The Feast of Pentecost A June 4, 2017
Luther Memorial Church Seattle, WA
The Rev. Julie Hutson
Acts 2: 1-21 + Psalm 104: 24-34, 35b + 1 Cor. 12:3b-13
John 20: 19-23
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.
Today is the Feast Day of Pentecost in the Church. It’s a day we wear red as a reminder that the Holy Spirit came to the apostles on that day as divided tongues of fire. It’s a day we celebrate the birth, if you will, of the Church in its earliest form. And today, it’s a day when we offer signs of our love and support to Kelsey and Ben as they move from high school to life as adults….as college students. At the same time, and I say this because I’ve walked here, as many of us have, we offer our love and support to Ben and Kelsey’s parents, too. They will now be what is known as “empty nesters”, as their youngest children leave home. So, Jonathan and Pam, Joe and Leia….just a couple of things: one, it’s possible they will come back. And two….take this story with you. A couple took their youngest child off to college and when they got back home, to their empty house, one of them said to the other: Starting now….we are going to do those things we’ve always wanted to do when we want to do them. You know that thing we never did because the kids were around and we wanted to set a good example? Well, get ready…we’re going to eat dinner with the television on!
And not to give up a surprise, but later this morning we are also going to offer our love and support to Katy and Mike Sarff. Katy, who has served as our Office Administrator for five years, will be away for a time for the birth of their son. And we will offer love and support to them as well.
You might be wondering by now what these events in the life of this community of faith have to do with Pentecost. When we read the story from Acts, of the Holy Spirit coming on the disciples with tongues of fire and their ability to speak in other languages….it is a story that only happens in community. The apostles, those earliest followers of the Jesus way, are together in one place. And then there is a crowd of devout Jews that gathers there in Jerusalem and hears the apostles speaking in those languages. This action of Pentecost happens to communities of people, in groups, not to solitary individuals.
We consider the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, the enlivening, empowering, comforting, sustaining presence of God. The Holy Spirit is what remains active and at work in the world and in us. But the Holy Spirit, on this first Pentecost, came to groups of people. She came to empower communities for the work of God in the world.
What many of us are told, is that we should look out for ourselves first and foremost. Watch out for number 1. It’s only about us. But that is an empty endeavor….it is a failed campaign. Because God came to earth…first as Jesus and now as the Holy Spirit….to empower and enliven communities to act together for the sake of the whole earth….of all of Creation. And we forget that at our own peril.
The hungry on another continent are as important to us as a Jesus following community as the hungry outside our front doors. Peace in Syria or Afghanistan is as critically important to our global community as is peace in Washington State. And beloved believers….the care of the earth….that is the first task that God gave to human beings. The first one. And throughout Scripture God calls us to such care. The Psalmist sings it out today: How manifold are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
We have been placed in community and the Holy Spirit lights us up….in community….because this is the very best way we will live out our days in the Kingdom of God.
Kelsey and Ben, when you leave home for college you will find new communities. Learning cohorts. Neighbors. Friends with common interests. Oh, and campus ministry. These will be the people who will support you when you need support and for whom you will do the same. And all of us, back here….we will be supporting you. We will love you and offer our prayers and our encouragement. Because we are and will still be your community. We will be the community that continues to live and serve with your parents and your neighbors.
Because this is the thing about community….even when it changes…even when it feels vastly unfamiliar, as it did to those devout people in Jerusalem that day who couldn’t figure out how they were hearing people speaking in their own languages….community doesn’t go away. It is always surrounding you. It is always with you.
So, for all of us here today….we are surrounded by the communities that formed and shaped us. This sanctuary is much more crowded than it seems. Because here with us are all of the people who have formed us along the way. Here are our teachers and Sunday School teachers and pastors and deaconesses and neighbors and friends and ….well, you get the idea. This is the communion of saints. That’s what we mean when we offer our prayers for the communion of saints, they are those, all of those, who have surrounded us in community, by the power of the Spirit.
A few years ago, I read a devotion around All Saint’s Day, that suggested that we begin our individual prayers with the greeting “The Lord be with you” and we imagine those we love who are no longer in this life greeting us in response “And also with you.”
There is also Spirit filled wisdom in doing this with the communities that love and surround us. I mean, we do it every Sunday already. The Lord be with you. And also with you. See what I mean?
So, Ben and Kelsey….if you are feeling homesick or unsupported or in need of community….why don’t you give that a try? Say The Lord be with you and hear us, your Spirit filled community respond: And also with you.
Katy and Mike, this is also true for you as you welcome Danny to the world. You do not do this on your own. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is filled with challenges and very steep learning curves. But it is also filled with relentless joy. And then one day you find yourself watching your child walk across a stage in a cap and gown and out the door. So know, that this Spirit community surrounds you as you begin to live and share God’s love in this new way. And that we love and surround Danny, too….but that’s a sermon for a baptismal day.
And Beloved Community….this is true for us as well. We are not solitary creatures. God has placed us in families and in communities of Spirit, just like this one….so that our gifts may be used for the greater good of the whole Creation. So that we may know the joy of being supporters and encouragers even as we receive that same support and encouragement.
We cannot keep this life of the Spirit for ourselves. This is the blessing we cannot speak by ourselves. This is the blessing we cannot summon by our own devices, cannot shape to our own purposes, cannot bend to our own will. This is the blessing that comes when we leave behind our aloneness, when we gather together, when we turn toward one another. This is the blessing that blazes among us when we speak the words strange to our ears, when we finally listen into the chaos, when we breathe together at last.
Thanks be to God and let the Church say…Amen.
 Richardson, Jan “When We Breathe Together” from Circle of Grace.