Pentecost Sunday C- Homilies and Stories

Opening Story:

I heard a story the other day, an amusing story, about a boy who was
wandering around the narthex of a large downtown church one Sunday morning
and stopped and examined a large bronze plaque that was hung on the wall. 

"What are all those names up there?"  he asked one of the ushers. 
"Those are  the names of people who died in the service." the usher
replied. 
Curious, the boy asked the usher
- "which service, the 9:30 service or the 11 o'clock service?"
I am happy to report today that we are about,
   what we are celebrating,
is a birth - not a death -
   the birth of the church - the birth of Christ
in you and me - and in all who call on his name.
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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

Today we are celebrating a feast that was celebrated by many of the Jews who lived at the time of Jesus. Many of his early followers continued to celebrate it after the resurrection, and so it became part of the annual celebrations of all Christians. However, over the first few decades of the church, this feast took on a new meaning: Jesus has risen and ascended to the Father, but he promised us his Spirit. So today we rejoice that the Spirit is moving in each of our hearts making us a people, inspiring us to understand the mystery of our faith, and strengthening us to follow Jesus the Anointed One. 
Gospels: In 20:19-23 and Jn 14:15-16; 23-26

Jn 20:19-23 presents the Spirit as the source of forgiveness within the church, animating it to be the messenger/builder of forgiveness in the world. This gospel, with its clear emphasis of the Spirit as the life force of the church’s ministry, is to be preferred to the optional choice for year C.

Option for Year C: Jn 14:15-16; 23-26 presents the Spirit as the teacher who leads us into all truth. In John these promises form part of Christ’s farewell prayer for the church. For the vigil reading see year A.

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Background: 

John's account of the giving of the Holy Spirit on Easter differs from the account of the Pentecost event in the Acts of the Apostles. Still, his short account with its double salutation of 'Peace be with you" gives that common greeting new significance for the early followers of Jesus and for us today. 

 Coupled with the commission of being sent forth as Jesus had been sent by the Father, it sets the stage for their reception of the Holy Spirit with its power and responsibility of forgiveness.

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 John Littleton
Gospel Reflection 

Pentecost was indeed a strange day for the apostles. Ten days previously, Jesus had ascended to heaven. He had promised to send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would teach them, guide them and maintain harmony and unity among them. On Pentecost, something very strange happened. While they were together, Jesus’ promise was fulfilled as they received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. 

Pentecost was not the first occasion on which the apostles received the Holy Spirit. However, unlike previous occasions, at Pentecost they were ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit who lavished various gifts on them. The significance of the Holy Spirit descending on them was that their lives were transformed so that they could become powerful and courageous witnesses for Christ.

Consequently, everything changed for the apostles. They were blessed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Any one of them could have rejected the Spirit because the Spirit never forces himself ors gifts on anyone. But they freely chose to accept the Spirit and his gifts in their lives. The gifts included wisdom, understanding, right judgement, courage, knowledge, reverence, and wonder and awe in God’s presence.

Thus from being an almost insignificant community, they were transformed into the Church with a definite mission and a mandate to travel to the ends of the earth sharing with other people their knowledge and experiences of Christ. They became fearless and uncompromising preachers of the Good News. They realised that they could no longer be hesitant about proclaiming Christ’s teaching. Their lives would never again be the same.

The apostles used the gifts of the Holy Spirit as they encouraged people to turn away from sin and as they transformed the world so that the kingdom of God could emerge in people’s lives. Although in earlier days they had deserted Jesus, most of them were eventually martyred because of their later faithfulness to his teaching. Pentecost was certainly a turning point in their lives.

Applying this truth to ourselves, the sacrament of confirmation is our personal Pentecost event. It is the great sacrament of transformation. In confirmation we are ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit and we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Our lives are transformed so that, like the apostles, we can be courageous witnesses for Christ. But also like them, we must choose daily to welcome and accept the Spirit.

When we are responsive to the Holy Spirit in our lives, we joyfully proclaim the truth of God’s word in every situation whatever the consequences. We remain committed to the Church as the guardian and teacher of the faith. We turn away from sin. By doing so, we begin to transform the world so that God’s presence is always glorified and many of the effects of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (what we call the fruits of the Holy Spirit) become evident in our lives. Among these effects are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity.

Pentecost emphasises the continuous outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church and the Church’s worldwide mission. It also reminds us about the sacrament of confirmation and the personal transformation that is possible in our lives if we are open to the promptings and guidance of the Spirit.

We welcome the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our Church and on our world. We renew our commitment to the Good News of Christ and, always prompted by the Holy Spirit, we confess that Jesus is Lord... 

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Michel de Verteuil
General Textual comments 

Jesus is about to leave his apostles and as he gets ready to do this, he begins to speak to them about something that will happen and which will be of tremendous importance for them and for understanding him and where he is coming from.

He tells them of the future coming of the Holy Spirit. He speaks of two things:
- of how close he will be to their own insights
- of what he will teach them, how he will add to what they have already learnt from him.

He makes two radical points which he stresses right through his teaching. Today, after our long distance from the time of Jesus, we look at them with a better understanding of all this implies for us today.

a) The first point is that the Spirit will be true to the teachings of Jesus, those he gave to the apostles and which they must retain for ever. These are tremendously important teachings which we must understand today whatever happens. What happens to us does not matter because Jesus was aware of them even from where he stood at the time of his leaving his followers.

b) The second is that the Spirit will often bring out new things – or, rather, things which seem very new to us. In fact, there will be great changes from what the Church thought it had learnt directly from Jesus. They will therefore be “new”.

We can now see more clearly than ever before two important things:
- where the disciples were, what was their ideology, how they looked on their world;
- where Jesus wanted to bring them to and the world in which he wanted them to live.

Let us look at these two aspects of the work of the Spirit as they are revealed in this text.
In verses 15 to 16 Jesus says clearly that the Spirit will be “old”. The Father knows the Spirit. They will know that whatever he teaches is from the Spirit since the Father has always been “with him” and he is also “in him”. It is essential then that those who follow the Spirit always make the link between what Jesus said and what they now believe.

On the other hand, he will come with something that seems new. He will conquer whatever weaknesses people will be able to discover in Jesus’ revelations. He will say things which “the world cannot receive” since it does not know him nor his full revelation.

In verses 23 to 24, the teaching of the Spirit is “old” in the sense that we shall always come back to Jesus. We will always learn new things from him, from what he revealed to them. Whatever he inspires in us, we will eventually learn to love the Father in him, and Jesus too will make his home with him.

It is “new” in the sense that what he will say will be what he has learnt from the other two. We who love him will find in his words “the word of the one who sent him.” He will be revealing what he has learnt from the other members of the Trinity.

In verses 25 to 26, his teaching is “old” in the sense that his word is not his own but the word of the one who sent him. This is Jesus who “has said all these things to him from the beginning”. His words are all lasting therefore and will remain valid whatever happens in the future.

His teaching will also be “new”. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name”, he will “teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you”. The Spirit will therefore remind the disciples of all he said to them as he faced his passion.

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Homily Notes 

1. There are two popular themes in preaching Pentecost that miss the point of this feast. First, that it is the ‘feast of the Holy Spirit’ as if this were analogous to 15 August as ‘Mary’s feast’ or 17 March as ‘Patrick’s feast’. One cannot have a feast for a divine Person! Every feast, every day, every prayer is the Spirit’s, or it is nothing! Just note how silly the phrase ‘the Spirit’s feast’ is: which is the Father’s feast, or do we imagine Mary is more important as she has more feasts? The implication of this approach is to use the homily for a user-friendly treatise on the Spirit. The second false trail is to say that this is the ‘birthday of the church’, on the supposition that birthdays are one of the few special times our culture understands. As a metaphor it can be quite useful, but it trivialises what is at issue by making it simply one of recalling the ‘First [Christian] Pentecost.’ Then the homily becomes a recollection of the Luke’s idealised, imaginative picture of apostolic times. This not only perpetuates a false view of the early church, relies unwittingly on a fundamentalist scriptural hermeneutic, but misses the feast’s central message. 

2. Our belief is that the Spirit is coming upon us now, he who is ‘Lord and giver of life’, is descending now upon the church — at every moment, in every good thought and action, in every assembly — and giving us life and empowering us. We, in the congregation assembled, hold this feast to remind ourselves of this unseen presence in our lives, and to invite ourselves to call on him to empower and enlighten us. It is not the Spirit as the third Person of the Godhead, nor an event in Jerusalem long ago that we celebrate, but the Spirit as the life-giving core of our lives as a local church, gathered now for a meal to strengthen us to continue in our work of building the kingdom. We are celebrating someone who is already within us, or we would not be here are all.

3. How can we recognise the Spirit’s presence? How should we imagine the Spirit? These are questions we all pose and are often asked. We have an image of ‘the Father’ as the old man with the beard — it is limited, but it is there; we all have an image of the Son for we have umpteen images of the Word made flesh; but how can we relate to the Spirit as a dove or a flame or a wind? The answer is that we can only relate to the Spirit in an act of reflecting upon our own lives and actions — it is the Spirit within us that provokes these very questions within each of us, spurring us to grow in the mystery of the divine love. 

4. So how can we extend that action of reflection to see the Spirit’s presence in our community? The Spirit’s gifts are, in reality, the Spirit himself, so we should celebrate the various ministries that exist within the community. Obviously those who minister in the liturgy (the Spirit empowering us to prayer calling on the Father), and those involved in charity in the community (the Spirit as the source of love). But also all who teach — not only as catechists (the Spirit promoting the kerygma) but every teacher (the Spirit as the enlightener of minds). ‘Then those who seek the truth in their work (e.g. journalists or scientists) for the Spirit leads us towards the truth. Then those who work of society’s good be they policemen or social workers or whatever — for the Spirit brings forgiveness and harmony. Then all who care for life, for the Spirit is the life-giver. One could keep going outwards to ever-wider circles until the whole community is included — for part of being a Christian is recognising that the Spirit is at work in every human heart. Wherever anything good, true, noble, or joyfui happens, there is the Spirit at work. One of our tasks as the church is to discover how the Spirit is present and working in the world. 

5. Instead of a discourse of words today, if you can think of some activity that would highlight how people in your community — in so many diverse ways — are animated for ministry by the Spirit, then you may have communicated the message of this day far more effectively than with a homily.

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Homily from ACP:
Birthday of the Faith 

Pentecost is really our birthday as a Church, for it celebrates the beginning of our faith community as God’s chosen people. In the Book of Revelation (5:9) a hymn is sung in praise of the Lamb of God, because by his blood he has purchased us for God from every tribe and tongue and nation and made us priests to serve our God. We are a priestly people and through us Christ continues to offer spiritual worship to the Father for the salvation of all mankind. We are also a prophetic people listening to the word of God and to the Spirit stirring within us. We are given an understanding of the faith and the grace of speech, to commend the gospel in our daily lives. But first we must listen, if we are to find that special speech.

This precisely what the apostles and disciples did, that first Pentecost Day. They listened to the Holy Spirit who revealed to them, in a new light, all that they had learned about Jesus. This became a burning force within them, compelling them to speak out about it. They became like Jeremiah, the reluctant prophet, who said: “It seemed as a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me and I could not bear it” (Jer 20:9). Peter and John later said to the Sanhedrin: “We cannot stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). To understand the imagery of the Pentecost account, we must try and grasp Luke’s purpose. He wants to show how a new covenant was being set up between God and mankind. So he draws on the Exodus story of the Covenant on Sinai, when the mountain was wrapped in smoke and the Lord descended in the form of fire. Likewise, those in the Upper Room heard what sounded like a powerful wind – always associated with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Then a loud noise filled the entire house and tongues of fire appeared also. These were indications that the Chosen People of the new alliance with God was coming into being.

The gospel message of “Peace be with you!” recalls the story of Elijah (1 Kings 19), who was so dispirited after his fight against the worship of pagan gods that he wished he were dead. He went to the mountain of God and standing in a cave he heard a mighty wind go by, but the Lord was not in the storm. Finally, the Lord spoke to him from a quiet breeze and entrusted him with his new mission. The morale of Christ’s apostles after his death was so low that for fear of the Jews they locked themselves in the Upper Room. Then Jesus appeared among them, breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit. As with Elijah, they also have a new sense of mission. Just as God had breathed the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils, making him the first human being alive, so the breathing of Jesus on the apostles made them part of a new creation. In fact the inspiring Holy Spirit will continue through them the mission of Jesus.

That special gifts were alive among the specially chosen followers of Jesus became obvious to those who were not members of that group. The gift of the Spirit as described by John is not a once-and-for-all event, rather it describes an on-going process. Christian beliefs and traditions have their enemies in our own time as well. But we should not despair, for the divine presence is there in our support. To this day Jesus and the Father continue to give the Holy Spirit to all entrusted with a mission of faith. We too can be drawn into the Pentecostal experience provided we keep our hearts open to what the Spirit is telling us and offer ourselves as willing instruments of God’s work.

Once there was a young lad who decided to become a saint. He went down to the library and got several books on the lives of the saints, in the hope of finding a role model. Eventually he chose Simon Stylites, one of the most unusual saints in the calendar. Simon lived his adult life on top of a high pillar in the middle of the town square. What drew the young lad to select him as his model was that if you’re going to be a saint, you might as well get as much publicity as possible out of it! I mean, everybody in town knew Simon and everyone knew he was a saint, despite the fact that if he were alive today, he’d probably be locked up!

Our young friend’s problem was that there was no pillar in his own town square. So to make a start he got a chair in the kitchen and stood on it. Then his mother wanted to get to the sink, so he had to move his chair. Then it was his sister going to the fridge and he had to move again. Later his brothers came in the back door, bumped into his chair and knocked him to the floor. Eventually he gave up and as he put the chair to one side, he declared with sorrow “It’s just not possible to become a saint at home’! But in fact it is not possible to become a saint anywhere else! Bloom where you’re planted, just as the seed of Jesus’ message must grow in the heart in which it is planted.

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Prayer Reflection 

“If you wish to attain your being in which God created you, in all nobleness, you must not reform any difficulty, with all the hardiness and prize you must neglect nothing but valiantly seize the best part. I mean the totality of God as your wealth.”  Blessed Hadewight of the Holy Beguines.

Lord, we pray for the grace to remember the teachings of Jesus.
Help us to recognise his presence among us and to look forward to them.

We thank you for sending your Holy Spirit into our Church of today.
We thank you that the work of the Spirit is new
and we must learn many things from what we now see happening in our present world.
It is also old, however, and it must always return us to the original teaching of Jesus
and of the Father who spoke through him.
We realize today how many wonderful things we can learn
from the newly established importance of women in the world today,
from all they have done. 

We must now re-learn and re-discover the many things he taught us
and which became lost in the all-male world in which it grew and developed.
We remember today the great things
- within our Church,
- in the world as we relate with it apart from the Church,
- in the secular world which makes no reference to the Church in its findings and discoveries.
We think today of the many things we learn from those who belong to other Christian religions, which we had tended to look down on.

We remember with great sadness
- the distance maintained by the Roman Pontiffs and other leaders of our Church in the face of the founding of the World Council of Churches and other ecumenical work in the world;
- we remember similar attitudes, maintained by the leaders of other Churches, when they found that their own insights were no longer accepted by our Church and so considered themselves far from us.

We think today of the many things we have learnt
from those who follow other religions which we once considered far from ours.
We think of those who follow other religions tied to the people of the East,
the followers of Confucius, Buddha, the Bhagavad Gita and other Eastern sages.
Help us Lord in our time to welcome them among us and to learn from them.
We remember the great sages of the Muslim faith.
We thank you for what they can now teach us in our faith and understanding.
We think of those who belong to the great religions of Africa,
and also of North and South America.
We thank you for the wonderful lessons we have learnt from them
- their sense of the greatness of God, present in every creature
- their sense of the protection of every person on earth
- their connection with all who have died.

We remember the very great people who have been torn away from our fold for what they have seen wrong. They now seem to have no religion at all. We thank you for all that we have learnt from them.

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“Come Holy Spirit
Make our ears to hear
Make our eyes to see
Make our mouths to speak
Make our hearts to seek
Make our hands to reach out
And touch the world with your love. AMEN.”

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ILLUSTRATIONS:

1.     Neighbourhood 

Once upon a time a new family moved into a neighborhood. It was a nice neighborhood and it was very close to where the Daddy worked, so close he could walk to work. There was only one thing wrong with the neighborhood. Most people weren’t Irish! Yes, that’s true there are such neighborhoods! They were Mexican and Thai, Jewish and Korean, Japanese and Indian, Polish and Columbian, Lebanese and Chinese and just about every other nationality that you could imagine. The children in the neighborhood swarmed around the new kids. Are you really Irish? We don’t have any Irish living in our neighborhood. What’s it like to be Irish? Can you teach us Irish songs and dances and tell us Irish stories?  

 Our new family was not dumb at all. They realized that there was some pay-off in being different. They had to look up Irish songs and stories and learn some Irish dances. They became very popular. They also learned a lot about all the strange people (i.e. those that were not Irish in their neighborhood and decided that while they were not Irish it wasn’t their fault and they were pretty cool kids anyway. They loved the cooking even if some of it was a little too spicy. Do you want to move back to the old neighborhood, their parents asked them anxiously. No way, said the kids, God made us all different and we enjoy it! All Irish neighborhoods are BORING!

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2.     Are you Pentecostal? 

The well-known author and preacher Fred Craddock tells a rather funny story about a lecture he was giving: A few years ago, when he was on the west coast speaking at a seminary, just before the first lecture, one of the students stood up and said, "Before you speak, I need to know if you are Pentecostal." The room grew silent. Craddock said he looked around for the Dean of the seminary! He was nowhere to be found. The student continued with his quiz right in front of everybody. Craddock was taken aback, and so he said, "Do you mean do I belong to the Pentecostal Church?" He said, "No, I mean are you Pentecostal?" Craddock said, "Are you asking me if I am charismatic?" the student said, "I am asking you if you are Pentecostal." Craddock said, "Do you want to know if I speak in tongues?" He said, "I want to know if you are Pentecostal." Craddock said, "I don't know what your question is." The student said, "Obviously, you are not Pentecostal." He left.

What are we talking about this morning? Is the church supposed to use the word Pentecost only as a noun or can it be used as an adjective? And so I ask you: Are you Pentecostal?

In spite of the fact that the church doesn't know what the adjective means, the church insists that the word remain in our vocabulary as an adjective. The church is unwilling for the word simply to be a noun, to represent a date, a place, an event in the history of the church, refuses for it to be simply a memory, an item, something back there somewhere. The church insists that the word is an adjective; it describes the church. The word, then, is "Pentecostal." 

If the church is alive in the world it is Pentecostal. And you thought we were Methodist!

 How do we keep this aliveness, this fire burning, this spirit moving? What must exist in us, around us, and through us, if we are to be Pentecostal? Simply these three things:

 1. We Are To Be Of One Accord
2. We Are To Join Together Constantly in Prayer
3. We Are To Repent 

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3.     Broken English 

Have you ever heard of “broken English?” Did you know “broken English” is an actual language? North Carolina Judge Jesse Caldwell tells the story of Vietnamese woman who was waiting her turn to be examined in a crowded hospital emergency room. She gradually became aware of a frustrating “non-conversation” being attempted a few seats down. A nurse was trying to ask a new patient for some details on her illness. The patient spoke Spanish. The nurse did not.

The Vietnamese woman listened for a minute then realized that while she didn’t speak Spanish she did understand the broken-English bits and phrases the Spanish speaking patient offered as answers. Because of her own experience of learning to communicate in “broken English,” the Vietnamese woman could hear the heart and gist of what this other woman was trying to say. The Vietnamese woman offered to “translate” the broken English of the Spanish speaker into something the nurse could understand. She was so successful at bridging the brokenness of their languages that eventually the Vietnamese woman was hired by the hospital as a kind of generic translator. Brokenness was the common language spoken by all hospital patients. 

The Holy Spirit speaks through broken people to a broken world, using language every broken heart can hear and understand. 

Because we know what it is like to be broken by hatred, we can speak of the healing love of Christ’s sacrifice. 

Because we know what it is like to be broken by despair, we can speak of the healing hope of Christ’s forgiveness. 

Because we know what it is like to be broken by doubt, we can speak of the healing faith in Christ’s promises. 

Because we know what it is like to be broken by illness, we can speak of the healing wholeness of Christ’s resurrection.

Because we know what it is like to break down doing church — program church, purpose-driven church, seeker-sensitive church, organic church, missional church, NCD church, simple church, we can stop doing church and start doing Pentecost. 

The church of Jesus Christ is alive and well. In fact, Christianity is still the fastest growing religion in the world. But it’s growing not in the North and West, but in the South and East. Why the difference? Why is Christianity surging in the South and East and not in North America and Europe?

Because where the body of Christ is growing the people aren’t trying to do church. They’re doing Pentecost. Maybe it’s time for us as a church to stop relying on our own powers and programs, our blueprints and boilerplates, and start doing what these early disciples did: trust the Spirit and do Pentecost…   
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4.     You Are in the Spirit 

It’s like the story of the shark and the whale. Both were swimming in the sea when the shark swam up to the whale to engage in conversation. As they swam along, the shark said to the whale, “You are so much older than I, and wiser too. Could you tell me where the ocean is?” The whale responded, “The ocean is what you are in now.” The shark would not believe it. “Come on, tell me where the ocean is so I may find it!” The whale repeated, “The ocean is here, now; you are in it.” Unbelieving, the shark swam away searching for the ocean.  

The moral of the story, I believe, is this: don’t spend too much time looking for God because the Spirit of God is here in the now of your life, dwelling within you, within me, within this community. And that truth is nurtured in prayer.

Susan M. Fleenor, The Indwelling Spirit of Pentecost
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 5.     Peace 

The peace Jesus gives to us through the Holy Spirit is more than we can ever imagine:

Peace means the cessation of all warfare, but it also means much more.
Peace means a feeling of inner well-being, but it also means much more.
Peace means an end to psychological tensions, but it also means much more.
Peace means halting interpersonal conflicts, but it also means much more.
Peace means the settling of silence on the soul, but it also means much more.

In Valyermo, California , the Benedictines converted a 400-acre ranch into a religious community called St. Andrew's Priory. As you enter the grounds, you find that the land is posted: "No Hunting Except for Peace." 

The world is hunting for peace. What will we give it? 

Leonard Sweet, Collected Sermons
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6.     The Church on Fire 

Two persons were talking together before a large church which was being destroyed by fire. The first man spoke in a voice which could be heard above the voice of the firemen: "This is the first time I ever saw you at church." To this the second responded: "This is the first time I ever saw the church on fire." There are many prophets of doom saying that the age of the Christian Church is over - that it has lost its zeal! We're taking a beating right now in this country and around the world. Our theology is being questioned. Everyone is writing a critical book against the organized church. We have had to take some unpopular stands on social issues. Magazines are attacking the ministry, and it isn't the thing to do anymore to join the church. John Kelman said, however, "God pity the nation or city whose factory smokestacks rise higher than her church spires." 

Why Belong To The Church?, anthology, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
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7.     Shaped by the Winds of God 

Most times, when I'm called to conduct a funeral of a loved one from the church, I'm asked by the funeral director if I'd like to ride with them rather than to drive my own car. And most times, I take them up on the offer, for it is more relaxing not to have to worry about driving. I must say that I've had some interesting and informative drives out to the cemetery. One director told me about the effect God's Wind has on things that grow. It seems that over time, trees that have to stand out in the open become shaped in the direction the wind is blowing. Unless there are other trees around to block it from happening, a tree will eventually be shaped by the force and direction of the wind. Then, as living proof, the funeral director began to point out to me tree after tree that had all been shaped in this way, trees that I confess I had passed by many times, but had never really seen until then. Once this was pointed out to me, I began to see them everywhere. The cemetery was literally filled with them! All shaped by the Winds of God! 

I leave you with this question. Like those trees in the cemetery, do we, as individuals, and as a congregation, show any evidence of being shaped by the Winds of God's Spirit? Is the new beginning Pentecostal experience a fresh, yet continuing presence in our lives?

David R. Cartwright, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost (First Third): Guided by the Spirit, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
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8.     Waves of Worry 

Several years ago a submarine was being tested and had to remain submerged for many hours. When it returned to the harbor, the captain was asked, "How did the terrible storm last night affect you?" The officer looked at him in surprise and exclaimed, "Storm? We didn't even know there was one!" The sub had been so far beneath the surface that it had reached the area known to sailors as "the cushion of the sea." Although the ocean may be whipped into huge waves by high winds, the waters below are never stirred. 

This, I believe, is a perfect picture of the peace that comes from Christ's Spirit. The waves of worry, of fear, of heartbreak, cannot touch those resting in Christ. Sheltered by His grace and encouraged by His Spirit, the believer is given the perfect tranquility that only Christ can provide.

Adrian Dieleman, Receive the Holy Spirit
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9.     A Dead Balloon

 A "dead balloon" -- has no life. It continues to lie wherever you put it. It doesn't move. It has no power. 

Take a "dead balloon" and do what Jesus did -- blow in it. What happens? It's full of air; but it is still dead, going nowhere until that power is released. [As an illustration, the "powered balloon" can be released.] 

Under the "spirit's/breath's/wind's" power, the balloon can move. It goes out. However, when the wind power within the balloon is released, you don't know where the balloon is going to go; but you know it's going somewhere. (We don't know where the wind comes from or is going.)

Jesus did not give the disciples the Spirit's power so that they could stay behind locked doors in fear. It is given as a power to move people out into the world -- even if we don't always know exactly where we will end up. 

What happens to the balloon after it has "spent" its power? It seems dead again. All out of power. It's flat. There's no more "spirit/breath" within it. On one hand we are not like that balloon. Jesus promises that the Spirit will be with us forever. We will never run out of the Spirit's power. The Spirit given to you in baptism remains forever. On the other hand, over and over again in Acts, we read that certain disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. Their filling didn't just happen once, but over and over again. So we also need to be refilled. Weekly we return to church as a refilling station. To receive Jesus again in the hearing of the word and in the sharing of sacrament and through the fellowship of the saints.

Brian Stofregen, From his Exegetical Notes. 
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10.  Passing the Peace 

There is a true story related about a church in the Pacific Northwest, who much like us, has a time during the service for passing the peace of Christ. This is a time when they greet one another, and their guests, with handshakes and hugs, and kind words of welcome. Nobody thought much about the weekly ritual until the pastor received a letter from a man who had recently joined the congregation. The new member was a promising young lawyer from a prestigious downtown law firm. He drafted a brief but pointed letter on his firm's letterhead. "I am writing to complain about the congregational ritual known as 'passing the peace,' " he wrote. "I disagree with it, both personally and professionally, and I am prepared to take legal action to cause this practice to cease." When the pastor phoned to talk with the lawyer about the letter, he asked why he was so disturbed about sharing the peace of Christ. The lawyer said, "The passing of the peace is an invasion of my privacy." 

And, in the Pastor’s response to this man, we find the truth of the Christian life. He said, "Like it or not, when you joined the church you gave up some of your privacy, for we believe in a risen Lord who will never leave us alone." And, he said, "You never know when Jesus Christ will intrude on us with a word of peace." 

Jeremy Rebman, So Send I You
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11.   Settling for Less

Charles Schultz, the artist who provides us with the Peanuts cartoons, is one of my favorite theologians. In one of his cartoon series,  

he has Snoopy, that hound of heaven, saying of Woodstock, that would-be bird of paradise; "Someday, Woodstock is going to be a great eagle." Then in the next frame he says, "He is going to soar thousands of feet above the ground." Woodstock takes off into the air and as Snoopy looks on he sees the bird upside down whirling around crazily. So he has second thoughts. In the third frame Snoopy says, "Well, maybe hundreds of feet above the ground" But hardly had the words gotten out of his mouth when Woodstock plummets to the ground and lies there, on his back looking dazed, and Snoopy has to conclude, "Maybe he will be one of those eagles who just walks around."

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12.  Erasmus 

Erasmus, the famous Renaissance scholar, once told a classic story which was designed to emphasize how important it is that we take up the torch of Christ’s ministry with great commitment. In the story, Jesus returns to heaven after His time on earth. The angels gather around Him to learn what all happened during His days on earth. Jesus tells them of the miracles, His teachings, His death on the cross, and His resurrection.
When He finishes his story, Michael the Archangel asks Jesus, “But what happens now?” Jesus answers, “I have left behind eleven faithful disciples and a handful of men and women who have faithfully followed me. They will declare My message and express My love. These faithful people will build My church.”

“But,” responds Michael, “What if these people fail? What then is Your other plan?” And Jesus answers, “I have no other plan!”

Today is the day we celebrate the birth of the church on Pentecost and we learn again how we are the plan and how Jesus is counting on each of us. But the good news is, we have not been left alone. The Holy Spirit is here to melt us, mold us, fill us, and use us. 

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13.  Lost and Found

Picture a little girl lost in a big city. There she sits, crying on the curb. A policeman finds her, puts her in his cruiser and drives her up and down the streets, hoping she'll recognize something familiar. Which, at last, she does. She sees a steeple with a cross on it. Tears vanish.
Speech returns. "That's my church," she says. "I can find my way from here."

You're not the only one, little girl.

William A. Ritter, Collected Sermons
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14.  Control 

A wealthy family from Massachusetts used to take a month's vacation every summer to the coast of Maine, taking their maid with them. The maid had an annual ritual at the beach. She wore an old-fashioned bathing suit, complete with a little white hat, and carried enough paraphernalia to stock Wal-Mart. She would settle herself on the beach, cover every inch of her exposed flesh and journey down to the water's edge. There she would hesitate while taking deep breaths and working up her courage to enter the icy-cold water. Finally, she would daintily extend one foot and lower it slowly into the water until she barely had her big toe submerged. Then she repeated the act with the other foot. Then, having satisfied her minimal urge for a swim, she would retreat to her chair and umbrella and spend the remainder of the vacation curled around a book.

I'm afraid that may be a parable of our Christian commitment. Are we afraid to give in to the Pentecost experience, fearful that we might lose control? That's what it is really all about, isn't it? Control. We want to be in control. Well, if Pentecost is to do nothing else, it should remind us that we are not in control, not even - or perhaps I should say especially - of ourselves.

Randy L. Hyde, Time to Deliver
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15.  They All Come Together

John Ortberg tells the story of a friend who made his first trip south of the Mason-Dixon Line from Chicago to Georgia. On his first morning in the South he went into a restaurant to order breakfast, and it seemed that every dish included something called grits...which, as my Tennessee friends tell me, is exactly the way God intended it. Not being familiar with this southern delicacy, he asked the waitress, "Could you tell me, exactly what is a grit?" Looking down on him with a mixture of compassion and condescension, she said, "Sugar, you can't get just one grit. They always come together."

John Wesley knew there was no personal holiness without social holiness, and Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard says, "You can no more go to God alone than you can go to the North Pole alone." We're just like grits...you can't get just one. They come together.

John E. Harnish, Collected Sermons,
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16.  Humor: How Were You Attired? 

Recently, a judicial friend was presiding over a case in a small, rural county. The defendant was charged with drunk driving and trying to assault the police officer who arrested him. To convict the defendant on the assault on an officer charge, the District Attorney had to proved that the defendant knew the person he was assaulting was a police officer. And the easiest way to do that is to show that the officer was wearing a police uniform, and therefore the defendant knew that this was a police officer.

So the District Attorney asked the officer on the witness stand "And how were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?"

The witness looked at him blankly. It was clear he didn't know what the District Attorney meant by "attired". Everyone saw this but the District Attorney.

"Would you repeat the question, please?"

In a slightly irritated voice the District Attorney said, "And how were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?"

The witness still was puzzled. "Say that again", he pleaded.

"How were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?" barked the District Attorney.

My friend said you could suddenly see the light bulb come on in the officer's head, and he proudly proclaimed "I was traveling on standard issue radial tires!"

This officer needed an interpreter even within the English language!

That's what I'm getting at: We all need our own personal interpreter, full time, 24/7. So much of what we hear, even within the English language, we don't understand. And nowhere is that truth more evident than with people who are new to the church.

Leonard Sweet, Collected Sermons
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17. Napoleon and the Cardinal

The story is told of Napoleon Bonaparte boasting to a Vatican cardinal that he would destroy the Church. Replied the official insouciantly to the perplexed emperor, "Good luck, Your Majesty. We priests have been attempting to do just that for centuries."

In effect, the bishop was doffing his scarlet biretta in salute to the Holy Spirit. That Spirit dwells comfortably and sometimes, I suspect, very uncomfortably within the Church. Try what anyone might, the Church will not go away precisely because the Third Person of the Holy Trinity is on the job around the clock. Napoleon thought the prelate was pulling his imperial leg. He took on the Church. He was rudely dethroned. The Church  survived. The former emperor wound up beating off mosquitoes as a full-time occupation on the damp island of Saint Helena somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.
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The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
 
a) The gift of wisdom:  Four-year-old Amanda was taken to the doctor’s office with a fever.  The doctor looked in her ears and asked, "Who’s in there?  Donald Duck?" She said, "No."  He looked in her open mouth, "Whos in there?  Mickey Mouse?" Again she said, "No."  He put his stethoscope on her heart and asked, "Who’s in there? Barney?" Amanda replied, "No, Jesus is in my heart.  Barney is in the pocket of my underwear."
 
b)The gift of understanding: A kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they drew pictures.  She would occasionally walk around to see each child's artwork.  As she came to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was. The girl replied, "I'm drawing God." The teacher paused and said, "But no one knows what God looks like." Without missing a beat or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, "They will in a minute."
c) The gift of counsel: Just after receiving his driver’s license, a Lutheran minister’s son wanted to talk about using the family car.  “Ill make a deal with you,” his father said.  “Bring your grades up, read your Bible more often, and get a haircut.  Then you may use the car once or twice a week. A month later the question came up again.  Son,” the father said, “Im proud of you.   I see you studying hard and reading your Bible every day.  But you didn’t get a haircut.”  After a moment’s pause, the son replied, “Yeah, I’ve thought about that.  But Samson had long hair, Moses had long hair, and even Jesus had long hair.”  True,’ the father replied, but maybe you noticed that they walked wherever they went?”
d) The gift of fortitude:  A mother refused to permit her little boy to go for a picnic with his classmates.  On the day of the picnic, however, she changed her mind and gave  him  permission.   But  he  sighed  and confessed, "It's  too  late  Mummy, I've already prayed for rain on the school picnic day!" 
e) The gift of knowledge:  The story is told of a man who went to the priest and said, "Father, I want you to say a Mass for my dog." The priest was indignant.  "What do you mean, say a Mass for your dog?" "It's my pet dog," said the man.  "I loved that dog and I'd like you to offer a Mass for him." "We don't offer Masses for dogs here," the priest said.  "You might try the denomination down the street.  Ask them if they have a service for you." As the man was leaving, he said to the priest, "I really loved that dog.  I was planning to give a five thousand-dollar stipend for the Mass." And the priest said, "Wait a minute!  Why didn’t tell me that your dog was Catholic?!"
 
f) The gift of piety: The Rabbi, the Cantor and one member of the congregation were the only ones present for the service.  The Rabbi intoned, "Adonai, before you I am as nothing."  The Cantor intoned, "Adonai, before you I am less than nothing."  The member of the congregation intoned, "Adonai, I too am nothing and less than nothing."  The Cantor looked at the rabbi, and gestured toward the member of the congregation. "Look who thinks he's nothing!"
 
g) The gift of fear of God: Do not ride in automobiles: they are responsible for 20% of fatal accidents. Do not stay home: 1% of all accidents occur in home.  Do not walk on the streets or sidewalks: 14% of all accidents occur at such times.  Do not travel by air, rail, or water: 16% of all accidents happen on planes, trains or boats.  Only .001% of all deaths occur in worship services in church, and these are usually related to previous physical disorders.  Hence, the safest place for you to be at any time is at church!!!