The Holy Spirit guarantees that the Church and the Church’s mission will go on and on until kingdom come. It is the truth of kingdom which is, and is to come, into which the Spirit leads us.
In this parish, we continue to make mistakes, and to feel our way forward as a pilgrim people together. We seek to do the will of God, and to enable this whole community, young and mature alike to move closer to the heart of God. We begin to look seriously at how this building can better serve the Church, rather that be the Church.
The Holy Spirit shows us Jesus Christ and brings us to the Father. The Holy Spirit moves in the water; in bread, and wine, and oil transformed into the sacraments of our salvation; in our prayers: private and collective. Above all, She drives us out of the safety and security of our local Upper Rooms, our parishes. The Holy Spirit pushes us beyond ourselves, our abilities, expectations, and safety levels.
Today we pray, “Come Holy Spirit.” My dear friends, Watch out! Your prayer may be answered.