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Not as the World Gives, Jeanne Gay, Pentecost (May 27, 2007) Not as the World Gives, Jeanne Gay, Pentecost (May 27, 2007)

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   Discussion: Not as the World Gives, Jeanne Gay, Pentecost (May 27, 2007)
Jeanne Gay · 11 years, 4 months ago

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 Tower of Babel. Remember that story, from way back in Genesis? The people of many nations got together and decided they were going to build a huge tower to show how great they were—and God caused it to crumble and confused their languages so that they couldn’t understand each other any more. Pentecost is pretty much the reverse of that, isn’t it? The disciples start to speak, and somehow the language confusion is overcome and everyone understands. But notice who’s in charge in these two stories. In the Genesis story, it was humans who were trying to make something powerful happen—and it didn’t work. But in Acts 2, it is God who makes something happen—something totally beyond people’s abilities.

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 Jerusalem, and they prayed. They prayed, and they enacted some business—selecting a replacement for Judas among the twelve—and they prayed some more. Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem “for the promise of the Father,” and so they waited, and they prayed. For nine days they prayed.

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 Summit today! Tongues of fire, wind whipping through the sanctuary—it was really something!” (Or maybe you wouldn’t want to be able to say that—it sounds an awful lot like a really bad storm and a fire, doesn’t it?)

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 Asia so all the children can learn. The Holy Spirit is here in this building when the basketball kids learn to trust Lori and Charles … and, just a little, the church. The Holy Spirit is in Summit people when they fly halfway around the world or drive into Philadelphia to help people who are ill. The Holy Spirit is here in our children. The Holy Spirit is in us.

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 Summit would feel the wind and see the fire in each other and in our congregation. Pray that the Holy Spirit is acting right now in the life of the pastor God has chosen for this congregation. Pray that the Spirit will be alive and powerful in this church in the months while our Pastor Nominating Committee is discerning God’s choice. Pray that the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth—will be with us so we know what is right in God’s eyes. Pray that Holy Spirit—the Advocate—will be with us individually and as a congregation when we think, “No, we just can’t do it.” Pray that the Holy Spirit—the Comforter—will be with us when we are depressed and lonely and scared and sick. Pray that we will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit—the still small voice and the voice of the rushing wind.

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

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