When the day of Pentecost had come, they 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. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.
No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘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. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
I love Pentecost! I was so excited last night I could hardly sleep. No joke. I felt like I was going to Disneyland or headed out for an exotic vacation. I lay in bed dreaming of all the things the Spirit of God could do in our lives. I prayed that the morning would hurry up and get here so I could drive on over here and be with you all on this day and celebrate our graduation.
You see. I am not your average Presbyterian. I am cut from an evangelical, charismatic cloth. If I had to choose a favorite part of the trinity, I am always going to pick the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is what I believe inhabits my heart and hands, moving me to act on Gods behalf.
You see I am an addict. I am addicted to the Holy Spirit. I love her wild and untamed ways. She is my courage, my hope, and my joy.
I love the Holy Spirit so much I have this gigantic hole in my soul just waiting to be filled by her presence. This Spirit shaped hole has lead me to be baptized three times.
You see I used to believe that one could lose their baptism or anointing as we called it. I got baptized as an infant, just eight months old. As an evangelical, charismatic that baptism did not count, as I was a child. I went to a sunrise service at the beach one Easter and got caught up in the moment and wadded out in to the waters and got dunked.
I wandered away from the church after that and then retuned a few years later and felt I needed to be baptized again. I went to a backyard BBQ at the pastor’s house of the church I was going to. There was a pool there and I talked the pastor in to baptizing me and a few others that wanted to get baptized.
I wandered away from the church again. This time I returned to a mega-church. I wanted to get baptized again. This time I was sure it would stick. I went to a few classes at the church. In the course of this process we all had to meet with the pastor. He was an old, gray man that had a stillness to him. He listened well and made you feel important as you shared your story. I told him of my faith story and how I was baptized before, a few times. He listened intently and nodded at the appropriate times.
Then I paused, smiled, and rested my case. He smiled back. It got quiet, that uncomfortable kind of quiet. I wondered what I had said that was wrong. After that eternal pause he said, “Son, you do not need to be baptized again. You need to get serious.”
I did not get baptized again. I moved on from that church but that pastor’s words have stuck with me. His words shaped in me a hunger for that “serious” he spoke of.
I graduated that day. It was a memorable moment in my faith and one that influences my faith today. It is one of the reasons I love Pentecost so much.
Pentecost is our graduation. With divided tongues of fire resting upon the heads of all gathered there in the upper room and with languages being spoken with natural ease the struggling followers of Jesus the Christ graduated to become “the Church.” Crowds gathered there around this spectacle. Bewildered, amazed, and astonished they stood there wondering what was going on.
I imagine those that graduated that day in to “the church” shared a lot of the same kinds of emotions and thoughts as our graduates here share today. We are surrounded by uncertainty, fear, and the constant desire to be sure. I am not sure how much has changed over the last few years in the worry department. I am sure that the hope that we set out with on this journey has been challenged and changed in to something we could not have imagined.
I am certain that the reality that we hold here today would not have been possible without the momentary realities and grace-filled consequences that we have endured as individuals and as a community. We are a product of the Holy Spirit fueled, Jesus Christ loved, Beloved Creator covered action as we fought to make sense of the world around us.
As we are set to graduate, I pray we remember that the days prior to this are not simply memories. They are lessons and moments that will carry us through the journeys to come. Our time together has forged the relationships of new communities and planted seeds for new relationships that will grow new communities. Today’s graduation is more than an event. It is the proud proclamation of our calling to be Prophetic, Passionate, and to Dream.
We have been amazed and perplexed by the Holy Spirit. We have seen wondrous things. We sit here today trusting that when we were fashioned in our mother’s womb the time needed to fulfill that which we are called to is also provided. We trust that the call to be prophetic comes with the courage to be prophetic. The call to be passionate comes with the faith to be passionate. The call to dream comes with the hope to dream.
This city is in need of prophetic voices. Prophetic voices that call us to more than ethical and moral action. We need prophetic voices that demand progress but not at the sake of our humanity. We need prophetic voices that point to and honor the humanity of all of God’s creation. We need prophetic voices that preserve the full humanity of ALL. We need prophetic voices that preach the Gospel, without using words.
This nation is in need of passionate voices. Passionate voices that demand relationship over production and consumption. We need passionate voices that call attention to the injustice preventing others from equality, even at the cost of their own freedom. We need passionate voices that inspire, recharge, and renew the tired and relenting hearts of liberty. We need passionate voices that practice non-violence in the face of this nations violent ways. We need passionate voices that love their neighbors as they love themselves.
This world is in need of dreaming voices. Dreaming voices that can see the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. We need dreaming voices that bridge the coming kingdom to our NOW. We need dreaming voices that dare challenge the reality that invades our minds, our hearts, our wills with fear, intolerance, and hate. We need dreaming voices that reframe the fear, intolerance, and hate with faith, affirmation, and love. We need dreaming voices that stand in the face of hopelessness and show us a way to The Promised Land. We need dreaming voices that speak the dreams of their mothers and fathers as they work to realize the dreams of many. We need dreaming voices that paint a divine beauty upon the ugly truth of this world.
We are called to be prophetic, passionate, and to dream. This is the good news of Jesus Christ. This is the gospel. It is our calling, no matter our vocation, our condition, or our confidence. We all are called to minister in this manner. Better yet, we have permission to be prophetic, passionate, and to dream!
I was at a conference this last week. It was a gathering of 64 people, men women, and children. We gathered there to ask difficult questions of our faith and to try to arrive at new ways of being church. We have done this for three years now. We have no budget. Everyone pays their own way. Those with much help out those with little. It is a little piece of the Kingdom of God.
We talked a lot about bivocational ministry there. We lamented that many of our colleagues are forced to take “real” jobs in order to serve as minister in a growing number of churches. We lamented that bivocational ministry is almost seen as a punishment from some folks in the church.
There was plenty of lament going on. The hope that the conversation began with seemingly disappeared. Than someone spoke up and said, “Our congregations have always been bivocational.” The wind left the conversation and truth set in.
Every week full time, part time, tent making, and itinerate pastors everywhere serve congregations full of bivocational ministers.
I am looking at a room full of bivocational ministers right now. You all work a full week and come here to work some more. Bivocational ministry is not a punishment; it is the reality to which the pews have known for many years. By our baptism we are ordained to bivocational ministry. By our baptism we are called to be prophetic, passionate, and to dream. This is two baptisms, one by water and the other by fire.
Here we are. Ready to celebrate the baptism by fire. Every year we get to honor this tradition of being called to ministry. This is the day in which we all have been baptized and called to ministry. This is the day that we are amazed and perplexed by the Holy Spirit. This is the day we are given permission to be prophetic, passionate, and to dream.
This city is in need of prophetic voices.
This nation is in need of passionate voices.
This world is in need of dreaming voices.
“God declares, 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.”