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May 15, 2005 (Pentecost)

Intern Pastor Katy Grindberg

Acts 2:1-21; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23

Grace and peace to you from God our loving creator and from Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Two weeks ago, I preached about the Holy Spirit for quiet people--from a passage in the gospel of John. In Acts today, we meet a more extroverted holy Spirit, which entered the room with "...a sound like the rush of a violent wind" and was manifested in "divided tongues as of fire appeared among them and a tongue rested on each." As the fire rested on each of the apostles, they disciples were "filled with the Holy Spirit" and began to speak in other languages. They were able to communicate in the languages of the Parthians, and Medes, that of Asia, Egypt, Cyrene, Mesopotamia, Cappdocia, Crete, Rome and others. What an amazing event that must have been!

I don't know how many of your are bi- or tri-lingual. If you have spent time in a country where the primary language is not yours, you know how wonderful it can be to meet someone who is also a native speaker of your primary language--being able to speak without thinking and translating in your head is a wonderful gift. So imagine, it must have been this day. Jews from all the known world were gathered in Jerusalem. On this day, they were gathered with the disciples of Jesus. We can surmise, that the language of Jerusalem was being spoken at this gathering--and then all of a sudden, with the rush of a strong wind, each person begins to hear the language of his or her own childhood spoken by men and women who they did not expect to speak it. And not just speaking the language, but preaching the love and power of God.

What a truly amazing event! But, it's not the event itself that I want to focus on--it's the why. Why did such an even take place? Why did the disciples need to speak in the language of the Parthians, and the Medes, that of Asia, Egypt, Cyrene, Mesopotamia, Cappdocia, Crete, and Rome? It's a simple answer--the apostles were given the ability to speak in those languages because those are the people that were there.

We often speak of Pentecost as the birthday of the Christian church. This was the event where the disciples began their public preaching and teaching, sharing the good news that Jesus had told them. Think about it, at the birth of the Christian church, there were people from all of the known world present. It was truly a multicultural event, with Parthians, Medes, Asians, Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Cretans, Romans and others present for this event.

And Christianity remains a multicultural entity. The good news of God cuts across culture and language, throughout the ages. The church is growing the fastest in Africa and Asia, and this is true of the Lutheran church as well.

As we look around our own congregation this morning, we are reminded that our individual congregations are relatively homogeneous, ethnicity-speaking. It has been often reported that Sunday morning is the most segregated time in North America. When we gather to worship, we do so in ways that don't reflect the integration of our daily lives. I wonder, though if maybe we shouldn't expand our thinking and not focus on diversity strictly on the basis of skin color, as we are often apt to do. A seminary professor of mine, Tom Rogers, in his book Preaching to Every Pew expands the definition of culture to include age, gender, and socioeconomic status. In this congregation, diversity also includes sexual orientation, and previous religious or denominational background. When I look out this morning, I see a very diverse group gathered together for worship.

Why is this important? Why do we, as a church, spend so much time talking about this? And we do spend time talking about it, both as the local congregation of Lutheran Church of Honolulu and nationally, as the ELCA, this topic is discussed. Why is it important to have diversity in a faith community? First, because you are compelled to share the good news that you have found. And as we know, the grace of God, which you encounter through Jesus Christ, the unconditional and fervent love of God crosses all sorts of boundaries and distinctions. Secondarily, because when there is a diversity of experience and background, it deepens the experience of the whole community. Being who you are, as a person of faith, deeply affects those around you and when our community is diverse, it cannot help but deepen our collective experience.

In the gospel for today, Jesus breathes on his disciples--giving them the Holy Spirit and sending them out into the world, as God sent him. God sent Jesus into the world, fully human. He interacted with people from all walks of life: the religious elite and the lepers, the poor and the rich, the working class, the faithful Jews and the lapsed.

The LCH Mission statement haiku is:

Welcoming to all
worshipping, growing, serving
Christ's community

It is Christ's community that we are called to interact with, and Jesus interacted with all people, so that is our calling too.

The season of Pentecost is going to be an exciting time to be at LCH. We are at the beginning of a planning and visioning process that will be unfolding over the next weeks and months. This will be a time of conversation and visioning; a time of prayerful consideration of where God is calling you, as members of the body of Christ. Because, as Paul writes, you all of gifts given to you by the Holy Spirit. As this process unfolds, I encourage each of you to spend time in prayerful discernment of what gifts God is calling you to use, in this place and in the world. As a community you will be asked to help discern where God is calling LCH to be active, how best to live out the mission statement, how best to grow and serve all people in Christ's community.

Amen.


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