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Sermon: Ready or Not, the Spirit Descends. June 5, 2022

June 6, 2022

This sermon was preached on Pentecost Sunday, June 5, at Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, IL. The service and the bulletin are available for viewing. The image is “The Giant,” with fries and a drink, from Quick (L.W. Yang, 2009, used with permission).

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace be unto you and peace in the name God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  1. Summer is upon us, and no doubt many of you are looking forward to travelling; perhaps even travelling abroad. While I’m hardly a seasoned world traveler, I have enjoyed a number of trips to Europe. I’ve even travelled there with some of you, and I’m looking forward to our small contingent’s trip to Slovakia in a few weeks. Long before any of those trips, before I was even married, I spent a few days in Paris with my friend, Phil. Hungry after a morning of taking in that beautiful city, we stopped for lunch at Quick, a McDonald’s-like restaurant. With six years of French class on my junior and senior high resume, I walked up to the counter and boldly declared, “Je voudrais un cheeseburger, s’il vous plâit.” The teenager behind the counter couldn’t contain his laughter. Apparently, even though I’m fairly sure I strung together the correct words, my accent was just too much for him. It was abundantly clear that I wasn’t from there; that I was a foreigner. Everything about me screamed, “American.” Another employee had mercy upon me, asking with a European’s perfect English, “So, you would like a cheeseburger?” My relief was so palpable that I didn’t even mind being the butt of the joke. Being a stranger in a strange land is challenging; there are few things more calming than hearing someone speak in your native tongue. Especially if that person proceeds to give you a cheeseburger. No matter where you are, hearing your own language connects you to home.
  2. The city was filled with foreigners that day. It was Pentecost, and people had flooded Jerusalem from the corners of the known world to celebrate both the wheat harvest and the giving of the Law to Moses upon Mt. Sinai. Food from the earth and the Commandments from heaven, both sources of life for God’s people. Their faith united them, but so much else kept them separated, nothing more so than language. Unbeknownst to them, however, God has been up to something new. Unseen by them, a small band of women and men had been gathering in prayer, waiting to see what God would do next. Into the midst of the crowd come these disciples, 50 days after their crucified teacher had been raised as their Lord. Inspired, quite literally in-spirited, they burst forth from behind closed doors and begin to speak. For every person in the crowd, from every nation under the sun, there was a voice speaking to them in their own language. While some sneered, most, I’m sure, suddenly felt a bit closer to home. Not simply closer to their country of origin, but closer to the God of their ancestors, suddenly new and on the loose once more. God, through the disciples, was speaking to each of them in their own tongue of God’s mighty acts in Jesus Christ. That’s even better than a cheeseburger.
  3. We are never, of course, quite prepared for such moments. We wander through a self-imposed exile, passports marked with the stamps of sin, suffering, and death. It is hard to hear anything clearly, let alone words of hope. We are victims, yes, but also complicit in the suffering of this world. We continue to create divisions, continue to make home seem further away. Russia denies Ukraine’s identity, throwing the region into fear violence. We continue our own violent ways; last week in this pulpit in the wake of the Uvalde massacre, I spoke of a hope for less gun violence. But since Uvalde, there have been 20 more mass shootings in our nation. Twenty. Divisions abound among us. For all the strides we have taken toward affirming our LGBTQ siblings, there are still forces arrayed against them. And amid everything else, we are each burdened with our unique sufferings, the hurts we harbor and the guilt we have incurred.
  4. We cry out to God with broken voices. Amazingly, on Pentecost, God answers our cries, speaking to us in words we can comprehend. The Spirit is poured out to continue to work of Christ, saving humanity and indeed redeeming all creation. We cry out, “Abba! Father!” and our Father answers us. The Triune God does not wait for us to get it all together, to handle our problems ourselves, to learn the language of heaven. No. God simply comes. The Spirit is poured out not because we are ready, but because God is ready to make God’s home with us. God is up to something new, and that newness is for us and includes us. Jesus, the Holy Spirit speaks over and again, is risen. In his life we find our life; through him are we forgiven. Jesus, born into our strange land far from his heavenly home, welcomes us home. We are orphans no more. As Joy Moore of Luther Seminary writes, “In the moment where God seemed inconsequential, incompetent, or inconceivable, the people all heard in their own languages that God was powerfully active in human history. In the commotion, the most consistently understandable report was of the mighty things God had been doing.”
  5. The Spirit continues to be poured out today, connecting the baptized with the risen Christ. In the face of war and gun violence, the Spirit continues to give us what the world cannot – the peace of Jesus that both calms us amid violence and empowers us to resist violence with peace. If we ask anything in Jesus’ name, it will be granted to us. May we never stop asking! May we also work. In the face of ongoing division and ostracizing, the Spirit leads us to ever-greater welcoming, and during the month of June, we are particularly mindful of welcoming and affirming our LGBTQ siblings. And the Spirit speaks in our more intimate, personal conversations, too. Today we are blessed to commission four new Stephen Ministers for the sake of the gospel. Susan, Larry, Ackli, and Linda will join the ranks of those providing high-quality, one-to-one, Christ-centered care to people burdened by life’s difficulties in our congregation and community. Thanks be to God for the Spirit’s gifting, equipping, and calling of these Stephen Ministers, who will speak words of gospel hope in a language that can be heard by their care receivers.
  6. The Spirit speaks to us in the language of our hometown, for the Spirit abides with us, makes God’s home with us. Today, the Holy Spirit speaks to us, calling us out of sin and death, gifting us with the very presence of the risen Christ. In the wheat of the harvest, Jesus gives himself to us on this festival day. To enact a new commandment of love, Jesus gives himself to us, that we might love like Christ every day. To be sure, we are still learning the language of the new creation. To be sure, we are still burdened by the weight of the old. But we are not alone. We are not orphaned. We are home, for the Holy Spirit has made God’s home with us. Christ is risen. Come, Holy Spirit! Amen.

And now may that peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, this day and forever. Amen.

From → Sermons

  1. Paul Haberstock permalink

    A Spirited THANK YOU for this message of grace.


  2. Martin Baumgaertner permalink

    People gathered from every nation
    Received Holy Spirit‘s libation
    Tongues of fire atop
    Suddenly polyglot
    Their language bespoke new creation

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