There was an accomplished preacher who worked hard on his sermons

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There was an accomplished preacher who worked hard on his sermons ...

    Re-think Church

    Acts 2:1-11

    Sunday, May 31, 2009

    Rev. J. Douglas Paterson

    There was an accomplished preacher who worked hard on his sermons all week long, and then on Saturday night he would type them up. But one Saturday, during the night, his dog chewed it all up. He didnt notice until it was time to go to church. When he got in the pulpit, he said, I had a nice sermon prepared for you this morning, but my dog ate it. Im going to have to

    rely on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit today, but I promise to do better next Sunday.

    My fear is that you dont get that joke. We are supposed to rely upon the Holy Spirit to be our help and our guide. Granted, too often we work as if it is only our own individual brilliance that accomplished what ever task we might be about, giving God through the Holy Spirit no credit at all. On the other hand there are times for what ever reason, when I have walked into the pulpit praying to God that you better grace me with the Holy Spirit today because that is the only way anything intelligible is going to come out of my mouth.

    You can usually tell when the dog eats my sermon.Ill have a tendency to repeat myself. I

    have a hard time getting from one point to another. The sermon never quite ends, or ends several times, or at least should have.

    That happened to me once in a former church. And that Sunday there was a first time visitor in the church whose name was Gladys, Gladys Dunne. After the service while people were greeting each other she introduced herself to the lay leader, stuck out her hand and said Im

    Gladys Dunne.And my lay leader said, Yeah, Im glad hes done too.

    Well, why all this talk about the Holy Spirit? Because today, of course, is Pentecost. It is the day when God gifted the disciples with the Holy Spirit. It has been quite a ride these last six months as it is each year. We condense the movement of Christs ministry into six months of

    observances. Since early December we anticipate the birth of the Messiah whose birth we then thcelebrate on December 25. We acknowledge the beginning of his public ministry with his

    baptism and then 40 days in the wilderness, which we represent with Lent and 40 days of preparation before Easter. It gets intense the last week of Lent when we move through Jesus

    coming to Jerusalem; his anger to see the temple used as a place of thievery; his celebration of Passover with his disciples; his arrest and death. Then the grand and high, holy day of Easter and Christs resurrection, when we celebrate that the grave cannot contain Jesus. We celebrate with another 40 days of the resurrected Christ in and among his disciples and friends, which culminates in his ascension to be with God. Ten days later we come to this day when God pours out the Holy Spirit upon the 120 faithful gathered in the upper room. They were there because they were told to wait there. But I dont think they could have ever been prepared for what

    happened next.

    The Spirit came upon them like the woosh of a mighty wind. The Spirit appeared to them like tongues of fire - each Christ-follower being touched by one. It must have looked and sounded like absolute chaos, because Scripture says that they all began talking in different languages, and they were driven out into the streets, and people were witnessing the antics and ridiculing them for being drunk so early in the morning.

    The Spirit has a way of stirring up chaos and commotion. I was looking some things up on the Internet about Pentecost and I ran across an article with a by-line from Miami, Oklahoma. It talked about guy who had a heart attack at Pentecostal revival but no one noticed for three hours because there were several people who were slain in the Spirit around him, the associate pastor

    said. An usher laid a modesty cloth over him and various people prayed for him throughout the evening.

    But around 11 p.m., when the service wound down, people noticed that the man had not moved for at least two hours. They also noticed he was a little blue.

    Thats when we knew something was wrong, the senior pastor said.

    The article said as a result of the incident, the church is adding a crew of life signs ushers

    to work revival meetings alongside regular catchers and modesty cloth drapers. Life signs

    ushers will carry small mirrors to check if slain people are breathing, and they have permission

    to gently feel for a pulse, if someone appears to be dead.

    The pastor said, We want people to meet God at our meetings, just not face to face.

    I was absolutely flabbergasted when I was reading this. But when I kept scrolling down, there were these big letters that said, THIS IS JUST A JOKE!Then I noticed the other by-line,

    It caught me hook, line, and sinker. But you could understand how something like that could happen if you have ever been to or seen these Pentecostal revivals. The Spirit has a way of stirring up chaos and commotion. So filled with the Spirit the disciples are driven into the streets where others are witnessing their antics and ridiculing them for being drunk so early in the morning.

    Then it dawned on them: Wait, these are a bunch of ignorant Galileans. How is it that I am understanding them in my own language?Please dont think I am being discourteous. It is

    pretty well documented that at that time people of area of Galilee were predominantly uneducated laborers.

    Those that the disciples were confronting on the streets were rich and therefore probably educated Jews from all over the known world. You see, before Pentecost, which means 50 days, was a Christian celebration (50 days after Christs resurrection), it was a Jewish celebration. It

    was Shavuot, literally the weeks, seven weeks after the Exodus, after the first Passover, and is celebrated as the time when Moses presented the Ten Commandments. It also became a harvest celebration and people would bring their first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem. The rich, educated Jews from all over the known world would pilgrimage back to Jerusalem to participate in the festival of Shavuot.

    It was at this time that the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and drove them out into the streets where all these Jews and God-fearers (non Jews who believed in Yahweh) from different regions of the world were journeying and heard these Galileans speaking in their own language. It was shocking enough that they stopped and listened.

RE-THINK CHURCH Sunday, May 31, 2009, Rev. J. Douglas Paterson

     First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor

     Page 2

    If you read through the entire second chapter of Acts you will hear Peters sermon to all

    those who stopped, marveled, listened, and responded to what they heard about Gods love

    through Jesus Christ. In verse 41 it says 3,000 persons were baptized that day and became followers of Christ. That was a day of some major re-thinking, accomplished only by the work of the Holy Spirit.

    So, what was the miracle that day? Obviously the great mystery and miracle is the work of the Holy Spirit, that the wisdom of God is still active in our lives even after Jesus ascended into heaven. There are many who like to stress the aspect of speaking in tongues. Jack Harnish, your former pastor, wrote a nice piece about this in his weekly email communication last Monday. He said that many think that Pentecost has to do with speaking in tongues, an unknown prayer

    language frequently experienced in high moments of worship and praise. And Paul does make

    some reference to it as a possible gift of the Spirit, but makes clear that it is a minor gift, especially in relation to gifts like faith, hope, and love.

    Also we should not confuse speaking in tongues with what is happening here in Acts 2. Perhaps there has been a lot of confusion because the writer of Acts uses the image tongues of

    fire to describe the movement of the Holy Spirit. But when they spoke in other tongues, it

    wasnt some secret prayer language. It was known languages of the world. The Spirit gifted the disciples with speaking in ways that others would understand them. And there is some question on whether the disciples actually spoke different languages was it that the crowd heard their

    own language? As Jack puts it, Was it a miracle of Pentecostal tongues or of Pentecostal ears? Was it the gift of speaking or of hearing?

    At the beginning of this sermon I talked about how sometimes, for whatever reason, I and many preachers come to the pulpit not as prepared as we would like to be and we have to rely on the Holy Spirit for something to say. Maybe what the preacher should pray for is Pentecostal ears. That the congregation will hear something of value regardless of what the preacher says. Maybe that is the real gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Regardless of the communication piece, Im convinced that Gods gift of the Holy Spirit in

    our lives, the real miracle of the Holy Spirit is that it causes us to stop and re-think.

    Last week I told you that for these three Sundays the sermon titles would be the same - Re-

    Think Church - with the emphasis on different parts of the words. Re-Think Church is the basis of a new emphasis in the United Methodist Church, an understanding that we need to quit thinking of church as a building, a place to go, and direct our understanding of church to how we live out our faith changing church from a noun to a verb.

    Last week we talked simply about Re, that prefix that simply means anew, or again. It can

    also mean back or backward. As we look backward and forward and around, as we engage ourselves in the effort of sharing what is good and abundant as we live our lives in Christ, how do we create our faith anew that it might be fresh and relevant every day?

    Today I want us to consider how Pentecost, and our celebration of Pentecost, might encourage us to rethink. Can the miracle of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit cause us to stop, marvel, and listen long enough to sense the Spirits leading in our lives and respond? For that to

    happen, most of us will have to endure a major re-think.

    RE-THINK CHURCH Sunday, May 31, 2009, Rev. J. Douglas Paterson

     First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor

     Page 3

    Walter Brueggemann wrote a little book about 15 years ago titled Gathering the Church in

    the Spirit.You would think, with a title like that, he would use the New Testament stories of Pentecost and the movement of the Spirit in the forming of the church, and he does. But Brueggemann is an Old Testament professor and uses the prophetic movements of the Old Testament to talk about how the Spirit of God grows and raises Gods people.

    Brueggemann, along with many others in the last decade, has noticed that the church in the st21 century will look different than it has in recent history. He claims that we have lost the dynamic edge of Gods movement by concretizing our faith with words and creeds, which is not a bad thing to do, it just depends on what we do with it. He claims it has made us restrictive and afraid. Just the opposite of what happens when the Holy Spirit grabs hold of us.

    Brueggemann is convinced that in this time when the Christian Church in the U.S. has lost clout and is running with anxiety and fear, that it is possible, in this moment, the Spirit of God

    is moving the church away from old assumptions, old practices, and old patterns of power and authority into a new season of power, energy, fidelity, and mission. (Pg. 46)

    That is the miracle of Pentecost. And it may cause us to re-think our faith. I pray that be

    true in your life and in mine.

RE-THINK CHURCH Sunday, May 31, 2009, Rev. J. Douglas Paterson

     First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor

     Page 4

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