May 27, 2007  /  Pentecost Sunday  /  Affirmation of Baptism

Message by Rev. Carol Kniseley  /  Resurrection Lutheran Church

Text:  Acts 2: 1 – 17   /  Message Title:  Caught by the Spirit


I have a theory about the Holy Spirit.   The Holy Spirit wants to be caught…like fireflies moving slowly in the dark.   Remember as a kid…going outside every chance you got, with a glass jar in one hand and a lid with holes poked in it in the other?    The idea was to catch as many fireflies as possible so that at night they would magically light up one’s room.   


I didn’t like being in a completely dark room at night, so I spent a lot of time out doors during the summer months…looking for fireflies.      Now that I think about it, the fireflies were not all that hard to catch.    They didn’t fly all that fast…and they did seem to hover closer to the ground.  The trick was to keep your eyes focused on the light.      


It seems to me that the Holy Spirit works pretty much along the same lines as the fireflies.   I’ve heard it said that “only a fool would pray for the Holy Spirit to come”.    “Only a fool for Christ, that is,” to quote Alan Jones, dean of the Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco.     He goes on to suggest that this third “person” of the trinity is most present at three open spaces in our lives: 


in the unpredictable moments,

in the place of risk,

and in those areas over which we have “no control”.


Well, if that doesn’t describe the lives of the disciples…as they sat there “waiting” for this thing called the Holy Spirit to appear…then I don’t know what does.   


Remember how it was Jesus who told them, as he was ascending into heaven: 


“Go to Jerusalem and wait there for God’s promise to come true.  They would be baptized by the Holy Spirit…and they would be clothed with power from on high.”  


Just what in tarnation any of that meant…no one had a clue.    And in that respect…we are all the same.       For the most part, they prayed while they waited, and I expect some of them even prayed that whatever was coming be circumvented to someone else.   


Think about what must have been running through their minds.    How would they know when “the power” had fallen on them?   Would it tingle?  Would it hurt?   How did the Holy Spirit go about baptizing people exactly?   Jesus had said something about fire, which sounded rather dangerous.   Did he mean “real fire” or “spiritual fire”?    Maybe…they should fill some jars of water just in case things got out of hand.   


But the truth is, I don’t think they had time for such precautions.   Before they even knew what hit them, according to Luke, the Spirit was upon them.   First there was wind, then there was fire, then they were filled with the Holy Spirit and overflowed with strange languages.      Every time they opened up their mouths to speak, a different language came out.   And even though they, the disciples, may not have known what they were saying…the crowds they drew did.


They suddenly found themselves in the grips of something that would not let them go…something that bypassed all reason and understanding.   Some of them couldn’t bear it, so they started hunting for a reason saying,


“They’re all drunk from wine!”   


But it was Peter who stood up and said:  “No way!” and then continued by delivering a sensational sermon based on the 2nd chapter of Joel.      Quoting Joel quoting God, Peter began: 


“In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit upon all persons…and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, and your young men will see visions and your old men shall dream dreams.”


According to Peter, that is exactly what was happening right in front of their eyes.   The Holy Spirit was being poured out on them and this it what it looked like:


wind…like the wind that revived the valley of dry bones, and fire…like the fire that led Israel through the desert, and speech…like the speech that erupted at Babel only this time in reverse.   


This time, God was using speech to draw people together instead of to disperse.    


According to the book of Acts, some 3,000 people were baptized that day into the Lord’s family.    It was the official birth date of the church…and because of what happened in that room on that particular day…the world has never been the same.    In fact, people all over the world who do not speak a word of Hebrew have come to believe in a Hebrew Lord, who is now worshipped in every language on earth.


Because of what happened in that room…we now have fourteen Confirmands to prove that the Holy Spirit is alive and well and at work in our own community.        As I read through each one of their faith statements, it wasn’t hard to spot their encounter with the Holy Spirit.   Time and time again, they put into their own words what it means to “be caught” in a covenant relationship with God.    


It is a relationship that began when they were baptized…yet they didn’t have a say in what was taking place.   Well, today…they do have a say in “affirming” what God has already done for them and will continue to do throughout their lives.   They, too, have now received the power of the Holy Spirit…and like fireflies “caught” in a jar for three long years…are now being let loose on the world.    


Did I mention it was the Holy Spirit who has been blowing through their lives, messing up their schedules, requiring them to write sermon outlines, even getting them to dress up on occasion when serving in worship?   And they thought it was Greg…or their parents…or one of the Pastors.    Sorry to disappoint, but only God has the power to transform children into young men and women ready to bear witness to Christ with their very lives.   


To our Confirmands, I can say it all begins today, on the day we call Pentecost…when you begin to live no longer for yourselves, but for the one whose blood has set you free.    His name…is Jesus.    It is his mark that you received at Baptism…and it is his Spirit that has set you free to serve.      And to that Good News…there is only one thing left to say: “thanks be to God!”      Amen