Pentecost – Going Viral
Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on Acts 2: 1 – 21. Focus – Pentecost and Confirmation Sunday. Check out Jody Sinkway and the choir following the sermon.
To our young Christians – Natalie, Rudy, Adwoa, Madison, and to the church of Jesus Christ in Hackensack. Well today is your last official class lesson. And it couldn’t come on a more appropriate day than Pentecost – the birthday of the church, and you join this body the same way that first confirmation class joined by deciding to follow Christ.
And the story of Pentecost tells us that there was an explosion of God’s Spirit upon all who were in Jerusalem, how they all heard God’s voice each in their own language and on that day we are told that more than 3000 people joined the church.
In a sense you might say it was the day that the church went viral. I assume most of you use social media today. Well it would be the equivalent of you posting something on Facebook or Instagram and having over 3000 people suddenly like what you posted. But that doesn’t happen to most of us does it?
No most of us if we are really doing well might break 100 likes if we are really, really luck on any given day, but for the most part what we post and what we say gets relatively small attention.
And that is because the Christian faith and the walk with Jesus isn’t about being the most popular or the most liked person. It’s about being someone who follows in the way of Christ. Which as Paul told his student Timothy means setting an example for the world, in our small place and time by what we say, by what we do, by the love we are called to give everyone and so on this your last class I want to tell you about who we are and what we believe.
We are a church made up of imperfect people who do the best they can on any given day. People who have come to know that we stand in need of love as much as we are called to give it. We are a people therefore who will be learning how to love our neighbor for the rest of our lives. We may not be perfect but we are in process of becoming perfectly human in the way that Jesus was a perfected human.
We are a church that is in the process of learning what it means to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind strength, time, talent and money. We are a church that is seeking to avoid the complacency of lukewarm commitments and face life’s big questions head on – Questions such as “Are heaven and hell real? Why do we believe in the Trinity and how is it One at the same time? Are we truly predestined or do we have fee choice? What gender is God? We are a church who is at its best when we pursue a truly deep and committed relationship with God through the tools of prayer, study, mission and worship.
We are a church that has been called to show power through our weakness. And by that I mean to share our broken places with one another so we might be more alike and more aware of how fragile we all truly are. And then a funny thing happens when we do this. We become strong again. We become relevant to God and to our community when we show compassion to those who suffer, those who sigh, cry and need someone to reach out and remind them that they are good and loved. We are a church called to challenge barriers today just as Jesus challenged all the barriers to God that the religious leaders and political leaders sought to inflict on the people in his day and age. We are not called to be powerful by the standards of the world – through money or fame, but to be faithful to following where Jesus leads us – each and every day.
Pentecost – the power of the Spirit involves much more than Sunday mornings. It is meant to be a 24 / 7 – 365 days a year endeavor, but ever mindful that we need to connect with each other at least weekly to build that sense of community and intimacy among one another that Jesus built with the first Confirmands’, Peter, James, Martha and Mary.
And we know that this involves work on our parts because we have come from many places and many cultures. We will grow together as a church family in the unity of one Spirit. And we will be united in our diversity. We will not be divided over differences of race, gender, social status or scriptural interpretation.
We will be a church that grows. We have been placed in the county seat of Bergen County at a time when the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. We have been imbued with power from on high for this very purpose and we will succeed at bringing lost souls to the one who can heal the sin sick heart. We will be a voice of hope in uncertain and sorrowful times, a place where forgiveness and love will be offered when everyone else is seeking to find blame.
Our church will be faithful to the task of the Great Commission – “Go therefore, and make disciples of everyone you meet, help show others what it looks like to love, to forgive, to give of yourself to be a source of strength by sharing our strengths and weaknesses with each other – being ever mindful that we can do these things because Jesus Christ has already done these things for us.
And we commit ourselves to his vision this morning. We commit to the God that granted this vision. We trust in His power to complete the great work of bringing his kingdom to this earth as best we can in our time and place. And we acknowledge our complete and continual dependence upon Him to guide us, empower us, and refresh us as we move forward.
Natalie, Rudy, Adwoa and Madison do not neglect the gifts that you have been given. There will never be another one like you again on the face of the earth. Take heed to be true to yourself and to your gifts. And if you do not know what those gifts all are at this time not to worry. God, your family and this church are here to help you discover them.
But I share this: Your gifts are often found in facing what you are afraid of in this life and by listening to that still small voice inside of you that says this is what you should try. This is worth the risk. Trust your gut and your instincts; trust your dreams and your hopes as signs from God as to what your gifts truly are. Hold on to that, for by doing so you will save yourselves and you will save others.
Natalie, Rudy, Adwoa and Madison trust in the life that God gives you. Realize that you don’t have to understand everything. We learn as we go through this life. What is important today might not be so important tomorrow and vice versa. So hold onto those things that last, that are eternal: things such as faith, hope and love.
And last but not least, know that this call to discipleship is not an easy call to follow, and in the final analysis that’s why we really need one another. That is why we need to be part of the body of Christ – the church. It is impossible to live a life of discipleship without the support of one another. That’s why Jesus says: “Where ever two or three of you are gathered in my name their I am.”
And when it’s all said and done my hope for you is that you can look back over your life and say with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Hence forth there is set before me the crown of righteousness.” Amen.