Sermon
May 31, 1998
First Congregational Church, 36 Main Street, New Milford, Ct  06776
Rev. Michael Moran
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Scripture

Acts 2:1-21 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs -- in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" 13 But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine."

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 'In the last days it will be, God declares,

that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,

and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

and your young men shall see visions,

and your old men shall dream dreams.

18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,

in those days I will pour out my Spirit;

and they shall prophesy.

19 And I will show portents in the heaven above

and signs on the earth below,

blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

20 The sun shall be turned to darkness

and the moon to blood,

before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day.

21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' (NRSV)

rule1.gif (2367 bytes)Text:

Last weekend was a movie weekend for our family. We got to see the earth threatened and saved twice is one weekend, which isn’t a bad deal for $40 if you don’t count in the popcorn and soda.

The first movie we saw was Godzilla. Leapin’ Lizards, that is one big creature! Godzilla is the product of mutation caused by atomic testing in the Pacific Ocean. I don’t want to give what little story there is away, but those of us living in the suburbs need have no fear. Godzilla loves the isle of Manhattan. Right there you know it’s fiction.

The other movie was Deep Impact, which, I have to admit, held a lot more interest for me. The premise is that a large comet is heading towards earth, and how will it ever be stopped or diverted from its path. The previews all show the scene of a great tidal wave sweeping over Manhattan, toppling the Trade towers and leaving a broad swath of total destruction - except for, I would imagine, Godzilla, since he is a lizard to begin with.

One of the reasons I wanted to see Deep Impact was that years ago a book called "Worlds In Collision" seemed to be one everyone’s reading list, and it had a premise similar to this movie.

Worlds in Collision was in some ways was a response to the work of Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. It wasn’t that the author disagreed with the basic premise of evolution, he just thought it was incomplete. The process of life, he said, simply wasn’t as neat and orderly as Darwin proposed. Rather, the slow and orderly process of evolution was often interrupted and altered by major unpredictable cataclysmic events, and that these events were not as uncommon as we would like to believe.

One of the arguments offered in this book had to do with the story of the great flood and Noah’s ark in the bible. The author looked into the stories of different cultures around the world to draw out other descriptions of world altering events and found a pattern: it seemed almost every culture had its flood or equivalent tale.

Among many tribes there were stories of the world dying, of people going down into the earth and emerging again into a new heaven and a new earth.

The author suggested that within the short span of human memory a comet had come very close to the earth. The effects of the comet had been floods and fires, clouds and smoke that lingered for years, and that the gravitational pull of this celestial object had even altered the earth’s tilt on its axis, so that when the stars were once again visible, they were not in the same place people had remembered - hence the new heaven and new earth.

I certainly don’t know enough to judge the validity of the author’s scientific argument. But the basic premise seems valid. Life is not orderly and neat and tamely sequential; events of deep impact come unexpectedly and turn the world upside down. And if this is true on the personal stage, on the social stage and on the stage of world history, why should it not be true on the stage of celestial events and universal origins.

We have become conditioned to accept and expect negative events of deep impact. Just pick up the paper any day and read the headlines:

Oregon Student Held in 3 Killings;

One Dead, 26 Hurt at His School

Pakistan, Answering India, Carries Out Nuclear Tests;

Clinton’s Appeal Rejected

In the movie Deep Impact the comet strikes the ocean, sending out a tidal wave of energy and destruction. So, too, these events send out waves that spread in ever increasing circles of fear and anxiety through our collective emotional life.

No one can deny the impact of these events. But is there nothing of equal power on the side of good? Are there no events of deep impact that send out waves of trust and peace and love?

Today we read of such an event in the story of Pentecost. If you’ll allow me to take this movie metaphor a little farther, let me remind you that Christ is sometimes called the bright morning star - a star which in a sudden blaze of light impacted with our human condition and forever changed both heaven and earth.

And while the contact of Christ in the life of the world was of a particular time and a particular place, the impact was for eternity.

Did you ever throw a big rock into a pond. At first there is a lull as the impact is absorbed, but then the wave is generated and spreads in ever wider circles out from the center. Pentecost is the first circle of that wave. Pentecost is the first revelation of the deep impact that the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ would have in the life of the world.

The Holy Spirit is just lifting these folks up - it’s giving them a new heart and a new voice - a new courage to proclaim the great mystery of God’s love and faithfulness in Jesus Christ.

They come out of hiding with boldness and purpose. Suddenly they can be understood by all the people of the world. Already the wave is spreading wider, as Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, visitors from Rome, Cretans and Arabs – all hear in their own languages the story about God's deeds of power."

But this is just the beginning, for the work of the Holy Spirit continues to carry the deep impact of Christ right to our own time and our own place. Now we are the carriers of this impact, we are riders on the wave.

Yes, there are unpredictable, shocking, cataclysmic events of chaos and evil in this world - but God’s deeds of power are for good. And God draws us into those deeds so that we too can make an impact for good.

When people get knocked down, God gives us the power to help them up.

When people are rejected, Christ gives us the power to redeem.

When people walk in the darkness of remorse and despair, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to shine with the light of hope and the fire of forgiveness.

Today the power of God in Christ erupts. It has come down from heaven in a blazing light which seemed to be extinguished upon the cross, but really was just going deeper into the heart of the world. Now it springs forth in the lives of believers. People who make an impact in the lives of their loved ones, their community, their world. People who confess, in the words of the old hymn: That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.

Have a little Pentecost celebration all on your own today - go out and make a splash, create a few waves, be open to the power of Christ’s redeeming love, turn somebody’s dark and dreary world upside down, have an impact and to God be the glory. Amen.

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Let us pray:

Spirit of God, we have gathered together in this place, to pray and to make ourselves open for your impact.

Give us faith, that when you come like the wind, though we do not see you, yet we may hear your word of truth and sense your power working in our lives.

Give us courage, that we may not fear the tongues of flame, but let all that is born of fear and anxiety be burned from our lives, so we may know that it is love which glows so brightly.

Give us an open mind, that the truth of your gospel may set us free and lead us in the way of your will.

Give us an open heart, that we may embrace all people as children of your creation and set no limits to your love and redemption.

Encourage us in the practice of prayer, that we might each day recall your great love for us and not neglect the needs of others.

Today we offer our prayers for:

and those we name in the quiet of our hearts.

Holy Spirit, with your tender balm anoint the wounds of your people and sanctify all their joys. With the whole church we seek your wind and fire, that we may breathe deeply in faith and walk securely in the light. For we ask this in Christ’s name. Amen.

rule1.gif (2367 bytes)Benediction:

May the strength of God guide us.

May the power of God preserve us.

May the wisdom of God instruct us.

May the hand of God protect us, this day and evermore. Amen.

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