Sermon for Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
I Corinthians 12:3-13
John 7:37-39

So this past Wednesday morning I woke up and had this epiphany, a vision. I was just minding my own business and it hit me. That morning I had this great realisation that despite the constant negative press covfefe…
Of course, I kid. That was the apparent typo President Donald Trump sent out just past midnight ET Wednesday morning and the twittersphere went nuts.

And this isn’t a big deal really, I mean it was a typo, it can happen to anyone. But of course if the President of the United States does it, then everyone is out to figure out what it means. Some say he was drunk. Others say he fell asleep. Some looked much deeper at the root of this issue and went so far as to figure out what covfefe was an acronym for, while others just linked it to his inability to take advice from his advisors and leave twitter alone.

I know social media could reflect who you really are, like are you a person that likes the limelight and needs to post all the time? Or are you a person that never really shares any content of your life but likes different posts here and there? Or are you just a person who pretends to have a birthday like every day? And so if you post a lot, people will tend to read into it too much and so maybe the President’s advisors are onto something when they tell him to step away from the Twitter app. And maybe he should listen. But really? How many of us would listen to that advice? I mean think about it, don’t the experts say that social media is ruining our lives anyway, while we’re not even the President? Aren’t there studies out there proving that too much screen time ruins our sleep and thus our daily productivity? And we are warned about the data mining that could happen through social media and yet we use it anyway. We post pictures, update our statuses, wish each other happy birthdays, send messages, and so on and so forth without any regard to what the so-called experts are telling us, and we thinking Donald Trump is awful for not listening to advice?

Granted, he is the President of the United States and his decisions affect millions. I get that. But this is Twitter. No one likes to be told what to do when it comes to their social media accounts.

And if you think about it, it isn’t even only social media, but we don’t like to take advice or orders for anything if it isn’t in line with what we’re already going to do. We like to call our own shots, we like to be our own boss, we like to live our own lives. Isn’t our goal for life financial freedom? Retire early? Being able to do whatever we want when we want without having to worry about money or rules or people telling us what to do. You know, true freedom.

Isn’t that why we call it “Freedom 55”? Retiring early + money = freedom? Isn’t that why more and more people are quitting their jobs and launching their own business on Kickstarter? Isn’t that why fewer and fewer people go to church now?

Whoa wait, what? What does church attendance have to do with taking advice from others? If anything, it’s nice to have a place to go to and be told how to live life. It takes the guess work out of everything, and bonus if we screw up we can put the blame on someone else? And you know what? This is actually how the church is seen to many people in this day and age. People out there are calling church goers “brainwashed” or “blind followers” or “sheeple”. And if we’re honest, don’t we sometimes portray it at such? Don’t we sometimes hold up our bibles and call it a “rule book” for life? Don’t we often say we’ll pray about it when we hope to gain clarity on a decision that needs to be made? Doesn’t language like “commandments” and “calling” and “shepherd” all sort of point us in that direction?

I think so. And I think that is what turns a lot of people off from church, because again, who needs more advice and rules? With the pressures already there from work and relationships, who needs more people to tell them what to do? Who needs to be told yet again about how they’re living life wrong and be guilted into living differently?

I don’t, that’s for sure.

That isn’t to say that I’m going to quit my position here at the church, nor am I going to be throwing my bible away any time soon. But it is to say that I sometimes shudder when I see the way the church is portrayed. My heart sinks when I hear of Christians putting others down because they aren’t living in a way that they claim the bible mandates. I shake my head sometimes when I hear people describing the church as bible thumping fundamentalists because that is really how we are seen.

And so enters today, the day of Pentecost, the day that the church receives the Holy Spirit and is born to be the body of Christ moving and working and doing what is good in the world. A momentous occasion, when we can remember the life breath of the church, the source of power that the church draws from, that through which the church came into being and is sustained and nourished. Today is the day that really and truly informs us who we really are, dare I say more so than Christmas and probably right up there in line with Easter. But for everyone else? Who cares? Who cares that the Holy Spirit is here, we don’t need to be told how to live. Who cares that we have this Advocate on our side, we don’t need to be given advice. Who cares that God gave us this paraclete, this helper, our lives are doing just fine, thank you very much.

Well, be that as it may, who said that the Holy Spirit was here just to tell us what to do? Who said that the Advocate was here just to give us advice? Who said that the paraclete, our helper, is just to get our lives right?

For that matter, who says that the bible is just a rule book? Who says that the Commandments are actually commandments? Who says that we must live by the instruction of the bible or we just aren’t living right?

Errrr…. Everyone? Or so it seems.

But be that as it may, that doesn’t mean they’re right. That doesn’t mean that is what the bible is for or what the Holy Spirit gives us. That doesn’t mean that we are called to be these bible thumping fundamentalists that need to point out the faults of all people and tell them how to live. That doesn’t mean that we need to start counting our sins as though we’re making a tally of how good or not so good we were on any given day.

Rather, the Holy Spirit isn’t here to instruct or command or naggingly advise, in spite of what popular opinion might be. Instead, the Holy Spirit is here to empower, to strengthen, and to instill in us hope and confidence for service and ministry. The Spirit isn’t about getting us to do stuff or live a certain way, but about giving us the ability to do stuff and freeing us to live a certain way. This might sound contrary to all that we may have learned in the past, and it might make some of us uncomfortable thinking that we don’t have to police others in following the rules found in the bible, but I believe that the wind of the Spirit, the ruach, breathes into us the power to accomplish more than we could have imagined.

I’m not talking about a literal wind that is pushing us from behind, but I’m talking about the loving support in our community, the encouragement from the members of the body of Christ, the faith of the collective whole that we are a people of God and God gifts us with the ability to do.

I know it is scary to live a certain way. I know that it is daunting to think that we might have the power to make a difference in the world. I know that we sometimes shy away from the “experts” because we think that we’re ok when really we don’t want to fail others. But that is precisely why the Spirit has come to us, breathing in us that power of God, and bringing us to the realisation that we are not alone in our endeavours, in our service, and in our ministry.

We are all called as children of God. We are called to be heralds of the good news of the grace found in Jesus Christ. We are called to be neighbours to all, caring for the sick, helping the lost, and feeding the hungry. And we can do this through the support and help of the Holy Spirit. We can do this through the community to which we belong and serve. We can do this because of the Day of Pentecost, what we commemorate today, by the gift of and the gifts from the Spirit, the power of God, and the teachings of Christ Jesus our Lord.

So strange Tweets and covfefe aside, we can rely on the Spirit not for advice but empowerment, not for commands but encouragement, not for rebuke but freedom in knowing the forgiveness of God through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Today is debatably the last official day of the Easter season, and the whole church year thus far has led us to this point. We started with Advent which reminds us to look for Jesus, to Christmas that tells us that Jesus lives among us, to Epiphany that teaches us who Jesus is, to Lent that shows us that we can rely on Jesus, and to Easter that reveals the triumph of Jesus. This next season, the one after Pentecost, asks us “now what?” What are we going to do with all this knowledge of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done? What are we going to do with the teaching that Jesus taught us and the lessons of charity and hospitality? What are we going to do with the power of this Spirit, enlivening us to live and act as an Easter, or shall I say, a Pentecost people?

As we embark together into this season after Pentecost, may we boldly answer the call of the Spirit, not telling us what to do but empowering us to be children of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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