The Spirit Moves
“The Spirit Moves”
a message by Rev. Dr. Bruce Havens
Coral Isles Church, UCC
June 5, 2022
Acts 2:1-21 selected verses
1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 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. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
I wonder sometimes if we have lost the true meaning of Pentecost. We talk about it as
the birthday of the church. What does that mean to us, except that the church is year
older? Does is mean we are any closer to a time “when we all hear” and understand
each other? Are we any closer to seeing the vision of oneness this passage proclaims
as God’s vision - a vision where old and young, free and chained, people of every
nation understand and move to bring God’s dream? Closer to the dream of a world
where all people are valued as children of God, not because of their color, their
sexuality, their bank account, or their political party, or their belief in their own
personal privilege to be free without accountability. I fear that we are stuck with a
false image of what Pentecost is supposed to be about. Pentecost is a reminder of the
vision Jesus shared of the “Kingdom of God.” A vision of a new reality where all
would be one.
At the very beginning, before these verses we read this morning, the Book of
Acts [1:5] tells us Jesus promised the disciples would be “baptized by the Holy
Spirit.” Diana Butler Bass, a pastor, professor and writer, says “Pentecost is … not
only about birth but about baptism. And she turns to what Paul the Apostle wrote to
the Christians in Corinth saying: “For in the one Spirit we are all baptized into one
body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
Her point is that Paul is telling us are all part of that Spirit and also what Paul called
“one body” – the church and none of what made us different outside the church
matters to God, not our race, our nationality, our gender or orientation, or our
economic status. 1
I believe that baptism isn’t what MAKES us one, it is the way we express our
commitment to a truth that has always been a fact, but isn’t often practiced in the
world. Our faith tells us there is one God who is the Creator of all people and all
creation. God did not make us to be separated by the differences we magnify to fool
ourselves into thinking someone is better than, or worth more than, another person.
We use race, gender, nationality, religion, political party or any other division we
humans can use to put others down and ourselves up. Our church believes that
baptism is God’s statement calling us all to ministry – to act as ministers to one
another using the gifts we have. My ministry, my calling to ordained ministry as
pastor of a church is not the only calling to ministry. It is one of thousands based on
the variety of gifts God has given us. Your baptism ordained you to ministry using
your gifts to serve others and to bring God’s vision to fulfillment.
To me Pentecost – the giving of the Holy Spirit - may be the birthday of the
church, but the church is called to embody God’s vision of a loving community,
which God intends for the whole world. Pentecost witnesses to the fact that this
community is not based on religion, nationality, race, or gender. The words of this
passage of Acts declare that God’s Spirit speaks to people of every nation, every
gender, every race, every tongue, everywhere! As we celebrate this day we are recom-
mitting ourselves to be that kind of community and we express our confidence in the
power of the Holy Spirit to bring this truth to full, world-wide reality, through us.
Now, we are living in times that are twisting the truth like never before. We are
living in times where people are twisting the Christian faith to support all kinds of
lies, distortions, and straight-out sins, in the name of Jesus. There are churches and
those who call themselves Christians who are using the name of Jesus and claiming
the power of the Holy Spirit to promote violence. They are using it to prop up White
Nationalist craziness in Jesus’ name. They are using it to proclaim a “God-given
right” to own and use any weapon they want. They use these falsehoods to divide the
human community in ways that are purely sinful. They do not honor God nor embody
the love of Jesus Christ.
Our call, on Pentecost and every day we breathe, as Christians, is to live out our
commitment to the truth of God’s love. That means we, as baptized Christians, called
to minister to others by that baptism, can never settle for a spirituality that only cares
about our own welfare, our own peace of mind, or even our belief in our own
powerlessness. I almost hate singing “ev’ry time I feel the Spirit, I will pray,”
because too many people think that prayer is about sitting still and doing nothing. The
other morning I had someone call me while I was out walking. I said I walk so I can
pray. I have to move when I pray. I cannot sit still for long when I want to hear the
Spirit because the Spirit is like wind. It is always moving. It blows through the sails
of our souls to move us spiritually, bodily, and mentally to act on our beliefs, not just
sit on our butts and pray. The Spirit moves.
Many of us are still reeling from another week of senseless violence in our
nation. We are still struggling to believe any ACTION will be taken to change the
danger our children and all of us live in. This danger is that SOME believe their rights
are more sacred than anyone else’s. And they forget that with rights comes
responsibilities to others. There is no freedom without responsibility to care about the
best welfare of others. What we live in is not freedom. It is captive warfare from
which no one survives. Freedom without responsibility is a life-and-death cage match
where everyone comes out either wounded or dead. We must not give in to this
vision. We must trust the power of the Holy Spirit to help us make our world one.
This past week I read the words of Hannah Fleming, an Elementary School
music Teacher. She wrote something very powerful about not getting stuck in the
face of the terrible violence and troubles of our times. She says, “If you have ever been in an elementary school at the end of the school year; it is well contained chaos. Sometimes, also, not very well contained. Yesterday was no exception. On a near-perfect Minnesota spring day, I sat outside, in front of 50(ish) of my Kindergarten students, as they sang in their Kindergarten graduation program.
Their voices, often out of tune, and rarely in the same tempo, sang:
The future is lookin’ good to me! I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go, yeah, the future
is lookin’ good to me! AND Nothing’s going to bring us down!
Never gonna quit, gotta go! Because I know I’ll keep getting stronger.
As I climbed into my car at the end of the day, a smile on my face, I turned on
the news, only to hear of yet another school shooting. Lying in bed [that] night, …. I
thought of 19 children (and countless more) who have no future to sing of, no
goodbyes to be said, and an end -of -the -year chaos of a horrific kind in Texas.
“This year, I’ve had many conversations with my students about resilience. I
know they are tired too. My coworkers and fellow teachers everywhere are having the
same conversations. Kids want to give up when things get hard, because life is harder
than it was before.
“Last night, in talking with my 8-year-old daughter about school, I asked her:
‘Do you sometimes get frustrated or cry when things are hard?’
‘Yes, but if that’s all you do it doesn’t really do any good.’
‘Because then you just get stuck.’
Hannah repeats what her daughter said: “Because then you just get stuck.”
Then she adds: “We are stuck. As a country, as a people, as a system. STUCK.
She says, “In the Bible, Job says ‘nevertheless the righteous keep moving
forward’. And this is the only way out. The only way to become unstuck is forward.
And so, I tune out my social media, and turn off the news, and pointing fingers, and
screaming voices. I wipe my tears and greet a new bunch of students. Giving out
hugs, band aids, reminders, and calm. Making joyful (though not always pleasant)
music. Not because I am desensitized. But because I’d rather move forward to action
in hope, love, and faith, than be STUCK in a cycle of hate, fear, and anger.
It is time to reclaim the power of Pentecost. The power of Pentecost is the Holy
Spirit, and the Spirit moves. The Spirit is not stuck and will not get stuck. If we don’t
move with it, it will find those who do move with it. The church has been stuck for a
long time because it is full of a lot of people blocking the wind of the Spirit. It is time
to get unstuck. It is time to move people. It is time to let the Spirit move us to do the
mighty things of God that bring to life the community of love, hope, and life that God
calls the world to be. Let’s celebrate the church’s birthday, sure. But let’s celebrate
the vision and dream that God calls us to share: one world, one people, one love,
1 Diana Butler Bass, “Pentecost, Prejudice, and Pandemic,” Day1.org, May 29, 2020, quoting, [Stephen
Patterson, The Forgotten Creed: Christianity’s Original Struggle …(Oxford, 2018), page 29.