No, today is not Pentecost, even though I just read the familiar Pentecost text.
And no, today I am not trying to get out of preaching a new sermon even though some of what I am going to share is from a sermon I gave over a year ago.
Rather, hearing from Acts 2 and going back to some things once preached is about being reminded. Reminded of what we are—a church, who we are—members of the body of Christ, and what we are called to do—proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the best of our ability and as the Holy Spirit calls us to do.
I do this in an overt, even repetitive manner, because today is an important day in the life of First Christian Church. It is a day that I have been praying about, anxious about, excited about, and a whole spectrum ranging wave of emotions for a long, long time.
I have had all this because today we as a church will make a choice regarding a proposal.
It is a proposal, that if accepted, will change our church.
It is a proposal that I believe in, and one that many others believe in as well—if that were not so then it would not make it all the way to a congregational meeting.
But whether the proposal is accepted or rejected does not change the fact that we are a church, members of the body of Christ, and we are called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the best of our ability and as the Holy Spirit calls us to do.
That is who we are but if we are not always faithfully striving to be who we are in word and action, then we will—sooner or later— cease to be anything at all.
A little over a year ago, on Pentecost, I said, If you want to catch the wind, you have to put yourself where the wind is blowing.
What was meant by that was that if the church is going to tap the limitless energy and power available through the Holy Spirit, then it is going to have to position itself in order to catch the wind. And how we do that is outlined in Acts 2.
At Pentecost the church was swept up in the wind power of the Holy Spirit and within this story we find the blueprint for building a church that can catch this wind that enables and empowers us to be who we are called to be and do what we are called to do.
It is a blueprint that reveals four points to focus on and put in place.
These four points are: Community, Courage and Conviction, and lastly Communication.
With these four points as an intentional practice, we as a church, as the body of Christ, we will not only feel “the rush of a violent wind”, and capture the energy of the Holy Spirit, we will be permitting the Holy Spirit to guide us to success in living out our call—to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The first part of this blueprint is Community.
Acts tells us that on the day of Pentecost, the apostles of Jesus “were all together in one place.”
Being in community is critically important when striving to catch the wind. But gathering together is a challenge for us today.
It used to be that people would routinely take their spiritual search to church, and look to their fellow worshipers, their pastors, their religious traditions for guidance.
But not so much anymore.
Precious communal experiences are lost because people choose to practice their faith in isolation and the reason they are practicing in isolation is because it is perceived that the church is out of touch, narrow in scope, judgmental.
I don’t believe this. I don’t think you believe it. But others do.
The question becomes then, what are we doing to change this misunderstanding?
There’s a lot we are doing, but there’s always more we can do.
To do them, of course, will require courage and conviction.
Acts tells us that some of the residents of Jerusalem sneered at the apostles and said, “They are filled with new wine” because they didn’t want to hear the message.
But Peter didn’t stop telling the message. He had tapped into the courage of the Holy Spirit—courage that wasn’t within him weeks earlier when three times he denied even knowing Jesus—but now it was and he tapped into it and used it. He courageously told people the good news.
He didn’t beat anyone over the head with it, he just plainly, simply, and courageously told people the good news of Christ Jesus, in a way and a language they could understand, and he invited them to come and be part of it.
With this Holy Spirit courage he lived out his conviction—his belief, his faith that Jesus came and lived and died for all.
His courage and his conviction spurred him to action—actions of proclamation and invitation.
When we catch the wind of the Holy Spirit we become convicted to share it, but are also empowered with the courage needed to take action for that which we have been convicted with—the belief that we are the church, the body of Christ, and we are called to proclaim this and invite people to be part of it.
How we proclaim it, is what we must decide.
At Pentecost, the apostles “began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”
This amazed the devout Jews from every nation because they knew that the apostles were Galileans— men not known for their foreign language abilities.
But now the apostles were chattering away in the variety of native languages of all the people.
In these diverse languages, they were “speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
The apostles had been given a gift of communication so that they could tell people the good news of Jesus in a clear and compelling way.
Today, if we are going to tell people about the good news of Jesus Christ, in a clear and compelling way, then we need to learn some new languages.
I’m not talking about creating a Latin Protestant service.
I’m talking about language and communication techniques that reach a new generation of believers—a community of believers who believe the church is out of touch with.
In the nearly five years that I have been here at FCC Stow, I have heard over and over again how we are an aging church, and that we need to bring in younger people, younger families.
I agree with that sentiment 100%.
Here’s the thing we must ask though—Are we, here at FCC Stow, speaking the languages of the people we say we want to bring in?
Maybe we may think so, but ask the people that we say we want to come in, and they will likely tell us “not really.”
And because their answer is likely “not really”, that is why the Sanctuary Renewal Team has been working as long and as hard as they have—because it believes that God is calling us to learn to speak the languages of those we say we want coming here.
Churches that use technology in worship, speak a different language.
When we praise God with instruments besides the organ and piano, we speak a different language.
When we make the experience of worship more creative and vibrant, when we sing songs that use drums and guitar and bass guitar, we are speaking in another language—a language that is understood by those who are not coming to church—those who we say we want coming into the church.
If we want to fully catch the wind of the Holy Spirit, we have to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gives us ability.
Let me be clear though—our message is still the same.
We are a church that believes and proclaims that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. We still strive as a community of believers to share the love of God with others, as taught by the scriptures and illuminated by the Holy Spirit.
Our beliefs and mission are still the same.
But how we speak of them, and the language we speak them in, must always be expanding to include other languages so that more and more people can hear it.
If you want to catch the wind, you have to put yourself where the wind is blowing.
The wind is blowing here at First Christian Church—if I don’t believe that then what’s the point of being here?
So my question to you is this: Do you believe it? Do you believe the wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing here at First Christian Church of Stow?
If you believe that the wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing here, then let’s continue to work together to catch it. It’s not going to be hard, because we have the Holy Spirit ready to give it to us.
What will be hard, is taking the leap of faith to catch it together.
But I know that a Community that Communicates its mission and message with Courage and Conviction will no doubt put itself in a position to catch the power of God and put it to work sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
And when we do, and continue to do that, we will have tapped into the limitless energy and power of the Holy Spirit—making what we do, as the church, as members of the body of Christ, as those who proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, effective, faithful, and life changing. Amen.