(Pentecost is a big deal, but you probably know that already. Usually, though I do prepare sermons and often have a text, I prefer to preach without the text. But when I want to say things exactly the way they are, I use a text. I intended to use a text on Pentecost at Emmanuel Church in Killingworth. Unfortunately, as I was diving through Durham, I realized I had left the text on my desk in Cheshire! So, I didn't give this sermon on Pentecost. I used parts of it and it was, I think, between OK and quite good, but it wasn't this. So I'll share it with you here.)
PENTECOST 2014/Emmanuel, Killingworth
Fear always says 'no'.
If you're going to remember anything I say this Pentecost morning, remember this: FEAR ALWAYS SAYS 'NO'.
And remember this as well: GOD ALWAYS SAYS 'YES' TO US....
Jesus' friends were gathered in the same room they'd been using to hide. How many there were isn't clear. The book of Acts says 120--though that number may be high. They huddled together, still frightened that the Temple authorities might be after them, still grieving in some way--though they had seen the Risen Lord time and again, felt his breath upon they faces--and most, most of all, they were terribly, wrenching lonely.
Jesus had promised them they would be clothed in power. Jesus had promised them he would send and Advocate to be with them. Jesus had promised them they would be baptized in fire. Jesus had promised them he was already preparing a place for them.
But the promises seemed like so much pie crust to the disciples. They were still waiting for the promises to be fulfilled. They were frightened. And they were so lonely--so profoundly lonely.
That image...that metaphor...that paradigm of being crowed into a lonely, frightening room rings true for us today.
Fear haunts us these days. And though we huddle together in our fear, we are so profoundly lonely. Fear speaks but one word and that word is "NO".
Our faith teaches us to be hospitable to strangers--but our Fear says 'no' and we distrust those who are different from us.
Our faith teaches us to be compassionate--but our Fear says 'no' and we ignore the 'least of these' in our midst.
Our faith teaches us that God is Love--but our Fear says 'no' and most states still do not recognize marriage for loving same-sex couples who wish to marry.
Our faith teaches us to share our gifts with those in need--but our Fear says 'no' and we live in the richest nation in the history of human kind where the gap between the rich and the poor widens every day.
Our faith teaches us that 'a little child shall lead us' and that we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of God--but our Fear says 'no' as millions of children go underfed, undereducated and neglected around the world and in our country.
Remember this if you remember nothing else: Fear always says 'NO'.
There is no easy or simple way to explain it, what happened in that closed and fearful room on the first Pentecost--it happened like this: one moment the room was full of fear and the next moment the room was full of fire and a mighty wind fanning the flames until the fear was burned away and all that was left was hope and joy and those formerly frightened people 'found their voices' and left their hiding place and spoke words that transformed the world.
We need the Fires of Pentecost to burn away our fears and the Winds of Pentecost to blow away our loneliness. We need the Spirit to give us our voices so we may proclaim the 'YES' of God to the world.
Fear always says "NO"--but God always says "YES"....
We need a Pentecost. We know that God says "yes" to us. That God calls us to wonder and joy and love and compassion and hospitality. And not just in the 'big things'--God's "Yes" to us is about little things too.
This is a poem by Kaylin Haught titled "God says Yes to Me". It is a Pentecost poem, whether she knew it or not.
I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
Sweetcakes God said
Who knows where she picked that up
What I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes
What Pentecost is about is God saying "Yes" to you and you and you and you and all of us. What Pentecost is about is the Spirit coming so we are never, ever, not ever lonely again.
What Pentecost is about is Fire burning away Fear.
What Pentecost is about--and listen carefully, this is important--Pentecost is about God saying to you and you and you and you and you and all of us:
Sweetcakes, what I'm telling you is Yes, Yes, Yes!
Amen and Amen.
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