Sunday, 15 May 2016
My Story in God's Story ~ Pentecost Sunday
Pastor Adam lets us in on how the church has been and always will be filled with the Holy Spirit to be called out to love our neighbors.

5.15.16 My Story in God’s Story ~ Pentecost Sunday ~ Genesis 11:1-11 & Acts 2:1-21

So I am once again immersed in the world of children’s television.  When I was growing up it was all Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers, and 3-2-1 Contact.  Then Nickelodeon came on the scene when I was about 6 years old.  And every Saturday morning I used to eat my breakfast and watch cartoons.  Remember those good old days?  My favorite was Mr. Rogers and a close second was anytime super Grover did a skit on Sesame Street.  Some of you have no idea what I’m talking about, and that is okay.  Even Amy, did you know she didn’t grow up with Sesame Street or Mr Rogers?  I trace every single problem she has back to that simple fact that she had a deprived childhood!

Sesame Street had a song, it went like this, “Who are the people in your neighborhood?  In your neighborhood?  In your neighborhood.  Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood.  They’re the people that you meet each day.”  And then the show went on to be neighborly.  To build community, to care for each other, and work through conflicts all while having fun.  It was simply amazing!  And I LOVED watching Sesame Street because it taught me so much about life, and community.  Again, Amy is just deprived without having seen it.

And then God this past week, you know in God’s way, said, yeah Amy is deprived, but what about you Adam, do you know the people in your neighborhood?  And I was like, first of all God thank you for agreeing with me about Amy, but no I don’t know my neighborhood.  I know my neighbors next door and the ones across the street, but the people two or three doors down?  Not so much.  I wave to the guys on the corner who like to sit on their porch and smoke, but I don’t even know their names.

And as I talked honestly with God I knew, I knew that God was watering a seed that had been planted in me for a while now.  A seed that is beginning to grow a little more.  A seed that said my faith has been a lot about loving God and finding ways to be good to and love myself, but I haven’t done a lot with the loving my neighbors.  Nothing intentional.  Nothing prayerfully thought out.  And it is time.  It is time for me to get to know Who are the people in my neighborhood.

But, I honestly don’t feel like this is just for me.  I think this is also for you.  It is time for us to be good and loving neighbors to the people right around us where we live.  And I know that we live all over this city and even outside of this city, but that just makes it all the more exciting.  That each and every one of us might find a way to be called out of our own homes into our neighborhoods to love and care and be light and truth right in the very places that we live.

If we all did this, do you know what would happen?  It would be a movement of the Holy Spirit, right here Jamestown, right here in Chautauqua county.  It would be our own Pentecost where the Holy Spirit broke down barriers that were getting in the way of us doing what Jesus told us to do:  love our neighbors.

This morning please let me share with you what Pentecost is all about.  But even more importantly please listen and let the Holy Spirit inspire you to participate in what Pentecost is all about right in your own neighborhood.  Let’s Pray.

Breathe on us breath of God, fill us with life anew.  That we may love whome’re you love and do what you would do.  Amen.

I was going to wait for this until the summer hit, but this is just the right time.  And sometimes God’s timing, is not my timing.  I have a challenge for us as First Covenant.  This Summer I believe God is calling us to walk every street in Jamestown, praying for our city along the way.  So here is a map of Jamestown.  I got it from the chamber of commerce.  And I am going to hang this map in the prayer chapel.  When you go out and walk a street, AND when you pray for it, come into church and highlight on this map where you walked.  Now this may sound daunting to you, to walk and pray for every street in Jamestown, but think about this, first of all you are not doing it alone.  You have every one here at First Covenant doing this too.  So if you cover even ½ mile of Jamestown street and neighborhoods this Summer, then you are doing your part.  Second of all, know this.  Bruce Robinson has walked every street in Jamestown by himself!  Now granted it was his job and he was survey trees, but he did it by himself, so I’m pretty sure that we together can do this over the summer.  Third of all, take someone with you.  Walk together.  Talk together.  Talk to God together.  Fourth of all starting to walk this summer is good for your body and praying is good for your soul.  Fifth of all.  This will be fun AND a movement of the Holy Spirit.  I will be giving you more instructions and a prayer guide if you’d like one.  But you can also just start now.  Walking and praying your neighborhood and your city as the Spirit guides you.

This can be our own Pentecost right here in Jamestown, NY.  This is where our story today meets God’s story that we read about in Acts 2.  Let me show you what I mean.  Let’s travel back 2000 years to the first Pentecost to see what was happening.  On that day the church was born.  Pentecost Sunday is when we celebrate the birthday of the church.  But it was not a church like we think of church.  On that day a church building was not put up.  On that day, a concrete foundation was not poured.  On that day charter papers and a constitution were NOT drafted.  Oh no.  On that day, the day of Pentecost, the church had its Birthday as a movement toward their neighbors.  That is the beginning of the church.  It was a church with no physical walls and it was a church where cultural and language walls came a tumbling down.

And this church was a movement, not a building, not  an institution, not a place to come and hang out, oh no, it was a church as a movement that was born and it spread, like wildfire all over the Middle East and it would keep moving, as a movement, until it reached all over the world.  That is the church that was born 2000 years ago on Pentecost.

Back then, they even called themselves “The Called Out”  Today we call ourselves “The Church”  But the word for church in Greek is ekklesia.  And Ekklesia means, “Called out.”  You see the original meaning of what we name as the church was not a building, it was not an organization, it was NOT an institution it was a movement of people empowered by the Holy Spirit to be called out and go and share the good news of God’s love to their neighbors and the world.  And this movement, this work of the Holy Spirit has not stopped, it does not stop, it is only something we join in as we do the same, as we too are called out of the doors of the church building into this city and our neighborhoods to share the love and good news with those right around us.

Immediately, however, we recognize that there are walls, there are barriers to what we are talking about here.  Immediately there are some internal barriers inside of you, like fear, or I don’t want to’s, or I don’t know how’s, or even some la, la, la la las I’m not listening to you anymore.

Okay.

And then there are also external barriers.  Like our neighbors are not all that friendly, and there is that neighbor that has got some issues.  And then there are the ones who are not interested, not from the same world you are in.  Maybe you have neighbors that don’t speak your language, but you certainly have neighbors who don’t fit your culture.  They are different from you.  You don’t know if you have much in common.  You don’t know what you could talk about that could keep a conversation going.

Okay.

Here is my answer to all these barriers.  First of all, they are real.  No doubt about it.  Second of all, none of them are insurmountable for God.  All of them seem like mountains to us, but they are ant hills to God.  Third of all, let’s start joining this Holy Spirit movement with prayer first before we get to all your concerns.  Just walk your neighborhood praying for it.  Don’t worry about anything else other than that.  Just walk and pray this summer and see what God keeps bringing to you.  Then, after you walk and pray, then let’s talk about the barriers that God will help bring down.

You see we are on the cusp of our own Pentecost right here in Jamestown NY.  God is calling us as First Covenant Church out of these walls and into our neighborhoods.  And if our God is with us then nothing can stop us.

But God is not going to force us to do this.  We can say, “no thank you.”  But here is what happens if we don’t follow the Spirit, if we don’t join this movement called Ekklesia, the church of the New Testament.  What happens is instead of joining a movement we will instead build a monument that is stuck in one place for all time.

And oh are we so good at building monuments rather than joining movements.

We are really good at it, the Biblical characters were really good at it too.

We like to build monuments to our own success.  We like to remember how amazing we are and so we pool our resources and build places where we can remember.  And monuments are NOT bad, but they are not movements.  Monuments are, by definition, already stuck in the past.  That is why they are there!  They are to remind us of what previously happened.  Monuments are good if they teach us history, if they show us mistakes that we don’t need to make again.  They are good when they help us remember that there was much good in the world and they can inspire us to continue that tradition of being good and leaving this world in better shape than we found it.  Monuments are great at teaching us our history and informing us of our futures.  That said, monuments also make horrible churches.  Because monuments are not movements, and the Holy Spirit birthed a movement on Pentecost.

A monument is what a group of people built to their own glory way back in Genesis 11.  It is what we call the Tower of Babel story.  People were becoming so capable, so proud of themselves, so amazed with the work of their own hands that they decided to build a tower into heaven.  This is monument building at its best.  To show off how amazing we are let’s build a tower into the sky for all to see.  God, looking down on all of this, said, Oh No.  That is not going to happen.  And in response God confused the people building the tower.  God made them all start speaking in different languages.  They couldn’t understand each other, and because they couldn’t understand they couldn’t collaborate, and because they couldn’t collaborate they couldn’t build the tower, but they also could be with each other any more and so they scattered away.  That is the story of the Tower of Babel.  It is God thwarting human pride and our desire to build monuments to our own glory.

The story of Pentecost is God’s Holy Spirit bringing us back together again.  The Spirit overcomes the language barrier that began at the Tower of Babel.   The Spirit overcomes the cultural barrier by allowing people to talk and converse with each other again.  AND the Spirit overcomes the monument barrier.  The desire to stay put and build something amazing to our own glory.  The Spirit instead sends the new people of God out into their neighborhoods not to build a church, but to be the church.

And let me tell you.  It worked.

Not just practically, like yes there were many thousands of converts.  But spiritually.  This is how we participate in building the kingdom of God.  This kingdom which is not a static monument, but a powerful movement of transforming hearts and lives.  The people went out from Pentecost and they preached, they taught, they loved, they healed, they gave generously, they sacrificed, all for God’s glory, not their own glory, and their neighbors good.

My friends we are called to do the same.  We are called out of these doors and these church walls into a movement that has been happening since the Spirit of God was poured out at Pentecost.  Won’t you join us?

When you do, remember that God loves you and I love you too.  Amen.

 

 

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