Sermon; Pentecost 2018; Acts 2:1-21
On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit filled the room where the apostles had gathered together. Tongues of fire appeared and rested on them; and, like the bush that Moses saw, they burned but were not consumed. And then they began to speak in other languages so that they were understood by Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Cappadocians, Asians, Phrygians, and Pamphylians. The Word of the Lord was being spoken, transmitted, and heard in new and unfamiliar ways.
As we heard this story, we also heard an explanation for what was happening by some people who claimed, “They are filled with new wine.” In one of the more humorous quotes of the Bible, Peter says, “They aren't drunk, it's only nine o'clock in the morning!” These people protest because they are being confronted with something new and different. They protest because they've never done it that way before. And therein lies the age old problem of the Church – we've never done it/we've always done it that way.
But Pentecost challenges us to new ways of being. Pentecost challenges us to hear God in new ways. Pentecost challenges us to proclaim the Good News in new and different ways that can be heard by a variety of people. Pentecost challenges us to throw away the idea that we don't need to evangelize because all the Episcopalians already know about us.
What would this look like today? Some of us hope for another Pentecost event in our church. That is, some of us hope to hear the rush of a violent wind filling this space and see tongues of fire come down and rest on each of our heads. Some of us hope to hear each of us speak in different languages. But then again, that might be too much excitement for us and we would rather not.
So if we can't expect tongues of fire and speaking in tongues to a large and varied audience, how might we expect to communicate the Good News of God in Christ to a large and varied audience?
How about with this (showing cell phone)?
You've heard the expression, “Shout it from the mountaintop.” What if we tweeted it from our pews? I'm serious.
We post Facebook pictures and comment about family, friends, pets, and food. We post pictures of vacations and birthdays. But how many posts about church do you make? How many tweets do you send out? If we want to transmit the Good News in new and unfamiliar ways, this is it.
Today I am challenging and encouraging you to pull out your cell phones and go live. Update your Facebook status by saying you are going to, have arrived at, and are worshiping at St. John's. Put out live tweets during the service. Accentuate the positive in live postings about church in general, worship in particular, and God. Use hashtags.
#HolyEucharist #SpiritualFood #BeautifulChoir #BaptismalRenewal
#HolySpace #incense #AllMeansAll #StrawberrySunday
Be creative. Use your imagination. This is a new way of speaking in other languages and in ways that others can begin to hear what we are saying. In fact, I'll start.
8 a.m.: Asking people to go live at church. #Pentecost, #TonguesOfFire
10:15: Amazing worship at SJP this morning. #HolyPlace, #Incense, #BaptismalRenewal
One caveat to all this – Please don't use your cell phones to have conversations, verbal or text, with others during the service, and don't play games. Pay attention to what's going on, and when the Sprit moves you to speak up, tweet or post it out. Also, keep your phones silenced. I know there was the noise of a violent rush of wind, but we don't want the church filled with many and varied ringtones.
At this past Convention I went to a workshop on digital resources and media that was presented by Carrie Graves, the new diocesan director of communications. One of the things she said was what if we made the Twitter logo (a little bird) synonymous with the Holy Spirit logo (a descending dove)? Between her presentation and the reading from Acts today, my mind started spinning around this idea of transmitting the Good News in new and unfamiliar ways. There's a lot of power in social media, but there's more power in the Good News. We can tap into both.
As with a lot of things in the Church, we often try to subdue and domestic the awesome power of God. But Pentecost reminds us that God cannot and will not be tamed. Pentecost reminds us that God will lead us in new, unfamiliar, and sometimes exciting directions. Pentecost reminds us that we need to constantly look for new ways to spread the Good News.
Last week two angels reminded us that we could not perpetually gaze up to heaven, but that we needed to look out into and minister to the world. Last week we were reminded that the message of the Good News started here, but that it must be proclaimed to an ever-widening audience.
Today is Pentecost, the day we begin proclaiming the Good News. Today is Pentecost, the day we begin speaking in other languages (and trust me when I say that Twitter is another language). Today is Pentecost. It is the day we say, “We aren't drunk, but we are doing something new.”