June 4, 2017, The Day of Pentecost YR A The Rev. Anne Abdy Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23
I have a question for you. If you feel comfortable, please raise your hand if you are a life-long Episcopalian or Anglican? I ask because as I suspect many of you have chosen to adopt the Episcopal Church as your home church from other denominations, or maybe no denomination. This exercise illustrates exactly what happened on that first Pentecost so long ago. The church is made up of many parts. Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christian, Anglican, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, the Anabaptists, Quakers, Mennonites, and the list can go on and on as all meet the needs of the people throughout the ages.
I am a cradle Anglican or Episcopalian and had never experienced any other faith tradition prior to arriving in the United States as a seventeen year old. Curious about other faiths, and not having to attend “dad’s church”, I chose to attend different denominations, but I made sure I attended the local 8 am Episcopal Service first. My church shopping expedition really was an exercise in looking for the right fit for me.
One Sunday a friend invited me to attend her church. A small non-denominational church in the Southwestern Missouri. She had a vehicle so I met her at her dorm after my I returned from my early Mass. Now, the first red flag or clue that I should have figure out was this. This church was not in town. It was a good half-hour drive in the countryside tucked between rolling corn fields. Upon our arrival two other cars were parked underneath the shade of some trees. This is clue #2. The sanctuary was about half of this holy space of which a third was taken up by a set of drums, guitars, key board, sound system, and music stands. Clue #3. Upon the start of the service, my friend left me sitting in the pew and took her place in the band to play the flute. Clue #4. Something was very different about this little church. Apart from the preacher, band members, and my friend, I was one of six congregates sitting in the pews. That did not bother me so much because the service an hour earlier had the same attendance. Out of the blue, two members behind me started spouting words of what was clearly two different languages. I found out later it is called speaking in tongues. But what really had me running for the exit was the interpretation in English of what was said! Boy did I wish I knew how to drive because I was about to flee confirming in my mind what my father had cautioned me to not do. And that was to not join a religious sect. I had just never attended a service quite like this before. So I imagine that my experience was similar to what the disciples experienced as they “began to speak in other languages” (Acts 2:4). We had a taste of this holy chaos this morning.
All Christians receive the Holy Spirit at baptism and we reaffirm our commitment to this faith on this Holy Day. As a result, a disciple follows someone’s belief or value system. An Apostle is a messenger who is sent out to deliver that message. So why is this distinction important? The gift of the Holy Spirit has empowered the disciples. This empowerment, is the Greek word “Metanoia” meaning change, thus the disciples, now Apostles, become the messengers spreading the Good News across the world. Now that is change!
Richard Rohr describes this idea of change in his blog titled “The Spirituality of Change.” He cites one of the eight core principles of his community’s practice: “We do not think ourselves into a new way of living, but we live ourselves into a new way of thinking.” In other words, actions change us. We are a new person in Christ.
So not only do the disciples receive this new power, they come to understand two more very important concepts. Up to now, followers of Jesus had only ever been Jews. They come to realized that this new way of life, soon to be called Christianity, was to be offered to the Gentiles too. I believe that Jesus always intended to offer this movement, this radical living, to all. He did not get bogged down in doctrine or church politics. He taught the apostles well and the church flourished. Because the Apostles were sent out into the world so long ago, this Jesus Movement (as our Presiding Bishop likes to call it) has become a church for all people, in all places, and at all times.
A few minutes from now we will reaffirm our Baptismal Vows by answering the question: “Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?” Margaret Aymer, a professor at The Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, has a wonderful description of Pentecost. It is: “The Holy Spirit proves not to be a quiet, heavenly dove, but rather a violent force that blows the church into being” (Acts 2:41-47). The Apostles did not straight-jacket the Holy Spirit.
Throughout the Book of Acts, we are told how the Spirit works. She invites us into ministry (Acts 13:2). The words we speak are not our own words, but God’s Spirit speaking through us (Acts 4:7-12). She opens and closes doors for opportunities to preach the Gospel (Acts 8: 26-29). She transfers missionaries from one place to another (Acts 8: 39-40). She creates miracles (Acts 5:9-10). The Holy Spirit guides the church and she guides individuals too (Acts 15:28).
If this band of Apostles can be inspired to create the church Jesus imagined, what can we do to grow the church? We look in the ordinary places of life. Is it in the office place? At ball games? A small group gathering? We can grow the church! She will always prevail because when “structures are used for the inclusion of some and exclusion of others, the Spirit is able to make possible the inclusion of the formally excluded.” And we are here at Resurrection we have seen new faces, but we need to do more.
We are to listen for her voice for “we are living through a time in which there are so many challenges in our world, a time in which the fearless prophetic voice of the church is desperately needed.” We are to talk with those she is calling us to walk along side of.
We do not need to fear these interactions because the Spirit draws us into common life of those she draws near. From First Corinthians 12:7 we read “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” We are all given gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is important that we are to discern what they are, and then we are to use them.
She invites us change. To experience metanoia. Then we are to take her on the road just as Jesus taught and preached on the dusty roads of Palestine and Israel. In Afrikaans there is a word that perfectly describes the food one takes when on a long journey. It is “padkos” meaning “road food.”
All through the ages from the first Pentecost to today, the Good News of Jesus Christ has and is the Holy padkos. It is the Spirit, however, that inspires Christians to act, to talk, to perform miracles, to listen, and to be present to, to serve, and to love in the world what is right in from of us.
The Holy Spirit invites us to change. Take her on a road-trip and see what happens.
Happy Pentecost everyone!
 Margaret Aymer, “Commentary on Acts 21-21,” The Working Preacher, accessed May 29, 2017, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3282.
 Samuel Cruz, “Commentary On John 20: 19-23,” The Working Preacher, accessed May 29, 2017, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3269.
 Samuel Cruz, “Commentary On John 20: 19-23,” The Working Preacher, accessed May 29,