Bishop Michael Rinehart



July 2, 2017 is Pentecost 4A

Genesis 22:1-14 – God tests Abraham, by calling him to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Jeremiah 28:5-9 – Jeremiah’s contention with the prophet Hananiah. Hananiah took the yoke from Jeremiah’s neck and broke it as a sign of how God would break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar’s oppression and bring the captives back from Babylon. God responds: Not for 70 years!” (29:10)

Psalm 13 – For the Director of Music: How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me? But I trust in your unfailing love… I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 – I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever. Blessed are those who rejoice in your name all day long… for you are their glory and strength.

Romans 6:12-23 – Do not be a slave to sin. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Matthew 10:40-42 – Hospitality – Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me… And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.

Prayer of the Day
O God, you direct our lives by your grace, and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world. Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a | holy nation,
in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his | marvelous light. Alleluia. (1 Peter 2:9)

Exile, Pilgrimage, and Liminal Space

Many thanks to Pastor Don Carlson, who did much of the preparation for this post.

Hananiah told the people they would be delivered from their exile in Babylon; Jeremiah did not. Jeremiah said it would be several generations before they would be released. Hananiah died for his false prophecy. Then Jeremiah sent word to the captives in Babylon. Get comfortable, you’re in for a long wait:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (29:4-9)

Don Carlson once preached a sermon based on a similar text from Isaiah, quoting from Embracing the Exile by John Fortunato.

Fortunato believes that times of exile are threatening to faith because they expose what he calls The Great Myth under which many people live out their faith. When the realities of life attack “great myth,” faith is attacked too. Here’s what he says:

The uneasiness of our human condition presses upon us. The anxiety just sits down there in the pit of our stomachs. We want it to go away, but how? 

We try to make it go away by telling ourselves, “We are in control; we are not helpless.” Then we take the anxiety we have denied and project it out into the world, where we create a myth for ourselves to shore up our self-deception and an elaborate myth it is.

We create a world of systems that we can manipulate and control to hide from ourselves the fact that we really control nothing.

We spend our lives nurturing our systems and making them work for us: economic systems, social systems, government systems, family systems, communication systems, defense systems, and medical systems.

The systems give us promotions to grub for, benefits to grab, ladders to climb, power to be gotten, and security to be secured. And then we take out insurance on the whole thing: health insurance, life insurance, and deposit insurance. We have pacts, treaties, service policies, and guarantees. There are backup systems, second teams, and alternate plans. All in an effort to nail down our security and reinforce our myth of being in control.

The great myth demands some basic beliefs. First, there is the belief that we are in control. Other beliefs of the myth are: I am the center of the universe. I will be happy and blessed if I live right. Life is rational and reasonable. Evil is always punished. And, with Jesus in my heart, all is right with the world.

The myth demands that we put on blinders. We aren’t allowed to look at reality that life is a mixed bag over which we have little or no control and that the universe can be a very indifferent place to live. Justice does not always triumph, and evil is not always punished. Life is not always fair and nor does it always make sense. God’s will is not always done on earth as it is in heaven.

With our myth smashed and ourselves exposed, what do we usually do? Some angrily ask, “Why did this have to happen?” To which there is no sure answer, and even if was an answer, it wouldn’t change things. Some people try to insist that they have no fears, pains, or frustrations; while others decide to suffer through their exile – resigned, angry, resentful, and fearful every step of the way. Fortunato, however, suggests an alternative.

Since avoiding it, fighting it, or suffering through it don’t seem to be very helpful ways of dealing with one’s exile, there seems to be only one way left to go: deeper! 

Exile isn’t negotiable so it might as well be embraced. Affirm it with your whole heart and soul! It may not make sense. It may not seem fair or just. But, if embraced, it may become a God-given invitation to growth. It may be turned into a blessing in disguise. It might just be an opportunity.

There is no way out of our exiles; there is only the way through – embracing life as it is, forsaking our myths of power, and simply letting God guide us through the wilderness.

Hananiah was myth-spinning, telling people what they wanted to hear. God – and Jeremiah – would have none of it. “Settle in,” he said. “Embrace your exile and see what God will make of you in the midst of it all.” There is profound spiritual truth and Godly hope in that!

This might be a word for the many of us who struggle through chronic problems that won’t simply melt away. Those facing addiction. Those facing cancer. Those life changes that won’t magically improve. While God wishes no evil on us, we nevertheless find ourselves in the wilderness. It can be a learning experience.

Romans 6:12-23 – Paul’s letter to the Romans – as do many of his letters – deals with the conflicts that are going on in the churches (house churches) in Rome. (Picture is of Santa Marie Church, oldest titular church in the Trastevere section of Rome.) Crossan breaks the letter out this way:

  • Chapters 1-8 = unity of Gentiles and Jews
  • Chapters 9-11 = unity of Jews and Christians
  • Chapters 12-16 = unity of Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians

While scholars recognize that Romans is Paul’s most thorough theological work, they also remind us that Paul was not writing his summa theologica. He was writing to real people, facing particular issues in a specific context; people that were really wrestling with what the Gospel meant for how they ought do life together. It may be helpful to get the letter out of a 16th century polemics and read it with the 1st century context in mind.

It may help to clarify some words:

  • Sin (not sins) = The sway of the empire and the normalizing influence of the world to bend and shape life according to power, privilege, and segregation.
  • Righteousness (justice) = Is about distribution, not retribution.
  • Justification (being made just) = is about real life transformation, not imputation.
  • Life in Christ (always life together) = is about participation with Christ, not substitution.

There are at least two places in Romans where Paul’s understanding and intent comes full bloom:

Do not be conformed [2nd person plural] to this world [age], but be transformed by the renewing of your minds [understanding, your way of thinking about things], so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect [τέλειον; what makes for things to reach their intended goal].  (12:2)

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (15:5-7)

The second lesson will be from Romans for quite a number of weeks (see Summer Epistles at a Glance – Romans 6-14). You may want to consider preaching from Romans this summer. If so, it will be helpful to get into this letter and – setting Luther’s spiritual and existential crisis aside for the moment – get back into the world of Paul.

Matthew 10:40-42 – The gospel is a continuation from last week’s reading – 10:24-39.  Concerning that reading, my friend and colleague, Pr. Jim Giannantonio, lifted up some comments from Warren Carter’s Matthew and the Margins. Carter writes,

On another level, Jesus’ words are a call to choose a way of life of marginalization, to identify with the nobodies like slaves, and with those some understood to be cursed by God. It is to identify with those who resist the empire’s control, who contest its version of reality, and who are vulnerable to its reprisals. It is to identify with a sign of the empire’s violent and humiliating attempt to dispose of those who threatened or challenged its interests. To so identify is not to endorse the symbol but to reframe its violence. As the end of the gospel indicates, it is to identify with a sign that ironically indicates the empire’s limits. The empire will do its worst in crucifying Jesus. But God raises Jesus from death, thwarting the empire’s efforts. And Jesus will return to establish God’s empire over all, including Rome (24:27-31 ). To not respond positively to such a call is to not be a disciple (not worthy of me; see 10:37).

Carter, Warren (2013-11-20). Matthew and the Margins: A Sociopolitical and Religious Reading (Bible and Liberation) (Kindle Locations 7534-7541). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition.

If, following the call of Jesus, we try to overturn or live contrary to the “normalizing influence of the world” (see above), we will run into a sword, not peace. And so, we are back to the justice/righteousness and participation/transformation dynamic that we had in Romans.

Two other thoughts:

First, Jesus said, “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Instead of just thinking about that in personal or individual terms, I think it’s helpful for congregations to consider what it might mean for them and the life of the congregation. It seems to me that many congregations are really struggling to save themselves, find themselves. It is a fool’s quest.

A congregation wants to grow and move from being a pastoral model to a program model congregation. That’s good; living things should grow – grow in many ways. But if you want to grow in order to save your congregation, you will ultimately fail. If, however, you want to grow and change for the sake of the community around you – for the sake of the Christ and the gospel – that is (to use Paul’s words from Romans) “good and acceptable and perfect.”

A second thought: Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” I am giving a quick read to Thom and Joni Schultz’ book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore. In it they lift up four excuses people give and how the church can counter them. (I personally believe it’s not quite this simple, but it also has some traction and is well worth the read). Here’s their chart:

Schultz, Thom; Schultz, Joani (2013-10-01). Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore: And How 4 Acts of Love Will Make Your Church Irresistible: 1 (Kindle Location 1126). Group Publishing, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

As congregations: Can we practice radical hospitality? Can we offer a cup of water in the name of Christ? Can we have fearless conversation? Can we demonstrate genuine humility? Can we live with divine anticipation; not knowing what God will do with our exile or anyone else’s, but trusting that God will bring life out of death?

“Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me, welcomes God who sent me.” Jesus identifies “welcome” as a value of the reign of God. Is it a value for our faith communities? We have identified welcome and hospitality as a top priority for the next few years in our synod:

Our synod and its congregations will embody radical hospitality.

Our goals and objectives under this core conviction are to equip our faith communities to practice over-the-top hospitality externally, in the community, and internally, within those faith communities. One way to think about hospitality is creating safe communities. Is our neighborhood safe for newcomers? Immigrants? Is our congregation safe for newcomers? Immigrants? By “safe” we mean not just physically safe, but places where people are free to be who they are and live out their faith without being verbally attacked or pummeled by a host of verbal and nonverbal microaggressions. Creating truly safe communities is going to take a lot of work, but it emanates from the gospel itself: “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me.”

We need only turn to the welcome we ourselves have received in Christ, to understand the depth of love to which we ourselves are invited. We are embraced with this love that will not let us go and invited to extend that love to the world:

…and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.

June 4, 2017 is the Feast of Pentecost A

Prayer of the Day
O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people by sending into us your Holy Spirit. Direct us by the light of that Spirit, that we may have a right judgment in all things and rejoice at all times in your peace, through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Acts 2:1-21 – When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b – When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 – Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

John 20:19-23 – When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.


Many thanks to Pastor Don Carlson who did much of the research and writing for these next 12 posts. 

The movement of Luke is from the world to Jerusalem. The movement of Acts is from Jerusalem to the world.

Pentecost is the signal that the outward movement is to begin. “Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.”

This “world > Jerusalem / Jerusalem > world” movement also bears witness to the ongoing activity of God through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is mentioned in Luke/Acts more than in any other gospel – 34 times in Luke and 67 times in Acts.

Pentecost is not the birth of the Holy Spirit. It is the launch of the Post-resurrection church. There is plenty of Spirit in Luke/Acts before Pentecost. You only have to get to Luke 1:15 before the Holy Spirit is mentioned; to 1:2 in Acts. Spirit is president Jesus baptism. And we read about the spirit plenty in the Hebrew Scriptures as well. Isaiah says, “the spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…” In fact, the Spirit is mentioned in the opening verses of Genesis, where the Spirit moves over the face of the deep.

Most of the early Christian community – Paul included – believed that Christ would return in their lifetime.  When Luke/Acts was written (85-95 CE?), some questioning must have arisen within the community.  “What’s going on?”  “Why the delay?”  “Were we wrong about Jesus being the one?”  The answer of Luke/Acts is found the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.  “Just look at what’s happening. The ‘delay’ of Jesus’ return in no way truncates the saving activity of God!”

Now we are at almost 2,000 years of “delay”. What do people make of that? Perhaps we should ask our congregations to find the many places where the Holy Spirit – which is also “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19) – is working and active (Trinitarian formulas will be addressed next week).

It is also helpful to listen to the rest of Peter’s sermon (which goes through 2:36) and to begin to hear the anti-imperial subversiveness of the text.  Luke/Acts is very much an anti-imperial counter cultural work. Just a sampling:

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
– Luke 1:51-53

They said, ”If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, “If  tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”
– Luke 22:67-70 (See: Pantocrator mosaic from the Hagia Sophia.)

Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.”
– Luke 23:1-2

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
– Luke 23:42

As Borg and Crossan point out in The First Paul,

To proclaim “Christ crucified” was to signal at once that Jesus was an anti-imperial figure…  The empire killed Jesus. The cross was the imperial “no” to Jesus. But God had raised him. The resurrection was God’s “yes” to Jesus, God’s vindication of Jesu – and thus also God’s “no” to the powers that had killed him. The twofold pattern executed by Rome and vindicated by God appears twice early in the book of Acts. The authorities crucified Jesus, but God raised him up (Acts 2:23-24). 

A few verses later, in only slightly different language, it is repeated: this Jesus who was crucified by the authorities God has made both Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36)…   Vindicated by God-raised by God – meant Jesus is Lord, and thus the powers that executed him were not. In language that confronted and countered Roman imperial theology: Jesus is Lord-Caesar is not. 


As individuals and as congregations, in what ways are we as followers of Jesus the Christ called to live counter to the imperial theologies of our day?

Pentecost Pandemonium

In the midst of crucifixion confusion, The Spirit’s plan was Pentecost pluralism. A multi-sensory, multi-faceted, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic event. The Spirit’s plan was an explosion of diversity.

Look at this map. This is my favorite map of Pentecost in Acts 2.

“Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven in Jerusalem… Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphyllia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes… Cretans and Arabs…” Sounds like Houston.

And they were amazed and astonished, because it worked. “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?” Eric Law asks, “Is Pentecost a miracle of the tongue or of the ear?” “How is it that we hear… each of us in our own native language?”

The Spirit empowers them to bridge the cultural gap. All were amazed and perplexed, so they said to one another that great catechetical question: “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

I love that. There’s so much creative disruption. Remember the word that John Nunes used at assembly last year with us? “Creative disruption.” There is so much creative disruption, so much energy, that the newcomers think they’re drunk. So much so that Peter has to begin his sermon with the words, “These people are not drunk as you suppose…”

When was the last time you had to begin your sermon “These people are not drunk…” More like, “These people are not dead as you suppose, it’s just 9 o’clock in the morning.”

And then Peter quotes the prophet Joel. God will pour out the Holy Spirit on all flesh. All flesh. Not just prophets, priests and rulers like Isaiah and David, but all flesh. All flesh. Not just men. Men and women. Sons and daughters. Old and young. Rich and poor, even slaves. All flesh.

The power of the Spirit was given to all people to proclaim a new world, a new vision, a humanity, a new hope that transcends race, culture, ethnicity, and gender identity, for there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The reign of God knows no borders, no boundaries of culture or language. What then becomes of our human divisions? They are irrelevant in the reign of God. This is the church we are called, enlightened, sanctified, and empowered by the Spirit to be: not a culture club, but a church that includes Parthians, Medes, Elamities and residents of Mesopotamia, Samaritan women, and Ethiopian eunuchs – a church without walls, a house of prayer for all people, not defined by culture but defined by faith, hope, and love.

This can only happen with the power of the Spirit. Without the Spirit, our divisions define us, because they are so very compelling. But good news, God has promised to pour out the Spirit freely to all who will receive it. You are empowered to lower your walls, your defenses, and allow the Spirit to blow your life, your congregation, and your community.

John 20

This is “Pentecost” in the Gospel of John.  Just a couple of things about this text; which was also the text back on Easter 2.

First, what does it mean to “forgive sins”?  I suggest that we think a bit broader than just the pardon of individual transgressions. Remember all the great dialogues and encounters in this gospel.

  • Nicodemus needed to see the “light”
  • The Samaritan woman needed restoration to community
  • A paralyzed man at the pool Bethsaida needed to walk
  • The crowds following Jesus needed to be fed
  • The woman caught in adultery needed freedom from condemnation
  • The man born blind needed his sight
  • Lazarus needed to be restored to life

In short, since the consequences/effects of sin are multifaceted, the understanding of forgiveness needs to be multifaceted as well. From Speaking Christian:

Imagine Christian liturgies and preaching that emphasize that we are Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt and need liberation, that we are exiled in Babylon and need a path to return home, that we are blind and need to see again , that we are sick and wounded and need healing and wholeness. And, yes, that we are sinners who need forgiveness.

Imagine- to become more specific than I wish to be- that a confession of sin and absolution were part of the liturgy one Sunday out of five. Imagine that on the other four Sundays, the confession of sin were replaced by images of our predicament as bondage, exile, blindness, and infirmity. 

Imagine the absolution replaced by the proclamation that God wills our liberation from bondage, our return from exile, our seeing again, our healing and wholeness. Sin matters. But when it and the need for forgiveness become the dominant issue in our life with God, it reduces and impoverishes the wisdom and passion of the Bible and the Christian tradition.”


We need to be spiritually cognizant of the complexities. If a person has been raped, a narrow understanding of “forgiveness” is not the immediate real issue. One does not proclaim forgiveness to slaves or victims of abuse.

Second, and this ties in with the first point, Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Jesus’ words are not some theory as to who holds the “heavenly purse strings of grace.” His words are simply the truth about where and how the Spirit functions. If Jesus’ disciples don’t forgive, Jesus’ forgiveness – freedom, restoration, healing, wholeness – cannot come.  If we leave people in their sin, Jesus cannot free them. If we do not grant people the “peace of God”, they cannot know it. If we exclude people, Jesus cannot include them.

The Spirit is not just given to bring us comfort and assurance as we face the doubts and uncertainties of our lives – like Thomas in the upcoming part of the story. The Spirit is given so that, through our lives, the risen Lord might be alive in the world.

May 15, 2016 is Pentecost C

Acts 2:1-21 – Day of Pentecost. Rushing wind. Tongues of flame. Multilingual, multicultural event. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved
Genesis 11:1-9 – Tower of Babel

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b – All creatures great and small

Romans 8:14-17 – The Spirit bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children.
Acts 2:1-21 – Day of Pentecost. Rushing wind. Tongues of flame. Multilingual, multicultural event. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

John 14:8-17, (25-27) – In my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever.”

Video: Here’s an interesting Pentecost video from Working Preacher.

Church musician Mark Mummert helped assemble some thoughts about the Pentecost constellation of hymnody. Here are some of the standards:

  • Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord (ELW 395)
  • Spirit of God Descend Upon My Heart (ELW 800)
  • Come Gracious Spirit Heavenly Dove (ELW 404)
  • Holy Spirit Truth Divine (ELW 398)

Consider some newer hymns in ELW:

  • Veni Sancte Spiritus: This is an ostinato chant from Taizé. The refrain can be found in ELW 406. The verses can be found in the ELW accompaniment version. You can also order beautiful Taizé music with Augsburg Fortress. Get Music For Taizé, Volume 1.There is also a booklet with instrumental parts available.
  • Spirit of Gentleness: This popular, simple folk renewal song is in ELW 396.
  • Gracious Spirit, Heed Our Pleading: Why not try a least one global song? This Tanzanian song has a beautiful, simple refrain (ELW 401) that begs to be sung in parts. Have your choir look it over beforehand.
  • O Living Breath of God (ELW 407): Now here is a hymn that shows the breath of the Spirit. This hymn started out as a Swedish folk tune sung by men’s choruses yearning for good fertility in the springtime of the year, and later became a beloved tune in Latin America. It will stick in your congregation’s ears all week long.
  • The Spirit Intercedes for Us (ELW 180): Consider using this refrain as the assembly response to the Prayers of Intercession. From the Lutheran music group, Dakota Road, this refrain is memorable and even has a built in “sigh” with the words “Oh, oh, oh.”
  • Blest Are They (ELW 728): This song by David Haas (Roman Catholic composer who also wrote “Blest Are They” and “We Are Called”) is a cry for the Spirit with hints of Psalm 104, appointed for Pentecost.
  • Besides this, consider Send Us Your Spirit, which is not in ELW. Here it is being sung at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church. You can order the sheet music or find it in one of the Gather volumes. Here are the lyrics:

Send Us Your Spirit

Refrain: Come Lord Jesus. Send us your Spirit. Renew the face of the earth.

1. Come to us, Spirit of God. Breathe in us now. We sing together.
Spirit of hope and of light, fill our lives.
Come to us, Spirit of God.

2. Fill us with the fire of love. Burn in us now. Bring us together.
Come to us; dwell in us. Change our lives, oh Lord.
Come to us, Spirit of God.

3. Send us the wings of new birth. Fill all the earth with the love you have taught us.
Let all creation now be shaken with love.
Come to us, Spirit of God.

On the folk side of things, I’m still amazed how many people, especially baby boomers, remember and love We Are One in the Spirit, which lifts up unity as the work of the Holy Spirit.

Some congregations do Handt Hanson’s Wind of the Spirit from Worship and Praise.

Blow, Spirit, Blow has a catchy refrain that sticks with people. With minor stanzas, the major key, circle of fifths chorus has a lifting feel to it.

Holy Spirit Rain Down is another popular contemporary hymn.

The Spread of the Spirit

In Acts 2, people from all over the Roman Empire come to Jerusalem for the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost is actually the Greek name for the festival, so called because it falls 50 days after Passover. The Jews called it the “Feast of Harvest” or the “Feast of Weeks” (Exodus 23, Exodus 24, Leviticus 16, Numbers 28, and Deuteronomy 16).

Pentecost Countries

As Pastor Don Carson likes to say, “ The movement in Luke is from the world to Jerusalem. The movement in Acts is from Jerusalem to the world.” The birthday of the church is also a call to mission. The love of God in Christ should be known in all places.

Last week we heard the resurrected Christ said to the disciples, “Wait here until you are clothed with power from on high, “and then, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Pentecost is about being clothed with power by the Holy Spirit. That power is given so that we might be Christ’s witnesses.

They are so moved by the Spirit that the crowd thinks they are drunk. When was the last time your assembly was so moved by the Spirit, there was a risk of visitors thinking that they were drunk? Peter even has to begin his sermon with the words, “These people are not drunk…” Great sermon intro. What not try it?

People from everywhere hear the gospel in their own language and then take it home. This is the lesson that the lay readers hate, “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Phrygia, Pontus…” Might be worth meeting up with the lay reader beforehand, or at least a call during the week.

Pentecost brings a rich tapestry of themes to it: unity, diversity, comforter, and spirit of truth. It’s a multilingual, multicultural, multi-ethnic event, for the spread of the gospel.

In Acts 1:8, the theme verse for Acts, Jesus tells the disciples that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit falls on them, and they will be witnesses in outwardly emanating circles of city, region, and world. The Spirit fills us with hope and joy so that our lives will be a witness to the power of faith, a witness to Jesus himself. The Spirit gives us even more according to Paul: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22). We need this. The Spirit reaches down deep inside us and prays within us when we cannot find the words (Rom. 8:26).

The neglected third person of the Trinity is absolutely indispensable for the life of the community of Christ. It may need more than one Sunday. I once did a summer series on the Fruits of the Spirit. Nine grueling weeks, and yet it sparked conversation and reflection on the character of the Christian community and the need for the Spirit to get there.

May your celebration of Pentecost in Word and Sacrament, prayer and song, fill you with joy, love, and hope, that you might be empowered to witness to what God is doing in the world.

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