Romans 8 is our text,
verses 14 through 17::
For all who
are led by the Spirit of God are
children of God. 15For you did not
receive a spirit of slavery to fall
back into fear, but you have
received a spirit of adoption. When
we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ 16it is that
very Spirit bearing witness with our
spirit that we are children of God,
17and if children, then heirs, heirs
of God and joint heirs with
Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with
him so that we may also be glorified
If we were to rate the importance of
various holidays on the church calendar, I wonder what kind of
list we would come up with? First would be Easter, and close
behind that Christmas, and the four Sunday's of Advent that are
always so special, and Palm Sunday with the palm branches, and
maybe the five Sunday of Lent. And then, of course, we have to
have Mother's Day, because it is after all the third
highest-attendance Sunday in the church. And if we're going to
do Mothers Day, then there's Father's Day, and Thanksgiving
Sunday, and church in the park on July 4th with Powerhouse
Ministries, and let's see, have I left out anything?
There's something I'm missing. Oh yeah, Pentecost! You see,
that's precisely the point -- Pentecost isn't very high on our
list of church holidays. We were decorating yesterday, getting
this all setup, and there was a wedding earlier in the
afternoon, and some of the wedding folks were still here
cleaning up, and one of the groomsmen came walking through and
said "What are you doing?". We said we're decorating for
Pentecost, and he said "I've never seen anything like this". And
we said "Neither have we" :).
And then he said "I didn't know tomorrow
was Pentecost". At least he knew, or had heard of Pentecost. But
it wasn't on his calendar. I've complained for years that you
can get Christmas cards and Easter cards and Thanksgiving cards
and Father's Day cards and Mother's Day cards, and Groundhog Day
cards. But no one ever makes a Pentecost card. And then Robin
Cushman made this picture for me, of Pentecost:
You can just see the spirit in the
church coming alive :). I shared that last year on Pentecost and
wasn't going to bother with it again, but then I saw the cover
of the bulletin that our office staff came up with, and I said
now I've got to use that picture, because there we are, right
there, FILLED with the spirit :).
I've been making the case every year for
the importance of this date on the church's calendar. One of the
reasons we go to all the troubles of these decorations, and
having a combined service, and even got our maintenance team to
put up the other set of the red doors (how about that --
applause). But you have to wonder, does anyone out there notice?
Does the world care about our obscure little rituals and
celebrations? If it doesn't result in hundreds and millions of
dollars in gifts and cards and flowers and big family
gatherings, why bother? Can it be that important?
When we consider the ramifications of the oil spill in the gulf,
or the impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the
effects of the recession, or the consequences of climate change,
or whether or not the Ducks can sell enough tickets to fill that
new $200 million basketball arena (you know, the really big
issues :), why bother with a 2000 year-old event in one tiny
occupied country in the Roman Empire?
And given personal struggles that many face today, with record
unemployment and people struggling with addictions and health
problems, families in crisis, homeless on every other street
corner, why bother with this obscure church holiday that few
outside of the church understand (and I'm not so sure about
those inside the Church)?
Does Pentecost matter?
Well, for starters, consider this: Pentecost teaches that God is
not satisfied with the status quo. 50 days had gone by since the
incredible good news of that Easter morning and how many new
followers of Jesus had the disciples made? Zero. None. 50 days,
not a record of a single person being added to the ranks of
Jesus' disciples. There was the replacement for Judas, but he
was from the ranks of the believers, and then we never heard
from him again. No one else, kind of sounds like Disciples of of
Christ today, at least in some communities.
Pentecost is God's way of lighting a
fire under those disciples. Pentecost is God's way of breaking
us out of our lethargy and our apathy. Getting us going. Of
saying that the church matters. And that the body of Christ
Why bother? Pentecost is God's message to us that the status quo
can be changed. That with a little help from the spirit, we can
make a difference. We can transform our lives, our faith, and
our world. And that change begins with people who are willing to
stand up and be counted and say "Yes, I'm one".
A great scene in that musical "You're in Town" when the hero of
the story is rallying the troops to revolt against the company
that controls the public amenities, because they've privatized
bathrooms. And you have to pay a fee to use the public
amenities. And they've raised the prices, and so hero of the
story is rallying the troops in this rebellion against the
company. And he's getting them all fired up, and they're with
him and then then he says "It may take years" (they step back),
"decades" (they step back further), "some of us may not make it
there, maybe all of us won't make it (they keep backing up and
backing up, and wondering whether they really want to be in this
But, you see, to be in the church, the text in Romans says that
we have to be willing to go through that suffering to experience
the glory with Christ. It's a challenge, isn't it?
That transformation, you see, begins with us. Maybe we can't
stop that oil spill, but we can lesson our dependence on that
oil. Maybe we can't stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but
we can create an environment of peace and nonviolence here.
Maybe we can't perform miracles, but we can welcome a stranger
and make our guests feel at home.
We're going to have a wonderful opportunity
next Sunday when we start our Sunday breakfast for the homeless,
and if you haven't signed up for that, find Phyllis Weare, next
Sunday we're going to start that. It's going to be a welcoming
place for those folks to come and get something nutritious on a
Sunday morning. That transformation begins right here.
There may be a hundred ways, or more, every day that we can make
a difference. We can change the status quo, and demonstrate the
power of the Spirit working through us to make this world a
little better for someone else.
Why bother with Pentecost? Consider the
whole issue of immigration and look again at that Pentecost
story. People from all corners of the earth, speaking all
different languages, brought together and united by the spirit
of Pentecost. Think about the whole issue of immigration that
we're struggling with in this country. And think about that
story, and make that connection. Do you really think God cares
if we're North American or South American or German or French or
British or Mexican or Chinese or Japanese? Do you think that in
the kingdom of God nationalities are important? Or even exist?
The clip I was going to show was of that scene played out in the
classroom this week for a national audiences, with President
Obama and Mexican President Calderon discussing important
matters of state, and they sent their spouses to the
grade-school, because that was a safe place. You know, put them
there with the little children and everyone will smile and say
how sweet. And what happens? One of the little girls says "My
Mommy says that Barack Obama is going to make people who don't
have the right papers go back to their country". And Michelle
says "You know, we have to fix that", working for immigration
reform. And then the little girl says, "But my Mommy doesn't
have the right papers".
Imagine what that's like for that little second-grader. You know
what? She wasn't in school the next morning. Or the next.
Reports in the press are that the family has gone underground,
quietly disappeared. Think about the impact to that one little
Does it matter?
How do we as a church hold up an image of a place where all
nationalities are welcome as long as we have the right papers?
Is that consistent with the story of Pentecost?
Last night, in watching the video "For
The Bible Tells Me So", for the families struggling with the
issue of homosexuality in their own families, including the
Robinson family, the parents of Gene Robinson, the Bishop in the
Episcopal Church around which there was much controversy a few
years ago, they are members of a Disciples of Christ
congregation in the South, and you see a picture that Church in
that video and hear them tell their story.
At any rate, at the end of the story, they have a clip of Bishop
Tutu, and I can quote it, but it's much more fun when you hear
Bishop Tutu, who says: "I don't think, in heaven, that God is
going to say to a black person 'You should have been white'. I
don't think in heaven, God is going to say to a woman 'You
should have been a man'. He's not going to say to a homosexual
person "You should have been heterosexual", and punish them for
the way they are.
Here's my point: the diversity of the church, gender, race,
nationalities, sexual orientation, age, and all of that, is
based on God's all-inclusive love, and is God's intent for the
body of Christ -- to represent all humanity is its glorious
diversity. That's why we refer to the Disciples of Christ as a
'movement for wholeness in a fragmented world'. That's the
Pentecost vision. This is our calling, to live out that
diversity, to demonstrate as God's people that all are welcome
and included at the Lord's table. Here, especially here, there
is no racism, there's no sexism, there's no xenophobia, there's
no homophobia around that table because all are welcome.
We may be predominantly of one particular group in this church,
but you know we have quite a bit of diversity here. Our
Sunday-school classes are beginning to look like a miniature
United Nations: children from India, children from Africa. We
have members from China, and Japan, and Korea. And we have folks
here from Ecuador and Mexico, and Germany, and Corvallis :).
And we love them, even them, especially
Why bother with Pentecost? Think for a moment about Easter
Sunday, recall the beautiful transformation that we witness when
we take that ugly cross and we bring all our flowers from home
and we transform it into something of beauty. It's a powerful
moment and a powerful day. And the church is always full
because, I think, people want that power, they need to
experience that power. And it must be a lot of power because we
don't see half of them again for another year :).
But the Easter story is the story of one person. The Son of God,
well, it's easy for him. But what about us? Is there any reason
to believe that power is available to us as well? Is there any
evidence that we are included in that story of Easter?
Yes, there is. It's called Pentecost.
Without Pentecost, Easter would have been long forgotten.
Because of Pentecost, Easter has become our story. Paul says in
this text that we are heirs with Christ through the Spirit of
adoption. You see, Pentecost is to the church what Easter is to
Jesus. That transformation is not just for one man, it is for an
entire group of people. Indeed, in the Pentecost story, this is
all of Christendom up to this point that is included.
People often ask me, what does it mean to
join the church? In a nutshell, it is this: it's to make the
good news of the Jesus story, your story. You are now part of
it. You are a witness to the good news. It's no longer someone
else's story, those people in the Bible are our people. These
people in the church are our family.
Why bother with Pentecost? Pentecost is the story that includes
us, that makes us part of the body of Christ. As Paul says, it
is that very spirit bearing witness with our spirit, that we are
the children of God, joint heirs with Christ. Yes, there are all
kinds of problems in the world, major problems that may even
threaten our existence. Yes, people struggle with all kinds of
difficulties in their lives, challenges that may threaten their
lives. We celebrate Pentecost not in spite of those things,
celebrate Pentecost because it is with that spirit of God that
we have hope of overcoming those things.
These are the times when we most need the fresh winds of the
spirit to turn our turbines. This is the time when we need the
breath of God that gives us live.
So why bother? An engine without fuel is powerless. A sailboat
without wind goes nowhere. Light bulbs without without
electricity are useless. The church without the spirit is dead.
Pentecost is the fuel for the fire. The wind in our sails. The
power that keeps us going. The breath that gives us life.
Pentecost is God's gift of the Holy Spirit to us. People of God,
claim that spirit, share that spirit, be a part, as we celebrate
the gift of God, the gift of the spirit given to us.
[19 new members joined
First Christian Church on Pentecost Sunday, 2010]