Sermon Pentecost Sunday: 8 June 2014

As some of you know, I’ve been in Minnesota for the past couple weeks on vacation…..going home to visit for the most part was great – seeing lots of family and friends, and of course eating way too much. And I got to spend some time up at my family farm. And while that generally was also a great time, over the years it’s always a bittersweet moment for me every time I go back. The farm used to be a fully operational dairy farm of about 200 cows….but since my dad passed away, that hasn’t been the case for about 8 years. I own the land now; I rent the pasture land and the fields to another farmer. My cousins live on the property.
Every time I go back, I think about everything the farm used to be – what the farm was in the past. My dad had worked the farm for 23 years, and it’s been actively worked by our family for over 100 years. And it bothers me to think that the farm will never really be an active farm anymore. No one in my family – myself included – really has the drive and passion to be full-time farmers. It saddens me to think about the fact that that way of life – life on the farm – is lost somehow.
Today is Pentecost Sunday – the Sunday we celebrate the church – we celebrate the life of the church. We remember and celebrate this first account of the church in Acts 2 we read today: the Holy Spirit rushing upon the people from many diverse nations like a mighty wind; tongues of fire above their heads; a diverse group of people speaking in many languages and understanding each other. And this Pentecost story also gives us a vision of the future for the church as well – a church that’s just as numerous and full of life and diverse as the church on the day of Pentecost. People from all sorts of backgrounds, race, lifestyles, status, and orientation.
And perhaps we sit here today, and as we listen to the story, we’re able to identify how the Spirit was active and present in the church of the past, and we certainly hear and wonder and dream of how the Spirit is moving us to be the church in the future.
And we’ve already done that in my time with you: In previous Sundays, I’ve asked you about why this church was so important to each of you over the years, why you keep coming back. And you gave answers: it feels like family. I grew up in this church. Lots of good memories here. And I’ve asked you about what your big dream is for this church in the future. And you gave answers to that as well: more young families and young people. More youth. Active and vibrant ministries.
All this raises a very important question for us on this Pentecost Sunday: What is the Spirit of this church? What is the Spirit of St. Andrew/Holy Communion?
I think, if we believe the spirit of the church is caught up in those things of the past, or in our longing for those dreams of the future to become a reality, then I wonder what the spirit of the church is now – in this time and place. Like how I think about my farm, if it’s caught up in memories of the past or dreams of the future, it just seems like we’ve lost the spirit…and maybe we fear, we’ve lost it for good.
But the story of Pentecost is that the spirit of the church always resides in THE HOLY SPIRIT – the Spirit of the living God, the Advocate, the Spirit that live and moves and acts among us as Christ did among the disciples. The Spirit of the Church is not in any one thing so much – but rather in a relationship of eternal and abundant life and grace with God through Jesus Christ. That is what sustains the church. That is what breathes life into the church.
Back to my time on the farm……out of those couple days up at the farm, the best was the four hours I spent with my uncle. We went into town together to buy new parts for his broken farm equipment, and then we spent the rest of the time repairing and putting it back together – and the whole time, joking, arguing, laughing, and wrestling deeply together about questions of life and faith that have been on our minds lately.
I realize, that the spirit of the farm isn’t caught up in the past memories or even it’s future, uncertain as it is. That’s not why it’s such a special place that holds so much meaning for me.The spirit of the farm is in the relationships and community that I experience in the present – relationships and community experienced in a moment in a particular time and place.
And for us here today, perhaps the spirit of the church doesn’t reside in things and people of the past and future who in all reality don’t exist today. Rather, it exists among the Holy Spirit who is present among the people of God assembled here today, in this time and place. It exists in each and every one of you. Just as Christ breathed the Holy Spirit on the disciples, just as the Spirit blew among the church at Pentecost, so too the Spirit is with you all today. And the Holy Spirit lives and breathes in the church today in the ways that we are brought together as one – the building of community and relationship – in this time and place. It’s the ways we’re joined together, bringing and offering our whole selves, to live and be for others. To be present with and for each other.
Here’s the thing: the challenge is to see ourselves this way. I’m willing to bet, whether it’s because most of the time we’re told not to brag, or we simply don’t think we have it in us, it’s hard to trust the fact God dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. We don’t see the ways the Spirit has gifted each of us to participate in building up the community of grace and love and abundant life that Christ gives to us, for us. And so we don’t offer ourselves that way because we don’t recognize the worth in ourselves and in each other.
But the Holy Spirit reveals the worth of your whole self and your gifts, and reveals the ways you each uniquely contribute to building the community of faith – the community of grace and love where all belong, all gifts are welcome, all people are welcome. A little thing we call church. I’ve seen the Spirit – present and in each and every one of you, building the community of faith, the church, in this time and place.
For me, that’s a huge source of hope. Because it witnesses to me that the Spirit of the Lord IS in this church, and that the spirit of this church IS God’s Holy Spirit – the Advocate, the giver of life…..and it exists now, in this time and place. And to those who feel that a sense of belonging and community is a lost thing these days, this community, built by the Holy Spirit, working in and through each of you, announces that such a thing does exist – in this time and place. Amen.

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