The Holy Spirit and the Kitchen Sink

Passage: Acts 2:1-21
Date: May 20, 2018
Preacher: Rev. Beth Neel
Guest Preacher:

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Sometimes in worship we have what I have come to call a “Kitchen Sink Sunday,” a Sunday when it feels like we have everything in worship except that proverbial kitchen sink. In addition to our usual announcements, liturgy, anthems and hymns, children’s time, and offering, today we are commissioning Stephen Ministers, confirming youth, receiving new members, and hearing a Minute for Mission. Usually in a service like this something has to give, and I thought about cutting the sermon altogether, but I opted instead to eliminate the middle hymn and to offer a homily, which is basically a short sermon, so that we might enjoy coffee hour while it is still morning.

But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think that maybe a Kitchen Sink Sunday is a pretty good way to celebrate Pentecost. After all, the story we pastors just told reminds us that what we celebrate today is the infusing of the Holy Spirit into the hearts and minds of the followers of Jesus. To borrow an image from the children’s message, today we celebrate that we’ve been connected to the divine battery of God; we’ve been set on fire with God’s power; the breath of God has blown over us, refreshing us to do good work and pushing us into the world which is our mission field.

Since Easter, you have had the opportunity to hear four of us talk about who the Holy Spirit is for us. If you missed one of those sermons, you can read or hear them on our website, but I’ll summarize briefly. Eileen reminded us that the Holy Spirit breathed life into the church, the Body of Christ, and it is in church and through church that we remind each other of God’s grace.

I spoke about the Holy Spirit as Lady Wisdom, and the Wise Spirit helping us to discern right from wrong in the ordinariness of our lives. Laurie created images using names of the Holy Spirit – God’s Tears, Winds of Change, Great Bridge Builder, Comforter. Just last week Gregg spoke about the Holy Spirit infusing us human beings to prepare us for better things in relationship to God.

In a sense, you got everything but the kitchen sink in these sermons, too. If you were to ask us four preachers about the experience, I think each of us would say that it was both really easy and a bit difficult to put our understanding of the Spirit into words. But today we get to remind each other not so much about who the Holy Spirit is, but what the Holy Spirit does.

If indeed, as Gregg suggested, the Holy Spirit infuses us, what does that mean? If you and I are carriers for God’s divine breath, if within each of us is the power to move mountains and change the world, what does that look like?

Carrying the Holy Spirit inside you might look like a Stephen Minister meeting with her care receiver, offering a listening ear, compassion, a shoulder to cry on; presenting hope; and simply being present.

Breathing out God’s breath into the world might look like standing up in front of a congregation and saying, yes, I do believe in God, and I do turn away from evil, and I will show the love of Jesus in all I do. That’s what our new members are doing today, and what every member of this church has done over the decades.

Living a Spirit-infused life might look like going back to the place where you spent your childhood, talking with the children and grandchildren of old friends and learning what is needed there, and then being a part of the building up of that community that formed you long ago. That’s what the Kurtz family has done in their childhood home of Ethiopia, bringing libraries and books and solar power to that far-flung corner of the world that is dear to them.

What does your Spirit-infused life look like? How is God partnering with you, you with all your gifts and talents, with your time, with your faults and inadequacies? How is God coming alongside of you and saying, “This person needs to be reminded of my grace”? How is God pushing you into the world and saying, “This situation desperately needs to change, and you are going to be a part of making it better”? How is God saying to you, “Through me – through my love and my power – you can do so much good for so many people”?

That is what God did with those first followers of Jesus two thousand years ago. God’s Spirit moved in and among them and in their tiny, vulnerable community, they reminded each other of God’s grace even as they shared what they had and healed and blessed people. God’s Spirit moved in and among them and they changed the world by creating church, the Body of Christ. They did much good for many people.

I hope that years from now, people look back at Westminster and say, “That congregation did so much good for so many people.” I hope they see that we not only took care of each other, but we cared for our neighborhood, and the Portland community, and the world.

Maybe they will say the Spirit empowered us to do what needed to be done so that our children could go to school without fear. Maybe they will say that the Spirit empowered us to work hard and find a myriad of solutions so that none of our brothers or sisters spent the night on the streets. Maybe they will say that we were ambassadors for peace in ways both great and small.

So may it be said of us what was said of those first disciples long ago:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.” (Acts 2)