It was as if someone had told them ahead of time that, if they only trusted, if they only believed, if they only had faith, it would happen just like it did.
Dry bones? Wind? Flames? Different languages?
It’s a lot to cover but let’s look at these stories.
For many of us, they are familiar stories. One challenge of preaching on major festival days such as Christmas, Easter, or Pentecost lies in their familiarity. So, let’s have a guest preacher! Ha. With a familiar story, let’s bring in a less familiar voice. Thanks, Lee; thanks for inviting me to preach on Pentecost.
I already preached on these dry bones, the rattling to life of the dry bones; the wind, the spirit. I used these stories yesterday as a part of sensory worship with Salvage Garden. I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised God has me repeating things. Personally, I find myself repeating things until I get things right, or get it at all. Can you relate? God reminds me again and again (and again) of the important things.
And today, these stories, they offer me (and I hope you!)
They offer a needed gift of renewal for our own dry bones. I am—we are—invited to receive anew the life-giving, fire breathing spirit of God.
Will you pause with me for a moment of silence?
These are powerful stories. They’re norm-busting. (I like that…I like to break the norms! Some of you know that about me…) But these stories and many stories of our faith, they have been domesticated. What do I mean? I mean some of our stories have been sugar-coated, sweetened, softened.
Moravian Frank Crouch says, “Incarnation, resurrection, and the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon all flesh – these stories find themselves toned down – toned down into quiet images of a baby in a manger, a bunny with a basket, and a burning breeze that swept through some distant place in a distant age, leaving perhaps only a trace of its passage among our own people in our own time.”
People, the spirit of God is not described so sweetly in the place of the dry bones and of Pentecost. The Spirit is powerful. It’s fiery flames. Flames on people’s heads!
Do a Google image search for Pentecost and you’ll see that art history mainly gives us small, polite tongues of fire dancing through a room, or resting as unobtrusively as possible (for fire) upon the heads of people calmly sitting in their places.
There seems to be little that would draw a crowd of onlookers or invoke much more than, “That was weird.” It’s like a Facebook post or viral video that is quickly forgotten.
People! These stories are full of possibilities for us today.
Pentecost calls us to recognize that the Spirit is alive and active not just on a spectacular day in the first century, but constantly and always, even now.
I thought about ending here. I thought about wishing you a spectacular day filled with the spirit. I could, maybe I should, stop here. But…
Where is the Spirit? How does the Spirit show up? (I told Cliff Greaves he may be inspired to speak in tongues today.) Where is the spirit? How does the spirit show up?
Whether we speak in a variety of languages or hear and feel the wind or find flames “resting” upon our heads (let me know if that’s your experience!), the spirit is alive and active. I can’t define how the spirit will move in you, through you, in your life. But I get to remind of you the good news: The spirit of God is poured out upon all people. (Here I could list gay people, straight people, tall people, short people, disabled people, temporarily able people, rich people, poor people, people…PEOPLE.)
People – the spirit of God is poured out upon all people. You and me and the person next to you, and the person at the church down the street and the person who doesn’t go to church…)
And…this shouldn’t be surprising. In Acts 2:16, Peter says we knew it would happen just like it did: “This is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…I will pour out my Spirit.”
It’s not surprising, really. The same Spirit that is said to have enlivened dry bones and birthed the church, this Spirit can
-blow away the cobwebs of our traditions
–freshen our faces and awaken us to the challenges of today
-fill our sails and send us on a voyage of spiritual discovery
–burn away the rubbish in our lives
-warm our hearts and
–light a beacon of hope for all people.
The message is this: the Holy Spirit still blows through us and all our messes. And, we rise up to do something new. RISE up. Really, get your old bones up.
Repeat after me: Holy Spirit – speak to us – and through us – inspire us – and excite us – and comfort us. (You may be seated).
People, the unconstrained spirit of God is surprisingly not that surprising:
In fact, I heard the gentle whisper of the spirit last week in the gathering space in this building…(a group of women were playing cards and the spirit was like a gentle laugh. The spirit sounded like joy found in a card game, joy found in friendship, joy found in fellowship.)
I felt the sweeping rush of the spirit two weeks ago in this sanctuary and on the sidewalks and in the fellowship hall. The spirit looked like hundreds of community members gathered to celebrate a life ended too soon. The spirit smelled like (YESSS, smelled like!) fresh baked goods, comforting food.
The unconstrained spirit of God is surprisingly not that surprising.
Gentle as a dove, yes. Burning as fire, yes.
Comforting like people gathered at a memorial service, yes. Delightful like fresh baked foods, yes.
People, don’t be surprised that God’s spirit is here. Today. Watch and listen for the wind and flame and rattling that has always been a part of our story.
And please, share your life-giving, fire-breathing spirit-of-God stories with each other and with the world.
Amen. And amen.