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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Pentecost - 5/27/07

Pentecost should be a bigger deal than it is; it should be there right alongside Christmas and Easter as one of those days when anyone who ever goes to church goes.  We shouldn’t talk about C and E people, we should talk about C,E and P people because everyone should be here today and I’ll tell you why;  of the three major festivals of the church year (actually the church says there are seven principal festivals, but these are the big three) of the three major festivals, Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, Pentecost is the one that is most about us; it’s the one that touches us most directly.

I don’t mean to downplay Christmas and Easter here, not at all, but think about it; Christmas…Christmas is the Incarnation, God becoming human, which has major implications for us, but without getting bogged down too much in metaphysical theology, God becoming human is mostly a transaction within the Trinity.  In other words, the incarnation is an event that takes place between the Father and the Son mediated by the Holy Spirit and don’t worry if you don’t understand all that because no one does.  But Christmas is pretty much a Trinitarian God event.

Then there’s Easter…Easter is the Resurrection, Jesus overcoming the power of death, which also has major implications for us, but again it is pretty much a private event within and between the persons of the Trinity.  Both Christmas and Easter, while being huge pieces in the story of God’s involvement with the world, while having huge impact on how we see ourselves and how we see God, neither of them touch us directly in the here and now, and that’s the difference. 

Pentecost is how the Incarnation and Resurrection play out and it is about the power of God touching us in the here and now.  Pentecost is the sending of the Holy Spirit into our world, to empower us to continue the ministry of Jesus.  Pentecost isn’t just a private Trinitarian event; it’s hard to comprehend, but Pentecost involves us in the inner workings of the Trinity, which admittedly is difficult to wrap our minds around, but that’s why everyone should be here today, why Pentecost should be right there with Christmas and Easter.  Pentecost involves us directly.

Of course Christmas and Easter have the advantage of having great stories and great hymns attached to them.  We may not understand the complicated theology, but we know the stories and look forward to hearing them, we know the hymns and carols and look forward to singing them.

Well, Pentecost really doesn’t have the hymns; you’d probably be hard pressed to name your favorite Pentecost hymn.  Pentecost doesn’t have the hymns, but it does have a pretty good story.  It may not be as familiar as the Christmas and Easter stories, but I think it’s pretty well known, the disciples gathered together, the rush of a violent wind, tongues of fire, everyone speaking different languages, Peter addressing the crowd assuring them that everyone isn’t drunk.  It’s a good story but perhaps we find it a bit strange, lacking the charm and wonder of the Christmas story, lacking the new life and victory of the Easter story.

But still, Pentecost is about us.  You could say and it has been said that from the beginning, the Incarnation pointed toward Pentecost.  “The Word took flesh that we might receive the Holy Spirit.”  Athanasius, one the early church fathers said that.  Maybe though, that’s part of the problem; maybe Pentecost is a little too close.  Christmas and Easter we can kind of admire from afar, get lost in the wonder and joy of it all and then go home and open presents or eat dinner.

Pentecost though…what do you do after you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?  If you read the book of Acts after chapter 2, portions of which we’ve heard throughout the Easter season, they did unbelievable things.  They did the same kinds of things that Jesus did, preaching with great power, healing people, casting out demons.  Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they couldn’t be stopped!  We on the other hand don’t feel so powerful.  We’ve received the same gift of the Holy Spirit but then, like Paul said last week (Paul S not the apostle Paul) we say “Not me.  I can’t do it.” 

On that first day of Pentecost, Peter was called upon to try and explain what was going on.  What he did was to explain it according to scripture.  The writers of the New Testament were always interpreting things according to scripture, trying to understand the events surrounding Jesus and then the events of the early church using stories and images and prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament.

Peter quoted Joel, not the best known of the prophets and some of it was a little scary, blood and fire and smoky mist, the sun turned to darkness, the moon to blood.  But we know the prophets were poets who created images to get their message across, so what Joel was saying here was a little scary;  he was saying that everything is under threat, everything, even the sun and the moon those seemingly reliable markers of the day and the night.  Things are bad and getting worse is what Joel was trying to say to the people of his time and 400 years or so later Peter quoted him because they had their own set of issues.  2000 years after that we have our own bloody moons and darkened suns as we hear these words; things like gasoline at $3.50 a gallon, a war so messed up that leaving the troops there and bringing them home are both bad options, the state with no money, the city with no money, the state legislature, the federal legislature unable or unwilling to do anything about it, paralyzed by partisan idiocy, crime, drugs, the environment, I could go on but I’ll stop.  Dark suns and bloody moons.

But that’s not all Joel said and not all that Peter quoted.  We also have, “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.”  Filled with the Holy Spirit, empowered by the Holy Spirit, that’s what you do.  Now, to be sure, despair is an option.  Amid dark suns and bloody moons, things seemingly on a endless downward spiral, it’s easy to get depressed about things or maybe what’s most common in our society, we just get resigned to “this is the way it is and we can’t do much about it; there is no other way.” 

But Peter, quoting Joel, announced a spirit filled church of prophets, dreamers and visionaries. “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.”  It’s a dimension of life in the church that gets lost as the church becomes more institutional and businesslike, more a part of the establishment, more a part of the way things are instead of standing as a Spirit filled alternative to the way things are.

Peter and Joel though, imagine the Holy Spirit turned loose in a community of hope filled dreamers and prophets and visionaries who know that things are going to get worse before they get better but who refuse to say “that’s the way it is and we can’t do much about it” because every time we say that the sun gets darker and the moon gets bloodier.  But imagine the church, hope filled, spirit filled in a world gone numb, continuing to trust in the promised future of God, continuing to trust that God’s promises outlast everything else, not just in the hereafter, but here, an alternative to the darkness and blood.

That’s what happens in the rest of the book of Acts after chapter 2.  They do prophecy and dream and share visions, but eventually the question comes, “What should we do?”  That’s in verse 37.  Peter’s response at that point was “Repent.”  Well, repent is one of those church words which can mean a lot of things, but in the context of Peter’s speech and Joel’s prophecy repent means that you don’t cave in to fear and resignation but instead know that you are touched by the Holy Spirit, empowered by the Holy Spirit so that you can do the same kinds of things Jesus did.  As a church and as individuals we can dream dreams and see visions of an alternative and we can act to stand against the fear and anxiety of this world; at our best that’s what we do.  We hold up the vision of the Bible and live in hope, because God says there is another way.

          Pentecost is about us.  The Holy Spirit is a gift for us.  Every one of us needs to know that or nothing will change.  That’s why everyone should be here today.   

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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