Day of Pentecost, Year C
Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:8-17, 25-27
May 23, 2010
Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, and who was, and who is to come. Amen.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says, “and do not let them be afraid.”
Alex, Aylin, William, James, Sophia, Tristan, Marina, Anna –
I’ve got news for you:
There are people in this room who are afraid …
They are afraid because they fear that you, or some of you, anyway,
will not come back to church next week.
OK, let’s be honest.
There are lots of people here today who will not be here next week,
since next week is Memorial Day weekend,
and the beach calls many of us for that first dip in the ocean.
But beyond next week … next month, next year, and beyond.
There are many in this room who worry that you’re not coming back,
that this service today will sadly be more like a Graduation than an Affirmation,
a day to celebrate what’s done rather than to affirm our common faith and
look forward with expectant faith to what God's gonna do next in your lives.
Truth be told, here and at churches around the country,
young people stand and make public affirmation of their faith year after year.
Many continue to participate in the life of the church,
but many do not.
Many of the kids with whom I went to church back in May 1989,
when I was confirmed,
are no longer going to church …
Some are, for sure, but many are not.
What are we to say about this,
about this phenomenon of post-Confirmation drop-out?
I’m not sure what we can say … but I do know something that Jesus says to us this day:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
Jesus utters these words of comfort to a group of disciples getting anxious
whenever Jesus speaks about returning to the Father,
about going to prepare a place for his followers,
as he does in the 14th chapter of John,
just prior to the start of today’s reading.
And to these worried disciples,
to these followers of our Lord who are afraid
about what’s going to happen in the future – next week, next month, next year –
Jesus says, “Don’t worry. You will not be alone.
The Father will send another Advocate, the Spirit of truth,
the Holy Spirit, to teach you everything,
and to remind you of everything I have said to you.
You will not be alone.”
With the disciples worried about losing their Lord,
Jesus promises that God will work a way,
God will do his thing.
Don’t worry. Trust God and the Spirit of truth that he is giving to you.
God will work a way.
That theme – God will work a way –
runs through all of our readings today.
In Genesis we read about the people of the world congregating in one place,
quite proud of themselves,
and eager to build a great city with a great monument –
in the belief that such structures would keep them
from being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth.
The only problem, however, is that their desire to settle in one place
and create a mighty city
stands precisely in defiance of the command God gave on the sixth day of Creation
to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and to care for it (Genesis 1:28).
God created us, in part, anyway, to tend to his good creation,
and yet here in Genesis 11 we read about the people defying God’s command
to go forth and fill the earth,
and instead staying put in one place
and erecting monuments to their own greatness instead.
But God will work a way. He always does.
The way God works in this story is quite clever …
Rather than sending down lightning bolts or plagues or other expressions of divine wrath,
the Lord instead bestows upon the people the gift of tongues, of diverse languages …
a beautiful gift that nonetheless divides the people
by making the speech of one segment of the people unintelligible
to other groups of God’s people,
and forces them to scatter across the face of the earth,
in obedience – reluctant, perhaps – but in obedience nonetheless to God’s command.
And so they abandon their great city and leave their self-congratulatory tower incomplete,
ruins of human hubris, unwitting monuments to God’s will.
God will work a way.
God worked a way for the disciples.
In Acts 2, our second reading,
we see a fulfillment of what Jesus promised before his Ascension,
the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The disciples had gathered in one place,
likely the upper room where they gathered on the night before Jesus’ crucifixion,
and again following his Ascension.
This Upper Room was a place set apart,
a sanctuary where the disciples gathered, perhaps not coincidentally,
at times of heightened anxiety, fear and uncertainty.
And it was in this place where God’s promised Spirit came upon the disciples
as tongues of fire descended upon each of them.
The Spirit filled them and gave them the ability to speak various languages,
to proclaim the mighty acts of God to the multicultural, multilingual crowd gathered
for the Jewish harvest festival known as the Pentecost.
Indeed, if the disciples were afraid, worrying and wondering
about what was next for them and their faith,
God worked a way …
giving them gifts to proclaim his works not only within the Jewish community,
Rudderless and anxious one minute,
filled with the Holy Spirit and burning with faithful zeal the next,
God worked a way with those disciples to take the Good News abroad,
into all the earth.
God will work a way.
Alex, Aylin, William, James, Sophia, Tristan, Marina, Anna:
God will work a way with you … Indeed, God is already working a way with you,
and he will continue to do so.
And all you sitting there in the pews,
surrounding these young people with your prayers and your presence,
hear this Good News: God is working in these eight young people,
and God will continue to work in them.
Yes, the future is unclear,
and we worry about what will happen with our young people,
with our church, and with our faith.
But I believe that God will work a way, because that’s what God does – he works a way.
God will work a way for these young people.
God will work a way for this congregation.
God will work a way for the whole church of God in Christ Jesus.
For whether we live in fear, as did the disciples,
or whether we live in defiance of God’s command,
0; as did the people of God in our first reading –
or whether we live in both fear and defiance! –
God will work a way,
for as the prophet Isaiah reminds us,
God’s word does not return to him empty,
but it accomplishes all that he intends it to (Isaiah 55:11).
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid …
God will work a way.