Pentecost: Spirit-filled Faith
I Corinthians 4:1-13
A number of years ago, I concluded a seminary class on the Healings of Jesus with a service of anointing and laying on of hands. We began with a scripture and a time of silence and reflection similar to what we do at our own healing prayer service. Then, then the twelve of us gathered in a healing circle. I put my hand on the forehead of the first student and anointed her with oil, making the sign of the cross. To my astonishment, she collapsed into the arms of one of her classmates. To use the Pentecostal phrase, she was slain in the Spirit.
I was as surprised as anyone, and hoped they wouldn’t share the story too broadly. After all, it might damage my academic credibility if people actually experienced what we learning in class!
On this Pentecost Sunday, we might ask ourselves: What would we you do if gusts of wind burst through our sanctuary and we saw tongues of fire flashing forth from your neighbors’ heads? How would you respond, if folks began to speak in foreign tongues and you understood what they were saying? I suspect that the followers of Jesus were just like us, and some were tempted to hide under the tables or get as far away as possible. They had been praying for the descent of God’s Spirit, and as the saying goes, “Be careful what you pray for!”
The Holy Spirit comes to us in many ways, some dramatic, others gentle and barely noticed. Like everything else in our spiritual journey, there’s no one size that fits all, and no one experience that is normative for all people. The Spirit comes to us personally, according to our gifts, personality, community, traditions, and degree of openness.
That Pentecost Day, the Spirit turned everything upside down! It drove Jesus’ followers out into the street to preach good news to everyone, regardless of age, nationality, class, or gender. It embraced everyone under the sun, and offered everyone the experience of God’s blessing. In a world ruled by race, class, and social standing, Peter’s sermon broke down every boundary and in and out group status among those who truly heard his message:
God declares: I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy…. Then everyone who calls on the name of God shall be saved.
Everyone has the opportunity to be touched by God’s Spirit. Everyone can experience God’s wholeness, and everyone can share good news with the world. That was true on the Day of Pentecost, some 2080 years ago, and it is true today, right here and now. Perhaps, the flames won’t physically descend, much to the relief of the fire marshal and building and grounds committee! But, God is here, inspiring each one of us with the breath of the Spirit and the warmth of salvation.
The words of I Corinthians 12 are good news on Pentecost and every day. Paul proclaims that all of us are gifted, and each one of us has a unique talent to bring joy, beauty, and health to the world. Moreover, Paul affirms that within the church, the body of Christ, all of our gifts make a difference. God’s Spirit moves within each of us, bringing forth our unique talents for our own well-being and the good of the church. No one is left out, from the youngest to the oldest, from toddlers to Ph.D.’s, and no one ever runs out of gifts. In fact, the Holy Spirit moves with the seasons of our lives, inspiring us to unique gifts depending on our age, health condition, and community. We all have many vocations, and our shared vocation is to serve God by bringing joy, healing, beauty, and compassion to every life situation and to the mission of this church. The Holy Spirit speaks within us, the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8, in sighs too deep for words, guiding us, inspiring us, giving direction to our lives, and helping us to see God’s Spirit in others and bring it forth. You are gifted, because God’s spirit lives within you.
Now, it’s tough being young and it’s tough growing older. Sometimes, young people, like the prophet Jeremiah, protest that they are too young to make a difference, but I know that our church is blessed by every child who comes. They’re just learning their life’s calling, but they share their youthful faith by allowing us to be part of their boundless energy. When we’re older, we sometimes wonder if we have something to give, but I have seen gifts in everyone in this church – reaching out to a stranger, smiling at a patron at the Thrifty Niche, bringing beauty to the fellowship hall and the garden, giving rides to church, serving the homeless and hungry, and sharing the wisdom of the years, along with the traditions of our church while recognizing the need for changes.
So, on this Pentecost, our building may remain intact – we may not be blown around by spirited winds or scorched by fiery spirits, but we are spirit-filled; we are alive, welcoming, and faithful, and the best is yet to come, because the Holy Spirit always promises more – more challenge, adventure, joy, and possibility, and in the end life everlasting in God’s all-inspiring realm. You are gifted, you are inspired; let the Spirit flow in you and through you, giving life and love to everyone you meet….all in Jesus name.