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Pentecost Sunday C Sermon
Acts 2: 1-21

May 15, 2016

 

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May the grace, mercy and peace of God our father be with us, in the name of his son, our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

In my Lutheran Study Bible, on the page where we find the story of the first Pentecost there is a small map with the heading, “Cities and Countries Included in Acts 2.” Pentecost was a festival of the Jewish faith, celebrating the spring wheat harvest and the giving of the law to Moses, and was also called, “The Feast of Weeks.” Jews today who live across the globe are still encouraged to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem at least once in their lifetime for one of the festivals, like Passover, of the Feast of Booths, or the Feast of Weeks. On this 50th day after Passover (50 days after Jesus’ resurrection) we are told that the people in Jerusalem experience a wonderful thing – not only is there a violent wind and the appearance of tongues as of fire over the heads of the disciples, but they heard them telling of God’s deeds of power in their own languages! Amazing since the ones speaking are from Galilee, a rural area north of Jerusalem which is not known for its metropolitan style. These were mostly fishermen, farmers and other craftsmen who made their living off the land and probably never travelled more than 100 miles away from their birthplace!

Well anyway, this map which shows the cities and countries included in Acts 2 displays just how far-reaching these places where – From Rome on the far west side of the map, to Parthia way to the east, in present day Afghanistan; and all of those spots in between, some of which are still there and others have been long replaced by other rulers and peoples. This map reminds me of how our God is a God of transformation. First of all, God has transformed this Jewish festival celebrating the harvest into a Christian festival of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, God has transformed these small-town locals into international speakers! Thirdly, God transformed all of these nations and tongues, confused and spread out from the time of the tower of Babel, into one message and voice, gathered in the Holy city of Jerusalem. And finally, God has transformed the words of the prophet Joel from over 400 years before into a modern-day prophecy which promises that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Indeed, this passage from Acts 2 shows us firsthand how the Holy Spirit is the transforming power of God alive in the world today, using ordinary men and women to speak and show the power of God at work. God is still at work in this community through all of you, whenever you act in love for others on account of the love that God first showed to you in Jesus Christ our Lord!
Today in the service of Affirmation of Baptism, God is still at work in the Holy Spirit to transform Ethan, Kate and Jabe as they grow in years and in faith. Each of you three, when you were tiny babies, were brought either to this font or one like it. Even though your personalities were just then developing, God’s intention was that you have a close relationship with him. Knowing that, your parents and godparents spoke up for you at your baptisms, saying that you would be part of a congregation like ours – children of God and brothers and sisters with Christ. Now you are growing up, and your personalities are becoming pretty well defined! I have good news for you – God still wants a close relationship with you, and your congregation still wants you to be active brothers and sister with us in this family! There is nothing that will change that fact.

When Ethan, Kate, Jabe and I were talking about the possible Confirmation verses, we talked about their personalities and gifts, and if there was a verse that was important to them already. We all agreed that Ethan is a smart young man, he is a very active young man, and at times he can be quite rambunctious. Ethan shared that he has always appreciated the parables of Jesus about finding lost things – the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to find the one that was lost; the woman searching all night for one lost coin; the father welcoming his lost son home with robes and rings. This is why Ethan’s verse is from Luke 15, where we hear that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who need no repentance. When it comes down to it, we all need repentance, Ethan, and we all join you in appreciating this verse.
Kate’s personality has a lot to do with being musical and enjoying theater, but there is also a side of her that wants to be a peacemaker. She doesn’t like conflict too much, and because of that she confesses that she can be a bit of a pushover. We’ve all been there I know. It is Kate’s desire to link in with God’s promise of the Peacable Kingdom that led us to choose the passage from Isaiah 11, a promise from the prophet that God will create a perfect peace which we cannot – one where even predators and their prey live quietly together, and a child shall lead all of them.

When asked to describe himself, Jabe used adjectives like, “Amazing … outgoing … great hair … and ‘non-narcissistic.’” We also decided (based on that answer, and on our previous encounters with Jabe) that he is smart, musical, and (above all) quite funny! Psalm 126 describes this non-narcissistic guy pretty well, indicating his propensity for laughter, joy, and singing God’s praises!
As you can tell, these are three different young people with three totally different personalities. I can honestly attest after spending time over the last two years with them that they are more perceptive than the average 13 year old. I can also attest to the fact that they are already being transformed by the Holy Spirit into wonderful Christian disciples. We have laughed together, cried together, shared insights and frustrations with each other, and it is certainly our profound pleasure to join together for this milestone day in their faith journey.

Pentecost is a day to celebrate the Holy Spirit, the gathering of people called, “The Church” and the ways that God’s presence still transforms each of us AND still transforms the world through each one of us. Ethan, Kate and Jabe, your church family has been where you are today – young, amazing, outgoing, musical, funny, smart, a bit of a pushover and very rambunctious. Some of us are still all of these things! And the good news is all of us who call upon the name of the Lord are saved. God’s intention that the entire world be in close relationship with him begins with us, including you three. As God continues to love and redeem the world through the church today, may the Holy Spirit continue to transform all of us into the faithful people that God has created us to be. Amen.