Sermon – June 9, 2019 – Pentecost

Pentecost Sunday

Wow!  The Pentecost story is quite a show. It’s almost as though it were choreographed by some Hollywood producer who was keyed into what trips our trigger, what keeps our attention. We have pyrotechnics…… Flames dancing on the heads of the gathered…… We had a powerful wind that blew through it that seemed to carry with it implications that this was not just some Southern breeze, but a purposeful rush…… And everybody started to speak in the  languages of the world. And it seems everyone was represented…… Parthians, Medes,  Elamites, Lutherans, folks from Mesopotamia and Judea and Cappadocia, from  and Asia and Phrygia, Pamphylia and Egypt yada yada yada.  That’s a host of folks, and curiously, some like the Medes, had not been around for centuries.

Now, with all that going on, if you took a selfie of the event, I wonder if you could find the Lutheran.  I don’t see us in the list, but we must have been there. Know how I know?  Someone asked the question, “What does this mean?” Very Lutheran question.  Those of you who made their way through Confirmation know that this was Luther’s query at the end of each part of the Small Catechism.

Of course, there were no Lutherans there.  Like the Medes, we were centuries removed.   But that is the key response in this story, I think. What does this mean? The story was not meant to be a stand alone event whose only purpose was to dazzle. What was happening on the Pentecost was fulfillment. The fulfillment of the resurrected Christ’s promise to send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, and the fulfillment of the promise that that Spirit would direct the mission of the church. And what was that mission? What was the spirit fulfilling?

Well, we’ll catch a glimpse as be go to back to earlier in Luke’s history in the gospel of Luke where he shared the account of Jesus proclaiming his mission statement in the fourth chapter. The story is a familiar one. Jesus goes to the hometown synagogue and, as was the practice of the synagogue gathering, he elected that time to speak and teach.  Happened all the time in the synagogue. Jesus wasn’t breaking any new ground by taking the opportunity, but the ground he broke was to proclaim that he was there to fulfill the promise of God to the world.

He said,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the broken hearted,
to proclaim release to the captives,
recovery of sight to the blind,
to deliver those who are oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And then he capped it off with this zinger, “today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

The event of Pentecost served to launch this mission statement as the core witness of the church of Jesus Christ. God in Christ has drawn near for the sake of God’s people and the whole world and good news has come to the poor and the brokenhearted, to the captives, the blind and the oppressed. This word of hope will be carried out in the world by the power of the Spirit fueling the ministry of believers. It was a clarifying and liberating word that put into context and gave legs to Jesus’ promise that his followers would do this great work of gospel-bearing from this day forward.  And the barriers to hope for the poor and oppressed, the sinner, and the walls of exclusion, and the marginalization of the other would be challenged and overcome in the name of this risen Jesus.

And still we wonder, what does this mean? So, let’s go local. Today we will hold a congregational meeting, and I’m pretty sure it will not be quite the church meeting that the folks at the Pentecost experienced, but together we will account for ministry outlined in Christ’s mission statement. We will remind each other that indeed good news is born to the captive in the imprisoned through our storybook program, where incarcerated men are given the opportunity to  record stories to be shared with their children. We will name our partnership and the promise to feed the hungry and build communities of hope through Sola Gratia Farm.   We will consider the shared gifts that have been put into our hands, how well we steward them and how we can do better for the sake of Christ’s mission. We will reflect on the work of St. Matthew from our gathered worship to the condition of the hospitality and worship component of our building. This is what it looks like. This is what the Spirit enables. These are the promises being kept through this mission outpost, St. Matthew Lutheran Church.

Pastor Carla and I just attended  are  annual Synod assembly, where the work and witness of the church at large attested to our common ministry to the world where thousands are fed, where the Gospel is proclaimed to all corners of the world, where our children are nurtured and brothers and sisters suffering outside of our communities are tended to, where we were again challenged to look with new eyes in our  time and place to who it is that Jesus serves and how we can again be spiritual partners and that mission.  We heard of the over 23 million dollars in direct aid to the hungry through ELCA world hunger, the tireless work of Lutheran Disaster Services that has responded to a multitude of crisis this year, from floods to earthquakes to bring relief, expertise and organization.  We shared the work of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee services who have expanded their visitation and care of the migrants and asylum seekers on our Southern border, and instituted expanded case management services to help these folks negotiate the complex and hostile bureaucracy.  We shared news of AMMPARO, a mission to uphold and guarantee basic human rights and safety of migrant children and their families.

We shared the news of ELCA Global ministry which as deployed hundreds of missionaries across the globe, include 90 in the Young Adults in Global Mission ministry, to bring the Good News of Christ to the world.  BTW, our Youth coordinator, Mary Corkery, leaves for a tour with YAGM this fall.  We were encouraged by our substantial relationship with the Malagasy Lutheran church in Madagscar, where we support pastors, churches and seminarians.

And on and on.  This is what this means.

Part of the accountability of stewarding this mission statement in our time is to look again and again at how this very same spirit has called, filled,  healed and sent each one of us in our own lives, in our own families, in our own communities. And then it is to see with the eyes to our time and place who it is that Jesus seeks to touch and change, who it is that Jesus seeks to lift up, what walls need to come down, for fear needs to be addressed. That is our local context for the mission statement of the Pentecost.  It is what we do together.

No, the Pentecost is not just a light show, but it is the fulfillment of God’s promises and the call of the church to continue to be Christ in the world, to our neighbor, to each other and it is a grace filled, hope filled, humble vocation.

And it is indeed ours. We might not have been in the selfie, but we are most certainly in the mission.  We weren’t there then, but we are now, and that promise is being filled through us, through the Body of Christ and the ministry we share.

So, let’s own it and proclaim again that mission in our context.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon us,
because he has anointed us to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent us to heal the broken hearted,
to proclaim release to the captives,
recovery of sight to the blind,
to deliver those who are oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in our hearing.

Indeed it has.  Thanks be to God.