Transcribed from the sermon preached May 15, 2016
The Reverend Max Lynn, Pastor
Scripture Readings: John 14:8-27, Acts 2:1-21
Isn’t it funny how certain people will light up a room when they walk in? We know that God gives each of us unique gifts, for instance you may be a quiet introvert who invents things, or the one who gets stuff done behind the scenes. There are some folks who seem to be gifted with social interaction- maybe they are funny or cute or confident. They just seem to have a way of getting people together to have fun, or work, or celebrate or think.
Sometimes it may not be looks but brains, especially in University towns. So often smart people try to impress smart people, so they are constrained with who they are welcoming and kind to. They give off the air of “I am smarter than you, and you obviously didn’t go to the right schools or know the right people, so I am not going to give you the time of day. Then there is the smart person who is comfortable with themselves, and they may be scrawny and geeky, but they have so many other positive things going on in their lives that they are kind and uplifting and funny and helpful and friendly with you regardless of whether you are a gardener or a lawyer, a brilliant musician or a plumber. They add positive spiritual energy to the group.
Imagine the positive energy when Jesus came into a village, into a room. Crowds gathered. People were healed, water turned into wine, lives were transformed, sins forgiven, people going down the wrong road turned back to the right road. People began to have hope, not only for their own lives but for their nation and world.
Now the problem is that there is both positive and negative Spiritual energy in the world. In biblical terms it would be evil and good. I don’t know if you have ever seen the negative frenzy of a mob, when anger and division create their own whirlwind and people start doing crazy, mean and harmful things. Nations and cultures can also experience waves of negativity, where people become divisive and critical and negative, gossipy, backbiting, untrustworthy, and violent, and then other people do too until you are bogged down in a sweltering swamp of negativity. Several of us in this room have fled from towns and nations caught up in evil and without hope or trust in the good.
I think we are in a bit of a negative habit in our culture these days. On the one hand we want to call people on their negativity and prejudice – we want to say this exists and it is not ok. So the news and Internet and Facebook are full of police doing horrible things, or politicians saying horrible things. Or if you are a tea party conservative you may post what you see are the horrible things government does, or immigrants, or people on welfare. People unify against a common enemy. But there seems to be a new problem. There have always been mean, idiotic people, but we didn’t used to have to see or hear them all the time. Now with the Internet the negative seems to dominate our attention and people who do not deserve our time and attention get it. I think that rather than repeating everything we think is horrible we should think – what is the opposite of that negativity and then post that. Let’s create a whirlwind of love and inclusivity.
The people who show up at the festival of Pentecost definitely have things to be negative about. Rome had just crucified Jesus for one. Speaking of negative spiritual energy, the gospel says that when Jesus died the skies became dark; the sun was blotted out at midday…things were not looking bright. Think about the change of atmosphere when Jesus came into a room, when he arrived in a village. As people unite around a common enemy, so the Spirit of Jesus unites around a common positive purpose – to love God and love our neighbor as our self. My peace I give to you. My peace I leave with you.
Where in stifling, eclipsing negativity people become divisive and critical and negative, gossipy, backbiting, untrustworthy, and then other people get sucked into it too. So people at the harvest party that is Pentecost have a harvest of hope. Jesus is the seed that grows, and we are the harvest. The people come together, then the Spirit of the Risen Christ blows into the room and the whole atmosphere changes, people are lit up by tongues of fire, and the positive spiritual energy starts to spread and people are uplifted and uplifting, filled with peace and hope, positive and helpful, supportive and thrilled about diversity, trustworthy and loving. The Risen Christ coming into the room changes the history of the world.
And so in that hurricane of the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Christ joins with the Spirit in you and me – and then when we move around throughout our lives, we carry Christ’s positive spiritual energy, the Holy Spirit, with us and share it with others. I am in my father, and you in me, and I in you.
Barbara Brown Taylor speaks of the ways in which the Holy Spirit moves, how we can spot the Holy Spirit. I have seen whole groups change. People come in with their plans and agendas, ready to defend their positions. Then someone prays, “people begin to talk, and for no apparent reason positions begin to shift. People listen to each other and take each other seriously. They become creative together, coming up with ideas none of them had thought of on their own. It is as if a fresh wind blows through the room and clears everyone’s heads. You can call that anything you want. I call it an act of the Holy Spirit.
“Once you get the hang of it, the evidence is easier and easier to spot. Whenever two plus two does not equal four but five – whenever you find yourself taking risks you thought you did not have the courage to take or reaching out to someone you had intended to walk away from – you can be pretty sure that you are learning about the gospel of the Holy Spirit. And more than that, you are taking part in it, breathing in and breathing out the Holy Spirit.