Saturday, May 30, 2009

Recalibrating the Compass

Aspelund Lutheran Church, Flom, MN (Wild Rice Parish)
May 31, 2009/Pentecost Sunday
Acts 2:1-21

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Moving from A to B can be disorienting.

If you’ve ever had to pick up stakes, load all your possessions into a moving van and travel to a new home--you know what I mean. Moving from A to B can be disorienting.

Six years ago my wife and I moved from southern Minnesota where we had lived almost all of our lives. We’d moved a few times earlier, but this was different. Moving from Redwood Falls (where we’d been for over 12 years) to Moorhead forced me to reset my internal compass. I knew what it meant to go “up north” for a vacation, or for some camping, or to fish…but what did it mean to LIVE “up north”?

It took me several years to settle into my new home, re-calibrate my internal compass, and feel “centered” again.

Moving from A to B is disorienting.

That was certainly true for Jesus’ closest companions following his Resurrection. Talk about “recalibrating the compass!”

The disciples had grown up in a Good Friday world. They assumed that life is hard, we’re stuck in sin, and death is the end of the line.

And then Jesus died, and with him all his followers’ hopes and dreams quickly faded. What more could they expect in a Good Friday world? It was just business as usual….

….until three days later, when Jesus burst forth from his grave! Easter plowed into their Good Friday world like a gigantic earth-moving machine, permanently altering the landscape of their lives. Now Jesus’ disciples were a bunch of Good Friday guys…trying to inhabit an Easter world.

Talk about disorientation! And it shows, I think, in all four of the gospel accounts of Easter. The disciples, the women who traveled with them, the whole lot—were simply thrown off--knocked loopy by the reality of the Resurrection.

It shows in the first two chapters of the Book of Acts, as well. The disciples are trying their darnedest to catch up with where God is taking them….but the effort leaves them breathless and dazed.

For example, in Acts, chapter 1, the disciples ask the risen Jesus dumb questions like: “So, Jesus, is this pay back time? Now that you’ve beaten death, Jesus, are you going to send the Romans packing, and restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

The Resurrected Jesus has other fish to fry, though. “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority,” (Acts 1:7) Jesus tells them. “Pay back and peering into the secret purposes of God—that’s way above your pay grade, my friends. Focus on this instead: “… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

Then, just as Jesus was saying this to his disciples…he “was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9) Poof! Jesus disappeared from their midst. No wonder the disciples just stood there--slack-jawed, staring off into the wild blue yonder. If took two angels to make them “come to” and return to Jerusalem. If those angels hadn’t shown up, the disciples might still be standing there on the Mount of Olives, gazing up into the sky!

That’s because the Resurrection is so jarring, so disorienting. We’re born into a Good Friday world….but now Easter is here, and all bets are off.

And it gets even crazier on this day, Pentecost Sunday. Because if Easter marked the resurrection of the crucified Jesus, Pentecost marks the resurrection of his followers, you and me, into a brand, spanking new life of witness and service in a world that has changed right under our feet. For this old Good Friday world has been overtaken by, over-run by, re-oriented by Easter.

Pentecost, you see, is “another Easter,” and we see that writ large here in this morning’s lesson from Acts, chapter 2.

Pentecost begins, as Easter begins, in a graveyard: the upper room where the disciples had gathered together, in safety and security (so they thought) behind closed doors.

They were as good as dead when Pentecost happened to them. All the disciples could do was wait and pray in the darkness.

Pentecost begins in the tomb of the Upper Room, with disciples who are dazed, confused, as good as dead…

And then God acts once again. God’s resurrecting power cuts loose. Three powerful signs that God is launching a New Creation all burst on the scene when the day of Pentecost arrives.

First there is “a sound like the rush of a violent wind.” (Acts 2:2). This is a re-creating, resuscitating wind…the breath of God….the Spirit invading the house of death, reviving the disciples. God breathed into their nostrils the breath of life once again…just as God had done eons ago in the garden with Adam, and as God did in that other garden, when God resurrected Jesus his Son.

Second, fire breaks out, as well—wind and fire, a deadly combination in a Good Friday world….but in the new world of Easter, this fire brings life. No longer is the fire of God’s presence confined to the altar in the Temple. No—but rather now this fire burns in every believer. Tongues of fire mark each disciple as a living, moving “altar” in the world—announcing that God is alive and well, in Jesus Christ, and everything is being made new.

But there is more. To the miracles of the wind and the fire, God adds the greatest miracle of all: the miracle of human speech….not the babbling of people talking past one another….but a speaking that births a new community, a telling that brings people together, miraculously hearing “each of us, in our own native language” (Acts 2:8)

And suddenly the audience, all those wayfaring strangers in Jerusalem for the High Holy Day…now it is all of them who are disoriented by the goings-on—disoriented by the Resurrection breaking out among them.

Who taught these backwater hicks from Galilee all these languages? How did they learn to speak in our native tongues? Are these guys for real—or have they simply had too much to drink?

Do you hear it—the disorientation of the Pentecost Day crowd, as they move from A to B, from Good Friday to Easter?

First God raises up the crucified Jesus on Easter Sunday.

Now God raises up the dazed and confused followers of Jesus on Pentecost Sunday.

And the world will never be the same again. You and I will never be the same again. God is hitting the re-set button of the whole creation. God is enlisting all of us—every single one of us—to be a witness to the resurrection…to coax folks from their dark, dank Good Friday worlds….into the bright sunlight of the Easter world that is our future.

It’s enough to make your head spin, isn’t it? But this is where you and I live, dear friends. This is the world, the real world that God has opened up before us. We have a living God on our hands!

And because Jesus refuses to live in the Easter world by himself, he catches us up in his new life. That’s what Pentecost is all about—Jesus’ unending life washing over us in baptism, Jesus’ “forever and ever” life flowing into us whenever we eat the Lord’s Supper. It’s the life that I’m preaching into your ears right now. This is your future: life, life and more life in Jesus Christ.
Pentecost catches us up in that, births us as the church, to embrace our true calling. And that calling is to take the burning fire of Christ’s life off the altar and out into the world, to perform this crazy, Christ-powered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the gasping, dying souls all around us….to beckon everyone we encounter into the dawning Easter world.

And this isn’t something that just a privileged few are called to do, either. No! As Peter declares in his Pentecost sermon: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh…Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:17, 21)

What a master-stroke of genius! Jesus could have done it all by himself…but instead he left us physically, in order to come back to us in the power of his Spirit…filling our lungs with the oxygen of Easter, igniting us to glow in the darkness of this Good Friday world, speaking through us the promise of a New Creation. That’s what Pentecost is all about---the Spirit’s surprising empowerment of us to be his breath, his fire, his Word…setting the whole world ablaze with God’s love.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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