1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
The Power of Kingdom Living
Pentecost 2021 May 23
Acts 2:1-21, John 15:26-16:4b-15
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
Honestly, I suspect that we’ve heard the story of the wind and the tongues of flame and the dove and the crowds hearing the sermon in their own languages just enough to believe that the promise of Pentecost is deliverance, celebration, victory and strength. The signs of Pentecost, after all, are mighty. And what is the Holy Spirit if it is not God’s own agent – the very Spirit of the resurrected Jesus – now on earth to accompany us with signs of wonder and power.
Except that precisely because the promised Holy Spirit is the presence of the crucified and resurrected Christ, we should never expect things to be so easy. In the cross of Christ we see God’s strength mediated through suffering, God’s victory achieved through defeat and new life pledged and provided through death. The crucified and resurrected God we meet in Jesus is a God of paradox and so we should look for no less in God’s Holy Spirit.
Therefore, we need to consider that:
First, the Holy Spirit does not come to solve our problems but to create them. No problems… no growth.
I want to communicate my needs…. I learn language.
I want a job…I participate in a search, I get training, I explore and inquire.
I want companionship… I learn to compromise.
Think about it: absent the coming of the Holy Spirit the disciples could go back to their previous careers as fishermen. I can almost hear James and John explaining: “Sure it was a wild and crazy three year ride and that Jesus sur was a heck of a guy! But maybe we needed to get that out of our system before we could settle down and take on Dad’s business.”
Once the Spirit comes, however, that return to normalcy is no longer an option. They will now be propelled throughout the ancient world to herald the unlikely message that God has redeemed the world through an itinerant preacher from the backwaters of Palestine who was executed for treason and blasphemy. The Holy Spirit –take note- doesn’t solve the disciples’ problems, it creates them!
New York Times columnist David Brooks challenged 2011 college graduates to avoid the American obsession with self-fulfillment and instead find themselves in service to others by making and keeping what he described as sacred commitments and by rising to the challenges they discover all around and outside of them. “Most successful young people,“ he writes, “don’t look inside and then plan a life. They look outside and find a problem, which summons their life…Most people don’t form a self and then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by their calling.”
I believe that the same is true of a community. Our Church will not discover the Power of Kingdom Living until we give ourselves away. No amount of time spent on developing a mission statement or devising new member campaigns can substitute for looking around one’s neighborhood and asking: “Who needs us?” and “What can we do with our resources to bear God’s love to this part of the world!”
Secret of Your Success
“Sir, What is the secret of your success?” “Two words”
And Sir, what are they?” “Right Decisions”
“And how do you make Right Decisions?” “One word.”
“And sir, what is that?” “Experience”
“And how do you get experience?” “Two words.”
And sir, what are they?” “Wrong decisions.”
Secondly, The Holy Spirit invites us to find fulfillment and victory in and through our setbacks and failures. Failure isnot only an option, it is inevitable. The problems we face in this world – and our congregation –are too great, too complex and too significant to imagine that we will hit upon the best solution the first time out… or maybe ever. Once we’ve identified a worthy challenge we must experiment.. and count on failing,
innovate.. and count on failing,
invent… and count on failing again.
An English teacher once said, “I tell my kids to make a mistake every day – just not the same mistake.” Each mistake, each set back, each false start, each failure is not to be lamented but learned from. And so we restructured our task for committees that plan for this church. You can be part of our new adventure to be more effective in this community. This June in about 3 weeks we will gather to think about the future and our use of funds. Before that you need to be in touch with your area of interest for some planning time.
Further – living in a success obsessed world can lead us to forget this – ultimately it’s neither about us nor up to us. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of this cosmos and only God can bring the kind of redemption we long for and need. Our job is to partner with God’s work wherever we can discern it. Partnering our many and diverse gifts for new possibilities. Never been a teacher?… that does not mean you cannot teach.
Never been the person to invite someone to attend the Bible study… never gone yourself… you can try to be part of a short term study event.
Never been a tech person… you can try to zoom or use the set up which we have been planning for church outreach!
If the cross teaches us nothing else, it teaches that success will not always look like success and victory may often come disguised as defeat. The question isn’t whether we’re successful but whether we are faithful.
This perspective grants us a measure of freedom to throw ourselves into lost causes, to place ourselves on the side of those who are most vulnerable and to take great risks and dare great ventures. Why? Because we trust that whatever the immediate results of our efforts, both our hopes and our future are secured not by our abilities but by God’s good promise. Resurrection, we need to remember, only and always follows crucifixion.
I am inviting you to join me in brainstorming what problems the Holy Spirit is inviting us into this year, what failures we want to entertain, what great ventures we want to risk. We have planning to do as we attempt to get outside the building and meet Kingdom challenges.