Not As the World Gives
Sermon preached by Jeanne E. Gay Summit Presbyterian Church
May 27, 2007 (Pentecost)
Acts 2:2-21 John 14:8-17, 25-27
Have you ever tried to imagine what it would have been like at that first Pentecost? I’m thinking chaos. The wind is blowing like crazy, tongues of fire are dancing around, the disciples are shouting in what comes out as all sorts of different languages … People had to be screaming in wonder—and don’t you think the little kids were running around and the babies were crying—and some people just plopped right down on the stones in the street, completely amazed. No wonder there were accusations of drunkenness. It’s crazy! It’s the Holy Spirit!
Now, if you’ve been a Presbyterian for a while, you know that one of our bywords is that we do things “decently and in good order.” This was not an orderly group, folks. This was wind! And fire! The Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit poured out on all people, in fire and wind and smoky mist.
But what is the Holy Spirit? Our passage in John tells us that it’s an Advocate—sometimes translated as a Comforter. We can think of the Holy Spirit, then, as someone who’s on our side—who advocates and argues for us—and someone who comforts us. “God will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth.” And later, “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit … will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.” Does the Holy Spirit tell lies? No, the Holy Spirit teaches truth … and reminds us of what Jesus taught.
But this advocating, this comforting, they’re not always orderly, or easy, or expected, or comfortable. The Holy Spirit brings fire and wind. Because much of what Jesus taught was hard. We can’t have nice, safe, well ordered, comfortable lives if we’re going to follow Jesus’ teachings. Turn the other cheek. Feed my sheep. Live a life that creates peace and justice. Go out of your way to share what you have with others.
It’s hard – but we’re not alone. Because we have the Holy Spirit [wave fabric]. Always, John says. Forever.
And that means that things can happen in our lives that we couldn’t possibly make happen. Let’s think about this “many languages” thing that happened on Pentecost for a bit. When else in the Bible do we have “many languages”? Right—the
The Holy Spirit! And the Holy Spirit is with us today. Our waving these pieces of fabric around is only our outward sign of something powerful that’s inside each of us, all of us, the whole congregation, the whole church. Something powerful that showed up for the first time on Pentecost.
But you know, Pentecost didn’t just happen out of the blue. Jesus had promised that the Spirit would come, but something preceded Pentecost.
Do you remember what was going on before Pentecost Sunday? A week and a half earlier, Jesus had ascended into heaven. And in the meantime, the disciples and various other folks, including Jesus’ mother Mary and other women … these people gathered themselves into an upper room in
And then the day of Pentecost came, with a rush of wind and tongues of fire, and oh, it was exciting, and the Holy Spirit was there and 3,000-some people were baptized that day. Wow! And that was the beginning of the church.
Don’t you sometimes wish that we could experience something that exciting? Wouldn’t you love to be able to go home from church some Sunday and say, “Wow—you should have been at
Ah, but lack of that kind of drama doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit isn’t here. The Holy Spirit is alive in people like Mary Louise Stearns, who fight for what they know is right and stand strong for justice. The Holy Spirit is in the Presbyterian Church when we open schools in the Middle East and Africa and
Sometimes we block the Spirit out. Sometimes the Spirit’s voice in our lives sounds like what the world would call craziness. Sometimes we look at missionaries and youth workers and people who just keep on fighting city hall on behalf of people who can’t speak for themselves, and we think, “They’re either nuts or they’ve got something I sure haven’t got.”
But what do they have? They have the Holy Spirit … and so do you and you and you and I. We just haven’t always opened our eyes, our ears, our hearts.
In John’s gospel he tells us that Jesus said, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit … will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Peace … not peace as in an absence of conflict, not peace as in blissful ignorance of anything that’s not right. Peace not as the world knows it – peace that means surety of God’s presence with us, peace that means knowledge of what is right in God’s eyes, peace that is the love of God with us always.
I’m going to invite you—all of you—to be in prayer in these coming days and weeks and months. Pray to know the Holy Spirit. Pray to feel the wind of God’s spirit blowing through your life; pray to feel the fire of God’s spirit in your heart. And pray that we at
Holy Spirit! You are welcome here!
During this worship service, people waved pieces of flame-colored fabric each time they heard the words “Holy Spirit.”
copyright Jeanne E. Gay, 2007