Monday, June 5, 2017

A Little Bit More….
A Homily on Acts 2:1-21
By Griff Martin
On Pentecost Sunday
For the People of First Austin: a baptist community of faith
June 4, 2017

Incarnate God, we ask that you once again take the Word and transform it into a living and breathing Resurrected reality we can all together experience. Be present here in this space and in these words God for if you are present here then nothing else will matter, but if you are not present here then nothing else will matter. In the name of the Creator, the Risen Christ and the Comforter. 

Last Sunday was the Ascension…..and today we continue the story with the disciples exactly where Jesus sent them, “go to Jerusalem” and they are doing exactly what Jesus told them to do, “and wait.” Our text begins with 120 folks sitting in a room, perhaps even the Upper Room, and waiting.

It’s an odd form of church planting if you think about it. They are not sitting and writing by-laws for how they going to go organize the church, they are not developing an strategic plan on how they are going to spread the Word through Jerusalem, they are not developing a mission statement that will clearly tell folks who they are and what they want to do, they are not out scouting to see where the best location will be, and they are not organizing themselves into deacons and action teams. The birth of the church begins with none of the items we often think of church as being, which might tell us something about how we need to change how we think about church.

The birth of the church begins with 120 people sitting in a room and waiting because nothing- nothing- is going to happen until the Spirit of God arrives. That might be the whole sermon right there, nothing can happen until the Spirit is there and nothing can happen until the Spirit is here… the church can never get ahead of the Spirit of God. We might think we are, but our best laid plans and organization charts and mission statements mean nothing if they are not Spirit led. It’s the old joke, “if you want to make God laugh then tell God your plans.”

Which is terrifying when you think about it, because that means it is beyond our control. The Spirit is in charge and the Spirit will dance where she wants to dance and that might not fit in our plans, but our job is not to lead but to follow (another important lesson for the church to learn). This is never a dance we get to lead. As baptist this is has never been our tendency, we are not good Spirit followers. In fact no one ever describes us as ‘those baptist who are Spirit people,’ the closest we might get is well those are ‘those baptist who drink’ (hold onto that).

120 folks sitting and waiting, knowing that whatever is next depends on something much bigger than them…

When suddenly it happens… a mighty rushing wind fills the room, it’s hurricane force winds suddenly present and after now riding out two hurricanes I can tell you that sounds like a freight train coming through your house and it last forever and you think that everything is bound to blow away… the winds are there and suddenly the flames are there, there are sparks everywhere as if a breaker has blown and the tongues of fire suddenly surround them, in them- on them- around them…. And there She is, our beautiful Spirit, the Holy Spirit is there and alive and powerful and full.

Things are beyond control in the most beautiful of ways, a chaotic messy mosaic of brilliance and beauty. In the words of the poet Madeline L’Engle….
“I am not here, nor there
but caught in this great breath.
Its rhythm cracks my ribs.
Blown out I am expelled
Breathed in, I am inspired.”

And it can’t be contained, which is when you know it’s the Spirit. It’s too much in the best of ways. So the folks from the room go pouring out into the streets and they are creating a bit of a ruckus, speaking languages from across the whole globe… “Parthains, Medes, Elamites….” Which we need to note means a lot more than meets the eye, this is more than just language. This would be like me coming back from CBF Assembly in a few weeks and telling you I experienced the most amazing Commissioning Service, where suddenly the room was so God-filled and I heard people praying in French, German, Mandarin, Dothraki, Coptic and Old Norse… the languages listed here contain dead languages that are no longer spoken…  It’s a display of the total fullness of our God.

And they are out on street and they are loud and they are out of control….

And all who were gathered there for the Jewish Festival, the Festival of Weeks, an agricultural festival celebrating the end of Spring Harvest, were looking at them like crazy people. “What does this mean?” someone asks, until someone else points out, “Oh it’s those Christ followers…. They are just drunk on wine again.”

Which before you get totally uptight about, go back to the Gospels, as Will Willimon points out in his work on Pentecost (which greatly inspired this sermon), this is not a new thing to be said about the disciples and Christ followers… they have been called drunks before.

Start with John 2 where Jesus shows up at a wedding and he brings the disciples who appear to be uninvited guests and after a bit the wine runs out (we don’t know if this has anything to do with those 12 uninvited guests or not) and Jesus’ mother brings him in to fix this problem and after a conversation where her motherly tone is used, Jesus fixes the problem with 180 gallons of wine….. now doing the math a typical bottle of wine today holds 1/5 a gallon, so that is 5 bottles per gallon and that adds up to Jesus bringing 900 bottles of wine to the party, which seems more than enough (esp. after the party has already gone through what they thought would be enough wine).

And then keep on in the Jesus story and twice, in both Luke and Matthew, you will find religious leaders with this complaint about Jesus: “He is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”

Back to the streets of Pentecost, “They- those Christ followers- are just drunk again….”

Peter hears this and responds: “Men of Judea and all whom live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and listen to what I say we are not drunk… yet….it’s just 9:00 in the morning….”

Pentecost… the birthday of the church, a day of fullness, a day where we have to declare to the world that we are not drunk we are just Spirit filled…. A day that we are reminded that the church looks best when it’s not clearheaded, serious, somber. sober, and subdued.

So this week I did some research on what it means to have too much to drink… and by research I, of course, mean Google and then a bit of reflecting on my time in Baton Rouge where day drinking is a sport (where I was once accused of being prudish by one of my deacons because I declined a beer at 11:30 on a Tuesday). And the question I sat with was: what made the folks out on the street think they were drunk at 9:00 in the morning….

Was it maybe that they had lost their inhibitions? Were they on the streets being a fuller version of themselves, not worried about what others thought nearly as much as we nearly do, a bit freer, a bit looser? Had they lost their shyness, their self-conciousness and reserve? Were they no longer holding back?

Were they out there a bit riled up? Did they finally feel that fight that was deep within them but politeness and knowing your place often held back? Were they finally willing to go all in on an issue they have long thought about? Was being polite and nice finally let go in exchange for unbridled and pure truth?

Maybe they were all out on the streets being passionate, ready to fall in love, holding tightly on to one another, with that loving look in their eyes? Maybe they were finally telling folks how much they meant to one another, they had the courage or the lack of reserve to say how they felt?

Or were they being sad and emotional as if something had finally been released, as if someone has finally felt all the feelings long held inside? Was the dam that held back all their emotions finally open and there was crying and weeping and mourning?

Or were they just crazy fun, full of laughter, loving every minute of the world, seeing the goodness in every moment, living every moment to the fullest? Were they singing songs at the top of their lungs and joking and laughing? Were they joy incarnate, the kind of folks you looked across the street at and knew, they are having a good time?

Or are they truth tellers and finally saying things they believe the world needs to know? Finally sharing things they have long thought but never been courageous enough to say? Finally free enough to let their truths out and to say it with pride?

Because I have heard that wine will do that to you.

And when I sat and thought through that list, I realized that many of those qualities are actually exactly what I want for us as a church this day.

I want us to be a bit looser with our inhibitions, to be more of the people that we were created to be and less of the people that we think the world wants or needs us to be, to be true to our true self- our Christ self- and to not be scared of that anymore but to instead to live and to live loud from that place.

I want us to be filled with a bit of holy anger, because there is a holy anger that sometimes needs to come out. Maybe we need to be a bit more riled up about things that are going on around us, willing to speak up and to speak out and to do so without any fear of what the world might think about this, but to instead be willing to take on the fights that need to be fought, to use the loud and angry voices that God needs us to be using these days because justice requires a strong and steady voice that is willing to speak truth to power.

I want us to be passionate, I want us to be people that are known for being people of love, to use the words of Lonnie Lynn Jr, better known as Common, who are “all drunk in love.” I want us to be people who have our arms open wide to the world and who hold tight to one another. I want us to be free in giving love and willing to reach beyond the usual barriers. I want us to be people who let others know what they mean to us, a community of true friendship.

I want us to feel. We have been so trained to stuff all our emotions so deeply into our souls. I want us to fully feel all that is in our hearts, to be willing to express all of our God given emotions? Because the world needs to know that we are a people who feel and share all the feelings in our world.

I want us to be a church that is full of people who know how to have a good time. And that is easier to do so because we are a people whose entire life is based on the truth of the Resurrection and that gives us crazy joy. I want Christ following to look like joy, like a big dance party in the middle of the street.

I want us to be a church full of truth tellers, people who are willing to boldly say the things that need to be said, the truths that God is waiting for someone to be bold enough, courageous enough to stand up. I mean how many of us watch our language and truth because we don’t want to be mixed up with those “evangelicals” so we watch how much we talk about Jesus and the resurrection or prayer and Spirit language or devotional language about Jesus…. And if we are not talking about those things, than what are we talking about? Jesus is it for us and that should be a truth we boldly share.

So may we be accused of having too much wine.

I want us to be a church that is not so worried about control and order. Sometimes a bit of out of control is best. I want us to be a church that is out there in the streets and raising a bit of concern from those watching us.

I want people to accuse us of having too much…. But more than that. I don’t want us possessed by a temporary and fleeting feeling, I want us consumed by the Spirit. As Doug said this week, “with alcohol you get the perception, but with the Spirit you get the reality.”

What I wonder this Pentecost is if what we need is a little less planning, a little less order and a little less control… if we need to start praying that we won’t be leaders but we will be followers. And maybe then we do the most radical thing a church can do, we gather together and wait for the Spirit.

And when She arrives, let us leave this place with no inhibitions let us to the streets proclaiming our truths boldly, being holy angry over all that is not right in our world, being a people led by love and passionate about it, to joyously dance and laugh with the Spirit. To be a people who cause a holy ruckus in God’s holy name.

We aren’t just baptist who drink, we are baptist who are led by the Spirit… baptist consumed by Love, baptist seeking to follow Jesus, and baptist gripped by the Spirit.

So let the party in the street break loose once the spirit arrives.

Amen and Amen.


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