Summer Sermon Series: Acts 2:1-21

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Sometimes, it takes a fire to get us going…

The Holy Spirit is one of the most important characters in the book of Acts, and even though we sang about “Spirit of Gentleness” in our hymn this morning, let me tell you, the Spirit is not always gentle. 

Deep down in the shadows of our hearts, many of us like to think of God as some sort of divine vending machine.  We put in a prayer request, and God will make our lives better.  We go to church and hope that God will have our back.  If we’re basically a good person, then good things will happen to us.  We want God to protect us from all the bad stuff, all the hard stuff, all the stuff we’d rather not deal with. 

Unfortunately, God doesn’t work that way.  We don’t have that much (or really any) control over God. 

As we read the book of Acts this summer, one thing to look for is how the job of the Holy Spirit isn’t to remove our struggles or fix all our problems.  The job of the Holy Spirit is to equip us, and nudge us (or sometimes give us a swift kick when necessary). 

The Holy Spirit comes along side us and does whatever she needs to do to get us to be the church that God needs us to be. 

Today we heard the story of how the church began…but it’s also good to remember what led up to that exciting Pentecost day.  Let’s rewind and review a little…

--You would think it would have been enough for God to send Jesus into our world so we could see what God is like as a human.  And it would have been enough for God to have raised Jesus from the dead, let a bunch of disciples see him, and then take him up to heaven.  But apparently life, death, resurrection, and ascension weren’t enough for us.  We needed more. 

--The disciples were left in a tough position.  They lost their leader at a time when they needed one most.  So, the first thing the disciples did after Jesus left was to hold a council meeting and fill an empty position, and elected Matthias.  That’s what we do when we’re nervous or unsure what to do.  We hold meetings, vote on motions, and fill empty positions--all in the confines of our building. 

That’s what good and faithful disciples are inclined to do:  meetings, motions, and committees.  That's usually as far as our eyes can see. 

But God’s eyes see farther.  God has a vision for the universe.  And God invites us to be a part of this bigger vision. 

So after the meetings, and the Bible studies, and trying to do all the right things, God did something completely beyond their expectations.  

God sent the Holy Spirit, and she lit a fire under those disciples (or actually over them).  The Holy Spirit pushed those disciples out into the streets to speak languages they never spoke before to share a message about Jesus to complete strangers…  A message that was for everyone—no matter what language they spoke, no matter whether they were young or old, no matter whether they were men or women, no matter whether they were slave or free, rich or poor…everyone needed to hear and experience this transforming and powerful love Jesus ushered into the world.  Everyone needed to be invited into this new, dynamic community. This is what God had in mind for those disciples.  This is a far cry from meetings, motions, and committees huddled in the confines of their building.  We clearly need something more if we’re going to do the things God has in mind for us to do.  We need that Holy Spirit. 

And let me tell you something about being the church…most of the things God has in mind for us are terrifying to us—at least at first.  God calls us, need us, to go outside our comfort zones and do things we’d never imagine on our own.  There’s no way 3,000 people would have been converted that day if it had been left up to the disciples. 

Something new was born out of that Pentecost fire.  But Pentecost isn’t just the birthday of the church.  Pentecost was the beginning of a movement.  It was about facing fears.  It was being led into the unknown by the Spirit.  It was a time of renewal and then action.  Pentecost is about God’s people joining in God’s grand vision for the world.  Pentecost is about becoming the church God needs us to be.  Pentecost isn’t easy.

 

I haven’t been here very long, so I don’t know the whole story, and I’m sure I can’t do it justice, but I believe Hope experienced its own sort of Pentecost about 44 years ago. 

 

According to the history on the website, in 1969, a special building committee was formed for the purpose of figuring out whether Hope should remodel or rebuild. 

 

Sometimes it takes a fire to get us going…

 

In March of 1973, this committee’s decision was made for them when a fire consumed the sanctuary and most the education building. 

 

Now, I will never say the fire was God’s will.  I will say, that God doesn’t take away our challenges or fix all our problems.  What God does do, is send the Holy Spirit to come along side us to do the things we never dreamed we could do.   

 

As I’ve started to hear this story, it sounds like something new was born in Hope that day.  Of course, it was devastating to see such a beloved building burn.  Of course, it was a lot of hard work to sort through everything.  Of course, no one would ever wish for such a tragedy. 

 

And yet, the Holy Spirit showed up in the midst of those ashes.  The Holy Spirit showed up as St. Pat’s opened their doors and showed true hospitality to their brothers and sisters in Christ.  The Holy Spirit showed up as people began to discover that a church is more than just a building…the people are the church.  The Holy Spirit came along side Hope and breathed new life into this congregation. 

 

The purpose of the church isn’t to exist, or survive, or to lock themselves into a building.  God created the church to share Christ’s love with everyone.  God created the church to be a witness of a different kind of community where everyone is invited and everyone belongs.  God created the church to join in God’s vision of justice and mercy and the Shalom that flows from them.  God created the church to be bold and make a difference in the world. 

 

 

The job of the Holy Spirit is to get us to be the church that God needs us to be.  Sometimes that means lighting a fire to get disciples going.  Sometimes it means showing up in the midst of a fire.  Almost always, it means something we would never have imagined.