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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sermon: Down and Out: The Spirit Comes Down and We Go Out

by Interim Pastor Hollie Holt-Woehl
Day of Pentecost
Affirmation of Baptism of Adam Michael Ruff
Genesis 11:1-9 and Acts 2:1-21

There once was a young boy who wanted to show his grandpa his school. They set out in the car, the grandpa drove and the boy gave directions. They drove a couple a blocks, turned, another couple of blocks, turned again, another couple of blocks, turned again, after 15 minutes or so of this twisting and turning through residential streets, they pulled up to the school. When they got out of the car the grandpa looked around and noticed that they were only about eight blocks from the boy’s house. He asked his grandson how it is that he took him on that route when they could have taken a more direct route. The boy responded that it was route his bus took every day and it was the only way he knew.

Sometimes we get our directions wrong but it still works out. Other times we get our directions wrong and it doesn’t work out. Have you ever gotten so turned around following directions that the right turns became left turns and the left turns became right turns? Sometimes we get our directions wrong but it doesn’t work out.

The people in the city of Babel got their directions wrong and it didn’t work out. They looked into themselves and wanted to go up to be God. They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). They wanted to make a name for themselves not for God. So, to show that they were not as great as they thought, the writer of Genesis says, “The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built” (Genesis 11:5). Note how they think they are going in the right direction, UP to the heavens, yet God comes down to see them, they got it wrong. And because they got their directions wrong the LORD God decides that they will cause all kinds of trouble so God goes down again and confuse their language so that they will be divided and go in different directions. They got their directions wrong, they look into themselves and wanted to go up and be God.

Pentecost reverses the direction, the spirit of God comes down to the people and the people go out to others. Now this idea of God coming down is not meant to be spatial that God is up there somewhere, because God is everywhere. So the idea of God coming down is more relational, God is above us in the universe organizational flow chart. The LORD God creator of the universe is over all of creation and instead of having substrata of managers, assistant managers, and grunts on different levels of the organizational flow chart all of creation is on the same level below the Creator.

God sends the Holy Spirit down to everyone on our level. Before this Pentecost day and the sending of the Holy Spirit to ALL people, only certain people were given the Holy Spirit: priests, prophets, judges, and kings. But now the Holy Spirit is sent down upon ordinary folks like you and I, young and old equally, even servants will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit then sends us out to others, out into the streets, to tell others about the Good News of Jesus Christ, of God’s love for the broken hearted, of forgiveness which transforms lives, of grace which washes over us again and again when we fall short, of the Holy Spirit which calls, gathers, enlightens and makes us holy. The Holy Spirit comes down and we go out to tell others.

Our confirmation program at Mount Olive includes three years of instruction followed by the rite of Affirmation of Baptism. Adam was carried to the baptismal font as an infant at that time his parents and sponsors made promises to raise him in the Christian faith. Now the Holy Spirit ahs come down and sent out Adam to live out his Christian faith.

Here is Adam’s statement of faith:

When I went to San Francisco for my school’s 8th grade trip, we did a service project. For the service project we cleaned a beach and weeded a garden. As much as I liked helping the environment I was kind of discouraged because we didn’t do anything for the people of San Francisco. Homelessness is a big problem in San Francisco and I think I would’ve gotten more out of helping the homeless. Jesus said “as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done unto me.” This reminds me that helping others is a way to live out my faith.

I believe that God made us and wants us to help others when they need help and when we need help people will return the favor. Doing the community meal here at Mount Olive is something I like to do because I am serving Jesus. It makes me feel good about myself because I helped someone out. When I see all those people with so much less than me makes me feel glad that have a house and a bed every night and they might not. After the community meal it makes me want to be less selfish and do more for the people less fortunate.

At my school we have the Olweus bullying program that targets what kinds of bullying happens and how us kids can stop it. At first I didn’t pay attention to it because it was at the end of the day and I just wanted to go home, but once I started listening I realized it’s really easy to intervene and stop someone from getting bullied. As a part of my faith stopping bullying is a way of serving God. So when I do something like stop someone from being bullied my beliefs are strengthened and I am serving Jesus.

The Holy Spirit sends us out to others and others to us. The spirit creates a community of care and caring, in which we experience God’s love and Jesus’ forgiveness. The Holy Spirit empowers us to do works in service to Jesus.

It is easy for us to get our directions wrong, we serve self instead of serving God or others, we go into ourselves instead of out to others, we seek to raise ourselves to be God instead of seeing God coming down to us.

Dear Friends in Christ, the Holy Spirit comes down to send us out. As we go out we serve God by serving others and create a community of care and caring for all. That gets us going in the right direction.

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