Sermon for A Pentecost June 4, 2017

“Jesus is Lord.” Do we say that? Do you want to say it with me? “Jesus is Lord!.” Do you say that because I asked you to? Would you say it if I did not? Would you say it in a conversation with another? Maybe you would say that with some qualifications? Maybe explain what “Lord” means these days? Probably say it in a way that distinguishes you from others? Want to say it again? “Jesus is Lord.”

Paul once wrote to the Corinthians that no one can say that “Jesus is Lord” except by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. That seems like a simple rule, though much may be unpacked theologically in that simple phrase. But one thing in which reserved mainline Lutherans may take much comfort today is that we do not need to be exotic or even extrovert in professing that we trust and believe in the Holy Spirit.

“Holy Spirit” language can connote something spooky and supernatural. Our worship symbols this morning of red and candles, flowing ribbon and many languages do add “super” to our “natural.” And confession of trust in the Holy Spirit surely means that we believe there are dimensions to our lives far deeper than behavioral explanations. Some onlookers at Pentecost did try to dismiss what they saw by inferring from their own experience. “They must be drunk,” onlookers said. Peter pointed out their bad logic. His answer also seems dumb. “These people are not drunk as it seems, for it is only nine ‘o clock in the morning.” Evidently “happy hour” had not yet extended to 24/7. And, by the way, should you ever need further explanation as to why I may seem weird to you, that particular verse was my seminary senior class motto. I still have the T-shirt with the Greek quotation on it.

So, okay. The Holy Spirit is not to be confused with a human biochemical reaction. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit will not be controlled. I got a first dose of that back in my “Jesus movement” days of youth. I was fascinated by the charismatic movement happening in some of the Lutheranism of the day. People taught then about being “baptized in the Spirit.” What I saw of it was, well, yes, exotic, and thus attractive to this typical teenager bent on being at least somewhat unconventional. Freeloading a meal with the Hare Krishnas after surfing for a whole day wasn’t enough. I wanted to taste really supernatural Christianity, as I naively saw it. So one evening at a Lutheran Pentecostal-like regular gathering, I answered the lay pastor’s invitation to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

It was a sincere and prayerful time, though nothing exotic happened. He explained some things. He put hands on my head. He prayed. He told me then that he thought I might have received the spiritual gift of healing, because, you know, everyone one born of the Spirit was supposed to receive some kind of charismatic gift. If I got that gift, it was not the sort that got me on TV or led me to med school. He also “taught” that everyone born of the Spirit should speak in tongues, what Paul calls. And, since, I was not spontaneously breaking out in some kind of unintelligible hip hop, he proceeded to try to teach me how to speak in tongues. “Try more consonants there; more vowels here. Just let it flow.” And so on.

It didn’t happen for me and never has. Okay. I’ve had many very liberal and very conservative Christian friends since then who worshipped that way. But it isn’t nor is it supposed to be the norm. I began learning since then that not only will the Holy Spirit not be manipulated, nor explained away by reductionistic reasoning. I learned also that the Holy Spirit’s unique MO is that not everything the Holy Spirit gives is for everybody. In fact, the Holy Spirit’s wonderful unique work is to make people lively with gifts meant just for each of them. Then their God-given differences of gifts and gifts of differences are to serve Christ the Lord for the good of Christ’s people.

What is exotic about the Holy Spirit is that She amplifies the common good with and often notwithstanding our gifts and personal expertise. At that first Pentecost Jewish people of different languages were gathered. There in that holy cacophony they actually heard in their own languages the good news and purpose of Jesus. Quite unlike the din of media spin and social media trolls today, they also deeply understood what was said. The Holy Spirit’s greatest genius is that she mass communicates in a way that cuts below the surface and speaks from deep to deep. With their difference of culture and language the first Christians heard, understood, and were united into a new common mission. All that they brought in and with their own persons came to be vested in their new holy community’s work of proclamation and care for the marginalized.

The first Pentecost people were built up and sent forth. Yes, sometimes with their differences they came to disagreement. With prayerful mutual respect they worked through them and grew ever stronger. They prayed and communed together and were sent daily to do their work. Miracles happened. Some spoke in tongues and some interpreted. Some healed, in whatever way. Some taught and preached, and many experienced the miracle of believing. And all were fed, clothed, and housed; no ordinary miracles those either, if not necessarily exotic. But when prayer becomes a habit, miracles become your lifestyle, which is what so beautifully happens when a church is built up and sent forth. Sometimes the miracles will be exotic. But not necessarily. Sometimes the miracles will be disruptive. That Holy Spirit: that’s the way She rolls! Disruptive things may have be said from the pulpit, new projects may go against the norm while looking very church and normal. Disruption under the guise of the normal is in the Holy Spirit’s toolbox. Disruption is necessary to pour new wine into new wineskins and then to pour it out into waiting mouths, at any time of the day.

You of Christ the King know disruption. The life we think we control is disrupted for the peaceful good every time we remember our baptism, every time the Spirit’s flame is fanned by prayer. You were disrupted when the Holy Spirit crowned your brow with the sign of the cross at your baptism. You belong to God. You are being built up and you are sent. Do you commit to Pentecost Disruption? You are invited soon this morning to commit even more, as you are able to that work, in addition to your regular support, by pledging to the second phase of the Capital Campaign. You know that if 100 of you make this special pledge, a grand match will further propel God’s work here. And the Spirit will work greater miracles, which we will accept as normal. Cause that’s the way She rolls. Like inspiring each of us daily for confessing in word and deed that Jesus is Lord. Like freely pouring out joy-making wine at nine o’clock in the morning. Watch the Holy Spirit go for it. Go with her. Pray, commit, see miracles. Jesus is Lord. He offers you new wine. Its Happy Hour!

Duane Larson                        Christ the King Lutheran Church           Houston, TX