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Acts 2:1 – 21 Confirmation Sunday Psalm 104:24 – 34, 35b Pentecost, 2016 Acts 2 John 14:8 – 27 Anne Lamont, in her wonderful book titled “Small Victories: Spotting improbable moments of Grace” shares the following story. There’s a woman in the choir named Ranola, who is large and beautiful and jovial and black and devout as can be, who has been a little standoffish toward Ken (a gay man who is dying of AIDS). She has always looked at him with confusion, when she looks at him at all. Or she looks sideways, as if she wouldn’t have to quite see him if she didn’t look at him head-on. She was raised in the South by Baptists who taught he that his way of life – that he – was an abomination. It is hard for her to break through this… On this particular Sunday, for the first hymn…we sang “Jacob’s Ladder” which says, “Every rung goes higher and higher,” while, ironically, Ken couldn’t even stand up. But he sang away sitting down, with the hymnal in his lap. And when it came time for the second hymn…we were to sing “his Eye is on the Sparrow.” The pianist was playing and the whole congregation had risen – only Ken remained seated, holding the hymnal in his lap – and we began to sing, “Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come?” Ranola watched Ken rather skeptically for a moment, then her face started to melt and contort like his, and she went to his side and bent down to lift him – lifted this white rag doll, this scarecrow. She held him next to her, draped over and against her like a child while they sang. And it pierced me. (pp 195 – 196) Pentecost is one of those strange church celebrations that should at the same time pierce us and we may wonder, why is this a celebration to begin with? The 50 days of Easter are the only time during the church year that we literally follow a set number of days in the life and times of Christ. This festival is also a Jewish holiday, one of the three pilgrimage festivals that observant Jewish people would attempt to partake in, even if they live far away and spoke different languages. This is what gathers the disciples and the crowds that think they are drunk! Wind, fire, tongues, whatever happened that day, something changed these simple fishermen and followers of Jesus into foreign language experts, or something close to it! This was important, not simply because it showed them they had received the promised Holy Spirit, but also because they were able to share the message of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with all those who travelled to Jerusalem. This giving of the Holy Spirit was one of the ways Jesus promised to remain present with his disciples after he ascended into heaven. Jesus promised not to leave them alone and that he would send an advocate, a helper a Spirit of presence, comfort and peace that would guide them in their mission and ministry into the future. This Spirit begins this ministry of presence by shattering the walls and barriers of language, reversing many scholars believe, the effects of the Tower of Babel. Jesus’ ministry throughout the Gospel of Luke shattered barriers and walls that kept people from truly experiencing the grace and love of God – these gifts of a loving God to God’s people! The shattered barriers were foretold in Mary’s Song in Luke 1 and continued as Luke traced the genealogy of Jesus back to Adam instead of Abraham as Matthew did. This stressed the fact that in Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ ministry would be to all people and not limited to those of the Jewish faith. Jesus ministry highlighted this and on the cross Jesus welcomes a criminal into paradise and his death inspires a centurion. The Holy Spirit and the promises of Jesus Christ come to rest on four of our own this morning. AS we celebrate the ministry of Confirmation, the time spent in class, the time spent learning and growing in faith, the time spent goofing off and running around, the time spent in silent prayer, and the time spent writing a 6 to 7 page paper…these young ladies has done it all! Tori, Alyssa, Jolie and Emily along with Brianna, a young lady from Atonement have completed their two-years of classes. They considered these questions and I invite you to consider them as well: Do you believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? What is your favorite Biblical Character or book of the Bible? Why? What does Confirmation mean to you? Why is it important to you? Why is it important to your parents? Do you intend to remain active in the church? If so, what do you think you might you might like to do? How do you plan to be involved? If not, why? You have been coming to church now for 12-14 years because your parents and/or grandparents have brought you. How do you plan to make their faith your own? What steps might you take in the future to do this? Do you see yourself bringing your own kids to church in the future? In the third article of the creed we meet the Holy Spirit. This is, I can say with complete confidence, the most important article of the Lutheran faith. Lutherans are often accused of not pointing to the Holy Spirit enough. There may be some truth to this in our words, but certainly not in belief. According to Luther’s explanation of the third article of the Creed the Holy Spirit is behind everything that we say and do! “I believe that by my own understanding or strength, I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts and kept my holy just as he calls, gathers, enlightens and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth.” Dr. Brian Petersen said it perfectly a few years ago at our intern cluster meeting. What faith tradition states: “I believe that I cannot believe”. This most basic of actions of the church and individual believer is laid, not at our feet, but on the Holy Spirit. It is this Holy Spirit that calls us, gathers us, enlightens us with gifts and makes each and every one of us holy through word, through promise, through bread and wine, through water and word, through promises made to infants and promises affirmed this day. The Holy Spirit is behind all of this, guiding and leading, pulling and pushing, prodding and poking, forcing and convincing us to live our lives as if the grace of God has made a difference in it. On Pentecost, we celebrate many things. We celebrate the day on which the Christian church was born. We celebrate that the disciples, after 10 days of looking into heaven following the Ascension, finally get the help and the prod they needed to get moving out into the world. On this day we celebrate that the Holy Spirit is also attempting to light a fire on, under, in and through each one of us, this church and parish and this community to be a place where all are welcome, where all will find a place, a home to hear the word, share pain and grief, laughter and joy. The message of the gospel, the receiving of the Holy Spirit and the Confirmation of the faith by our young people remind us that the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Son of God, is about tearing down walls, not building them up. The walls that we in our churches, communities and even our nation often talk about or silently build. The good news we see today reminds us that God’s Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways to tears down the human walls we build in our relationships: the fear of the unknown, the stigma of AIDS, the uncertainty about same sex marriage and the ridiculous conversations that seek to boil issues down to bathrooms. Folks, it wasn’t about bathrooms in the 1960’s and it isn’t about bathrooms now. It is about the freedom Christ proclaims to us and the power of the Holy Spirit on each one of us to build one another up in the good news and not separate, tear down or alienate anyone based on anything that divides us. This good news once again reminds us that anytime we draw a line in the sand between us and them, Jesus is always on the other side of the line! Where are we this Pentecost? Do we find ourselves like the disciples, locked behind closed doors of a house, church, community or nation uncertain about what we should do? Or are we feeling full of the Holy Spirit right now and yet we are uncertain of which direction that same spirit may be pushing, prodding or poking us in? Perhaps we are waiting for some glorious sign from heaven or perhaps we have already missed the many that have come our way! Let us receive the promised Holy Spirit with joy and rush to pick up those who cannot stand on their own so that we can be a community of believers who show the world that Jesus sent the promised Holy Spirit to open up our voices, tear down the walls that divide us and proclaim to each and every one that God’s love, revealed in Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is enough to build up any relationship, community, church, and nation! We, like Ranola, need to come out of seats, allow ourselves to be pierced by the Holy Spirit, hold up and stand up with all who need to hear the good new – come Holy Spirit and light a fire on me…on us!