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Filled With the Holy Spirit

Sermon - 5/27/12
Rev. April Oristano
First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon

Acts 2:1-13

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 me, honestly.

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 achieving them.

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.

Depending 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 our fears.

What was 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 new wine.’

 

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Your turn 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? 

Is there 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?

Who is 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?

Who here seeks Wholeness, health, and more love in their relationships? 

People born 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? 

Our General 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 the Way. 

She suggested 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.  (LISTEN UP!)

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 culture:

 

What if 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 language!”

Doesn’t that preach today?  Wouldn’t that make even the most bored in church say something like:

 

Ok, switching 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. 

Sharon 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.  

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It’s Memorial 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?

Who here knows the secret? 

Ok sister, can you tell us, succinctly, and in your own words – what is the secret?

Thank you, for sharing. 

Remember, in 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 way.

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One 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. 

How many 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 too!    

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 yourself. 

You work in the package God has given you.  What is the language you speak best?  Mine is equal parts kindness, honesty and sarcasm. 

 

It just 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 possible. 

And the 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 Spirit. 

 

 

I wonder what we will do now that we know we have the gift of the Holy Spirit? 

I wonder what the Holy Spirit wants us to do with our gifts? 

 


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