Year A Pentecost Acts 2 2011
Are You Pentecostal?
Acts 2:1-21

The well known author and preacher Fred Craddock tells a rather funny story about a lecture he was giving: A few years ago, when he was on the west coast speaking at a seminary, just before the first lecture, one of the students stood up and said, "Before you speak, I need to know if you are Pentecostal." The room grew silent. Craddock said he looked around for the Dean of the seminary! He was no where to be found.

The student continued with his quiz right in front of everybody. Craddock was taken aback, and so he said, "Do you mean do I belong to the Pentecostal Church?" He said, "No, I mean are you Pentecostal?" Craddock said, "Are you asking me if I am charismatic?" the student said, "I am asking you if you are Pentecostal." Craddock said, "Do you want to know if I speak in tongues?" He said, "I want to know if you are Pentecostal." Craddock said, "I don't know what your question is." The student said, "Obviously, you are not Pentecostal." He left.

What are we talking about this morning? Is the church supposed to use the word Pentecost only as a noun or can it be used as an adjective? And so I ask you: Are you Pentecostal?

In spite of the fact that the church doesn't know what the adjective means, the church insists that the word remain in our vocabulary as an adjective. The church is unwilling for the word simply to be a noun, to represent a date, a place, an event in the history of the church, refuses for it to be simply a memory, an item, something back there somewhere. The church insists that the word is an adjective; it describes the church. The word, then, is "Pentecostal."

If the church is alive in the world it is Pentecostal. And you thought we were Methodist! [Insert your own tradition here.]

How do we keep this aliveness, this fire burning, this spirit moving? What must exist in us, around us, and through us, if we are to be Pentecostal? Simply these three things:

  1. We Are To Be Of One Accord
  2. We Are To Join Together Constantly in Prayer
  3. We Are To Repent

Acts 2:1-13

Today is Pentecost, the birthday of the church. The symbols of the Pentecost gift are wind and fire.

Every birthday is accompanied by a cake over which there is the ritual of wind and fire. But in the course of blowing out candles in your lifetime, have you ever missed one? Ever miscalculate the amount of wind needed to get it 100% right? [To make your sermon more EPIC, you might want to showcase a birthday cake, and blow out some candles. You could even have some fun and include some gag (magic re-lighting) candles that you can't blow out.]

In 1972 veteran journalist Ross Gelbsan attended an environmental conference discussing "The Limits of Growth." The entire conference had a "doom-and-gloom" feel to it, as the projections of scientists and economists foresaw the end of the world as we know it based on population growth, the destruction of natural resources, etc. Their conclusions were dire. The world would exhaust almost all its resources in about thirty years.

But as Gelbsan absorbed all these dreadful predictions he noticed that one of the primary spokespersons for doom and gloom, environmental scientist Donella Meadows, was pregnant. Gelbson interpreted her pregnancy as a note of "personal hopefulness" amidst all this bad news. When his article on this event was finally published by The Village Voice, he used Meadows' pregnancy as a call for optimism. Even when events appear unremittingly grim, pregnancy shows that there is still cause for hope in our children.

It was a wonderful article and a great image. Only one problem: Donella Meadows wasn't pregnant.



Kathryn Schultz tells this story on her friend Ross Gelbson in her remarkable book Being Wrong (HarperCollins Publishers, 2010). Schultz wants to convince her readers that "being wrong" is not something we can avoid, and it isn't even something we should actively TRY to avoid. Schultz finds that our "wrongs" are sometimes the most creative, imaginative, extravagant, and courageous expressions of our humanity. "The capacity to err," Schultz contends, "is crucial to human cognition" (p.5).

If Schultz is right about being wrong, then we in the church are in deep trouble. Increasingly, church people can't see others as simply being wrong but evil. Why must we always demonize the other side? What can't people just be wrong without being demonic or evil? In fact, isn't the ultimate in evil the notion that you're always right and never wrong? presents Leonard Sweet