Saturday, May 22, 2010

The holy spirit: who's in charge? May 23, 2010

 “The Holy Spirit: Who’s In Control?”
RUMC- Pentecost 2010
May 23, 2010

Surprise!  Happy Pentecost.  ((Handing our balloons)   Surprise- happy Pentecost.
When you left home this morning, did you realize this was one of the three most important days in the Christian year?  Today we celebrate Pentecost!  We celebrate it with balloons and streamers.  It’s one of the three major feasts of the Christian church, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.  
Just think you might have missed it because it is the only one not yet captured by the mass market.  I doubt that any of you sent Pentecost cards.  I didn’t see any Pentecost sales going on.  I don’t think there was a Pentecost egg hunt today.  And as far as I know, no one gets a three-day weekend for Pentecost.  But that’s OK
The Bible describes the power of the Spirit of God coming to us like an earthquake, like a hurricane, like a firestorm, wind, flames, and bringing surprising gifts like people  from different countries each hearing the disciples in their own mother tongue.  It is not the destructive nature of the earthquake or the wind that is important here, but their ability to shake us up.  We cannot control any of these things.  The Holy Spirit is the wild and crazy part of God’s personality.  Pentecost should remind us that we serve a wild and craaaaazy God.
Actually, I’m glad the merchants and our society have not picked up and packaged Pentecost because Pentecost is a celebration of the God who cannot be tamed.  It is a celebration of the God who cannot be contained in a 3-day weekend.  It is a celebration of the God who cannot be put on sale for three for a dollar.  Our God is never content to be quiet, sedate, or well mannered.  Pentecost really should be more like a surprise party than a Federal Holiday.
That first Pentecost we read about this morning should not have been that big of a surprise.  Jesus spent what we see as two chapters in John as well as other places teaching about the Holy Spirit and promising the Holy Spirit would come.
The Disciples were together for Pentecost.  Now that might seem strange to you since Pentecost, as we think of it, had not happened.  But it reminds us that Pentecost is the Greek name for the Jewish Holiday called Shavuot.  Shavuot was the festival of the giving of the torah- including the 10 commandments to Moses on the mountain.  It became a harvest festival because it coincided with the end of the grain harvest and beginning of the fruit harvest in Israel.  It was also called the festival of the first fruits.
So the disciples were gathered in one place for Shavuot.  They may have been praying or worshipping, or studying.  It was nine in the morning so maybe they were waiting to join the parade of farmers taking their first fruits to the temple.
Whatever they were doing, they were minding their own business.  Innocently sitting together studying or talking and all of a sudden, this wild and crazy God came rushing in like a violent wind.  The house must have shaken as if a freight train was going through the living room.  The windows rattled, the dishes clanged as if they were having an earthquake.  Except it was just that house. 
It was not just the disciple’s imagination either, because others must have heard.  They gathered from all kinds of nations.  You heard that in the scripture reading.  They too had been minding their own business celebrating Shavuot when our wild and crazy God disrupted their day.  But the day hadn’t even started to get weird yet.
As they all stood talking, each one heard the disciples speaking in their own language.  This was not speaking in tongues.  This was not a gift given to the disciples.  This was a gift of the Holy Spirit given to the hearers so they could to understand these men, even with their thick Galilean accents.
And what they heard really rattled their world.  Peter preached about the promise of the Holy Spirit from the prophet Joel.  Each heard the sermon in a way that they understood it.  And he went on to teach about how this wild and crazy God actually came to us himself as Jesus Christ and how that didn’t work out so well because we killed him.  In the end, however, God had one more trick up his sleeve.  He threw the biggest surprise party ever by raising Jesus from the dead- unsealing the tomb and letting him loose on those 11 men from Galilee to shout “surprise!”
Now, 50 days later, those men who had lived in fear- those men who had been living on the down low- those men were keeping pretty much to themselves, were filled with the wild and crazy Spirit of God, and became what some thought were blubbering fools- drunk at nine in the morning.  Actually, they were not blubbering fools, they were the first Christian evangelists, and that day their church grew from 11 to 3011.  For those of you keeping score that is a 27,372 percent increase!
If that is not the doing of a wild and crazy God- I don’t know what it is?

1.    I gave you balloons a few minutes ago.  I want you to blow those balloons up but not tie them.  We will tie them later.  But I want to point something out first.  If we tie them, we have a fixed amount of air contained in a discrete space bounded on every side by uniformly colored Latex.  That is a pretty safe toy.  Let’s not do that yet.  Hold your balloon up high.  The wind came and filled those people with the Holy Spirit.  It was a wild and crazy time.  No one could have predicted what would happen next.  Now aim your balloon right for the ceiling - straight up so you don’t poke anyone’s eye out.  Let go of your balloon and see where it goes.

Did any of them go straight for the ceiling?  Probably not.  Like our balloons-, we are filled with the spirit of a wild and crazy God and there is no telling where that spirit is going to propel us.

2.    Now retrieve your balloon.  Blow it up again and do not tie it.  Do you all know how to hold the neck so it squeaks at it deflates?  OK Get ready.  We are going to play “I’m goanna sing when the spirit says sing.”  (squeak balloons)
Oh, not very pretty was it.  That is the second thing about being filled with the Spirit of the wild and crazy God.  It is not always neat or pretty.

3.    Now blow it up one last time and tie it off.  Now bounce them around back and forth. . .  Hear the laughter and see the smiles?  That is the third thing about being filled with the Spirit of the wild and crazy God.  It makes us wild and crazy happy.
In February we started a study entitled “If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of your boat.”  We were innocently and happily minding our own business working our way through that book and the sermon series.  It was about that same time that the taskforce on family and youth ministry was meeting.  They had a wild a crazy idea that just “seemed right.”  No one knew if it would work.  I have to admit I was a little skeptical too.  The idea was for LIGHT on Wednesday night.
As the idea grew (blow) and grew (blow) and grew (blow) it seemed more right.  As the time got closer and closer, the vision got bigger and bigger and 8 weeks ago, it took off.  It has been one wild ride! 
·       An average of 80 people every week.
·       Classes filled to overflowing.
·       Scrambling for more teachers.
·       Trying to learn names.
·       What do we do with 17 children under the age of seven in a 10x16 classroom?
·       How do I preach to 50 elementary age students and adults, some new and some mature Christians?
·       What do we do with 19 new families?
·       What do we do with six families who started coming when we haven’t seen for a year or more?
It has been a wild ride and the spirit has propelled us into a tremendous ministry.

(Blow it up again)
It has not always been pretty.  (Start letting it squeak) 
·       There have been children crying.
·       We may have lost some to overcrowding.
·       My confirmation class went from being a morgue to being a zoo.
·       We are more than a little nervous about starting up next fall.
·       We have to find ways to use our space a little more efficiently- and that may or may not cost us some money.
·       We have seen an effect on Sunday morning worship.  Fewer children.  A slight decline in attendance but a 60% increase in total attendance.  We will have to respond to those changes.
·       We have to wonder how we will staff this in the fall.
·       We have to reckon with making dinner for 80 people every week.
·       I have to learn to preach to this new service.
·       Maybe you haven’t seen some of your friends lately.
It has not always been pretty but our wild and crazy God has put a song in our heart every week.

(Blow it up again.  Tie it off)
But look where we have come!  Look at the joy we have experienced!
·       We have 19 more families in our church than we had 8 weeks ago.
·       We have doubled our Sunday school attendance in the last 8 weeks.
·       We have reactivated some families
·       We have done something that I am convinced we could have never done on our own.
·       We stepped out of the boat- and holy cow!  We’re walking on water people!!
·       We have moved from a congregation of boat potatoes to a congregation of water walkers.  Even if you don’t feel like you have had a lot to do with this. 
o   Your prayers have made all the difference in the world.
o   If you showed up even one week in support of LIGHT you made all the difference in the world
o   If you bit your tongue even once to keep yourself from saying something negative about this crazy idea.  You have contributed more than you know.
o   If you are sitting here today, I guarantee you that you had more to do with LIGHT than you know.    
I thank you for that and so do the families from Wednesday night.

Finally, I make two observations in the form of guarantees.
·       I guarantee you (whether it continues for another year or 5 years or 50 years) LIGHT has changed lives.  You may or may not ever know the difference it made, but it is changing lives by the power of the wild and crazy God and the reckless love of Jesus Christ.

·       Finally, I guarantee you, that this church will never be the same.
o   You have seen what you can do and you can never doubt the abilities of our “little old church” again
o   You have seen what God can do and you can never again doubt the ability of our wild and crazy God to raise the dead, forgive your sins, bring people through the doors, or put people in the pew.
Challenge you, from now on- from now on every time you feel that wild and crazy spirit knocking on the door to your life.  Every time you hear the rap, rap, rap, or that pound, pound, pound of the Holy Spirit in our church.  Every time you feel your heart quicken and your eyes tear up with awe and inspiration.  Recognize who it is.  Recognize him and jump right up out of your boat to be part of whatever unpredictable, uncontrollable, unstoppable ride he may have in mind for you.

You serve a wild a crazy God and he seeks some wild and crazy disciples.

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