The lessons on Pentecost all encourage new openness, openness to the spirit and to ways of being the church, the people of God in the world.
There are many ways of being church. As there are many gifts but one spirit, for individuals, so for congregations, there is one spirit expressed through many collective gifts or charisms - ways of being church, of manifesting the grace of God in the ministry of the church.
Diana Butler Bass, in her book, Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith (Harper San Francisco, September 2006) described her research into the many ways local churches manifest the work of the spirit.
Hospitality, discernment, healing, contemplation, testimony, diversity, justice, worship, reflection, beauty: these are aspects or charisms of ten particular neighborhood churches - Lutheran, Episcopal, and others - that have found in finding and celebrating the gifts God has given them, new ways to be transformed in the renewing of their minds and the refreshing of their faith.
Congregations find ways of being church that are theirs - and yet are gifts to the neighborhoods around them. All the different ways of doing church have a similarity. They are ways of being church in openness to the Spirit and in obedience to the word of God.
Make disciples among all the peoples of the earth, our Lord commanded: baptize them and teach them all Jesus taught the disciples, and remember him - remember him in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers. Be open to God’s leading, leading into new life.
What we find in the lessons of Pentecost, the lessons for today, are invitations, exhortations, and examples, of how to be open to the Spirit.
Open your selves to the spirit’s presence.
Open your self to the experience of God to be had in welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick or the prisoner, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving water to those who thirst.
Open your selves to the continuing work of the Creator, doing a new thing now in the midst of the earth.
Open your hearts to receive God’s love.
Open your hands to give that love on to others.
Open your lips and proclaim God’s praise.
Open the shades and let light stream in.
Open the windows and let the Spirit blow through stale corridors.
Open the doors and go forth to love and serve the Lord.
The breath of God that moved across the face of the waters on the first day of creation is still moving, moving where it will. Through the open doors of our souls and churches a fresh breeze is blowing - it is the Spirit, enlivening us, enlightening us, and filling us with the light of Christ.
In the first lesson we hear today Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp. Moses, tell them to stop! Joshua says. But Moses says: Are you jealous on my account? Would that all God’s people would prophesy.
When a portion of the spirit that had been given to Moses was taken and distributed to seventy, the gift was not diminished. It is not a limited quantity. There is no scarcity of the grace of God; there is no limit to the power of God.
The gift of the Spirit is a gift that grows in the giving; it is a flame that grows as it touches on each of us.
It grows in blessing God’s people.
And the people of God, gathered all in one place on the day of Pentecost, awaited the coming of the Spirit. All began speaking one message, with many voices, in many languages - so it was for those who heard the word of God, the proclamation of God’s mighty deeds.
Each heard the good news in the language of their own heart. That is the real miracle. Each of them heard the word in the way that reached them, that touched their souls.
The people of God were proclaiming God’s sovereignty, the coming of the reign of God, and to all people. For, as Joel said, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
This is the birth of the Church, in the experience of the Spirit, a gift that grows in the giving.
What it tells us is that we live in a world ruled by a generous God, a life-giving, hope-renewing, boundless God. And the gifts of the spirit are all given for one reason: mission.
The gifts of the Spirit are not an end in themselves, and certainly not an excuse for wallowing in self-importance.
(You are significant, for one and the same reason: you are precious in the sight of God, the God who made you, the God who redeems you in the death and life and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the God who loves you. You are significant because you are God’s child and his Beloved ones.)
The gifts of the Spirit are not a privilege for a select few, but a gift that grows in the giving. They are gifts for the whole church, and for the whole world.
Even in the Gospel story, when wind and fire are hushed and quiet, Jesus comes into the room where they are all gathered and says, Peace. Peace be among you. And receive holy Breath.
He sends them into mission - and he gives the Spirit to carry out the mission.
They were gathered, locked together in fear, but they became open to a new possibility - the new possibility that the continuing presence of Christ brings.
Receive holy breath. Open your souls to the holy One, the one who, through wind and flame, and peaceful presence, comes to you, empowers you, and sends you forth, renewed, to spread the good news - to be the good news - and to bring others into the celebration.
In the spirit’s power. Amen.