It’s that time of year again…it’s Pentecost. Pentecost as in Pentecostal…some of us are not so comfortable with that term as it brings to mind talking in tongues (not the same kind of tongue talking we just read in Acts 2), mumbling prayers, hands waving, and perhaps some snake handling. Pentecost in and of itself means 50, 50 days had passed since Passover, 50 days since the stone was rolled away from the tomb and Mary thought she was talking to the gardener but was speaking with Jesus. 50 days doesn’t have much to do with holy languages, prayer, hand waving and certainly nothing to do with snakes. But it’s what happened on that 50th day that the disciples were gathered, waiting for a word, waiting for the Word, waiting for Jesus that changed everything, that has to do with prayer, hand waving, the languages we speak…I think we’re best to leave the snakes to themselves.
50 days since Easter for them and their time together was turned upside down, people where hearing the gospel in languages that they could understand, Peter—the one who never got anything right, stood up and spoke eloquently assuring the crowds that the men and women speaking in these varied languages were not drunk…after all, it was only 9am in the morning! Peter—the one who always spoke too soon, constantly needing to retrieve his foot from his mouth, this same Peter was now standing before the crowd of witnesses, testifying that the prophet Joel’s words had come true—young men and women, yes women! Men and women were prophesying, the young were having visions while the old ones dream powerful dreams and all were coming together so that we, you and I, 2000+ years later might know that there is more than existential angst, that we too might dream dreams and see visions, and come to know the resurrected Jesus, not only in stories but through the power of the Holy Spirit. Some hand waving seems appropriate doesn’t it? Thanks be to God, that we can know Christ, that we can feel the power of the Holy Spirit blowing upon our lives, whispering in our ears.
But we look around our gathering this morning; do we see visions of the young and old? Do we see flaming tongues or hear howling winds of the Holy Spirit? Do we secretly wonder if the Spirit of God is no longer in this place?
This weekend at Annual Conference, I listened to a young man speak of his dreams. He dreamt that God was walking beside him, they walked upon a street in Belize, walked from the street and into a small cramped factory, a sweatshop where a little girl came up to the young man and said “Help.” This young man was up the rest of the night trying to decide if this meant he needed to go to Belize or if it was that he needed to look and listen to those who cry out for help. Or perhaps both. As he spoke, there was a fire burning within him, the fire of Pentecost. As I listened to him, I thought of Peter’s words, your old will dream dreams and your young will have visions. The time has come! Not merely 2000 years ago, 50 days after that first Easter but today, there are young men and women with vision for our church. There are older folks with dreams for our church. We are the body of Christ as we join together and work to make disciples for the transformation of the world.
God has not left us alone, God is with us, God has sent the paraclete, the Holy Spirit to guide us, to comfort us, to argue with us when we sit in the face of injustice. Today we celebrate the birthday of the church—what gift will we bring? What gift will we bring to the body of Christ redeemed by Christ’s blood, one in each other, one in ministry to all the world? While at Annual Conference this weekend, a friend of mine suggested that our United Methodist mission statement was backward—Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and what we should be doing is Transforming the world to make disciples of Jesus Christ. How often does the world look upon Christians and see nothing but hypocrisy, hate, intolerance, self-righteousness? Perhaps if we spoke less and worked more, they might see our love, our grace, our peace, and our concern for the world that God so loved and was willing to become one of us, willing to die upon that cross, and refused to let death and hate be the end of the story. This young man who dreamed of a little girl needing help in Belize, suggested something along these lines as well—he said that in the church we say we must build the church so we can do missions, but perhaps we must do missions so that we can build the church.
This young man that spoke at Annual Conference is not the lone voice in the wilderness. We too have youth with dreams and visions for our church and the Church. The question is do we listen? Do we listen and do were hear even if the gospel is spoken in a language unlike ours? Can we let the Holy Spirit translate for us, so we might hear the vision and understand? Listen, listen!