Year C Pentecost Acts 2
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

The Broken English of Pentecost

Have you ever heard of “broken English?” Did you know “broken English” is an actual language? North Carolina Judge Jesse Caldwell tells the story of Vietnamese woman who was waiting her turn to be examined in a crowded hospital emergency room. She gradually became aware of a frustrating “non-conversation” being attempted a few seats down. A nurse was trying to ask a new patient for some details on her illness. The patient spoke Spanish. The nurse did not.

The Vietnamese woman listened for a minute then realized that while she didn’t speak Spanish she did understand the broken-English bits and phrases the Spanish speaking patient offered as answers. Because of her own experience of learning to communicate in “broken English,” the Vietnamese woman could hear the heart and gist of what this other woman was trying to say. The Vietnamese woman offered to “translate” the broken English of the Spanish speaker into something the nurse could understand. She was so successful at bridging the brokenness of their languages that eventually the Vietnamese woman was hired by the hospital as a kind of generic translator. Brokenness was the common language spoken by all hospital patients.

The Holy Spirit speaks through broken people to a broken world, using language every broken heart can hear and understand.

Because we know what it is like to be broken by hatred, we can speak of the healing love of Christ’s sacrifice.

Because we know what it is like to be broken by despair, we can speak of the healing hope of Christ’s forgiveness.

Because we know what it is like to be broken by doubt, we can speak of the healing faith in Christ’s promises.

Because we know what it is like to be broken by illness, we can speak of the healing wholeness of Christ’s resurrection.

Because we know what it is like to break down doing church — program church, purpose-driven church, seeker-sensitive church, organic church, missional church, NCD church, simple church, we can stop doing church and start doing Pentecost.

The church of Jesus Christ is alive and well. In fact, Christianity is still the fastest growing religion in the world. But it’s growing not in the North and West, but in the South and East. Why the difference? Why is Christianity surging in the South and East and not in North America and Europe?

Because where the body of Christ is growing the people aren’t trying to do church. They’re doing Pentecost. Maybe it’s time for us as a church to stop relying on our own powers and programs, our blueprints and boilerplates, and start doing what these early disciples did: trust the Spirit and do Pentecost... presents Leonard Sweet