Image: “Come, Holy Spirit” by He Qi
By Rev. Dr. Krista S. Givens
It is a joy for me to welcome you this morning to witness the way the spirit has graced us in our community with these wonderful new members. During our Confirmation and United Methodist 101 meetings, one of my joys has been getting to know these people and learning a bit more about how God has been working in their lives. I can honestly say that they all are gifted by the Holy Spirit and blessed by God and we are blessed to have them in our church family.
We mark this day – Pentecost – with a celebration of the Holy Spirit, who as Jackie and Mikaela describe, encourages us to sing and dance. This day is also called the birthday of the Church because the Spirit unites us into a like-minded community. We mark the day with images of fire, symbolizing the “tongues of fire” that descended on the people in the scripture from Acts, and we ask Jesus to shine in our hearts and in our lives, so that we too, can be part of that beloved community.
We ask Jesus to make us Shiny. One of my favorite TV shows is called “Firefly” – a dystopian Sci-Fi Western – that takes place in the future. And one of their main expressions when something is good or awesome or perfect is to call it “shiny.” We are going to a planet that feels like home? Shiny. You are all dressed up for a party. You look Shiny. Want to reassure someone that nothing is going wrong? “Everything is shiny. Not to fret.”
Today, we ask Jesus to make us Shiny – to shine in the world like the Holy Spirit has set our hearts on fire. SO that we will be inspired to do the work of Jesus and so that others will see that we radiate with the love and compassion of the Holy Spirit.”
So, what happened that fateful day when the Holy Spirit revealed herself?
Well, Pentecost was one of the three Jewish pilgrimage festivals, falling 50 days after Passover. It is also called Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks, an occasion to celebrate the gathering in of the harvest (1) and became a time to celebrate the coming of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. This day to celebrate the birth of the LAW became our celebration of the birth of the Church.
So, as was the custom, Jews throughout the world travelled to Jerusalem for Shavuot.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
Language is used in the Story of Pentecost to create unity and in this instance, we are gifted with the ability to be one people, one family. Suddenly we can listen and speak to one another. We can communicate with one another and hear in our own language. Each family has its own unique language – words and phrases and stories that are unique only to its members. And suddenly, with the rushing wind and the appearance of holy fire, we are one family. The family of God.
Jesus is in the business of creating family: bringing strangers together to create a new kind of family. In Matthew 12, verses 48-50, Jesus points to this new definition of family by asking “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Then looking at those gathered together in his ministry, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” We CREATE FAMILY out of strangers. More aptly, the HOLY SPIRIT creates family out of strangers!
Today we celebrate the decision of these two young people who will join the family of God through CONFIRMATION of their baptism. And we celebrate these 8 people who join our family – officially – and we dedicate ourselves once again to this community.
What an amazing gift to us as a church family and to the world, because not only do they join Walnut UMC, but the global family of God! Through this act, they confirm – they say YES – to God’s invitation to be a part of a larger community, a bigger picture and a wonderful difficult task: to spread the love of God throughout the world, by words and actions.
May we too say YES to the God who offers us family and may we work with the Holy Spirit to join together with others to create a new family. May we – who are different – continue to seek out what makes us the same. May we, who have been blessed by the extraordinary love of God, continue to offer that love to others. And together, may we continue to seek new ways to connect with our family throughout the world.
1. David Howell, found on http://www.goodpreacher.com/shareit/readreviews.php?cat=28