the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And
suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent
wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided
tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each
of them. 4All of
them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other
languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
following statement was made as an introduction to this text, by a
Acts 2, verse 1, states
that when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one
place. Significantly, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit took
place only after the people were all together. A divided
community undermines the credibility of a message that is to break the
barriers of language and nation, gender and race, religion and social
class, to unify all of God's creation in one human family.
However, it is also important to note that both unity and difference
themes are built into the reality of Pentecost.
Standing together in
one place did not mean that all were singing the same song, or even
from the same page. The Pentecost experience revealed that each
spoke in their own language, maintaining individual linguistic
identities and selfhood. What is important to note here is that
they were able to understand each other. This is a partnership
model, built upon the recognition that others also know, and must be
heard. The presence of the Holy Spirit is an imperative to go
out for the sake of inclusivity. In the West, we have often
reduced the cross, and the Holy Spirit, to introversion and
exclusivity. Even when we have been extroverted in our
missionary activity, we have not empowered people to understand the
message and the power of the gospel in their own languages, but forced
them to speak our language as a precondition for their
Standing together in
one place can be interpreted as people working together, speaking
together, in order to understand as to be understood. And
engaging in covenants for moving toward the city that God intends for
all of creation. This is truly the new space called forth by
Jesus. As we hear the Pentecost story again, let us be united in
all of our differences by the breath of God in this one place.
Bryant's sermon comments now follow]
I realize, has not been one of the bigger events in the life of the
church and I think that's probably because Hallmark hasn't figured out a
way yet to capitalize on it, with Pentecost cards we'd all have to go
out and buy and send to one another J.
What do you do for Pentecost? For Christmas, you know, you buy
gifts. You have special treats for birthdays, you have birthday
cake and a party. For Thanksgiving you have a big meal. For
Easter you buy new dresses and a new hat I suppose, and color Easter
eggs and buy chocolate bunnies. But what are you going to do for
Pentecost -- go out and set fire to something?!
trying to make it a bigger event in the life of the church by having
this combined service today, bringing together both of our worship
services into this one service. Celebrating the unity in our
diversity. Standing together in one place at one church, as
Lorette read for us. And that's not always an easy thing to do,
given the great diversity that we have in our worship styles with our
two services, and the different styles of music. And just to
illustrate that difference, I found this cute little story that explains
the difference between praise music and hymns:
An old farmer went to
the city one weekend and attended the big city
church. He came home and his wide asked him how it was.
"Well", said the farmer, "It was good. They did
however. They sung praise choruses instead of hymns".
"Praise choruses?", asked the wife. "What are
"Oh they're okay. They're sort of like hymns, only
different", said the
"Well, what's the difference?", asked the wife.
The farmer said "Well itıs like this if I were to say to you
the cows are in the corn" well that would be a hymn. If, on the
hand, I were to say to you,
Martha, Martha, Martha,
Oh Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA!!!!
The cows, the big cows, the brown cows,
The black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows
The Cows, the COWS, the COWS are in the corn
Are in the corn
Are in the corn
In the corn, CORN, COOOOOOORRRRRNNNNNNN!
then if I was to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that
would be a praise chorus"!"
Well, just wait. . . .
As luck would have it,
the exact same Sunday a young, new Christian
from the city church attended the small town church. He came home and
his wife asked him how it was.
"Well", said the young man, "It was good. They did
however. They sung hymns instead of regular songs".
"Hymns?", asked the wife. "What are those?"
"Oh they're okay. They're sort of like regular songs, only
said the farmer.
"Well, what's the difference?", asked the wife.
The Young man said "Well, itıs like this if I were to say to you
"Martha, the cows are in the corn", well that would be a
If, on the other hand, I were to say to you,
Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, glorious truth.
For the way of the animals who can explain
There in their head is no shadow of sense
Hearkenest they in Gods sun or His rain
Unless from the mild tempting corn they are fenced.
Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,
Have broken free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn chewed.
So look to that bright shining day by and by,
Where all foul corruptions of earth and reborn
Where no vicious animal makes me soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.
then if I were to do only verses one, three and four and change keys
the last verse, well that would be a hymn.!".
now are we all clear on that, on the difference?
the moral of the story, of course, if music is sung to praise God from
the heart then it is pleasing to the Lord and it is welcome here.
beauty of the Pentecost story is that it brings together all kinds of
folk. People who sing all kinds of music and have all kinds of
different styles and speak all kinds of different languages and wear all
kinds of different clothes and have all kinds of different skin
complexions. And they are united on Pentecost by the spirit of God
and all receive the spirit equally.
may not be the biggest holiday of the church, but maybe it should
be. When nation wages war against nation, Pentecost reveals that
we are one world, that those that we see as our enemies are in fact our
brothers and sisters. When people are divided by race, national
identity, language and culture, Pentecost shows us that we are not as
divided as we sometimes think. And when the church is divided over
matters of doctrine or styles of worship and music, Pentecost reminds us
that there is only one spirit, one Lord, one baptism.
is much therefore for us to learn from the story of Pentecost.
Pentecost teaches that God is not satisfied with the status quo.
In fact that's the message throughout much of scripture, is it
not? Isaiah speaks of the deserts that will bloom and crooked
roads that will be made straight to prepare the way of the Lord.
Jesus speaks of the oppressed who will be set free and the blind given
sight as a sign of the acceptable year of the Lord. Revelation
speaks of the new Jerusalem and an end to pain and suffering and death
is about the transformation of our world into God's vision. And it
begins with a small, scared, secluded group of disciples who become a
powerful force for the gospel. What they accomplished in their
lifetimes -- spreading the gospel across the face of the Roman Empire,
establishing communities of faith in every region -- was nothing short
of phenomenal. This
is the transforming power of the breath of God.
Easter is the story of transformation. But it's one thing for God
to restore the life of Jesus and it's another thing altogether for God
to give that kind of new life to an entire population. So is there
any reason to believe that the transforming power of Easter is also
available to us? Yes indeed! You see, that is what Pentecost
is about. The power that is poured out on all flesh.
Franklin discovered electricity 200 years ago, Thomas Edison created the
light bulb some 100 or more years ago, yet in some rural areas of our
country electricity did not come until after the second world war.
The Reverend Mark Trotter describes this experience of a man in rural
Kentucky who had wired his house in preparation for that day, and
waited. Until finally one day the light bulb, the single light
bulb hanging there in his living room, filled the room with such a
brilliant light as he had never experienced before. He was so
excited he ran out of the house and down the street, yelling, announcing
to the entire community that the "Power is on, the power is
see, that's Pentecost. That's the story of Pentecost, when the
power came on among the followers of Jesus, filling that house with the
sound of the mighty rush of wind, and the tongues aflame, and each began
speaking in various languages so that people from all around the world
could understand. In the gospel of John, there's another image
read for us, where Jesus simply breathes upon his followers. There
are no tongues aflame, there's no dramatic wind, no ecstatic experience,
no great preaching, just the breath of Jesus breathing new life into the
disciples just as God breathed new life into the first human
notion of wind and breath to bring new life is combined in the Ezekiel
passage that Eliza read for us, where God instructs the prophet to
prophesy to the breath, saying "Come forth from the four winds, O
breath, and breathe upon these dry bones that they may live".
The spirit of God is that breath of life.
the ancient Coptic church there is a tradition when someone is ordained,
the patriarch of Alexandria breathes upon the candidate. That the
new minister will receive the spirit of God for their ministry.
however, is not about certain individuals who receive the spirit, rather
it is about the community that receives the spirit. The
people of God, the body of Christ. We are the recipients of God's
life-giving, transforming spirit. Pentecost is the church's story,
it's our story, it's the story of how the first group of working-class
men and women receive that spirit. It's the story of Saul,
persecutor of the church, who became Paul, missionary to the
Gentiles. It's the story of Francis of Assisi, who rid himself of
all of his father's things, all of his belongings, took on the monk's
robe and became the greatest saint of our tradition. It's the
story of Thomas and Alexander Campbell who left behind their Scottish
homeland to come to a new mission on the American frontier and
established what is now the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ.
It's the story of the Reverend Gilmore Callison, member of the Oregon
legislature in 1864, who came to Pleasant Hill in 1852 and began holding
services in the courthouse here in Eugene twice a month during the civil
war to bring a message of peace and hope to the people, and established,
in 1866, this congregation.
of these folk are part of the church that was born on Pentecost, and
they are those who have kept the church living and breathing by bringing
new life into it. Starting new groups like the Franciscans, or new
denominations like the Disciples, or new congregations like this.
They are part of what we call 'organized' religion. Indeed, they,
like the first disciples of Pentecost, are the ones who helped bring
organization to religion. Now I recognize that "organized
religion" is not always a popular or positive concept these
days. Rick Dancer, our scholarship speaker a few weeks ago, began
his presentation to us with a critique of organized religion, of all the
things the church has not done. And that critique, I must confess,
at times is valid. But you know what, Rick is not a part of
organized religion -- he's one of those who's chosen to profess his
faith separately, independently. Personally I find it strange when
people say that they can find God just as much under a tree, or up in
the mountains as they can find God sitting in a pew. Why would we
choose to search for God where there are no other human beings? Is
it not in human beings that that breath of God is given?
not to say that we do not find God in those other places, indeed I do as
much as I think that you do, but that God is here where the flesh and
blood of humanity is filled with that breath of God. God brings
people together from all walks of life, all nationalities, all ages, all
sexes and sexual orientations, shapes and sizes, rich and poor,
conservative and liberal, republican and democrat, you name it.
God brings all that together, organizes it, and fills it with the spirit
to do God's work.
have 40 people sleeping in the basement of our church this last week and
next week. 26 of them are children between the ages of 0 and 16,
who can find here for these two weeks a safe, secure place where they
can stay because there is no other place in this community for
them. And I don't know how many people it took -- 40 or 50 people,
volunteers of our church. If you participated in that Interfaith
shelter, would you just stand up? If you helped prepare a meal, if
you stayed overnight, if you drove the van, if you helped with the
kids. I want you to look around -- see that, see that because you
know what we call this? This is organized religion. This is
organized religion making a difference, in concrete and tangible ways in
the lives of people who have a need. Thank these people for what
they do in your name [applause from the congregation].
see that's the power of God's breath bringing people together to share
the gospel in tangible, concrete ways that make a difference in
someone's life. So don't talk to me about the problems of
organized religion. Because I see also the great benefits, the
incredible work that it does in our community.
Norris, author of Amazing Grace, says this about a similar ministry in
another church. On a Sunday when she was attending, a woman at the
microphone called upon the volunteers from the AIDS support group to
come forward. Throughout the church, people stood up, young men
and women, middle-aged and old, straight and gay, and all of them shy of
being called, and yet they came forward, assembled in the sanctuary
facing the congregation. A lady with a plastic candy cane pinned
to her label. A Castro clone with a red bandana exploding from his
hip pocket. A perfume counter lady with a scarf mantled upon her
shoulder. A black man in a checkered sports coat. The
pink-haired punkess with a jewel in her nose. Here too is the gay
couple in middle age, interchangeable plaid shirts and corduroy
pants. This, she says, is pure holiness. This is the face of
organized religion. Certainly organized enough to keep a city
church going, one that offers an AIDS support group, perhaps a soup
kitchen, services to the elderly, and wonder of wonders, the Eucharist
itself. In the rural area where I live, she writes, churches are
still the only institutions capable of sustaining community ministries
such as a food pantry and a domestic violence
program. That even the most well-intentioned social service agency
cannot replace. It's called 'salvation'. But it begins small at the local level in
a church that provides a time and a space for people to gather to meet a
God who has promised to be there. People are encouraged to sing
whether they can or not. And they receive a blessing just for
is the story of God's breath, the Holy Spirit that gives life and power
to the church to get organized. To bring that life-giving power to
the people of this community and to every community of the world.
This then is the blessing given to you for showing up this
the Holy Spirit, the breath of God's life, the fire of God's spirit, the
wind of God's power. Let it be a blessing not only for you, but
also for others, that we might bring love and life, hope and good news,
the very salvation of God, to our community and our world. May it