Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sermon for May 27, 2012; Acts 2:1-21

Rev. George Miller Acts 2:1-21 “Are You Who Matter? Yes!” May 27, 2012 This weekend we acknowledge Memorial Day, a time to recognize those who fought for, and died, for our country. Memorial Day had its spark in 1865 when Henry Wells of Waterloo, NY mentioned at a meeting that he wanted to honor the Civil War dead by decorating their graves. Nothing happened until the following year when he mentioned it again and this time not only was he heard, but a committee was formed and a plan was put in motion to honor the fallen soldiers. Henry Wells' idea began to spread, first like little sparks then like wildfire, as more and more towns took to visiting graves, holding parades and giving speeches. Eventually Memorial Day became a federal holiday, a time for the whole country to be united in a common observance; to honor the bravery of those who lost their lives for our country; the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we could live as we do: free. A freedom that comes from our Constitution which states that all men are created equal, that everyone deserves the freedom of religion, that we all have the right to freedom of speech. Freedom of speech… How interesting, how unique that an elemental part of our American identity is the right to speak our mind and to share what we think, regardless if others agree. It sounds a lot like today’s reading… Throughout this month the common theme of our worship services have been built around the notion of identity. First, we explored that no matter how different, broken or lost in the wilderness we seem to be, God knows who we are. Next, we defined ourselves as sharing the same Heavenly Parent. Then last week we were compared to strong, fruit bearing trees made to withstand any storm. Today we conclude the topic of identity by looking at perhaps the most important event in the life of the early church: Pentecost. According to the author of Acts, after Jesus Christ was crucified, he appeared to the disciples for 40 days in which he continued to teach them about the Kingdom of God. He promised them that at some point they would experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, an experience in which they would leave the comfort of Jerusalem and proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth. Jesus ascends to heaven and for the next few days the disciples, their followers (including women and totaling about 120 people) go about the tasks of being prepared. They select someone to replace Judas. They pray. Then on the day of Pentecost, a religious holiday in which all the Jewish men from around the globe have gathered, something amazing, something unexpected occurs. The Holy Spirit of God breaks in and does something new. The Holy Spirit, like flames of fire, like the sound of wild wind, breaks into the life of this small community and things begin to happen. Things that defy space, things that defy time, things that defy gender, economic and age related roles. The Holy Spirit falls down upon the people, fills them, uses them, melts away their differences and they began to speak in ways so that others can hear; they begin to speak in ways so that others can understand. It didn’t matter if someone was as far away as Mesopotamia or Rome, if they were as far away as Arabia or Crete; they heard the message of the Lord. And they were amazed and astonished, bewildered and perplexed. And even though some sneered and accused them of being drunk, it didn’t stop Peter from standing up and preaching a message that basically said “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, the Spirit has been poured out upon you from limb to limb!” Forget about the fantastical imagery of this story; forget if this account is factually true; what we have just heard is how the Holy Spirit creates a new community in which God is the chief actor and every one plays a part. “Are you who matter?” The answer is “Yes!” And note what the first mark of the Holy Spirit is: the ability to speak. The Holy Spirit enters into their lives and the people use their voices like never before. The Holy Spirit enters into their lives, and Peter finds the courage to stand up in the light of day and to proclaim a word for all to hear. Today, the message of our reading is that the Holy Spirit gives us all the ability to speak God’s message, and that speaking is empowerment… …How many of us have ever stopped to think about this before? That the ability to speak, regardless if we murmur softly as the dove or roar as mighty as a lion has the ability to bring about hope, has the ability to bring about change, has the ability to link us together. That the ability to speak regardless if we murmur softly as the dove or roar as mighty as a lion has the ability to mend old wounds, has the ability to mold new communities and has the ability to assure that each and every one of us matters? No wonder why so many brave men and women have been willing to fight and to die for our country. No wonder why Pentecost has so much importance in the life of the church, because in so many ways without speech we do not have life, we do not have “enough.” …but here’s the thing: notice how the ability to speak does not just rest on Peter alone. Nor does it just rest on the disciples. It is given to the 120 others who were present, meaning the other followers, including the women. And, as Peter states in his speech, the Holy Spirit it to be poured out upon all people: sons and daughter, young and old. This is still true today. The Holy Spirit is not something that can be contained or controlled; it can not be dished out into neat pieces or withheld from others. The Holy Spirit speaks to you just as much as it speaks to Connie, Sue and me. The Holy Spirit guides the thirty, forty and fifty somethings just as much as the Holy Spirit guides the sixty, seventy, eighty and ninety somethings. The Holy Spirit will speak just as much to the children in July’s Vacation Bible School as it will to those who are teaching it. The Holy Spirit speaks to everyone because everyone matters. Are you who matter? Yes! The Holy Spirit becomes the great equalizer in which we are all one. Are you who matter? Yes! Because just like no one can control where the rain falls or where the wind blows or how a flame will dance and twirl, No one can control who the Holy Spirit falls upon. Are you who matter? Yes! Because through the experience of Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit has descended upon everyone and has given them a voice: Male and female Old and young Here and abroad Buckeye and Yankee Democrat and Republican Snow Bird or Florida Natural Preacher or Parishioner Member or Guest. Are we who matter? Yes! And because we matter, we are each given a voice and a chance to express just what being a Christian means to us. So before I close, I want to offer up each and every person here a challenge: to find a way to use their voice to make a difference. It may be to speak up when you witness a wrong; it may be to make amends with a dear friend; it may be to write a letter to the editor or a phone call to a politician. But I encourage you, guided by the Holy Spirit, to use the voice you have and to find a way to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Are you who matter? Yes! You matter in God. You matter in Christ. You must certainly matter in the Holy Spirit. For that we can say Amen and amen!

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