“Holy Spirit”

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Rev. Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer

June 9, 2019

Acts 2:1-21

 

Do you know this one?

 

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

 

We sing this song in worship, at meetings, on retreats.  We teach it to our children.  We even (gasp!) move our bodies while we sing it!  But do we really mean it?

We have called on the Holy Spirit a lot already this morning.  But do we really mean it when we ask the Holy Spirit to fall afresh on us?  Do we really mean it when we ask God to melt us, mold us, fill us, use us?  Do we really mean it?

Because if we do… have we really considered what might happen?  Did you really listen to the story we just heard?  This story that we hear almost every year on Pentecost Sunday…  This dramatic scene with gale force wind and tongues of fire and multilingual cacophony…  This behavior so, um, unusual that onlookers assumed the disciples were drunk…

Is that what you came to church expecting today?  Is that what you signed on for when you said the church covenant a few minutes ago?

If we learn anything at all from today’s reading, it has to be this:  when the Spirit shows up, things change.  Expectations are upended.  Traditions are shifted.  Patterns are disrupted.  Life as we know it is transformed.

Sometimes I wonder if we might be more honest if we sang,

 

Spirit of the Living God, keep it all the same!

Spirit of the Living God, keep it all the same!

I don’t like it when things change!

Spirit of the Living God, keep it all the same!

 

It is so much easier when things are stable, familiar, predictable, known, safe.  It is so much easier to keep doing what we’ve always done (or, at least, always in our my, or your, experience and memory).  It is so much easier to stay the same.  But the Holy Spirit is not in the business of keeping things stable, familiar, predictable, safe.  The Holy Spirit is not interested in sameness.  The Holy Spirit is not invested in easiness.  The Holy Spirit moves us, drives us, propels us beyond what we know into the realm of All Things Made New.

 

The Spirit has done a few new things with you, my friends, in this last decade or so.

She carried you through the conclusion of 35 wonderful years under the Rev. Dr. Jamie Harrison’s leadership, and out into unknown territory as the only pastor most of you had known here departed.

She guided you through an interim period that was difficult but ultimately brought important growth.

She used her ingenuity to bend my path and yours together so that we would intersect here on Woodstock Hill, and you responded by opening your hearts to receive pastoral leadership that came in a form different than you had known before.

She planted a new vision in your hearts, and you committed to grow into it together.

She stirred you to power your ministries more sustainably, and you installed solar panels on the roof of Harrison Hall.

She knocked at the door and asked you to become the host site for the Monday Community Kitchens meal, and you threw open the doors and said a joyful yes.

She spoke to you as you tried new things in worship:  singing in different languages, speaking to one another and sharing thoughts and reflections, getting up out of your pews and moving, being asked to participate instead of just sit and take it in.

She challenged you to engage with hard topics that are relevant in our time, to wonder what Jesus might say about immigration, about refugees, about racial injustice, about white supremacy, about the struggles of our transgender kin, about the threat climate change poses to our planet and all its inhabitants.

She inspired you to help young people engage in worship and get to know the Spirit in their own ways, and you created this Prayground and celebrated the presence and leadership of our children.

She nudged you to respond to a need of families in this community, and you came out of the woodwork to volunteer for the April Break Explorers Club.

And now she is doing another new thing.  You don’t know what it will be yet, where she will lead or how you will get from here to there.  It might feel a little uncertain, a little scary.  The instability of so much transition is hard on those of you (those of us!) who don’t much like change, who are more in the Spirit of the Living God, keep it all the same! camp.

But if we learn anything at all from today’s reading, it has to be this:  when the Spirit shows up, things change.  Expectations are upended.  Traditions are shifted.  Patterns are disrupted.  Life as we know it is transformed.

 

Sometimes it feels like a gentle breeze nudging us.

Sometimes it feels like a brisk wind filling our sails.

Sometimes it feels like a blustery gale that buffets us and makes it hard to hold a steady course.

Sometimes it feels like it’s blowing so hard that it whips the breath from our mouths and carries our voices away.

Sometimes it feels like it could lift us from our foundations the way a hurricane lifts a mobile home—fearful, even threatening, even sometimes destructive.

The kind of change the Holy Spirit brings can be disruptive, to say the least.  Change is like that.  But until that promised day to come when all things have found their fulfillment, when the Realm of God has been fully realized on earth as it is in heaven, then the discomfort and disruption of change will be a small price to pay in exchange for getting to be part of nothing less than the saving work of God.

And so, on this Pentecost Sunday, which is also my second-to-last Sunday as your pastor, my prayer for you is this:  that you will continue to be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit as she blows through the windows of this sanctuary and the windows of your souls.  That you will root yourselves deeply in the courage born of 329 years of congregational life, of weathering change together.  That you will hear the prophecy of God’s sons and daughters and children of all genders.  That you will see the vision of both young and not-so-young.  That when you need help, you will turn toward God and toward one another.  That you will lean forward into the journey, that you will face into the future God has in store for you, that the wind will be at your backs.  That you will allow life as you know it to be transformed, again and again and again and again.  And that your transformation will be part of the renewal of all creation, bringing about the fullness of life, the abundance of joy, the richness of hope that God has promised for us all.

 


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