Acts 2:1-21

I like Sundays
with big words: Annunciation, Christmas, Epiphany, Transfiguration, Passion,
Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost.  Big words mean big things have happened. 
Today’s big word is Pentecost.  It always occurs fifty days after Easter, and
it is the celebration of the arrival of the Holy Spirit.

Are you yawning or cheering?  This is the day to celebrate the arrival
of the Holy Spirit!  Do you realize that all the big words before Pentecost
would drop with a thud like wingless doves if it were not for Pentecost when
the next chapter of God’s redeeming work continued with His presence through
the Holy Spirit

Not only do these
big word Sundays mean that something big has happened, they also mean that something
mysterious has happened, and I like mystery, too.  I don’t understand people
who don’t.  There is no event in New Testament life that is more mysterious
that the coming of the Holy Spirit, yet we are restless with its mystery.  There
is something about it that unsettles us so much that we think that we have to
package it in a formula or a certain emotion.  No day in the life of the church
exposes our lack of trust of mystery more than Pentecost.

To be honest, I would like to be about to point to something and say,
“There it is.  There is the Spirit of God.”  I would like to experience an emotion
that I could say was the presence of God.  I would like to be able to tell you
this morning that God’s Spirit is here and there it is!”  But, I can’t.  The
Holy Spirit is illusive and unpredictable.  It is, well, mysterious.  I can
tell you one thing for certain.  When you hear someone say, “That’s it! And
if you don’t see it, then you don’t have it!” they don’t see it either.  Jesus
told Nicodemus that “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of
it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every
one who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

Karl Rahner in Poetry and the Christian says it well: “If
God’s incomprehensibility does not grip us in a word, if it does not draw us
into his superluminous darkness, if it does not call us out of the little house
of our homely, close-hugged truths. . . we have misunderstood the words of Christianity.”

What do we need
to understand about how God uses his Holy Spirit to “call us out of our little
house of homely, close-hugged truths?”

First, let me say a good word about these homely, close-hugged truths. 
We all have them.  They are important because they serve as our compass in daily
life.  We have to trust them because they are all we have sometimes to make
proper decisions.  The problem comes when these homely, close-hugged truths
become the spirit for us.  It is so easy to concertize what our perception of
what God has done when in fact it may not have anything to do with God at all. 
It may have to do with our family’s way of thinking, or our cultures or our
political parties, or even a popular fad and we hug them closely as if they
were God.  A corrective of this kind of philosophy is the Holy Spirit, blowing
in ways and directions that is counter to family, culture, political parties
and popular fads, calling us out of our” little house of homely, close-hugged
truths.”  Simply put, that is what God is doing in the world today, calling
us from ourselves into Himself. 

To participate in what God is doing, we must understand that the Holy
Spirit is personal.  The Spirit is a “who” not a “what.”  Jesus refers to the
Spirit as one who relates like a “He.”  The Holy Spirit is the living, personal
Spirit of Jesus.  The way we know Jesus and his way of life is through the Holy

The Holy Spirit is also the living presence of God with His people wherever
they are.  It is the Holy Spirit of God who draws us together each Sunday for
worship.  It is the Spirit that teaches us to “love one another as He has loved
us.”  It is the Spirit which draws us to him in Holy Communion.  It is the Spirit
of God who girds himself to serve us at the table.  It is the Holy Spirit who
makes the mysterious transaction that occurs to make it possible for us to experience
the Presence at the table.

So on this big
word Sunday called Pentecost, let me remind you that the giving of the Holy
Spirit to us is not an end but a means.  Like water on a tiered fountain this
Spirit flows from God, to Jesus, to the Apostles, to us and splashes on the
entire world.  This also means that your gifts, whatever they are, are part
of the indispensable whole that the Spirit is bringing into being.  Maybe you
never thought about it that way before.  Paul doesn’t say “to some;” he says,
“to each.”  That means that every one of us has a gift from the Spirit to offer
to all the others “for the common good.”  “If you don’t know what your gifts
are you can confidently expect to find out.  But I warn you.  It will mean that
God will call you out of your “house of  homely, close-hugged truths.”    That’s
what He does.

Prayer: In a moment of madness, O God, we
gave ourselves to you.  It was a moment of divine madness, that changed our
lives.  Now we spend all of our days looking for such moments, hoping to confirm
what we felt before or to discover new creations of what it means to follow
you.  Therefore we pray for a special feeling of your presence now in our midst
as we worship, that when we go from this place it will be with new courage,
and with hope that our experience for you does order life and give it meaning
beyond the momentary pleasures and sorrows of daily existence.  Convert our
gift – and us – into living sacrifices that will make the poor rejoice, the
wounded heal, the lonely discover love.  And let all our moments become moments
of such madness.  Through the One who died on a cross and was raised to newness
of life, Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Sermon brief provided by: David R. Tullock, pastor of Parson’s Porch, a
ministry in Cleveland, TN

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