Pentecost: The Spirit Speaks Through Us
A sermon preached by the Rev. Jeffrey A. Geary at the White Plains Presbyterian Church for Pentecost Sunday, May 24, 2015
It is said that Easter people wait for Pentecost. We who have been witness to both death and resurrection, who have begun to understand just what it means that God is alive and at work in our world, long for the coming of a spirit to empower us to speak what we know.
Pentecost is often called the birthday of the church. But what is born is not an institution but a people on fire with the language of love and of life. We, the church, exist in order to bear witness to how Christ is alive in our world and what that means for us. And so we confess:
In a broken and fearful world
the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
to unmask idolatries in church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.
And it is not just Peter who preaches on Pentecost. Sure, he quotes the prophet JoeI through whose mouth God promises, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” and he calls upon even the earth, sea, and sky to bear witness to Spirit’s empowering presence. But it is first and foremost the whole people of God who are authorized [enabled] to speak to one another about what God has done and is doing. The Spirit falls equally on women and men, young and old, enslaved/oppressed and free, of every nation and in every language. The author underscores this by naming “every nation under heaven” living in Jerusalem: 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, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs. In other words, the church is born and born again when all our voices are heard bearing witness to how God is at work in us and in the world.
As we closed the Easter Season last Sunday, I invited those gathered for worship to consider how they have seen God at work in our life as a congregation. We took time to write our testimony on index cards and then placed them in the offering plates so that today, on Pentecost, we can hear the hear the witness of the spirit to “God’s deeds of power” being done among us.
Listen to the spirit as it speak through the testimony of God’s people:
- I see God at work in this congregation when we share our honest and real joys and concerns with one another and they are met with compassion, prayer, and true listening. I see God at work when we turn out to the community and help those who need it, without being an oppressive or judgmental force.
- This congregation has given me a sense of community and belonging which was vital when I moved to White Plains three years ago. I was practically on my own with a young child and it felt good in my heart to know that I had a pastor who cares for me.
- We have changed and turned our lives around for the better with the help of God. Attending church regularly and hearing the Word of God made my wife and I stronger. With God’s help and strength, my wife recovered from a serious surgery.
- “I” am the testimony to God’s wonderful work which God does for people who are broken, who have lost hope, who are falling, or who have been cheated by others.
- I have seen God at work when people come together to support one another in times of crisis. I have seen our missions helping strangers rebuild their lives locally, nationally, and internationally.
- I have seen GOD at work through OUR work with the emergency ecumenical food pantry, the annual giving tree, the creation of beauty with floral arrangements and floral plantings.
- God has been at work in this congregation in the hearts of the people here, in prayers answered as we pray for one another, in the fellowship we share with one another, and the love we show to one another.
- I have seen God at work in our congregation as I have observed our members become more receptive to each other: The friendships formed while working together teach us how easy it is to learn each other’s ways. When we work together and get along peacefully, so much can be achieved.
- People in this congregation live a life that is in accord with God’s Word. Everyone is very warm and welcoming here. I was fascinated by the activeness of this congregation, and how everyone is eager to bring change to this world. I am always grateful and thankful for everything that this congregation has offered and done for me through these past three years. [I am ashamed of my own actions every time I look at this congregation.] I thank God and all of you very much for the strength and everything given to me.
- I know God is at work here because when I became a member I spoke to the pastor and told him how I felt about different things; and even though what I said was not what he believed in, he listened and I felt I could say what I thought freely.
- I’ve seen God working in this community in the warm welcomes and inclusive attitude of church members and the congregation.
- How have I seen God at work in this congregation? I have seen and heard testimony from the pulpit and in personal conversations of the change that this church has brought to peoples lives. I personally find fellowship and comfort here. I have seen God work to the relationships I have formed in this church.
- I have seen God at work in the education programs, the church school, and the adult education and confirmation classes.
- I have seen God at work as my own life keeps growing better. I grow with God in Bible studies and Lenten programs, especially the soup suppers; the prayers of the prayer ministry make a real difference in our lives. I have seen God in the congregation’s outreach in our community.
- I see God at work as I watch my daughter develop an understanding of God and of Jesus, and in feeling connected to something greater than self.
- I have seen God at work in our support of those needing prayers for health, for despair, and in times of celebration. I have seen God in visitation with the homebound who might otherwise be forgotten but by their family.
- God has increased this congregation; God has healed the sick; has blessed our outreach; has brought comfort to those who are mourning loved ones and loss.
- I have seen God in the love of the care this congregation shows toward our community and anyone who has a need – whether member or stranger. I see God as we pray for one another and help one another to remember: we are not alone.
We are not alone.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Happy birthday, people of God, the church. We have been born again today!