PentecostB/ May 27, 2012
I’ll happily admit to you that I’m a morning person. I’m one of those people that wakes up chipper and ready to tackle the world. But I need a few things to stay that way. I need a little quiet time where I can organize my world and plan my day, time where I can read or think or write. If I got the paper, I’d be one of those people who did crosswords or the cryptogram. I need a good cup of coffee. And none of that, extra bold, in-your-face, black as mud nonsense either. Just something with a mild and lovely flavor, with just enough spark to perk me up a little bit. As I’ve become a coffee afficionado, I’ve finally realized why coffee companies make a “Breakfast Blend”. Because too much too early just starts your day off on the wrong foot.
What I’m not as happy to admit is that if the Holy Spirit came in blends like coffee, I’d probably stick with the Breakfast Blend there too. Hey, if it’s good for the coffee, then why not with the Holy Spirit? Just a little zip–enough to perk things up a bit– not enough to shock anything. What more could the church ask for?
Fortunately for me, and the church, the Holy Spirit isn’t about being “just a little pick me up.” Unfortunately for me, and the church, the Holy Spirit isn’t about being “just a little pick me up.”
Because when the Holy Spirit sweeps in, then everything gets uprooted, knocked down, and sent flying. Take the Acts passage we read this morning. Everything was fine and lovely in the post-resurrection world. People began to realize that Jesus wasn’t just a very nice man who had some inconvenient ideas and did some strange things. The church formed and began to figure out how to be a church. Jesus and the Church had their first fellowship dinners. They got busy with the sacraments. They got anxious about questions of when and how. Then Jesus ascended, and that posed a problem because they were without direction and governance. So they had their first session meeting– where they took roll, and decided even the women had something to add to the church. But then they realized that they were one person short because Judas wasn’t able to fulfill his term, so they had a nominating committee meeting and actually nominated two, because numbers weren’t all that important–so long as the work was getting done. Those were the early days of the church, at least as the first chapter of Acts records it. Everything was good. Things were moving along at a comfortable pace– fast enough to be interesting, slow enough to keep people on board. The folks enjoyed fellowshipping together, and made a point to do it often. Things were easier that way anyway, because then they didn’t have to explain to their old friends how everything was different now, and how those jokes that they’d all laughed at before weren’t really funny anymore and how they just didn’t have time to go fishing now that everything was so busy at the church. Everything was hunky dory in the early church. It had a promising, successful, and uneventful future in front of it. It was your nice, breakfast-blend sort of day. Until it wasn’t.
The day it wasn’t was the day the Holy Spirit decided to switch their breakfast blend for the extra-bold, in-your-face, black-as-mud blend. Only it wasn’t just their coffee routine that was upset. It was the whole church. It was everything that mattered to them, everything they thought they could count on. Nothing was decently and in order any more, what with the Holy Spirit tangling with all the accents and everything. The Southerners sounded like the Mid-westerners who began to say things like “Don’t ya know” when “yall” would’ve done just fine. The Californians quit asking for Bean Sprouts and started to look for the sweet tea. And the Northerners quit talking so fast because they had to say “like” in front of every other phrase. None of the stereotypes worked anymore. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Because suddenly, there were others– people they were trying to avoid because the early-church lifestyle just didn’t jive with the old “whatever floats your boat” ways, no-offense. The church had rules. That’s what made it a church, right? The people knew what was in and what and who were out. But, on this day, the Holy Spirit breathed its hot sticky breath all over them and the air itself was so charged that the whole church got inebriated on the fumes. At least that’s what made the most sense to say out loud.
What didn’t make sense was this wildfire blaze of a Holy Spirit, who came and hissed his fire breath and said “My fire is gonna inflame all yall–not a single one of you will remain untouched. And something is gonna happen. Your children will dare to dream things never before imagined. Your old folks are gonna testify about what God has done in their lives, and they are going to help bring up a new generation of people who imagine what God is calling them to be. Wherever you were comfortably silent before, you will not be silent any longer, because you have God-inspired words that will shape this world forever. And my fire that lives in you will start something that sends the church in a whole new direction, where it won’t be about rules and who fits because that’s just hot air. There’s a difference between hot air and fire, dontyaknow. And I’m here to give you fire that burns down walls between people.”
Of course, we didn’t ask the Holy Spirit to do any of that. Perhaps we were quite comfortable before.
And now you know why we don’t send Pentecost cards. Now you know why in the standard church year, Pentecost only gets one Sunday when Easter and Christmas both get seasons. Because if we claim the truth about Pentecost, the one that’s come unwrapped from it’s beautiful, gently swooping, breeze bringing, dove of a package that we like to put it in, then we’re left with a blaze that we don’t know how to contain. And all that heat will surely destroy the church, right?
Well here’s the truth. The church has plenty of heat–all you hear about churches lately is that they are arguing. Sparks are flying everywhere, in some places ashes are left smoldering. There’s plenty of heat in the church these days. The question that Pentecost forces us to ask is “Does it have any fire?”
Heat chooses principles. Fire chooses love. Heat is an argument, fire is a movement. Heat seeks its own way. Fire seeks God’s way. Heat makes us uncomfortable. Fire makes us move. Heat destroys the church. Fire refines the church. Heat just makes us hot. Fire sets our hearts ablaze until they finally melt and begin to take the shape of God’s heart.
Oh the church has plenty of heat right now. But if all we have is heat, we’ve lost our identity. We’ve lost our calling. We’ve lost the gospel.
Fortunately for us, the Holy Spirit’s currency is fire, not heat. If it turns out that we’ve lost our fire, then the Holy Spirit is happy to help. Be careful what you ask for, though, because the Holy Spirit doesn’t come in Breakfast Blend.
Reverend Kim Justice