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God’s Playground!

June 8, 2019

On this rock sticking out into the Chippewa River in Eau Claire, Wisconsin in October of 1980, I heard the gentle whisper and felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit inviting me to embark on a journey of faith and calling as a Chaplain and Pastor. On this Pentecost Sunday, my prayer for Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies is that we may be open to the whisper and the nudging of the Spirit as we seek to be the hands and feet of Christ in Estes Park and beyond.

My experience of Pentecost through the years has run quite a gamut. In some Chapel settings they had balloons and cake or cupcakes to celebrate the birthday of the church. In another Chapel setting I had two men (one was the lay leader of the Charismatic Service on base) try to “teach” me how to speak in tongues! Of course some may joke that as a Presbyterian, Pentecost would be too scary since it is certainly not the staid Presbyterian way!

Just what was Pentecost? It was originally a Jewish major Festival Shavuoth which means Weeks (seven weeks after Passover), also the Festival of the Grains, and also the commemoration of the giving of the Law (Torah) to Moses by God. That was why the Jews had gathered in Jerusalem and where the disciples found themselves seven weeks after the Resurrection of Jesus.

Jews from around the known world had gathered in their Spiritual Home for this major festival. Because they had come from all over, the sound of the various languages being spoken would have sounded like a mighty river flowing. It would also remind them of the days after the fall of the Tower of Babel when the one language of all was divided into many languages and confusion/division resulted.

They had just selected Matthias to replace Judas by casting lots. I find that ironic since the Roman soldiers had cast lots to see who would get to keep the robe which had been placed upon Jesus following his torture at the hands of the Empire. In this case, however, the casting of lots, preceded by prayer, had a positive result. So, the disciples, now called Apostles, found themselves in one place on the Festival of Shavuoth. They had to be asking “What’s next, Lord?” What followed must have been amazing and confusing to the Apostles and to the people they spoke to.

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:2-4)

Unlike the experience of Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-12) where God did not speak through the rush of a violent or mighty wind, God’s Spirit was indeed speaking to the Apostles and those gathered to hear them through the rush of a violent wind! As I put myself into the shoes of the Apostles and stand there in that place (in good Ignatian fashion) I find myself confused and afraid. Holy Smokes, what is going on?! The crowd thinks we are drunk and only because I know that we haven’t had a drop (especially at 9 am) I don’t believe them!

Thankfully, Peter stands up to speak. And what he spoke of can only have come from the Spirit of God. After saying that we weren’t drunk, he then shared with the crowd the familiar vision of the Prophet Joel.

‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17-18)

God’s Spirit will be poured out on all of Israel’s sons and daughters. The wisdom of the Elders and the vision of the youth shall come together in one voice! The hopes and the dreams of God’s children will come together as one. Wow!

If you put aside the apocalyptic description in Joel (didn’t Jesus tell them that only God knows the day and the hour of his Second Coming?), I believe that we have the challenge for God’s people in first century Palestine and for us today.

What was the common vision of the Prophets from God for the people? That all may be one. That Justice, Mercy, Kindness, and a Humble Spirit might prevail. That the widows and orphans might be cared for instead of being cast into the streets. It was a call to a new way of thinking and living! It wasn’t to be business as usual anymore!

Instead of cupcakes, meals, and simply talking the same old talk, I believe that God is calling us to take a risk and do something new. For the church that is scared that things aren’t the way they used to be, the Spirit is calling us to something new.

The Spirit is calling us to think outside of the box so to speak. The twelve Apostles were sent out to proclaim the Good News of God’s love which breaks down barriers. I believe that we are called to stop worshipping our buildings and our past.

We are, in the words of Captain Kirk in Star Trek, called to boldly go where no one has gone before. But we will go forth boldly with the blessing of God and the constant presence of the Holy Spirit.

Dear reader, do we have the courage to do just that? To think outside of the box? To share the love of God in new and perhaps unconventional ways? Will you join me?

  1. Ted Land permalink

    Shame I am not preaching today.
    I would steal this for my sermon.

  2. Soul stirring and inspiring thoughts. Thank you, Michael! 💜

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