I wonder what
it felt like for Joseph, in the moment before the king, been in
prison all those years, waiting for his opportunity, I wonder
what it felt like for him to speak so freely and with such
confidence to a Pharaoh? I wonder what it felt like to receive
the gift of the HS on Pentecost – what do you think? What must
it have felt like to be “filled with the Holy Spirit, to see a
tongue of fire come to rest on them, to speak freely and
effortlessly in a language previously unknown to them?”
Your turn. Give me some feedback here.
I imagine it
to be like the first time you successfully ride your bike
without training wheels, first time you fix your computer on
your own. Exciting, peaceful, fulfilling, foreign, scary,
happy. But we aren’t talking about some solitary activity like
riding a bike, fixing a toilet or a computer, we are talking
about telling the story and personal meaning and value one
places upon telling the story of Jesus. Like publicly. In
front of strangers. How does that sound and feel? React for
It is a much
more vulnerable act, it was then and it is today. When was the
last time you shared publicly, straight from your heart – about
Jesus? About family life? About anything?
We got close
last week when I asked you to write down a dream or a vision and
bring it to the prayer station of glass blocks. Close because I
asked you to be open and honest with yourself, but not close
because you didn’t have to share it with anyone but God. And
anonymously with me. If you weren’t here Last week I spoke of
Joseph and his dreams, and the challenges to reaching those
dreams as a vehicle for revealing the dreams that we all carry
with us and the obstacles each believes are in the way in
What was it
like for you to be open with yourself – to see your dream
outside of your own brain, to see your prayers on paper, in
front of you? What did you feel?
Your turn again.
upon what you wrote down you felt any number of things –
sadness, gladness, recognized fear and self-doubt, recognized
powerlessness, or maybe you felt empowered by recognizing and
writing down the obstacles in your way – mostly ourselves and
moving for me in that exercise is that even though each person
had their own dream, own obstacles, by watching you come up one
by one it made my own dreams and obstacles feel like a part of
the whole – it was a shared experience. A shared awareness that
we ALL dream and we ALL face challenges in getting there. We
are ALL afraid of the unknown outcome, we ALL seek to be more
deeply connected to the source of all life that inspires and
creates. The story in Acts today says “they were all together
in one place” so let’s have a little experience of Pentecost
right now. This is the safest place, lowest risk involved here:
When 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.
5 Now there were devout
Jews from every nation under heaven living in
Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was
bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the
native language of each.7Amazed and astonished, they asked,
‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is
it that we hear, each of us, in our own native
language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of
Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and
Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya
belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and
proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear
them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’12All were amazed
and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this
mean?’ 13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with
again: Give me an amen or oh yeah, or a you know that’s right –
Who here will
admit to needing a boost of energy to get through the work
week? Now how many will admit they choose coffee as that
boost? How many choose prayer? Both?
anybody here today who carries prayers of health and well being
for their children, grandchildren, parents, any loved one? Who
is worried about the life of another?
worried about their own life? Who will admit to needing to
develop more compassion, more courage, less anger, judgment of
others and self, less selfishness, less fear?
seeks Wholeness, health, and more love in their relationships?
and raised in the church – raise your hands – been in church, of
one type or another, your entire life – this one is for you –
do you still have a vision, as stated by this congregation, of
having un-churched people come to love and belong to this
community? Me too. Are you like me and feel you have little or
no clue HOW to do it? How to share the essence of what makes
this place valuable and worth choosing as a part of life?
How do you
share the Gospel today in a language that makes sense to the
world today? Anybody?
What do you
say a person tells you they do not believe in God and the
rituals we perform at church, like communion, are weird,
antiquated, and basically a foreign language?
Minister Sharon Watkins says it’s time to work our way, our own
unique way, into comfort with such conversations, no matter how
vulnerable it makes us, we must find a way to the joy of sharing
our faith, in a language others will understand, if we are to
live into our inheritance as Disciples of Christ, followers of
a few things we could gain comfort with - Could you ever see
yourself explaining the gospels in this way?
I mean I know
that feels foreign to a good number of us. But I tell you,
these memes, and others are a form of communication these days.
I think Acts
2 would make a lot more sense to people now if we updated the
lingo – David, thank you for reading all those groups of people,
this is a map (MAP) to help explain who and where the people
were from – each with their own language and customs and
instead we read the text to include our own sub cultures? Acts
2:8, in our own context could say “How is it that each of us
hears them in our own native language? Baby boomers, skaters,
hipsters, millenials, Gen Xers, atheists, hackers, evangelicals,
bikers…we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own
preach today? Wouldn’t that make even the most bored in church
say something like:
gears, People who found the church on your own – without your
parents nagging or forcing, without the communities pressure for
you to conform – without ever attending church before - why did
you do it? What were you looking for?
You are our
new apostles, because the tried and true church fans, like
myself, (born and raised in the church), we are practicing hard
core, studying like its finals week to figure out how to lose
the churchy words and find new ways to share the faith.
Watkins calls this “Ministry beyond the Posts.” Referring to
the family trips she used to take as a child in the panhandle of
Oklahoma where eventually they would get to the last telephone
post, last electric post, and then just keep on driving. Church
is in this uncharted landscape, where there isn’t really a map
quest and no smart phone to just tell us the truth. We are
computer we’ve been waiting for.
Day. A time to remember and a time to be thankful and a time to
feel deeply connected and rooted in history, community, and it
inspires us to move forward, to live fully because others who
came before us, served before us. Pentecost is a similar
celebration. Not just a story once upon a time –
We call it
the birthday of the church but today I want us to reconnect to
the story – or connect for the first time – it is also a story
about remembering our roots, it is a story designed to connect
us to the wider world of Christianity, and definitely a
invitation to move forward into action. And it has something
to do with hearing the Holy Spirit.
Who wants to
know the secret to listening to the Holy Spirit and acting on
its guidance and inspiration?
knows the secret?
can you tell us, succinctly, and in your own words – what is the
Acts it says they were all together in one place but it
specifically doesn’t say they were all together in one mind.
Each heard the Holy Spirit in their own way.
IN their own
characteristic of our culture, of the progressive Christian, is
in privately experiencing the Holy and Divine and then keeping
it to ourselves. It is a sign of respect for another’s path to
refrain from sharing a church story.
imagine that proclaiming the wonders of God, in your own words,
means you are proselytizing?
How many feel
that sharing your faith, in any situation, is like going door to
door asking people to believe?
That is not
my style either.
But there is
another reason we refrain - sometimes it’s out of fear of
judgment or ridicule by another. Missing an opportunity,
because the risk seems too big? Can you relate to that?
I brought in
a bit of Joseph’s story this week too, because his story did not
end in jail, imprisoned and far from his dreams. It takes time,
but finally the cupbearer, a former prisoner himself, remembers
Joseph and tells Pharaoh that he can help him interpret his
dreams. Remember that Joseph’s story is to remind us to not
lose hope, to not give up on our dreams, and to take the risk
when the time comes – it’s not all up to God but we play a part
too. But we are promised that God is with us. And in verse 16
of Genesis 41, Joseph tells Pharaoh exactly what Joseph knows to
be true. And it turns out it is what Pharaoh needs to hear: It
is not I, but God who will set Pharaoh’s mind at ease.” Joseph
takes the opportunity, the risk, the vulnerability – this King
of Egypt could easily kill him for the interpretation he will
soon give, of speaking of a foreign god, but goes for it, in his
own way – speaks his mind and heart and saves nations. Pharaoh
responds positively. What king doesn’t want to save his kingdom
from famine? Joseph does what he can, and acknowledges that God
is there too. That is the best he can do and the best we can do
You can share
your faith, without cramping your calendar, your style, or
inflicting pain on someone else or losing the respect of your
co-workers and neighbors and friends. The secret to doing this
is to act with authenticity and integrity and humility - to be
You work in
the package God has given you. What is the language you speak
best? Mine is equal parts kindness, honesty and sarcasm.
wouldn’t be me without a joke :)
The secret is
to Live your life, in the most ethically responsible way, and as
closely as you can to your spiritual values and roots. At work,
at home. In the market. In the airport. The secret is to
believe that such living is a proclamation of faith. I mean
isn’t that some idiom in our culture that “actions speak louder
than words?” The secret is to listen and to be yourself and
tell your truth. Not THE truth, that’s what keeps us from
speaking in the first place, proving we are know it alls. But
speak your truth with the most respect and least judgment as
secret is to make the time to develop the practice of praying,
dreaming and visioning together. That’s what I tell others I do
at church. The secret is to face the fear, trusting, like
Joseph, like Peter, like the Disciples at Pentecost, that God is
resting inside of you. And you. You are filled with the Holy
I wonder what
we will do now that we know we have the gift of the Holy
I wonder what
the Holy Spirit wants us to do with our gifts?