Rearranging Things-Pentecost B and Confirmation 2021
Many of you know I grew up in Central Ohio.
The geography is pretty flat, and Ohio sits on the edge of tornado country.
I remember as a kid the tornado sirens going off every Wednesday at noon, testing the warning system
There were many times when we had to spend the night in the basement for safety.
I remember one storm in particular that was so violent, it torn the heavy plywood cover off my sandbox
And lodged it into the ground at a right angle several backyards down the street.
At a young age the power of the wind was clear to me— It could rearrange my world.
It turns out that ‘wind’ and ‘spirit’ are the same word in Hebrew.
The wind that blows in our story today from the book of Acts tells of how the wind signalled
The work of the Holy Spirit to rearrange the landscape of a small band of Jesus’ friends.
The story takes place at the annual harvest festival of Shavuot.
Jews from all over the known world had gathered in Jerusalem for the festival.
Everything was going normally, people worshipping and feasting,
visiting with relatives and old friends, when suddenly strange things began to happen.
The disciples of Jesus were together in the house when they heard what sounded like rushing wind
Something like tongues of fire flew around their heads
Words upon words came tumbling out of out of their mouths, in languages too many to number.
It caused such a commotion, that a crowd gathered together on the street outside.
The rush of the wind propelled the disciples out to the public square, where everyone could see them.
Their words continued, each speaking a different language, but giving the same message:
that Jesus, a man killed as a criminal, was Lord and Messiah.
And finally, the disciples understood what was happening:
It was the words of the prophet Joel come true:
In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams
Even on my slaves, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit.
The prophecy proclaimed that God’s Spirit was on the move!
And here it was, in living color, happening through the disciples, right before the eyes of the crowd!
The wind Spirit set off a chain reaction, reordering hierarchies and priorities.
The disciples had been followers of Jesus, but now they were apostles, they were leaders—
they who were still absorbing the resurrection now were converting others!
3000 people were baptized that day, creating an instant church.
The disciples needed to think outside the box in order to respond
to these rapidly changing circumstances.
And they did.
The book of Acts tells how they shared the Good News of Jesus and healed people
It tells about how they lived in community and cared for the poor
organized themselves with different duties.
It tells how they faced a world at times hungry and other times hostile to their message.
This same Pentecostal Spirit blows today in our lives.
The cultural landscape of the modern world is changing quickly.
We are living through a world pandemic, where everything changed overnight,
And now that we are gradually emerging from restrictions,
we have to think about what we retain from these pandemic times,
what we resurrect from pre-pandemic life, and what we would be better off leaving behind.
The Holy Spirit is busy rearranging things in our lives
And like the disciples, we have the opportunity to build on the past
But also the freedom to head in new directions
We have the opportunity to re-examine our priorities and hierarchies
And reshape our world.
Today is Confirmation Sunday, and we have 5 young people who will affirm their baptisms today:
Bryce, Hannah, Jon, Danny and Ian.
These fabulous young people are troopers at weathering the changes
that have reshaped us all during the pandemic.
They have navigated zoom classes and learned the books of the OT,
shared online games developmentally disabled group home residents,
shared lunches with folks in need in Bushnell Park,
cleaned up icky trash without complaint, and lead our worship services.
But most of all, they had fun getting to know one another and the faith we share.
These five young people are also a part of the Spirit’s work rearranging the religious landscape.
They are a part of the cohort known as Gen Z, who right now are ages 13-22.
Gen Z is the most diverse generation so far, with just under half being people of color.
Religious affiliation among this group is still hard to track,
as the oldest among them are just emerging into independent life,
But they follow the Millenials, a third are religiously unaffiliated.
They are likely to be the most religiously unaffiliated cohort so far.
At the same time, Gen Z is an amazingly connected and informed generation.
They follow news outlets and social media and care about what is going on in their world.
They want an active faith, and to be able to contribute.
They deal with a divisive and complex world with their absurd and quirky sense of humor—
If you’re on TikTok, you’ll know what I mean!
Whenever I spend time with our confirmation students,
I see the Spirit is on the move again, as on the day of Pentecost
In their questions and insights, in their humor and relationships, I see renewed priorities
On serving and discussing issues that touch their lives.
The Spirit is once again changing the religious landscape
challenging our pat answers of what church is about and reminding us that God is everywhere
and curing our hubris in thinking we have a corner on the Truth.
The Spirit is refashioning the church into something that better reflects the kingdom of God,
and we/ You (Bryce, Hannah, Jon, Danny and Ian) are part of it!
Their/Your passion to make a difference is part of it!
Their/Your growing relationship with God is part of it!
As modern day disciples, They/you will help us build the church of Jesus Christ for the next generation
and we need all their/ your creativity and critique and love to do it.
But I also want to speak to the people who are here today who are not Gen Y.
We aren’t going to keep on with business as usual and expect
that our Gen Y children and grandchildren will take our beloved institution as is and run it.
The Spirit is calling us to change, too.
We need to form relationships with young people.
We need to listen to young people who are in the church,
use their ideas, address their concerns.
We need to form relationships and listen to the people who AREN’T here, too.
We need to let the Spirit rearrange our mental furniture,
To make more space for the values and ideas of young people.
This is a big task for us.
Not because young people or people who don’t go to church are hard to find—
we all have plenty in our own family.
It’s a challenge because we need to become comfortable in asking questions
and talking about our faith
we need to engage others not in a preachy way, but in an authentic way
to speak about what really matter to us and to learn what matters to them.
In order to do this, we need to return to scripture and our rich tradition of faith.
when everything else in our world is 24-7.
It takes time to develop a mature faith
it requires studying the bible, connecting it with the issues of our day,
discussing it and praying about it with others
If we want to be compelling examples of faith to others, if we want to be church to the next generation We need to return to our Source, the Spirit, who provides everything we need.
On the day of Pentecost long ago, the Spirit took over a religious festival
and rearranged it for the God’s new purposes
The Spirit continues to work in our day and age
reforming our long held traditions and opening them into something new.
God wants to use us to receive new visions and dream new dreams.
This prayer is for Bryce, Hannah, Jon, Danny and Ian, for us gathered today, and for all Christians:
May the Spirit that blew through Jerusalem and set the disciples aflame
set us on fire with Jesus’ love
and may the Spirit guide as we allow the wind of the Holy Spirit to reshape us
and rearrange our priorities into God’s future.
The Future of the Church: Gen Z, Barna Group Webinar