Pentecost Sermon June 4, 2017 “ Spirit Sightings” by Rev. June Fothergill
Acts 2: 1-20
Several years ago when I was serving Myrtle Creek and Canyonville churches, I decided to take some personal leave time and go to Mexico to study Spanish. It was on my bucket list to study Spanish in a place where it was spoken. It was a wonderful trip. The only problem was that I would miss my church’s Vacation Bible School that year. Working with children was a highlight of my ministry during those years in Douglas County. I went to Cueravaca, Mexico for my immersion experience, a city of about 1 million people. One Sunday I decided to try to find the little Methodist Church in the town. I walked all over until I finally found it. As I searched I thought about how right now that week, my church back home would be getting ready to hold the VBS. As I walked in the door of the church in Mexico the first thing I saw was a display about VBS- it was the same program we were doing in Myrtle Creek, except in Spanish! In that moment I felt the work of the Holy Spirit connecting these two communities in my life. I had a great time telling them about the connection and spent some time with that little community in prayer and visiting their mission work. The language, the nation didn’t matter- we were together in Christ. For me this is a Spirit Sighting. Do you have any Spirit sightings you’d like to briefly share?
( Time for congregation to share. )
You see, over thirty years ago, Jim and I took a class together at Portland State. It was called Intercultural Communication. After learning about all the barriers and complexity of communication across different cultures, I remember commenting to Jim, “ It will take the Holy Spirit can make it happen” Only the work of the Holy Spirit can overcome the barriers and divergent understandings that people from differing cultures assume. Only the Holy Spirit can bring us together in mutual human understanding. I still think that this is one of the ways the Holy Spirit works among us. I have seen it. I trust it. I hope for it.
I remember a women’s group meeting in Wilder. It was the UMW’s annual tea and we had intentionally invited women from the new Hispanic United Methodist church at Wilder to come. And some of them did. The program for that day was to share stories about our mothers. As I listened to the stories from the UMW women, I noticed that many of them had grown up in poverty. Their stories connected with the current struggles of the Hispanic women. Spirit, I prayed can you show them these connections! ? I was encouraged to keep working to help folks connect across the difference of language and culture. My hope was that with time and communication they would together create a community of love and friendship. The work of the Holy Spirit had begun. Over 10 years later both the new Hispanic church and the older English speaking church share their building and ministry in that small town.
You may wonder why I chose for us to sing “Come to the Lakeshore “ this morning. It doesn’t say anything about the Holy Spirit. I have a story to tell you why. This song became a favorite in Canyonville soon after we got the new hymnal. One lady in her 80’s requested it often and called it
“ the boat song.” She was a small town evangelist through her daily seat at the coffee cache at the local coffee shop. So, I knew the song well. When I went to Mexico, it was a bit hard to worship in a language different than my own, especially at first. One day I went to a Children’s Mass at one of the local catholic churches. As the folks went up for communion, realized with surprise that they were singing the “ Boat song.” Suddenly I felt at home and connected to them and to Christ. The music of a song. The work of the Holy Spirit.
As my stories this morning illustrate, I believe that one of the works of the Holy Spirit in our lives and community is to connect us to one another in hope and love. That is what happened on that Pentecost celebration Luke recounts in Acts 2. The gift of the Holy Spirit came in a powerful, noticeable way with wind and flames! Yet, it’s real impact was on communication and connections. These poor, country hick Galileans were given the gifts of tongues- they were empowered to communication in the languages of the world. And the visitors from all over the known world were given the gift of hearing- to understand the mighty works of God spoken of by the disciples. It was a surprising, connecting moment for them all.
For some it led them to want to know more- what in the world is happening? Their hearts opened up to the words Peter spoke about the good news of Jesus. For others they only saw the foolishness of the moment- surely they are drunk.
The Holy Spirit brings us the gifts of empowerment of connection with one another across the barriers we create, but it is our choice to accept that gift of reject it. Those who accepted it discovered a Savior who forgave and loved them and a community of love and grace formed by that Christ. The work of the Spirit didn’t stop with the mighty wind and the flames of fire. It continued in the words of Peter, in the lives of the new believers and the community they formed. It continued in all the work recorded in Acts. It continues today.
Today we plan to plant red flowers around our building with some folks from the Hispanic church that use our building. We also plan to take some of the flowers to our nearby neighbors. We pray that this small gesture will open us to the Holy Spirit’s power to make loving connections with those neighbors and the folks from the Hispanic Church. I invite us to take some moments of quiet to pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower our witness today and each day.