Will You Prophesy? 6-8-14

Prophesy is the power to speak with an authentic voice, the power to love and heal through finding an authentic voice as a community of God, feeling and responding to the nudge and the fire of the Holy Spirit to speak, to heal, to love. We ask how we will gain that authentic voice today, how and whether we will prophesy, by looking at how to put on a Pentecost party. As we plan a Pentecost party, we’re going to think about three things, 1. participation, the invites, 2. planning & purpose, and 3. party favors.

Acts 2: 1-21 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they all met in one room. Suddenly  they heard what sounded like a violent rushing wind from heaven; the noise filled the entire house in which they were sitting. Something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each one. They were all filed with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as she enabled them. Now there were devout people living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled.  But they were bewildered to hear their native languages being spoken. They were amazed astonished:   “Surely all of these people speaking are Galilians? How does it happen that each of us hears these words in our native tongue? We are Parthians, Medes and Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, , Pontus and Asia. Phrygia and Pampylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya around Cyrene, as well as visitors from Rome— All Jews or converts to Judaism,–Cretans and Arabs, too; we hear them preaching, each in our own language, about the marvels of God!” All were amazed and disturbed.  They asked each other, “What does this mean?” But others said mockingly, “They’ve drunk too much new wine.” Then Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd.  “Women and men of Judia, and all you who live in Jerusalem!  Listen to what I have to say! These people are not drunk as you think—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning!  No, its’ what Joel the prophet spoke of: ‘in the days to come—it is our God who speaks—I will pour out my Spirit on all humankind.  Your daughters and sons will prophesy, your young people will see visions, and your elders will dream dreams. Even on the most insignificant of my people, both women and men, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. And I will display wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below:  blood, fire and billowing smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon will become blood before the coming of the great and sublime day of our God. And all who call upon the name of our God will be saved.’

June 8, 2014

 Will You Prophesy?

The first birthday party I can recall going to, I must have been in first grade or kindergarden. I’m sure it was not the first party I went to, but it was memorable. The birthday party was for Darryl Cammerer at his house. A couple things I remember about this party: I ate a lot of cake and ice cream. I infer that I ate a lot because I remember going to Mrs. Cammerer and telling her that I felt sick.
She said she would go get me some Alka Seltzer. I had never heard of that before and while she went to get it, I got sick all over Mrs. Cammerer’s kitchen floor. She asked me why I didn’t tell her I was going to be sick, but I was pretty sure I had told her.
The other thing I remember about that great birthday party was that I felt a whole lot better after that – well enough to go on another planned outing with my family to Cincinnati’s version of Coney Island, where we had another meal of my Great Aunt May’s fried chicken.

I’m thinking about birthday parties today because we so often call this day the “birthday of the church.” Some churches even have birthday cakes and sing happy birthday to the church on Pentecost. Now, the first thing you have to decide when you are having a birthday party is who is going to be invited. Are you going to invite just your friends, or your whole class? Will your mom let you invite everybody except that weird kid that you don’t like? or are you going to invite everybody?
We can read the scripture for clues about who God invites to the party. Some might have thought only men were invited to the party – even just the disciples, the guys. (You remember those birthday parties that were all boys or all girls.) But there are too many clues in the text to think it was so limited.
“Your daughters and sons will prophesy, your young people will see visions, and your elders will dream dreams. Even on the most insignificant of my people, both women and men, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” And there’s that long list of the people from so many different nations understanding each other in a great variety of languages. This is a wild and wonderful party!
You get the feeling that God has been planning this party for a really long time – maybe since the beginning of creation – at least since that party that got so messed up at Babel so many years ago. At that party, people came into the party all speaking the same language, and left the party all talking different languages, and being very confused.
At this Pentecost party, everybody comes in speaking different languages and leaves speaking just as many languages. They leave with just as much confusion and hubris as they went in with, but this time they leave the party with a new sense of purpose. The angels told them to stop looking up at the sky and to get to work speaking the word of God and telling people to stop worrying about the end of days, stop worrying about when Jesus would come back to them, and start working with the Holy Spirit that was spouting fire from their party hats(!)

As we grow up our parties may have less dancing and running around. Margie Butler commented at the picnic yesterday about how she remembers when the folks there used to be running around causing trouble, and later running around taking care of their kids. “Now,” she said, “they’re all sitting around watching, just like us old folks.”
We do start to have a different sense of purpose as we grow up – a different sense of purpose than just aiming to get to the next party, the next chicken dinner. At this party God hands out party favors to all the guests. Some of the disciples had been training for this time up to three years as they learned by their mistakes and by Jesus’ example as they walked and worked with him.They learned through the challenge of the parables and through their own crosses that they had to carry.  Now the party is taking on the feel of a graduation party.
The promise of the Spirit is finally fulfilled and the party favor they receive is their authentic voices, their authentic voices with which to enter and unwelcoming world preaching and living the love of Jesus.[David M. Bender from Feasting on the Word. p. 18]
We are finding our authentic voice as a community when we claim our task of welcoming all people, when we claim our task of being an authentic healing community. When we had our healing service a couple weeks ago, I felt like it was a brand new thing for me, but it also felt familiar.  Yesterday morning, I went to a conference about AIDS and I remembered why.
Twenty years ago, we started a support group at Calvary for people living with AIDS. A young couple came to the church and helped us with the ministry. Their names were Lawrence and Tangy Taylor. They led a wonderful ministry that reached to the whole conference. We had some wonderful healing services for people living with HIV, dealing with serious scary situations, and finding God’s strength and power to get through the hopelessness. Lawrence would preach and Tangy would sing.
Lawrence died a couple of years later, and we mourned a fine soul. I lost track of Tangy. I thought she might have died as well – until yesterday.  At this conference, guess who was singing on the program.
Tangy has remarried and is working in school system in New Jersey. She still speaks about being HIV-positive and witnesses to her faith in God. She has remarried and had a child who is not 10 years old and does not have HIV. Praise God. She promised she would come and sing at our church someday.

Prophesy is the power to speak with an authentic voice, the power to love and heal through finding an authentic voice as a community of God, feeling and responding to the nudge and the fire of the Holy Spirit to speak, to heal, to love.

2122  She Comes Sailing on the Wind