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Pentecost Sunday B Sermon
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
May
20, 2018

 

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John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

‘I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

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

I hadn’t realized it before, but the story of the first Pentecost in Acts 2 is a unique combination of the wild, unpredictable nature of the spirit mixed with rather calm, orderly results. Have you considered how the spirit blew in with the sound of a violent wind, and yet the house was still standing with all of its furniture intact? Or that tongues as of fire appear on each of the disciples, and yet their hair and skin remain intact, without even a hint of being singed. How is it that the disciples speak in languages that they could never know how to speak, and the only reaction is, “Oh, they must be drunk!” We have seen in the news the devastation wrought by winds, the widespread destruction of wildfires, and the backlash of folks who hear other languages spoken at restaurants or other businesses than their own. There is so much around us out of our control.

It’s kind of like life itself, isn’t it? Life is not really in our own control, and sometimes we just have to go where the wind, fire and voices take us, trusting that all will not only be okay, but will be even better than before. This last Wednesday, I found myself having lunch with two people who have experienced this very phenomena: they are currently in a situation which, at one time, they never would have imagined. One you probably have come to know over the last year and a half, Judd, who we’re putting to work today since it is his last Sunday with us. The other some of you know because he was a member of Clinton Heights back in the 1990s. He was a fraternity brother and roommate of mine at Capital named Steve Fogle. I want to share a thumbnail sketch of each of their stories with you because they are illustrations not only of the unpredictable power of the spirit, but also the wonderful mystery of how God brings order into the chaos that we expect when the spirit blows.

At a young age, Judd never thought he would be part of a church, let alone a pastor. When he was about 30 years old he very hesitantly, nervously stepped into St. John Lutheran Church in Vandalia, Ohio for a “Scout Sunday” to support his oldest son and his troop. What he experienced there blew him away – the love, the welcome, the message of the gospel. It destroyed all of his preconceived misconceptions about the church. He went back the next week, thinking maybe they were just putting on a show for the visitors, but it was the same again. He would continue to worship, be baptized and become an active part of that congregation and other congregations as he moved. When he joined the congregation where he and his family are currently members in Heath, Ohio, he thought he would just be able to sit in the pews and quietly worship with his family. Within a month he was the high school youth advisor and active in many other ways. He drove a gas truck during the week, but he was an active Christian disciple with his entire life and being.

He doesn’t even have a bachelor’s degree, but somehow was able to feel the spirit moving him toward seminary, and now he is going on internship and continuing his preparations for ordination into the ministry of Word and Sacrament. The wind blew him through our doors, and he has had a couple of wonderful years with us, sharing his love for Jesus with us just as much as we have shaped him for his vocation.

Also at that lunch table was my friend, Steve Fogle, and he loved hearing Judd tell his faith story. I encouraged Steve to tell Judd about himself. Steve grew up Roman Catholic, but attended Capital and had lots of Lutheran friends. Upon graduating, and a month later getting married, he and his wife joined a Lutheran Church in Wilmington where they moved, while he attended Capital Law School at night. Steve and Elise have raised three children, and he has had a very successful career in insurance law. All this while, he has not only served in many capacities of leadership in his congregations – Faith Wilmington, and now Christ the King in West Chester, Ohio – he has also felt this nagging that has been with him even since his college years: a nagging toward ministry … a pull, or maybe it is a push. He has shared this with me off and on over the years. Finally last year at our annual Fantasy Football Draft, he said that he really would like to find a way to serve God through the church as a pastor without giving up his job, at least for now. My friend and fellow Pastor, Paul Schafer, was sitting with us. I said, “You need to talk to him! His wife just completed the TEAM program and was ordained last year.” The TEAM program is a way for working professionals to enter into the process of serving part time with a congregation and taking occasional classes for about 2 to 3 years while they continue in their occupations, if they need to. It is a way for people like Steve to train to be pastors in the church in a new, non-traditional way. As he talked with Paul last fall, it was like Steve’s eyes were suddenly opened to pathway to ministry. He contacted the synod and got the ball rolling. He was able to have lunch with us because he was in town for the career counseling part of the process at Midwest Ministry Development, which is one of the requirements as a person begins the process. He doesn’t know what will happen next, but he is excited about it, and is prayerfully keeping his eyes open to where the spirit will lead.

Neither of these men – not Judd nor Steve – would have ever imagined 20 or 25 years ago that their lives would include preparations for ministry, but here they are. Like the violent wind, tongues of fire and speaking God’s acts of love in foreign languages, the Holy Spirit has interceded in their lives with an interesting mixture of unbridled, uncontrollable power, and orderly accountability.

What about you? Are you in a place or position that, 10, 20 or 30 years ago or more you would never have imagined? How have we imagined that our church would be as we approach the 100th anniversary of this congregation in 2020? Did those original church members imagine that Columbus would have literally swallowed up that little white-sided church out in the country? Even though we Lutherans resist it tooth and nail, the presence of change in our lives is very real, and if we do not accept and prayerfully open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit, we will be fated to continue to fade away into the history of this area along with the theater that used to be across High street and the businesses that have come and gone.

But we are more than a business or a building. We are the Christian Church, and we are called together by the power – the unrelenting, unpredictable power – of the Holy Spirit. We are gathered to be enlightened by Jesus Christ himself. We are sanctified - made holy - in order to be ministers, each one of us. Not all are called to be ordained pastors, but we are all called to be ministers in one way or another. We are kept together by the power of the spirit so that we can share Jesus’ love using the gifts that God has given us as God’s own people.
The promise that we have on this Pentecost is that with God’s Holy Spirit, we will all experience the unpredictable, often chaotic nature of being pushed to places we never imagine going, with the grounding in a faith that God will go with us wherever we are, no matter how we serve him. It is that promise that helps us to celebrate with Judd and Steve and all of the saints from this and other churches who have served so faithfully. And as we celebrate, we continue to expect that the spirit will break into our lives with wind, flame and voice to go where it wants, sharing Jesus’ love with ALL FLESH, as Joel predicted it to be. Amen.