Readings for the day:
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
The day of Pentecost, a holiday in the church year that Hallmark doesn’t know about yet (and I think we should keep it that way). Each year, we the church, celebrate Christmas (the birth of Christ, and the world gives us a jolly old fat guy), we celebrate Easter (the death and resurrection of Christ, and the world gives us a bunny), and we celebrate Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit and birthday of the church, but the world hasn’t figured out how to secularize this one yet).
Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, but who is the Holy Spirit? Before being confirmed, all of our confirmation students have to write a faith statement which is facilitated by answering a series of questions to state what they believe. One of those questions is to describe how the Holy Spirit is at work in their life. Of all the questions they need to answer, this is the one that ends up being the most difficult and challenging one to answer. Some of you are probably thinking, “I’m glad that I’m done with confirmation…I’m glad I don’t have to answer that question.”
We don’t like to talk about the Holy Spirit very much because there is a certain mystical feel about the Holy Spirit that is hard to describe. We would much rather talk about Jesus since we know who he is and what he has done. But the Holy Spirit does some wonderful things in our lives, even today.
As many of you know, I have a bachelor’s degree in Construction Management, but I don’t use that degree very much being a pastor. Although many of you probably saw the papers this week about the Trimont Town Center’s groundbreaking. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, yours truly was present at that groundbreaking ceremony not only to give the invocation, but also to help break ground on this community project. This past winter I was asked to join the Town Center board of directors as a construction advisor as they begin the construction phase of this project. I have wondered ever since starting seminary, how God would use this construction management degree while being in a full-time pastoral call. I can only describe this as the Holy Spirit at work in my life. The Holy Spirit led me to this call, to not only use my organizational and leadership skills to better the ministry of this new parish, but now I’m realizing that I was also called here to put my construction management degree to good use. I’ve tried imagining how I would be able to do both ministry and construction, and none of the ideas that I came up with resembled anything close to what has taken shape over the last few months.
How is the Holy Spirit at work in your life? What has happened throughout your life that has gotten you to where you are today? Does any of it surprise you, maybe something that is out of the ordinary? Does it appear that it happened by fate? I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe in the Holy Spirit and the guiding, leading, encouraging work that he does.
You know it is okay to be confused by the work of the Holy Spirit; even on that first day of Pentecost, many people were confused. Some even thought that the disciples were drunk. The people thought this because Pentecost was a Jewish celebration 50 days after Passover where they celebrated Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. So there were Jews from many different countries in Jerusalem – each with their own customs and languages. And after the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples, they each began sharing the Good News of God in different languages, so that everyone was able to know what God has done through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These people were so confused that these men, who weren’t from their country, were able to speak in their native language, so these disciples must have been drunk. But Peter corrects them and says that the prophecy from Joel was just fulfilled with the coming of the Holy Spirit. And the prophecy was to expect the unexpected.
Who would expect that God’s Word could be proclaimed by our sons and daughters? Who would expect the young to receive visions from God? Or who would expect the old to have dreams from God? The Holy Spirit tends to surprise us with the unexpected. Many times it may be doing something that seems out of the ordinary, like having disciples talking in our own native language, or calling a young pastor who could be your child or even grandchild, or getting an idea for an outreach ministry that is out of the ordinary, or bringing new businesses to a rural community in a non-traditional way. The Holy Spirit works in ways that often surprise us, maybe to keep us alert and wondering what will happen next, but more so I think because God doesn’t play by our rules. We have our traditions and ways of doing things that seem normal and natural, but with God, He plays by different rules. We already know this through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Many rules were broken on that Easter weekend. God is not supposed to die. One man is not supposed to lay down His life for the world. Sins should not be forgiven by the sacrifice of one spotless lamb. And humans don’t come back to life after they die. But then again, our God doesn’t play by our worldly rules because this is exactly what he did for you. He did go to the cross, he did die, and he did rise from the dead…all for you, all so that you would have life in his name.
So when we talk about the work of the Holy Spirit, we should expect anything but the ordinary. Who knows what the Holy Spirit is going to do next, He has already surprised me many times over. Expect the unexpected for you never know when, where, or how God is going to use you and the gifts that he has given you to spread his Good News of Jesus Christ with the world…it may surprise you! God has shown us time and time again that anything is possible. Because of the Holy Spirit, expect the unexpected. Amen.
© 2015 Anthony Christoffels. Used with permission.