Fire and Love

a sermon for Pentecost

 

At the first Pentecost the Holy Spirit was sent to the disciples in a blast of wind and fire and suddenly they were able to proclaim the Gospel of all the languages of the world. This is why it has often been called “the birthday of the Church.”  But what does that mean for us today?

 

 

Come, Holy Spirit, come.
Come as fire and rekindle in our hearts a love of the Lord Jesus.
Come as a dove and bring to our lives the Peace of God.
Come as the wind and blow away the clouds of doubt and uncertainty 
which keep us from following Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Amen.

I understand that yesterday, there was a wedding in England. I forget the names of the folks who got married, but I remember that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached at their wedding! And if you haven’t heard him preach, you need to go online and find this sermon, because it’s amazing. Anyway, Bishop Curry quoted a French Jesuit priest by the name of Teilhard de Chardin, who was also a scientist and a philosopher: “when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.”

Fire and love. That pretty much sums up Pentecost.

Pentecost means “50 days,” because it’s been 50 days since Easter. And on that first Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus rose at the Resurrection, 10 days after he ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit descended and filled the room the disciples were in with wind and fire. And suddenly, they were given the ability to speak in languages of places they had never been. Suddenly, they could proclaim the Good News of Jesus to people from all over the world. That’s why we’re wearing red today. That’s why we call today, “the birthday of the Church.”

But why is that important to us here and now? Where is the Holy Spirit in our lives today?

To understand that, we need to go farther back, before the first Pentecost. All the way back to Genesis and the Tower of Babel. If you remember your bible stories, once upon a time, all the peoples of the earth had one language, and they all came together. And they were feeling pretty sure of themselves. So they decided to build a huge tower to reach the heavens as a monument to human ingenuity and to make a name for themselves. In other words, they were making an idol. But God was not impressed. God didn’t think humankind needed to build a monument to themselves. So God struck them all with different tongues, different languages, so they couldn’t understand each other. The people stopped building their city and scattered the all over the earth.

Fast forward to Jesus’ day, when the Spirit blew through that room. Suddenly everyone could understand the same message: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” It was a message of hope. It was message of divine love. Finally, the curse of Babel was set aside and by the power of the Holy Spirit, God reunited the peoples of the world through Jesus Christ.

Today, the world sounds and acts a lot like Babel. More and more, it seems like we’ve stopped even trying to understand one another. Important issues seem to just drag on and on because we are unwilling, or unable, to understand the other person’s point of view. Politicians argue about immigration, gun violence, health care – you name it. Friends and families argue about this and that. Meanwhile, social media has become one of the most anti-social places in the world.

This is why Pentecost is so important to us today – because we need to be brought back together. We need to be reunited, renewed and refreshed. This is why the Holy Spirit was given to us. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so that we might know the love that God has for the whole world. This is why Spirit was sent to the disciples that day, and why the Spirit remains with us even now.

Jesus describes the Holy Spirit in many ways. He calls it as an Advocate, a Counsellor, a Paraclete and “the Spirit of truth who will guide us into all truth.” But it’s important that we understand what he means by truth. He’s not talking about matters of fact; it’s not about beating the other guy over the head with our theological point of view. He’s talking about matters of faith. Jesus is referring to himself. Remember how he said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life?” Jesus is saying that the Paraclete, the one sent by God to walk alongside us when he is gone, will show us the Way of Jesus. The Spirit is our companion on the the Way, our journey with Jesus. Only then will we love one another as ourselves; only then will our hearts be renewed and turned back to one another.

We need the dove of the Holy Spirit to give us peace – to open us to each other, to turn our hearts in love toward each other. We need the wind of the Holy Spirit to blow down our own little monuments to ourselves and fan the flames of our love for God and for each other. We need the fire of the Holy Spirit to restore to us a burning passion for Jesus, the one who loved us so much that he was willing to die for us on the cross and be raised again.

The Bible says that the fruit of the Spirit are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control. That means wherever there is Love, the Spirit is there, wherever there is Joy, Peace, Patience or Kindness, the Holy Spirit resides. Wherever there is Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control, that is where the Spirit can be found.

Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The Holy Spirit is with us here, now in this room. I know that because the fruit of the Spirit is here. Because wherever the love of God brings people together to live and work for God’s purposes, the Spirit is there. Wherever the love of our neighbors brings us together to share a meal or to live or play or worship as the Body of Christ, the Holy Spirit is within us. Wherever we look and see the joy of a child or the gentleness of an older couple toward one another, we know that the Spirit is alive. Wherever we gather together in love, as we have today, to share in the breaking of bread and fellowship, the Holy Spirit is present.

The question isn’t whether or not the Holy Spirit has come to us. The Spirit is here. The question is what are we going to do about? How are we going to share the fire and love that God has given us? What are we going to do to help bring the peace of God, the love of God, the power of God to everyone we meet?

There’s an old song, a camp song, that maybe you know. It was written by a Presbyterian Pastor named Daniel Iverson, who actually studied for a time here at the University of South Carolina.

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

This place is filled with the Holy Spirit because it’s filled with love – love for God and for each other. All we need to do is turn that love outward to everyone we meet this week. Then maybe, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they might find the love of God for themselves.

Thanks be to God.

 

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