Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sermon for Pentecost: "Whose Spirit Is it Anyway?"

Acts 2:1-21; Numbers 11:24-30

“Whose Spirit is it, anyway?”  2017

            I don’t know if you have noticed much, but we have been lighting a particular candle every week since Easter
            We have been lighting this beautiful, large candle, the one right here in front of the altar, every week. 
            But today is the last Sunday we will light it for a long time.

            There is something sort of sad about this for me. 
            I love light, and candles, and fire (as long as it’s safe). 
            I love a good campfire, when we are sitting around in the dark sharing stories, singing songs, whispering prayers. 
            And what does it mean, anyway? 
            What does it mean that we light this candle, and that after today we won’t light it any more?

            It has something to do with Jesus’ resurrection – but Jesus is still risen, so why would we not just go on and light this candle every single week? 
            That wouldn’t be a bad idea, would it? 
            We would light the candle and remember what we said on Easter, that “Christ is risen” and we would all answer, “He is risen indeed.”

            But we don’t do that.
            And to find out why we have to go back.. we have to go way back… we have to go REALLY far back to the book of Numbers in the Old Testament,
            to the story about Moses and the 70 elders that we read this morning.
             This story takes place while the people of Israel are wandering in the wilderness.
             They are wandering in the wilderness, and it’s going to take them awhile to get to the promised land.
             They are wandering and they are hungry and they are complaining to God. 
            Even Moses is complaining, because he’s feeling the weight of being the leader of all of these people, and there’s only one of him. 
            So God is hearing all of this grumbling and complaining, and he gives the people food – manna and quail, to be specific – and he also finds some leaders who will share Moses’ spirit – 70 of them to be exact.         So Moses would not have to do everything all by himself. 
            There were others. 
            And God put some of the Spirit on them, and they prophesied.  But Just once.

            But there’s this odd thing that happens. 
            There are 70 people who are in the authorized place, who prophesy. 
            But there are these two, Eldad and Medad, who are not where they are supposed to be, and they prophesy too.   (light a couple more candles). 
            And it seems that there is some anxiety about this.  Somehow the rules are not being followed.
             Someone is getting some Spirit who shouldn’t be getting the Spirit. 
            And we should stop this from happening! 
            But Moses actually is not bothered about this at all, and says instead that he wishes that ALL of God’s people would be prophets.

            Prophets.  What does it mean? 
            Moses wishes all of God’s people would be prophets. 
            I’ll bet you never thought of that as a name for yourself. 
            Child of God.  Yes.  Image of God.  I hope so.
             Sheep of the shepherd, Living stone?  But prophet? 
            What does it mean? 
            It does have something to do with this light right here. 
            And it has something to do with spirit.  Light and spirit. 
            They go together. 
            And God wishes that all of God’s people would be prophets. 
            Has wished it for a long time.
             Ever since the wilderness, when the Spirit spilled out – just for a little it – on Eldad and Medad. 

            To be a prophet.  We still think it has something to do with foretelling the future sometimes, having a crystal ball, when it has more to do with speaking God’s truth. 
            Dreaming God’s dreams.  Seeing God’s visions.  Carrying God’s light.
            Yes.  (light a couple of candles).
            Being able to having enough light to see the love of God, and share it… To carry the spirit of God, the spirit that raised Jesus from the dead – and in some way or another – to share it. 
            To bring light where there is darkness.  Light where there is death.  Hope where there is despair.
             That’s what it means to be a prophet.

            So.  This brings us to today. 
            Pentecost Sunday.
            On that day the disciples were all together in a room.  They were waiting. 
            On that day there were people gathered in Jerusalem, because it was  a Jewish festival 50 days after Passover. 
            So they were already gathered for one purpose. 
            But while the people were gathered, and while the apostles were waiting, the wind blew so hard everyone could hear it and the tongues of fire danced so brightly that they could see it, and there was light and there was noise, and the apostles were ALL like Medad and Eldad –
            It wasn’t just one person testifying – they were all testifying.
            There wasn’t just one person who held all of the spirit. 
            There were all of these people sharing the spirit. 
            And there wasn’t just one person who was bearing the light.  They were all bearing the light  All of them.

            That’s what Pentecost was.
            The dreams and visions of God, now a part of the disciples.
            The light of God.  Now a part of the didsciples.
            The spirit of God – the spirit that raised Jesus from the dead – now a part of the disciples.

            (I shared the story of the two men in Portland who stood up for the teenage girls who were threatened, and the last words of one who said, “Tell everyone on this train that I love them.”  I said this was his one prophecy.)

            So after today, the light of this candle will be extinguished.  We won’t be lighting it any more.  You can come back here and unless there is a baptism – the candle won’t be lit.  And if you have ever wondered why
            Here’s why that it
            Because the light is in you now.  
            The Spirit is in you.
            It is you who go out into the world, to be light and hope and love to people who so much need to know, need to feel, need to see it.
            It is you who feed the hungry, it is you who lay hands on the sick, it is you who tell about God’s mighty acts, not only in the Bible but in your life.

            But here’s the thing:  remember that the light you bear – starts here.
            Not in this sanctuary, exactly, but in this gathering, among this people, and with the one who died and rose.
            We gather in grace, grow in Grace – and Go in Grace – and it is God’s grace that fills us.
            It is not your life, not your power, not your spirit, but the Spirit of God lives in you.
            Your small candle is a part of this large candle, and even though we can’t see it – the light still shines.


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