Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
There are so many things that I love about being your pastor. Like Christmas Eve worship with the candles and the carols (even if I do have to stay up way – way past my regular bedtime). I only just manage to stay awake for the end of the 11:00 pm Christmas Eve service because I am fueled by adrenaline and coffee.
I love our annual week of Vacation Bible school – but it exhausts me. I have absolutely – positively no idea how elementary school teachers do their jobs month after month. Just one week of VBS brings me to my knees and leaves me virtually comatose with exhaustion! Teachers really must have superpowers. I am not nor will I ever be woman enough to teach elementary school.
I love worshipping with you and learning with you and serving with you. I love the way you welcome me into your lives and into your hearts over and over again.
And I especially love watching all of you spend time together. For as long as I have been a pastor – I have loved watching my sisters and brothers in Christ delight in each others’ company. I enjoy standing on the perimeter of the fellowship hall during coffee hour or Trunk and Treat or before the annual meeting and to watch and to listen.
At first it can seem a little chaotic. Sometimes it can seem really – really chaotic! But then as I listen to the ebb and flow of the conversations around me – I hear the sound of what it means to be a part of a larger community.
I hear that the fellowship committee is planning the next great gathering of Lutheran Christians. There will be wonderful food and even better fellowship.
Rod and Matt are likely talking about repairing something that is broken. In a building this big – something always needs repaired or replaced.
The Worship and Music committee needs to meet soon. And they are looking for an evening that will work for everyone on their committee which is never easy.
The table in the corner really liked the coffee hour treats this week and some of them are heading back for seconds while their wives are distracted by pictures of the grandkids on their phones.
The new family is sitting by themselves (again) – but thankfully Buddy noticed and he and Peggy have joined them for a quick chat.
Pat and Tammy are talking about the glorious season of Bengals’ football that awaits them, and Jason and Steve are talking Penguins’ hockey. Marcia read a good book and she is recommending it to Elaine and Jennifer.
Cheryl is trying to track down information for the church newsletter which is a superpower in and of itself!
And those are just snippets of what I hear as I stand there listening and observing and learning and delighting in this Christian community. Because the Sunday school teachers are probably discussing something important and the teens are texting their friends about when they will FINALLY be set free and someone is in the kitchen making another pot of coffee.
Sometimes if I really – really want to hear what is happening all around me I will close my eyes so that I can really tune in. So that I am able to hear the laughter. To take in the chaos and the chatter. We are a vibrant community of faith. We specialize in boisterous energy and controlled chaos and conversation.
And trying to get your attention can be hilariously difficult. I can clap my hands and wave my arms around in the air like a wild woman and no one will even notice. Most folks don’t even notice when I turn out all of the lights in the fellowship hall! A carefully placed whistle might just grab the attention of a few folks – but most folks will just keep right on talking away in the dark without missing a beat! In fact – the only thing that has ever worked to get your attention is for me to proclaim – very loudly – “May the Lord be with you . . . ” and then everyone’s Lutheran programming/training kicks in and they are forced to respond “and also with you.”
I have to move fast though – because if I don’t the chaos and the conversation will quickly descend and I will have to start all over again!
I have found that many of life’s greatest blessings come to us in the midst of chaos and noise and messy messes. Think of those noisy family gatherings . . . of those evenings when the kids are home and the house feels so full (maybe almost too full) . . . Of Trunk and Treat or Thanksgiving Dinner or Vacation Bible school. Of art projects and glitter and making mud pies and jumping in piles of leaves. Snow ball fights and splashing in puddles.
Messy – chaotic times in life are often those moments in which we receive our greatest blessings. Sometimes, messy – chaotic things can even change the world forever. We see an example of this in our reading from Acts for this week. Our first reading for this week began in a small – crowded – upstairs room where 120 of Jesus’ disciples had all gathered together when suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house.
On the very first Christian Pentecost this mighty rushing wind was the Holy Spirit coming into our world with all of His strength and power. Bringing an incredible – life changing blessing.
The second symbol of the Holy Spirit’s presence was fire. The Bible tells us there were tongues of fire “which separated and came to rest on the heads of each of the people.”
The Holy Spirit just like wind and fire is incredibly powerful. And the Holy Spirit came into the world in wind and flame to begin a mighty work. An amazing transformation started that day. From that moment until this very moment the power of the Holy Spirit has been shaping our world and changing lives.
As soon as the Holy Spirit entered into the world an amazing change took place in the disciples. The disciples all started speaking in different languages. Languages that up until that very moment they did not know.
Imagine the disciples’ excitement as they discovered this amazing blessing from God. They must have been noisy and excited as whole new languages poured from their lips. Then they hurried out of the room into the streets of Jerusalem – filled with awe and excitement as they searched for someone to share their newfound talents with.
As the disciples rushed into the streets of Jerusalem speaking all sorts of languages – things got even noisier and even more chaotic as pilgrims from many different countries heard their native languages being spoken by the disciples. There must have been shouts of joyful recognition as they heard their own languages being spoken. What a sight it must have been – with so many people and so many languages and so much excitement and joy.
The disciples’ lives were changed forever and so were the lives of the people who heard them preaching. Because when these people heard the Good News of Jesus Christ for the first time in their own languages many of them became Christians and were baptized.
The first Pentecost wasn’t neat and organized. But it was powerful. Amazing – life transforming things happened in the midst of what must have seemed wild and chaotic. People heard the Good News of God’s grace – love and mercy. People from all over the world becoming Christians.
Sometimes – we Christians living today get the idea that God is done doing wild – amazing things in our world. That God has somehow gotten tamer – or quieter – or less bold. That the Holy Spirit is less active in the world than he used to be. That we should somehow expect less from our God than during the days when the Bible was written.
But I really think that is so very – very wrong. Our God is still active in our world and in our lives. And with the help of the Holy Spirit Christians can do amazing things that we could never do alone. The Holy Spirit is still at work in the world and where the Holy Spirit is at work – things still get messy and noisy and chaotic sometimes.
The Holy Spirit is at work in you and the Holy Spirit is a work in our world.
If you seek proof that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world just look around you. Look at the powerful things that can and do happen in this church and in the world in God’s name. Think of all of the activities that happen around our church. Think of the fun and noise and joy of Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, and our fellowship times. During the passing of the peace, sometimes even during meetings and children’s sermons too. The Holy Spirit is at work in our time together – in our learning, in our play, in our laughter, and in our serious times too.
I know that some of these things will have to change (for a while as we navigate this different world with COVID-19) – but that doesn’t mean that God isn’t with us or that the Holy Spirit isn’t at work in our world. We are just going to need to be open to doing things in new ways – in different ways. But new and different doesn’t mean bad – it just means different!
The coming of the Holy Spirit marks the moment when things got a little messy as new things started happening in the world. And new things continue to happen in our world. Know this –God is with us in our world. The Holy Spirit is at work in us. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.