GROW. Growing in Sharing Faith - Week 1 - 6/8 - Pastor April's Sermon

The Resurrection happened and for 40 days afterward, the disciples were processing and understanding what had happened. Jesus continued to appear to them during this time and it seems that each time more and more of the story was starting to make sense.   He wouldn’t be staying for long – and that it would now be their task to take this good news and go out into the world – in fact, to the ends of the earth. But knowledge and understanding are one thing – putting our feet to the ground and beginning to act and move and live differently – this is the hard part.

 

And so 40 days after Easter and 10 days before the season of Pentecost, Jesus is about to leave them.

And he tells them – don’t leave the city. For in a few days, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

And then – he is gone.

 

So, here is this RAG TAG group of men.

Fishermen, former tax collectors, political activists, and tradesmen.

They have spent three years with Jesus, most of them, they’ve just experienced their worlds turned upside down when he dies and comes back to life.

but they weren’t people of power or religious position.

 

And it is now up to them – to wait for the Spirit – and be witnesses to the good news – even to the ends of the Earth.

 

Now, I don’t know about you – but I think it’s fair to say that the disciples might have found this – just a little bit intimidating.

 

How is it possible that it is going to be us that will carry this message to the ends of the earth?

 

 

When I started my journey in seminary, I did so – because I was working as a youth pastor in a church and discovering that I simply did not know what I needed to know to be able to lead and serve these kids. They were smart and they had REALLY good questions about REALLY important things. And I knew that without some education, I was not going to be able to do this job the way it should be done.

 

And so I went to seminary. And I began to explore and think anew and learn things and grow. I was taking classes part time and I thought, MAYBE… just MAYBE – I’ll get a degree in Christian Ed.

 

But before I began, I was sure that I told God just exactly what I WAS and WAS NOT going to do.

 

I wanted to learn more to help my job.

 

But I wasn’t going to PREACH.

 

I wasn’t going to become an ELDER.

 

And I was DEFINITELY not going to become the lead pastor of a congregation.

 

I really want to know what God was thinking when I saying all of those things – because I really think God was laughing at my ordination.

 

But at that moment. I couldn’t FATHOM doing what I am doing now. It was way too daunting. It was too big. And it couldn’t be possible that God would call an ordinary person like me – someone who frankly – let’s be honest – wasn’t super holy… to be the one to share the good news.

 

I like to imagine that it was in this kind of place that the disciples found themselves on the morning of Pentecost.

They were waiting and they weren’t quite sure what the future held.

 

When the wind began to blow and when the fire began to come and when they began to speak –

 

And it must have created quite a scene – because a crowd quickly gathered.

 

Now people had been gathered there in Jerusalem from twelve different nations. These were Jewish people who had been dispersed by the conquests of the Roman empire, but who had gathered back into the city for the Feast of the Harvest, of the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost.

 

It was a time to celebrate that God had made enough for all people.

 

And in the middle of this festival – they are hearing the good news of God’s deeds of power – in their native tongues.

 

And they are trying to understand what it means, when Peter stands up to speak.

 

Now this is the same Peter who just 7 ½ weeks before had denied that he even knew Jesus.

It’s the same Peter who had inserted his foot into his mouth over and over again during his time with Jesus.

 

THIS is the guy – who stands before thousands of people to speak – with confidence, with wisdom – to tell them that what is happening is the Spirit of God.

And to tell them that the Spirit of God – will in fact come upon all of us.

I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh – young, old, women, men, slaves, and free – there is no partiality – but the Holy Spirit will be poured out on all of us – so that we might be able to declare the good news of God’s great works of power.

The Holy Spirit – Peter Says, is coming to ALL of us – ordinary people – so that we might be able to declare with our lives the power of God and the good news of the Gospel.

 

The Holy Spirit coming to be in all of us – ordinary people.

 

Well, returning to my story – I continued in seminary – I kept taking classes and I kept learning.

 

And a moment came when the learning was so invigorating and so life-giving that I knew I needed to switch degree tracks and pursue a Master’s of Divinity.

 

But the only problem with this plan is that I was required to take a class in Preaching.

 

Let me be clear with all of you how terrified of preaching I was.

 

I almost didn’t switch degrees because of this.

 

And I waited as long as possible before my advisor forced me to take the first level of preaching course.

 

And I will never forget the first time I preached. I was so physically ill before that sermon, that without sharing with you all the details of that morning – let’s just say I spent a good portion of it – in the restroom.

 

I could not calm my nerves. I felt like I was going to vomit or faint at any moment.

 

And then the time came and I stepped up to the podium. And I started my sermon with a prayer.

 

And I can’t tell you what happened in that moment –

I don’t think there was the sound of a rushing wind and I didn’t feel tongues of fire landing on me – but I did feel a wave of calm rush into my body, almost as if I was being lifted up by someone.

And when I spoke, it was as if it wasn’t my voice – because the voice that came out of my mouth wasn’t the nervous wreck that I had felt all morning, it was a voice of confidence and power and encouragement and hope – it was a voice sharing the good news.

 

That first sermon will always represent the story of Pentecost for me personally – and I try to revisit it as much as possible – because it is the reminder to me – that each one of us – ordinary people have been called to share the good news – in a lot of different ways – and often in places and spaces that scare the blazes out of us.

 

It is no coincidence that the church was born on the day when the Spirit was poured not just on the special people, or the beautiful people, or the folks that everyone thought were most important,

Not just on the people who were confident and good speakers, not just on the ones who were in power, the ones who had money, and the ones who were especially holy.

 

The church was born – when the spirit of God was poured out and made available to ALL people.

 

The church began when everyone who received the Spirit began to be open to using their gifts – of speaking and of listening to sharing the good news with one another.

 

Sharing the good news. That’s when the Church began.

 

Friends

We’ve got some good news to share. This church has got some good news to share. In this place, there are amazing stories of how each of you have experienced radical grace and love and hospitality.

 

It’s good news. And it’s good stuff.

 

But – let’s just say it –

 

Because this month is all about Sharing our Faith –

 

Most of us, are not very good at this.

 

We don’t feel very comfortable sharing our faith.

We don’t feel like we know enough or are articulate enough…

 

We’re so worried about appearing like the fundamentalist – about appearing pushy or making someone think that all we care about is converting them…

 

that we sit on the good news of God’s love and don’t share it with people.

 

And so this month in particular – where there are so many opportunities for you to reach out to share the good news of God’s love for all people -

And so I wonder where the tongues of fire are reaching out to each one of you. For the story of Pentecost reminds us that the fire of the Holy Spirit is within each one of us. The light of the Spirit is a part of us – and we are CALLED – to set the world on fire – to allow that Spirit to guide us and shape us and help us work through our fears and insecurities about how we aren’t good enough or smart enough or articulate enough to live and share the story of what God has done.

 

So, we are going to invite each one of you to come forward in just a moment. Around the room are tables and on those tables are candles. There are enough candles to represent EACH person in this room. And so – I want to invite you to come forward. To think about your own journey and the way the Spirit has awoken things in your life and where the Spirit might be calling you to shine YOUR light into the darkness. To share the good news in the way that you have been uniquely gifted – to claim your authority as a minister of the Good News – to let the Spirit work within you to bring healing to this world and share the good news of God’s love to the ends of the earth.