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The Spirit Sends Us

ESPERANZA LUTHERAN CHURCH https://myesperanza.org

Sometimes we don’t know when the Holy Spirit is going to show up and do something unexpected. That’s the case for the disciples in our scripture reading today. The eleven disciples, with other followers alongside them, are in one place together, and they’re still trying to figure out what to do now. You see, according to the book of Acts, Jesus ascended into heaven several days prior. He told his disciples to remain in Jerusalem to wait for “the promise of the Father,” but they didn’t know what that would look like – not really. They didn’t know that as the Holy Spirit comes to descend upon them, that same Spirit would cause such a commotion that others would wander in curious to what this was all about.

And I think this is one of the most fascinating things about the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is active – when we are filled with the Spirit – note I said “spirit” singular, for indeed it is not even mid morning in our reading, our actions, sometimes our very attitude, leads others to wonder – what is it about what this person is experiencing is allowing them to behave in such a manner? And that question is a question that is asked time and again in the book of Acts. It’s a curiosity – what is causing such joy-filled behavior that defies expectation? What is causing these backwater Galileans to speak in the native languages of so many of us gathered here in Jerusalem?

And as I referenced before, it doesn’t stop with just these tongues of fire, and speaking in foreign languages. It doesn’t stop with Peter’s speech to the gathered crowd, of which we only hear a portion of today. This Spirit-filled activity, causing curiosity and hope among others, continues in the mutual care of the whole community that follows – in people giving up all they have to share the proceeds with other believers. In serving those who desperately need hope in their lives. These things are transforming, and others begin to notice as well. They begin to wonder – “what is it about these followers of Jesus of Nazareth that causes them to act in such a peculiar way of love and service?” And questions about the followers of Jesus have never fully ceased. There are still questions asked today about what us followers of Jesus are all about, and the answer we give through our actions affects our mission.

But the questions these days about Jesus followers tend to be a little bit different today than they were two thousand years ago. Because in those first days of the church, those who followed the Way of Jesus were such a novelty and virtual unknown that most questions were about identifying their motivation and their source. Now, most people have at least a baseline understanding on who Christians are – but there are still questions about motivation. There are still questions about what our intent is in all these things.

And that’s in part because being a Christian doesn’t mean the same thing to all people. When people encounter us for the first time, their questions might become more specific than I’ve already suggested. They might ask, “are these Christians going to welcome me for who I am, even if I’m not just like them?” These people we encounter might ask, “are these Christians who are generous in all things, or are these Christians who want me to prove I’m “worth” helping? Are these Christians who believe their baptismal birthright is one of power, or one of service? There are a lot of questions on who we as Christians are these days. But the answer should be obvious. It should be obvious because we’ve got a welcome statement that states “all are welcome,” and there are not preconditions on it. It should be obvious because we are a community that welcomes diverse groups to come and use our space. We are here to serve the least and the broken. The answer to the question of who we are should be answered through our own response to the Holy Spirit working among us today – and today I can tell you that Spirit is indeed still at work.

It’s at work in the mutual caring that takes place among the people gathered here, signs of a church that bears the burdens of one another. It’s at work in the kind words and welcome of the guest who is still trying to figure this place out. The Spirit is at work as we partner with and celebrate alongside those groups in our community that seek to directly serve people in any need. And the Spirit is definitely at work in our prayer – as we lift up those who have burdens and celebrate with those who celebrate in thanksgiving.

The Holy Spirit binds us together in holy community – and this community exists far beyond those who walk through these doors.

Because if it was just about those of us who are gathered here and nobody else, then the Spirit wouldn’t have made such a commotion on the day of Pentecost that others from all around the known world decided to come and investigate. If the Spirit was just about us, then the disciples wouldn’t have taken to the streets to speak to these crowds. Peter would not have stepped forward to proclaim what God had done in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit that calls us to expand the circle – to proclaim God’s great saving act in Jesus Christ far beyond the walls of this place. And our acts of service – in being the kinds of Christians who live for the sake of our neighbor – are indeed signs of these things.

So what would it look like if Pentecost were to happen today? Who would we as people of faith who are newly blessed with the gift of the Holy Spirit be reaching out to? Would we too be gifted with the ability to speak in different languages? Would I suddenly be able to speak like a member of Gen Z and understand what “yeet” means? Or would our day of Pentecost be simpler? Would it actually be us simply being more intentional about doing what we have identified as the things that make us a body of Christ? I wonder, what would it look like if we truly believed we were being sent by the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim what we say we believe? Would we live it out? Would others know who we are and want to know more?

Family of God, this day is a day where we declare the Spirit’s power anew. This day is a day where we invite the Spirit’s presence among us, and then we trust that the one who sent the Holy Spirit indeed sends us. So today, and every day, trust that the Holy Spirit who binds us all together binds us into a larger community that is hungry for good news. Trust that we have that good news. And with that good news, we proclaim the Easter joy again, that Christ is alive. And because Christ is alive, we too will live. And in our living, our church, our world, will know the joy and hope of eternal life found in God.