Pastor Lynn Rubier-Capron
June 9, 2019
It’s Pentecost Sunday! Happy birthday church! We celebrate the birth of the Church on this day, because the Holy Spirit “birthed” the church on the very first Pentecost.
Our reading from Acts tells that story:
Jesus had resurrected from the dead, and he kept coming to his disciples after his resurrection so they could see and hear for themselves that he was alive, in the flesh. Jesus had defeated death!
He also kept telling them: “Stay in Jerusalem together until you get the thing I promised you.”
40 days later, it came. The gift was the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ followers missed him, and they were spending all their time together because they were hurting, they needed each other. And because they had just graduated from the best school ever – three years following Jesus around and learning from him! They prayed their hurt and their hope, they prayed their loss and they wondered what this gift was that Jesus told them to wait for.
When the Spirit finally fell on them, it came the same way the Spirit has always come to the earth:
- Fire that doesn’t destroy, but rather purifies and gives power
- Language that doesn’t just drone on and on but rather creates God’s kingdom between people.
- Something new arises, because of the Spirit. In this case, it was the church.
The Spirit blew breath in and between this little group of Jesus’ disciples and gave them a new life together. The body that was formed through the breath of the Spirit was the new church. That is why one of our oldest ways of understanding the Spirit is to call it “the Lord of Life.”
All this is so exciting and wonderful, it’s hard for us to understand sometimes why we don’t pray daily for the power of the Spirit to flow more among us now.
I was praying about this, and all of the sudden the phrase: “new life” popped into my head along with image of Katie and Andrew Wall, who just had their second baby. When you have a brand new life, it is glorious and wonderful.
And also, it is enormously disruptive! There are the diapers, the sleepless nights, the need for child care. In every way, your life is really no longer your own.
So, do we really want the Lord of life to instill us with great power from the Holy Spirit?
Add to that the fact that, right at the moment, God doesn’t seem to be giving a compelling call on us that unifies. Some people rightly say that the call of God is to continue to proclaim the mighty acts of God, the way the disciples did after the Spirit fell on them.
In their case, the mighty acts were Jesus – the fact that he lived the kind of life he lived, the fact that people crucified him for it because, his life disrupted theirs, and because God vindicated Jesus in his resurrection from the dead.
But, those things are ancient history, they happened over two thousand years ago…..or are they?
What really happened between the Lord of Life and Jesus on those three days when Jesus tasted death?
The answer is, once again, the Lord of life disrupted things – things that we had gotten use to as human beings:
If you want to know the kinds of things that the Holy Spirit disrupted in Jesus’ defeat over death – then just look at the ways Jesus disrupted things in his flesh.
- Jesus disrupted institutional rules that kept people from worshiping in the temple by making the unclean clean.
- Jesus disrupted the power of evil by casting out that which bound people to evil.
- Jesus disrupted people’s assumptions that they knew exactly what God would do next by saying that God’s kingdom was walking around in his flesh pointing anyone who would follow him to God’s forgiveness, love and power.
The Lord of Life has not given us a large, unifying vision of something specific that God is “doing next” with us, like birthing a new community of faith. The birth of the church was a one time event that happened in history. It is buried in the past.
But, Jesus’ defeat over sin and death, that lives every single day. It is now. And the Lord of Life is waiting to give us the same power that raised Jesus from the dead in order to birth new life into our world today.
For parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, Sunday School teachers and anyone else who is here to support our young people… I wonder what you desire for them? In many ways, they hold our hearts. We all carry the solemn and holy calling to protect and love them. It takes an enormous amount of wisdom, prayer and courage to carry that sacred calling to protect, and to allow them all the space they need for things like adventure, courage, growth, challenge and new life. The daily blessing of walking in the midst of the Lord of Life, as that Spirit defeats sin and death daily and ushers new life into the world through their beautiful hearts, minds and bodies.
I am going to take chance here and ask us all to think about this: can we allow our vision for your youth to be that instead of any other vision? It’s a chance because a vision that settles on “the good life,” or “the privileged life,” or “an educated and well balanced life,” they are so hard and high and lofty they will drive you to exhaustion. But they are also safe.
But what if, instead, we pray daily that our youth walk in the power of the same Spirit that defeated sin and death in Jesus, and gives new life in this world? This is a risky vision because, as we said earlier, new life always disrupts. It disrupts what is in order to make room for what is becoming.
One of our elders came up to me after the service two weeks ago and said “change isn’t always good.” That is absolutely right. Change is only good when the Lord of Life is making space for new things in this world. Any other time, it is just change for it’s own sake.
So, how do us older wiser followers of Jesus know the difference? Always, with the Holy Spirit, from the ground up and working with the specific issues in every situation.
Here are some things that help us all gain the insight that we need to tell the difference:
- Are the new arisings bringing life, or do we have to prop them up with anxiety and exhaustion?
- Are the fruits of the Spirit growing: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control?
- Is God giving us power to fulfill the two biggest things God has called us all to, which is the care and nurture of creation and showing and sharing God’s love with other people?
- Are basic laws that God gave us for living together being honored: love God and neighbor?
I have a friend who posted a picture on Facebook that gets at this better than any words I have ever read. I really wish I could show this picture to you now. Instead, I will have to describe it.
It’s an 8 year old boy on a roller coaster screaming his head off in terror. Next to him is his older sister. Her hair is flying behind her, she is laughing, leaning into her brother with her arm around his shoulder. Someone had circled the roller coaster and written on the picture “my life.” They circled the little boy and wrote “that’s me.” In another color, they the older sister and can you guess what they wrote over her? “that’s the Holy Spirit.”
It’s been a long time since I have ridden a roller coaster. But the Lord of Life has plenty of exciting things waiting for us. And even more exciting things for our youth. The question for us all is this: are we willing to pray for the gift that Jesus promised to give us to come in our day and give us the same power that raised Jesus from the dead?