|Acts 2:1-21; Romans 8:22-27
The Rev. Dr. Seth E. Weeldreyer
May 27, 2012 – Pentecost Sunday
Will God's power in Christ be cut off? Will God's purposes in Christ come to an end? Or with the divine Spirit continue to enflame the passions and perspectives of humanity in our world? (Read Acts 2:1-21)
In a few moments our confirmation youth will speak – a son and five daughters; our sisters and brother in Christ. They will share statements of faith that culminate time with Rob in recent months, and commence a journey of life and service for years to come. We share a special moment to celebrate, to be grateful and inspired. I prefer to call it all confirmation / commissioning because faith is less a matter of arriving at any place of complete knowledge and perfect behavior, or achieving a certain status. Faith is more a process of questioning, listening, talking together as the youth have in recent months, as we all do through goodness and challenges we face every day.
In a few moments our confirmation youth will speak. We will hear phrases similar to one another and many a unique expression of each person. In the defining miracle of Pentecost a vast variety of people and languages shared together the universality of God's promises. In the Jewish faith, Pentecost is connected with a harvest festival and associated with the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. In other words, this holy moment is all about sharing fullness of life together in God's grace. The Spirit of God that moves over creation to cultivate life. The Spirit of God that is so often represented through images of speech and fire throughout the Bible, or through anointing with oil as we will our youth in a little while. The Spirit of God that ancient people felt deeply as they tried to order life together through the vision of commandments and the voice of prophets. The Spirit of God fully present in the Word made flesh … this same spirit of God enlivens us. It is fulfillment of Jesus' promise: God's Spirit upon all people together as the church as we continue witness to God in Christ.
In a few moments our confirmation youth will share statements of faith as they did at Session this past Wednesday night. They did well through I imagine some considerable nervousness … as Session grilled them each for an hour! By about midnight we were done and let them go home! Not really, though maybe that's how it felt in the moment and hours later if questions and answers still echoed in their minds and hearts. It could have been worse. They could have been asked to read all the names of people Luke records in Acts! In truth, our elders on Session were very respectful and affirming. Still maybe a little trial and uncertainty, questions we don't quite know how to answer is not a bad harbinger of what's to come in life and faith ahead.
In a few moments our confirmation youth will speak as others have long before us, and as God calls us all to prophesy in our labors and loves, in our lives and service. What does it mean to prophesy? It's not really forecasting the future, looking into a crystal ball, or possessing some special prescient power. One scholar suggests three characteristics:
• Recognition of powerful acts being performed by God. We open our eyes.
• Shared appreciation—understanding and valuing God's purpose in these acts we observe. We open our heart and mind.
• Proclamation of this purpose to all people no matter the language or life circumstance. We open our mouth and hands.
Literally the word "prophesy" means to reveal something of God to the world.
As we open our eyes, our hearts, our mouths, dear friends, as we seek to reveal God to our world, one critical component, one central sign empowers it all. We speak the truth as we see and believe in the confidence of God's love that surrounds us, that accepts and empowers us even when we stumble. Even when a Session member asks us a question that leaves our minds frozen like deer in the headlights! Speak the truth in love among other sisters, brothers, and friends in Christ with whom we have differing perspectives … maybe even seeming at times to speak different languages of life and faith. In God's grace we will communicate with each other, share the common purpose of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
Tell stories of grace, as he did, in our everyday lives like prodigal sons or daughters returning home, and good Samaritans giving assistance on the roadside. Teach the ways of peace, as he did, sharing possessions, forgiving transgressions, living with patience and compassion more than vengeance. Touch with powers of healing, as he did, whether we're trained in medicine, or equally gifted all of us with the strength of care, encouragement, commitment to carry someone else through crowds or down through the roof as biblical accounts record – to cancer treatments, through loss, through long rehab sessions we might read if the Bible was written today. Extend the inclusive love of God to welcome in this sanctuary any who feel outcast; to speak up in society for the vulnerable and powerless; to pursue ways of God in which everyone rich and poor, young and old, categorized in any other way by our culture … all people share the fullness of God's reign like a feast for thousands beside the sea, like resurrection from a tomb emptied of the fear, anger, insecurities that may put us there in the first place.
The miracle of that Pentecost day long ago began with Peter. The one who could not speak up for Jesus out in the courtyard on the night of his betrayal, even Peter finds his voice. And the miracle of Pentecost long ago culminates with thousands of people devoting themselves to life together in prayer and service, with many wonders and signs being shared by all.
In a few moments our confirmation youth will speak from this pulpit. And God promises to pour out the Spirit so that all of us sons and daughters, sisters and brothers in Christ shall prophesy throughout the world.
Thanks be to God. Amen.