Pentecost: The Birthday of the Church

Today, Pentecost, is the birthday of the church. It is the festival of the never-ending harvest of the people of God. And in the book of Acts everyone who was anyone was there.

There were Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, and parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs. Today we could add Swedes and Norwegians, Germans and Russians, Italians, and English folk, the Irish, we could add French and Mexicans and Brazilians, Kenyans, South Africans, Poles and Hungarians, Iranians and Greeks and on and on, and we could say: “In our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”

So happy birthday church!

Happy birthday people of God!

Now listen to the gifts we have been given. God says that God will pour out God’s Spirit on all flesh and in the pouring of the Spirit some incredible things happen:

Our sons and daughters shall prophesy.

Our young men shall see visions.

Our old men shall dream dreams.

Everything is going to be filled with change and excitement.

The opening line of the Gospel lesson is this: “When the Advocate comes.” Sometimes translated as Comforter. The original word is Paraclete, and the result of the coming of this so-called Advocate is that we will encounter the Spirit of truth.

I would like to rename the Spirit sent on Pentecost. It is not about being our advocate, or our comforter, rather the one sent on Pentecost is the source of agitation, so says David Lose, preaching teacher and seminary President.

I would deem this Spirit the “holy agitator.” Pentecost is a time when everything gets turned upside down.

We Lutherans spend a lot of time talking about Grace, Forgiveness, the Love of God. We love talking about God the creator and we love talking about Jesus. But when it comes to the Holy Spirit we have tendencies.

We have the tendency to run and hide. We run and hide because we Lutheran’s don’t like to get agitated. We like things calm and orderly. We don’t like confrontation. We want things to just go along as they are and we don’t, heaven forbid we don’t want to change.

And so today we are confronted with the “holy agitator”: a gift, and in the gift we encounter the wonder of the prophecy of our sons and daughters, the visions of our young leaders, the dreams of our elders and the wonder of change itself.

We get turned upside down by the presence of God and once again we are all here and in our own languages we hear of the mighty words of God.

Birthdays are like that. They mark dates and times of change and transition. They are in some ways times of agitation.

George Carlin did the greatest routine on aging and birthdays and change and anticipation. The first part of it goes like this:

      Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we’re kids? If you’re less than 10 years old, you’re so excited about aging that you think in fractions.

      ‘How old are you?’ ‘I’m four and a half!’ You’re never thirty-six and a half. You’re four and a half, going on five! That’s the key.

      You get into your teens, now they can’t hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead.

      ‘How old are you?’ ‘I’m gonna be 16!’ You could be 13, but hey, you’re gonna be 16! And then the greatest day of your life … . You become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony . YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!!

      But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There’s no fun now, you’re Just a sour-dumpling. What’s wrong? What’s changed?

      You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you’re PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it’s all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are gone.

      But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn’t think you would!

      So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.

      You’ve built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it’s a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday!

      You get into your 80’s and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30 ; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn’t end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards; ‘I Was JUST 92.’

      Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. ‘I’m 100 and a half!’

      May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

 At every turn, every change, every happy birthday there is the presence of the Spirit turning things upside down.

And now on Pentecost Sunday, 2017, we need to look at the ways in which we view ourselves as a church. We need to celebrate the change we are and we need look at the way in which the Spirit is leading us and changing us and turning us upside down, once again.

Happy birthday church and Happy Birthday people of God at Overland Park Lutheran Church. Today marks over 2,000 years of having the Spirit agitate and stir things up.

This Pentecost marks the 66th birthday of Overland Park Lutheran Church and each year on this Sunday we remember the coming of the “holy agitator.” Remember how the Spirit agitates. Hear those words again.

21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

God gives us forgiveness to stir things up.

God gives us the spirit so that we can be sent.

God gives us peace so that we might be the presence of the kingdom in the world.

Today, on the Birthday of the Church, we are called once again to be stirred up, agitated in action. We will not stand still.