Sunday, June 4, 2017

Barbara Moyer Lehman: "What is going on here? What does this mean?"

On Pentecost Sunday, Barbara Moyer Lehman preaches from Psalm 104:24-34, 35b, John 20:19-23 and Acts 2:1-21. (Note: The video starts a few minutes in to the sermon.)

Watch the video:

...or listen to audio:

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They were waiting, wondering.....what now, what next?  The apostles were in a 'wait and see' mode.  After Jesus' resurrection and before his ascension, he appeared to them over a period of 40 days and gave some instructions.  One thing was clear.  They were to 'stay put', 'sit tight',  'do not leave Jerusalem (he told them) but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  It will be given to you, you will receive it, and it will empower you to be witnesses!!

So they waited, they prayed, they took action to replace Judas, with Matthias, as one of the 12, and they waited some more.  After all the next move was up to God!

So what exactly happened?  God moved!  God acted!  God fulfilled God's promise, but it was not a low key event.  The day began like any other day, I suppose. The sun rose in the east, the city came to life and people were preparing for the week long festival of Pentecost, when each adult male Jew was commanded by Law to appear in Jerusalem.  Thousands and thousands came to the city, devout Jews and those converts to Judaism from many nations.  The week began with much anticipation, but what happened was nothing that anyone expected.

An eruption of sound came from the heavens, like a violent wind and filled the house.  And what seemed like tongues of fire, separated and rested on each one of them.  And ALL of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.

They left the house and went out into the streets and others heard and saw what was happening. The people were confused, surprised, perplexed, bewildered.  It 'blew their minds'. For these devout Jews to hear the Galileans speaking these various languages, fluently, was totally unexpected. They didn't know what to think!

Things are coming loose, breaking open!!  What came to them, what they saw, what they experienced was from beyond themselves, outside of themselves.  It was an experience of divine power totally unexpected.

When all of these God fearing Jews hear the wonders of God being proclaimed in their own languages by these Galileans,  they simply did not know what to make of such behavior.  It was unsettling, even threatening.  What does this mean?
Some asked questions, some tried to devise an explanation.  Some mocked and made fun and said, “They are drunk!”

Then of all people, Peter stands up among the apostles and begins a defense.  Who could have predicted that it would be Peter who would speak up, step forward, maybe with newfound confidence,  and backed by the other apostles, begins to speak to the crowd.  The explanation for their behavior, he said, was NOT that they were drunk, but that the prophecy of Joel had been fulfilled.  God would pour out his Spirit on all people, on ALL flesh, males, females, sons, daughters, young, old, slaves, men, women.  It removed any social class discrimination...all flesh!  

What does Pentecost mean?  That the Holy Spirit came as was promised and a new community was born!!!  It marked the beginning of the church, the birthday of the church!!!  Yes, there were some believers earlier, but only at Pentecost did they really become the 'body of Christ'...the new community, the church.  And what God gave that day God has never withdrawn from us.   The once timid disciples were empowered by the Spirit, found their voice and proclaimed the truth of Christ. The Spirit that transformed the disciples and got them energized, galvanized them into action remains with the church.  And every time we baptize a new believer with water, we baptize them into the church and the Lord baptizes them with the Spirit from above.  Water and Spirit are together!!  Thanks be to God!

In one of Norman Kraus's earlier books he writes about, “ Pentecost as the climax of the 3 act drama of incarnation.  Act 1 presents scenes in the ministry of Jesus.  Act 2 is the passion of Christ. Act 3 the resurrection, but it does not conclude with a final act that neatly wraps up the loose ends of the story.  Rather it ends with an open future for those involved.  Pentecost is a commencement in the same sense that we use the word to describe a graduation.  It is simultaneously climax and beginning.  It concludes with the assurance that this is not the end but the beginning.”  (The community of the Spirit, Kraus, p. 11-12)

Peter's Pentecost speech ends with empowerment being offered to all.  The Spirit of God continues to act in the creative process throughout the world, in expected and unexpected places and ways.  We as individual Christians and as the church are temples of the Holy Spirit.  That Spirit, that living presence dwells with us, in us, and the church.

A few questions for us to ponder:  Where and how is God's Spirit at work in the world today?  Where and how do we see most clearly the signs of the Spirit's activity?  What activity do we see in our context, in our congregation, in our conference, in MCUSA?

In our Mennonite Confession of Faith, article 3 on the Holy Spirit, some commentary notes state, “We know from Scripture that the Holy Spirit continues to reveal God's will to us.  The Spirit of God is not silent in the present.” p. 20

Alan Kreider, one of our respected and well loved Mennonite church leaders and teacher died recently.  In a tribute to him by Mary Schertz, a professor at AMBS, she wrote, “Alan was firmly convinced that God is everywhere and everywhere active.  God is on the move and doing things.  The ferment of the Spirit is real and present.”

Where is the ferment of the Spirit real and present in your life and where do you see the Spirit bubbling up, fermenting in PV and beyond?  

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