Living into Our Beliefs
When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. 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. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Well its Pentecost – so - I’m waiting….
Do you believe this? Can you believe it? We’re asked to believe a lot of crazy stories aren’t we – about apples and trees and snakes. About mountains and tablets and the voice of God. About angels and visions – people being healed – being brought back to life, even. Our whole faith – everything we believe – in the words of the Nicene Creed (which we may or may not believe, either) – comes from these incredible and dare I say, unbelievable stories.
Like this one – of Pentecost – the Holy Spirit disrupting a room of people with sound and wind and tongues of fire. So what do you think? Do you think this really happened? Do you believe it? This is often how we approach our faith, what we believe. Do we think something is true or not.
But thinking – and believing – are two different things.
Thinking wants conclusions and solutions. We think we know the answers. We think we can solve most, if not all, of our problems. We think that we can see and determine and even control our futures. We tend think we know what’s best for ourselves and everyone else. We even think we have free will (not gonna go down that road).
However - None of us – as smart as all of us are – can think our way into a new way of being, a new way of living. And that is what a faith-filled life – a faithful life – is all about.
How come – when our kids are smart enough to point out our hypocrisy, you know those times when you fail to live into the expectations you expect for them? Why do we have that well known parental proverb – Do as I say, not as I do? Why did St. Paul write – why do I do what I know not to do? Because our thinking can be as right as rain – sound reason gives us morality that makes perfect sense. Most of us know, at the head level, what is good and what is not – but that knowledge – doesn’t necessarily change how we live. That alone cannot lead us into a new life.
You can’t think your way into a new way of living. You have to live your way into a new way of thinking.
God knows the truth of that – words of scripture, words of prayer – fill the pages of our canon – but that’s not what moves people to radically change their lives – to break free – or live into possibilities they never before imagined. We don’t know what goes on with Jesus for about 30 years of his life – but when he gets baptized – we read that he was thrust into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit – to wrestle for 40 days with a new way of living.
That’s Pentecost. The Spirit of God thrusting people into a new way of living. I don’t know exactly what happened – divided tongues of fire – maybe that’s what it felt like – but something happened – because everything changed.
You had a room full of people not wanting to leave. Not wanting to go out and do what Jesus already told them to do – go and make disciples of all people. That sounded great when he was standing there saying it – not so great when they lived through what happened to Jesus. They couldn’t even show up for that. (Bp. Curry, royal wedding, stirring up the spirit preaching on the power of love, making everyone uncomfortable – roll call at the cross).
The disciples didn’t stick around for his death – they didn’t show up at the grave (except Mary) – because they preferred reciting words while staying nice and safe inside – and something happened – which changed the course of their lives.
If you find yourself at St. Joseph’s Hospital – behind the visitor desk you will see a replica of San Damiano’s cross. San Damiano is a church in Assisi, Italy and in 1205 St. Francis was walking by it and was “driven by the impulse of the Holy Spirit” – he went inside – and knelt in front of the icon of Christ on the cross – and heard the voice of God say three times – Go and repair my church which, as you see is in ruins”
And so he did – literally stone by stone – there weren’t even a group of brothers – who we would come to know as Franciscans – around to help him – although his rebuilding attracted attention. And eventually Francis came to believe – that those words of God weren’t about a building – but about something much bigger – something we call – the Body of Christ – that’s the “church” God really cares about – and wants us to be.
I love Annual Meeting because it is the time when the people of this part of the Body of Christ speak to how we are repairing the world – stone by stone – laptop by laptop – cookout by cookout – coat by coat – etc. etc. At our vestry meeting Tuesday night – a theme of our reflection was the joy and surprise and faith-strengthening awareness of being a congregation that makes what we say real. We don’t do charity – we do love – being with people not only to be a part of rebuilding lives – but because our lives also need rebuilding. See, we are practicing living our way into what we believe.
The promise of the Holy Spirit – the truth the undergirds whatever it is that happened that day – is the promise of God’s abiding presence. It’s the Advocate that Jesus says will always be with us – will always point us towards what is good – or what is true. Paul writes it as hope – hope is our awareness of that presence. Hope – was defined for me recently – as an energy of the heart that always directs us towards the good. No matter the situation – no matter whether we get what we want – no matter if the problem is solved. Hope – the Spirit – the Advocate – is what compels and directs and thrusts our lives into the places around us that need rebuilding.
I’m sure there are places in your personal lives that need rebuilding – that is true for all of us in varying degrees at different stages of our lives. We practice rebuilding in relationships here – so it strengthens us to do rebuilding where ever we go, wherever we are. With sighs too deep for words – the Spirit of God is at work in you right now – searching your heart and pushing, nudging, maybe even thrusting you towards where your heart needs to go – so that your thinking can follow.
Time to stop my words. Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation to generation in the church – and through Christ Jesus. Amen.