Sermon for 6/8/14; John 20:19-23 Pentecost

It’s Pentecost which means we have to deal with that pesky Holy Spirit again. A few weeks back, I talked about the Holy Spirit a bit and how we struggle to talk about the Holy Spirit. It seems easy to talk about God the Father and God the Son, but God the Holy Spirit is a bit of a mystery for sure. Today again we hear stories of the Spirit, speaking in tongues, wind, fire, it sounds anything but Lutheran. It sounds, well, Pentecostal. We don’t talk about the Holy Spirit, at times, we don’t acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, and we certainly may turn up our noses at speaking in tongues. But here’s the thing, brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit is the force that constantly moves in our lives, in our church, in our homes, in our world, reminding us and showing us the incredible and overwhelming power of God. The Holy Spirit is what keeps us grounded in the idea that there is something greater than us at work in this world. Thanks be to God!

At our last church council meeting, I handed out small post it notes to each council member and then gave them this question: what is Elvira Zion rich in? I wanted to think of it as a conversation about stewardship, which it was. But, as I started to think about it, I really think it can also be a conversation about the ways we feel and see the Holy Spirit moving in this place. And lest you think it’s not moving, it really is–can you feel it? So we shared those ideas among each other and then I posted those post-its on my door. I wanted them some place where I could see them every day. I wanted a visual reminder as to how rich we really are.

It’s time to stop apologizing. It’s time to stop trying to cover up the Holy Spirit’s work. Let me explain what I mean. It’s time to reclaim the “E” in ELCA–evangelical. Let’s stop apologizing. “Well, we’re just a small country church.” Or “well, we’re out in the middle of the country.” Or “I’m sorry you have to drive out here.” Maybe you’ve even said (or heard) “if you don’t have anything else going on this Sunday, maybe you want to come to church with me…you know, if you’re not too busy.” Ho-hum. Enough! I love you. I am proud to be your pastor! I think the things that God, through the Holy Spirit, is doing in this place are amazing. I want everyone in like a 3 county area to know about it. We’ve got amazing things going on here and it’s time to stop apologizing for the work of the Holy Spirit.

So when I asked the council what we were rich in, the answers delighted me and made me almost burst with the Holy Spirit. We’re rich in tradition, in leadership, in fortitude, in community service, outreach, and the list goes on and on and on. These are things that the Holy Spirit is doing. Pentecost is not just one day a year, brothers and sisters. The Holy Spirit blows and stirs up around here on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s a life changing idea like our food pantry. Sometimes it’s an idea that may not work out but at least we listened to the Holy Spirit and took a chance.

There are those in our communities who are hungry to hear about the good news of Jesus Christ. We are all witnesses to the changing and reforming work of the Holy Spirit. In baptism, you’ve been claimed and God is not letting go. That cross, put on you in baptism, is like a signal to other people. This is your “witness” signal. It’s time to stop hiding in witness protection, ashamed, afraid, or timid to talk to people about God and our faith. Instead, we need to be bold witnesses, alive with the spirit, on fire for Christ. When the world looks at us are they really seeing people who are claimed by God and people who believe they are claimed by God? Do you believe you are claimed by God? Would people believe that you think that just by knowing you? Are you the type of person that people look at and think “there is something different about that person…I don’t know what it is, but I want it.” It’s the Holy Spirit.

Being Holy Spirit people, which is what I think we are, what we can be, and what we will continue to be, is more than being part of a club. The church is not a club. The Lions, or Masons, or Scouts or whatever…they’re all great volunteer organizations. But the church is not a volunteer organization. God has a hold of you and is not letting go. The Holy Spirit is the same way. Sometimes the Holy Spirit grabs hold of you, we may not have an idea of where it is going to take us, but we just hold on, trust God, and go.

Being Holy Spirit people means being willing to trust God. Being Holy Spirit people means that we have to say “we don’t know if this is going to work, but we’re willing to give it a try.” Being Holy Spirit people means that we stop apologizing. There is something exciting going on at Elvira Zion Lutheran Church. What makes you excited to be a member? What keeps you coming Sunday after Sunday? Don’t you want other people to know? Some of you have said to me, “I tell my friends…come and see! Just one Sunday, I promise.” That’s all it takes. Being Holy Spirit people means that we allow ourselves to dream.

Dreaming isn’t just for kids. I’m not talking about fairy tales or happily ever after kinds of dreams, although those are nice. What I am talking about is quiet, whispered, hoped for dreams that you only share with God. It’s usually something that starts with “wouldn’t it be great if…” but then we doubt ourselves, our abilities, or even God and say “but that will never work.” We might as well say “but God doesn’t move around here.” I want you to leave your doubts aside for a moment. I want you to trust that God is moving in this place through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As you came in today, you got a 3×5 index card. I am going to give you a few moments to write some thoughts on this card. I want to hear from you. We will collect these during the offering but the only person to see these will be me. This is a judgment free zone. Here are some questions to get you moving: what are your dreams for Elvira Zion Lutheran Church? How do you see the Holy Spirit moving in this place? What makes you excited to be a member of this church? Now, let me make it clear that this is not “Pastor’s to-do list.” The Holy Spirit empowers ALL of us. Dare to dream. I will give you a few moments. Now, if you don’t have any ideas, it’s okay. But, I give you permission to dream and dream big! Then, be prepared for the Holy Spirit to move.

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