A sermon for Pentecost; Acts 2:1-21 , Psalm 104:25-35, 37, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13, John 20:19-23
In this morning’s Gospel from John, we hear Jesus commission the disciples, and us, to continue to do the work God sent Jesus to do (Harrelson John 20-19-23). In Acts, we hear about the community of disciples prophesying to the festival crowd in Jerusalem. We don’t know what they said, but we get that it was radical truth telling. The prophecy was spoken in such a way that the crowd can hear the native dialect of the speakers and they can also hear in their native language so that they could understand. Hearing both the speaker’s dialect and understanding in the listeners’ language reveals how God works with us as we are (Wall). John shares that Jesus is present with all the scars of his life, death, and resurrection; we hear that they are a critical part of the disciples recognizing who he is (Gaventa and Petersen John 20-19-23). The disciples’ prophecies are spoken with the disciples’ life scars visible to all.
The coming of the Spirit in Acts and John reveals that God/Spirit does not save us from any of the tragedies, the troubles, the failures, or the hardships of life or the world. God/Spirit does journey with us through them (Lose). Sometimes the Spirit’s presence is an inspiration; sometimes the Spirit’s presence is just company, in a time when it is so good to know you are not alone. Still, our journey, whether through land or through time, is a dangerous adventure. We can be reluctant to call upon Spirit because deep down we know just how she is dangerous she is (Taylor; Lewis; Deon). To invite the Spirit into our life means that we must be open and vulnerable; we must be open to the transforming power of God
- that drove Jesus into wilderness
- that will compel us to go out into the world
- that opens our eyes to what we would rather ignore, and
- move us from behind our checkbooks to beside one made in God’s image who is struggling (Deon).
The many languages spoken in Acts becomes a way that God confirms the diversity of all creation and those gathered and that undermines Roman interests in creating a single people through subjugation (Gaventa and Petersen Acts 2:1-21). Today the Spirit does the same; it pits us against principalities and powers of the world. It is clear the Spirit turns things upside down (Cruz John 29:19-23). But what does that really mean to us?
Well, it might be something like the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus tosses aside all social and sacred customs and engages the woman as she is. He speaks dangerous truths to her, about her husbands. He answers her questions about faith: is he greater than Jacob, by offering an entirely new vision of relationship with God that is in spirit and truth (Cruz John 20:19-23). And what does this look like today?
On May 11 a Michigan Congressman, at a town hall meeting, spoke about climate change. He said
I believe there’s been climate change since the beginning of time.
He goes on to say
if there’s a real problem, [God] can take care of it.” (Collins).
Today’s readings don’t support his belief or thinking. God/Spirit does not take care of things. But, God/Sprit walks with us as we engage the troubles of the world. If we go back to the beginning, back to Genesis 1:26, we read:
… let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)
Dominion is not to dominate, it is to participate with God in the continuing work of creation; nurturing creation even as we cultivate its resources, bringing the world to its full created potential (Fretheim). So, what do we do? How can we participate in continuing creation and nurturing the world’s resources?
We could consider beginning by forgiving and or retaining our part in the world’s sin of not nurturing creation as we were created to do. That is connected to not hiding our transgressions, which we all have. The AC is running this morning. One unit’s fan was left running for the last couple of weeks. I missed that, even though I knew the fan was running, I just did not stop and take the time to find out why. When I did, it was completely by accident, and it meant simply flipping a switch from ‘on’ to ‘auto.’ Nurturing creation means witnessing to God’s identity in Jesus, which is in each of us.
Remember all that God is in me, and I am in you, and you are in me, stuff from John (that drives us nuts); here is where all that makes a difference. Remember the faithful Congressman? Treating the congressman with respect, because God/Jesus is in him and he is in God/Jesus, we could consider revealing the bible verses we just looked at and invite him to come and see; not evidence, but our calling to be a part of the continuing creation and the nurturing of the world’s potential. This means being prophetic, speaking the difficult truth in face of seemingly closed ears and hardened hearts.
There are other challenges that come from climate change. One of the things we might consider doing is to make sure that our local, state, and national leaders take care of those whose lives are displaced by necessary changes around climate change. One example is coal miners and families. This includes acknowledging it will be a long hard slog because it is not just a job, but a culture, a way life that their families have known for generations, that is at risk.
Another thing we could do is to explore our retirement or investments portfolios hold stocks who companies are acting responsibly. This past week at Exxon’s annual meeting, a resolution, led by the New York State Pension Fund, the Church of England investment fund, New York City Retirement Systems, and dozens of others, sponsored a resolution in favor of more open and detailed analyses of the risks posed to its business by policies aimed at stemming climate change, including the goals of the Paris climate agreement. In spite of the board’s objection, the resolution passed by 62.3% in favor. This is a growing trend (Cardwell).
We can act at home, we can run our AC systems a little less and turn the heat in our house down a little bit. Did you know there are solar powered chargers for tablets and cell phones? And yes, if you are like me I charge mine at night and I know there is no solar at night. However, there are batteries that hold more than a phone’s or tablet’s battery; and they can be charge in the sunlight and charge the phones and tablets at night. A little more inconvenient, but nurtures creation. We can choose to drive more fuel-efficient cars and trucks. We can make sure our use of anything that involves a natural resource can be examined for its impact on nurturing creation’s potential.
The same God/Jesus/Spirit that guides global or national prophecy and actions can apply to local troubles. Some families and schools face educational challenges. We can go to the least well preforming class and read to a class room of Kindergarteners to 3rd graders. Every trouble we face at any level can be approached by seeking God/Jesus/Spirit’s guiding presence. It will not be easy. It will change us far more than it will change anyone else. It will expose our scars and likely leave us with new ones. But, it will put us in relationship with some unknown, unexpected neighbor who just may be seeking to hear that God cares, and our voice just may be the voice the reflects the image of God they need.
Pentecost is not red hat day. It is not the birthday of the church. Pentecost is the renewal of our commissioning to continue Jesus’ prophetic mission to point to the presence of the Kingdom right here, right now by nurturing continuing creation.
Cardwell, Diane. “Exxon Mobil Shareholders Demand Accounting of Climate Change Policy Risks.” 31 5 2017. NYtimes.com. <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/31/business/energy-environment/exxon-shareholders-climate-change.html>.
Collins, Eliza. “GOP congressman on climate change: God will ‘take care of it’ if it’s real.” 1 6 2017. USA Today. <https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/06/01/tim-walberg-climate-change-trump-paris-agreement/102389286/>.
Cruz, Samuel. “Commentary on John 20:1923.” 4 6 2017. Working Preacher. <workingpreacher.org>.
Deon. “Saying Yes, Pentecost (A).” 4 6 2017. Sermons that Work.
Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 1 6 2017. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly>.
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Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.
Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.
Hoezee, Scott. Pentecost John 20:19-23 . 4 6 2017. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/advent-3c/?type=the_lectionary_gospel>.
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Lewis, Karoline. Spirit Work. 1 6 2017. <workingpreacher.org>.
Lose, David. Pentecost A: With, not From. 4 6 2017.
O’Day, Dail R. New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary The Gospel of John. Vol. VIII. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. XII vols. App Olivetree.
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Taylor, Barbara Brown. “quoted by Leiws in Spirit Works.” 4 6 2017.
Wall, Robert. New interpreter’s Bible The Acts of the Apostles. Vol. IX. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. X vols.