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Moments… Followed by Lives (Video Worship, Podcast, and Sermon for May 23, 2021)

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These are our worship services and sermon manuscript for May 23, 2021.

You can find our video worship service on YouTube here. Be sure to like the video and subscribe to our channel while you’re there!

You can listen to our podcast here. Be sure to like the episode and subscribe to the podcast while you’re there! This week’s podcast is simple, with podcast worship and some additional context for this week’s reading.


Sermon Manuscript: Moments… Followed by Lives

Maya Angelou once said this thing. She said, “I’m always amazed when people walk up to me and say, ‘I’m a Christian.’ I think, ‘Already? You already got it?’ I’m working at it.”

And I think that she was on to something.

Sometime during my first few weeks of seminary, some of us were sitting around and talking. And we started talking about our call stories: when did you know—like, when did you know—that God was calling you to ministry?

And some people have big call stories. They see the throne of God, and a seraph takes a live coal from the altar and touches it to their lips, and they are purified and sent forth to preach the word of God. 

They see a flash of light and a vision of Christ, and they are struck down right there on the road, and Christ calls their name and sends them forth to proclaim the good news.

They see living creatures and wheels within wheels, and God says to them, “Mortal, stand on your feet. I am sending you to the people.”

And I felt a little bad that I didn’t have one of those stories. My story is small and subtle. My story is a still small voice that whispered, again and again. My story is about being guided down a path that I didn’t know I was on until I ended up here.

I just never had that big moment. I’ve heard about those moments. I know what those moments are like. I’ve just never had one. I’m still working at it.

Today is Pentecost. Today is a day about a big moment; and today is a day about so much more.

You see, fifty days after the resurrection, the disciples were gathered together in one place in Jerusalem. And suddenly there was this violent wind. The house shook and the doors blew open and the house was filled with this rushing sound. And tongues of fire appeared in the air and rested on the disciples. And each disciple started speaking in other languages.

And in Jerusalem in those days, there were people from all over the place. And they spoke all sorts of different languages. And they heard the disciples speaking in all of these different languages. And they started asking each other:

Qué significa esto? Beth a all hyn fod? Qu’est-ce que cela signifie? Was bedeutet das? Quid est hoc? What. Does. This. Mean?

And Peter… told them.

This is the Spirit. God said this would happen. God said, “In those days, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” This is that. This is the big moment. That’s what this means.

And he told them the good news.

And it was a big moment. The people who heard Peter’s speech were cut to the heart. And they repented, and they were baptized. Three thousand of them.

This was such a big moment that we celebrate it every year, and we tell the story every year, and we remember every year.

But here’s the thing about moments, even big moments, even moments that we remember every year: they’re moments.

There are moments that I’ve never had. I’ve never seen the throne of God, or had a vision of Christ, or heard the booming voice of God. I’ve never seen the fire or spoken in tongues.

But there are moments that I have had. I stood in front of the friends and family and made promises to God and to Mariah. I stood in front of a congregation and made promises to God and the church. I stood in front of this congregation and made promises to God and to you.

And those were big moment, but they were just moments. I know that a wedding is not a marriage, and an ordination is not a way of life, and an installation is not a ministry.

And the fact is that it does not matter if our lips are purified by a live coal from the altar in front of the throne of God if we do not use our purified lips to spread the good news. It does not matter if Christ strikes us down if we do not get up and follow him. It does not matter if we amaze passers-by with languages that we do not speak if we do not tell people about the gospel in our own.

Moments are nice. Moments are beautiful. Moments can make us ask, “What does this mean?”

But for a moment to mean anything, it has to be followed by years. For those three thousand baptisms to mean anything, those newly baptized strangers had to devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

And for that encounter with the Holy Spirit to mean anything, those disciples had to live lives rooted in that Spirit. And in today’s other reading—the one from Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia—Paul is telling us what life in that spirit is like: it is a life rooted in love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and generosity, faithfulness and gentleness and self-control.

And I know that we’ve spent some time with this letter over the last few weeks, but what Paul has been saying this whole time is that living a life of the Spirit—following Christ—is not about being circumcised or observing the law… it’s about that. It’s about bearing those fruits.

And the work of living that life is better than the big moment. And the work of living that life is harder than the big moment.

Today is Confirmation Sunday. Today is a day about a big moment; and today is a day about so much more.

And if you’re watching this on the video or listening to this on the podcast or reading this at home… I apologize. The next part is important to you and it will make sense. But it is oriented towards Confirmation, which is a thing that’s happening in the sanctuary. So… sorry… just imagine you’re here.

In a little while, some people are going to come up to the front of the sanctuary, and they’re going to stand in the chancel, and they’re going to make promises. And they’re going to have a big moment. And that moment will matter.

And in a little more of a little while, we will have a celebration, and there will be cupcakes (I think), and we will have even more moments. And those moments will matter.

And somewhere, nestled among all of those moments, there will be a Spirit. There is an outside chance that it will strike you down, and give you grand visions, and make you speak in tongues. And if it does, that will be very cool. 

But it will also do something else. It will also do something far more important. It will call you to a new life… of love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and generosity, faithfulness and gentleness and self-control… and so much more.

And when I say that the Spirit is going to be nestled among those moments and calling us to those things, I mean that it has always been nestled among the moments, calling us to all of those things, since a morning fifty days after the resurrection… since the dawn of the first day… all the time… asking us to follow.

Because this whole thing—this whole thing where we follow Christ—is not about a moment. It’s not even about a big moment. It’s about a way of life.

I said earlier that Paul was arguing that following Christ is not about being circumcised or observing the law. I’m going to take that even further. Following Christ is not about confirmation. It’s not even about showing up for worship on Sunday morning.

Don’t get me wrong. All of those things are important. They’re just not what following Christ is about.

Following Christ is about listening for that Spirit that sometimes speaks in the rushing of a violent wind… and that somethings speaks in a still small voice… and following its call… and stepping into a life of love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and generosity, faithfulness and gentleness and self-control… and so much more.

And I know that’s a big ask. I know that’s a heavy lift. And I know that’s why those moments matter. Because those moments—big moments like confirmation and small moments like the passing of the peace during worship on a Sunday morning—prepare us for the work ahead.

Maya Angelou once said this thing. She said, “I’m always amazed when people walk up to me and say, ‘I’m a Christian.’ I think, ‘Already? You already got it?’ I’m working at it.”

And I think that she was on to something.

Because I know that there are people who have had the big moments. And I know that there are people who haven’t. But whether we have or not, I suspect that most of us have to get up every day and listen for the Spirit. I suspect that most of us end every day knowing that there were moments when we followed the Spirit’s call and moments when we did not.

I suspect that most of us have to ask for mercy and try again.

Most of us are practicing Christians, working on getting it right, trying to do better today than we did yesterday, relying on the good news of God’s abundant grace.

But that is a beautiful thing. Because it doesn’t all come down to the big moment of Pentecost or the big moment of confirmation. We have our whole lives to make the journey to God’s kingdom… and the Spirit has the voice to guide us… and God has the grace to get us there.

Thanks be to God!

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