Rev. George N. Miller
“Flames of Faith”
June 8, 2014
It’s hard to believe that 20 years ago an unassuming show called Friends debuted on TV. You know: the comedy with the annoyingly catchy
theme song about six young adults who live in NYC. It’s perhaps harder to believe that 10 years ago Friends aired their last episode; and yet thanks to re-runs it has never been off the air.
In season four, episode 11 the story focused on Phoebe, the guitar playing, vegetarian, hippie chick who finds out her brother and his fiancé have eloped. Phoebe’s so happy she asks if there’s anything she can give them as a present.
“Actually there is,” they say, “We want to have a baby, but we can’t conceive. We need someone to be the surrogate but don’t want it to be a stranger, so we were hoping we could ask you.”
Phoebe’s taken aback, then wittily replies “That’s a really nice gift, but I was thinking more like a gravy boat.”
Later, Phoebe stops by her friend’s apartment. She tells them the news and the choice she’s been asked to make.
Phoebe’s friends immediately console her, ask if she is sure she wants to do this, and are quick to point out the reasons why she shouldn’t do this.
But Phoebe sees the world differently than most. She states “They want me to think about it, but what is there to think about? I’m going to give them the greatest gift you can ever give.”
Phoebe asks her Mom for her opinion. “I don’t think this is a good idea” she says.
To give Phoebe a sense of how hard it would be to give up a child she has carried for nine months, she gives Phoebe a puppy, and says “This is yours for three days, but then you…have to give it back, and as painful that is going to be, giving up a baby is a million times worse.”
Phoebe accepts the challenge, immediately falling in love with the dog. She plays with it, walks it, sings to it and takes it everywhere, but refuses to give it a name so she won’t get attached.
3 days pass. Phoebe is with her friends waiting for her mom to come take the puppy away. “I can’t do this,” she says.” “I can’t give him up. My mom is right…”
At that moment her brother and sister-in-law stop by and upon seeing the puppy they being gushing: “He’s so cute”, and “You’re so precious I could just take you home” they say, snuggling and kissing the puppy.
In a moment of realization, Phoebe sits up and with a great sense of peace says “Hey, why don’t you? Why don’t you take the puppy?” The two are ecstatic.
Phoebe looks at her friends, “You know what, I’m going to do it. Look how happy they are.”
“Are you sure?” they ask.
“Yes. Look, I know it will hurt a million times more, but it will also feel a million times better.”
She tells her brother and his wife that she’ll be their surrogate; they are filled with joy and her friends, stand and surround her, touched by her unselfishness.
“I know I will not regret this” she says.
Though Friends is a sitcom meant to pass the time, this episode shares a truth: that joy, when shared, is often multiplied and not diminished.
Just as today’s scripture teaches us that when the Holy Spirit is shared it too is multiplied, able to fall upon all, and never to run out.
Today is Pentecost Sunday when we celebrate the birthday of the Christian church. It is the day the Holy Spirit broke into our existence like a rushing wind and wild flames.
The Holy Spirit is the mysterious, dangerous, wild side of God. The Spirit of God has the ability to inspire change as well as to inspire us to reclaim forgotten traditions. The Holy Spirit has a way to break down and build up, to bring together and to tear apart.
The Holy Spirit moves us to shout with joy and it can move us to be quite like a meadow breeze.
It’s not so easy to describe the Holy Spirit, but one thing is certain: no matter how much of the Holy Spirit is poured out, there is always more than enough to go around.
The Holy Spirit is limitless, timeless and goes beyond space, logic and accepted norms.
And we should want it no other way.
The Holy Spirit is truly the notion of God’s Kingdom having “enough” for everyone, flying in the face of the fear-based, survival-themed culture that is often thrust upon us by leaders who wish to control us.
So often we go through life learning that what’s ours is ours, we are to keep what’s ours by our side, and we are to be very careful who we share it with.
In today’s age most of us would not allow another to drive or borrow our car. We hesitate about someone wearing our clothes. We hold onto and hoard our money and our food.
The reasons are simple. Someone can wreck your car, someone can stain your clothes and simple mathematics state that when you share your money and share your food, there is less for you.
Simple logic. For example, I have four quarters. If Ginger asks for one, I now only have three. If Jack asks for one, I now only have two. If Sam asks for one I now only have one. And if Elaine asks for one I have none. A lot of good that’ll do me come laundry day.
But that’s not how the Holy Spirit works. Unlike those things that are man-made, the Holy Spirit is an energy supply source that will never run out.
In fact, we can say that the Holy Spirit is a resource that grows and grows the less it is stored and the more it is shared.
The Holy Spirit of God is an amazing resource that actually multiplies the more it is divided.
The Holy Spirit is limitless and always available. Because of this, fire becomes the perfect way to describe the experience of receiving and sharing the Holy Spirit.
Unlike quarters, flames that are shared do not decrease. Think about it.
You can take a simple, solitary match, strike it and use that flame to light a candle. You can then take that candle to light another candle, and that flame does not diminish.
Then take that second candle to light a third, and still the flame does not lessen.
You can then take that candle to light seven more candles, twelve more candles, forty candles and still none of their flames will diminish.
In fact, if you’re not careful, you will have an amazing bonfire going.
Each candle contains the fire, each candle shares the fire, yet no candle loses the fire in the sharing.
And that’s how the Holy Spirit is, a powerful movement of God that brings and keeps life in the community, capable of moving from person to person like fire, enabling the Word of God to be preached, the Word of God to be heard and the work of the Lord’s Kingdom to be carried out.
And notice that the Holy Spirit does not discriminate. It falls upon all: the old and the young, the male and the female.
Unlike food or money, cars or clothes, this gift from God does not diminish or run out; it does not become wrecked or stained with wear and tear.
Unlike many things we have, the more the Spirit is shared, the more it is increased, and the more it is increased, the more people will want to share it.
Just as Phoebe’s decision helps to bless and increase her family, the sharing of the Holy Spirit blesses our families, our community, our congregation and our denomination
Just as Phoebe realizes that giving away what she has will bring more joy into her life, we will never regret the sharing of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, let’s embrace this outpouring of God’s love for us, realizing it is meant to be shared, and in the sharing it will never be diminished, but instead it will be multiplied and increased.
Think of just what’s possible when we believe; think of all the things the Holy Spirit is waiting for us to achieve.
Amen and amen.