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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Out of Control

As we move into the next, quieter part of the year, we also move into the time of contemplating the Holy Spirit’s call and pull on us, and are drawn into the action God needs us to do for the healing of this world.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
   The Day of Pentecost, year C
   texts:  Acts 2:1-21; John 14:8-17, 25-27

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Today and next Sunday, Pentecost and Holy Trinity, mark the end of the busiest, most intense time in our liturgical year.

The year from Advent to now is packed with festivals, seasons of anticipation and repentance, extra liturgies and devotions. It’s beautiful, fulfilling. But it can be draining.

So, in our life together, the coming of Pentecost always signals quieter, calmer times ahead. Ordinary Time, green Sundays, summer. Fewer meetings, almost no festivals. Just life in Christ, steady, peaceful.

If you’ve been paying attention this morning, that’s a little ironic. We just saw that Pentecost isn’t the end of busy time. It’s the beginning of the explosion of Christ’s life and grace into the world in the lives of believers. We celebrate the beginning of unsettling times today, not quiet times, times of the Holy Spirit burning in hearts, moving people of God to action, to begin the transformation and healing of this world we have broken.

Maybe there’s wisdom in this intersection. Moving into a simpler time right when we receive the promise of the Spirit might help us better hear the Spirit’s call, feel her nudge. Today we realize we’re not heading into a time of lounging around for six months until the schedule fires up again. But this quieter time is a chance to listen, learn, center. So when the Spirit calls, when she begins to give birth to new things, we can hear, and be ready to act.

In these coming weeks and months we can take time, catching our breath, to be open to what the Spirit is doing.

These women and men speaking in languages and proclaiming God’s life in Christ spent nearly two months after the resurrection doing little but listening to Christ. Action came today. But first they listened, learned, began to understand.

Christ’s path we are called to follow isn’t about running forward all the time, never resting. The giving of our lives in service to God, learning self-giving love for all, isn’t a non-stop activity. In fact, our ability to see the road ahead, to help each other navigate the turns, the forks in the road, potholes and threats, is severely reduced if we’re constantly in motion, doing things. We’ll miss exits and risk all sorts of damage if we always drive at 70 miles an hour.

So this coming season can be our time to pull over to the side, check the map with each other. Slow down and look both ways, listening for guidance as to our turns. Allow quiet time that’s hard to find in the busy seasons of life, quiet time for opening our hearts and minds to the Spirit’s wisdom.

This is the ancient way of contemplation, and it’s essential to our clarity of vision, our ability to help each other see and act, our wisdom about the path going forward.

Because we do at some point move forward.

Today the Triune God fulfills the promise that all God’s children will share God’s healing power for the life of the world.

As we heard on Ascension Day, God’s plan all along was not to use power to force the world into love of God and love of neighbor, the way of life God dreams for the world. In Christ, God released the need to use power to dominate, giving it all up and facing death to show us our true way of using power. The power of God’s sacrificial love, breaking the power of death, is the gift the whole world is given in the Spirit. And that gift is so that action will happen. Healing will come to the world. Transformation will begin.

That is, we’ll learn a lot when we pull over and listen, when we slow down and look. But at some point the Spirit comes to us and says, “now it’s time to act. Now let’s move.”

And there are great things expected of us, of those filled with the Spirit.

In fact, Christ says today we will do greater things even than he did.

Somehow, we’ve missed this promise. Maybe because we don’t trust we can do the things God needs. Maybe sometimes we don’t want to. But we act as if we believe things just don’t happen the way they did when Jesus was walking among us. We look at the miracles, the transformed lives, and think, well, that was then, not now.

What if we took Jesus seriously instead?

What if Christ really means that through us, through God’s people throughout this world, the whole world will be transformed and healed? That in fact, what we see happening in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost is only the beginning of what God intends to do through us for the sake of the world?

It’s a little frightening to consider.

It’s daunting to think that the Triune God who made all things actually needs us to be a part of the making of the new creation, that God’s power is only going to work in this world when it is shared through us and all people.

It’s also frightening that we can’t control God’s Spirit. Look at that first day – blowing through 120 women and men, setting their hearts on fire, sending them out of the locked room – they had no vote in the Spirit’s direction. According to Acts, this kept happening. The Spirit moved in people they weren’t ready to welcome, and the Church had to catch up. The Spirit led some to open up the rules for being a part of the body of Christ, and the Church had to catch up.

It’s frightening that we don’t get to tell the Spirit where to go and what to do. We Lutherans like our doctrine neat and tidy and boxed up. But what if the Spirit moves people to do things we’re just not ready for, then what do we do?

Today God is saying, how about be open to this radical gift that my Spirit blows where I want and does what I want and it will be life and grace? Even if you aren’t in control. That’s why once again Christ says today, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

This is the beginning of the completion of God’s plan in coming to be with us.

The transformation of this world begins from within, and in Christ, God-with-us, we see what it looks like when our human life is infused with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Now we see this is to happen to us.

Today we sang with the psalmist that the Holy Spirit comes and renews the face of the earth. That’s what begins today. As we take the time to listen and sense the Spirit’s movement in our lives, we hear the direction, we find the action, we sense what is being born. And when we join in that birth, we participate in God’s renewing the face of this earth.

But don’t be afraid. The Spirit who comes to us brings the comfort and joy of God’s presence to the very center of your being and life. This is the One who moves in us and with us always on our journey, so we are never alone.

This is the One who gives us God’s power to be a part of the making of God’s new creation. And astonishingly, will help us do greater things than even Jesus, help us complete Christ’s mission, until this world is once more blessed to be whole and healed in God’s life and grace.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

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