Act Five – Pastor Robert’s sermon for Sunday, June 9

This past winter, we had a problem with the heating in our chapel. Evidently, the air handler for that room needed a new belt. So, I called a heating/cooling company, told them that I was the pastor of the church, and asked if  someone would be able to come fix it before Sunday worship.
     I said, “We need hot air for Sunday.” And without missing a beat, the receptionist said, “So I guess you don’t really need us then.”
     She obviously understands preacher humor.
     When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on Pentecost Sunday, there was a lot of hot air that day. We’re told that divided tongues as of fire appeared on each of the disciples. 
     Fire. Wind. Heat. Spirit. That pretty much describes Pentecost Sunday.
     You would think that after Jesus ascended to be with his Heavenly Father which happened ten days prior to Pentecost that things would have cooled down a bit for those early disciples. But it’s the exact opposite. After Jesus left them, things only got hotter and hotter and hotter. 
     Pentecost marks the beginning of this new act in the biblical drama. Bible scholar and theologian, Tom Wright talks about the Bible being a five act drama to help us understand where we are in the biblical narrative.
     Wright says that the five acts of this divine drama are 1) Creation 2) the Fall 3) Israel 4) Jesus and the fifth Act, the Church. Pentecost Sunday is the beginning of this 5th and final act of the divine drama that continues to this day. In Act V, the church takes center stage. 
     In this last act, the church continues the signs and wonders that we saw Jesus do in the Gospels. The church becomes the visible expression of Christ in the world. And here is the really awesome thing about this fifth and final act of the biblical divine drama. Even today, you and I are invited to continue to live this closing act where we are the visible expression of Christ in the world. We are in the play and we have a very important part to play. 
     Our denomination’s Book of Discipline describes the church’s role in the world. It tells us what it means to be the church.
Here is what it says,
     “Our Mission in the World—God’s self-revelation in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ summons the Church to ministry in the world through witness by word and deed in light of the Church’s mission. The visible church of Christ as a faithful community of persons affirms the worth of all humanity and the value of interrelationship in all of God’s creation.     In the midst of a sinful world, through the grace of God, we are brought to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. We become aware of the presence and life-giving power of God’s Holy Spirit. We live in confident expectation of the ultimate fulfillment of God’s purpose.     We are called together for worship and fellowship and for the upbuilding of the Christian community. We advocate and work for the unity of the Christian church. We call all persons into discipleship under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.     As servants of Christ we are sent into the world to engage in the struggle for justice and reconciliation. We seek to reveal the love of God for men, women, and children of all ethnic, racial, cultural, and national backgrounds and to demonstrate the healing power of the gospel with those who suffer.”
     Last Sunday, I ended the sermon by saying something very similar about our role as the church. I said, “Maybe this is what Ascension Day was like for the disciples. Jesus reminded them of who they were and that they will receive power to continue Jesus’ mission here on earth. They will be his hands and feet to continue what Jesus has started. And they will go out and make disciples of Jesus Christ and bring transformation to the world.     We are called to do the same. As we come forward to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we will receive all that we need to be the hands and feet of Christ in a broken and hurting world. Let’s go forth from this place and continue on what Jesus has started. Christ has no body on earth, but yours.”
     That was last Sunday and today on this Pentecost Sunday, we are again invited to live out God’s divine drama in being part of the saving and redeeming work of Christ in the world. I would say that we have starring roles in this final act but that wouldn’t be true. The starring role goes to the Holy Spirit.
     The official name of the Book of Acts is actually “The Acts of the Apostles.” Some have said that a more accurate title of this book should be “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” because without Pentecost and the sending of the Holy Spirit on those early disciples, they wouldn’t have been able to do what they were able to do in continuing Jesus’ redeeming work in the world.
     We need the hot air of the Holy Spirit blowing through the church today. We need holy tongues of fire falling upon each church member. We need fiery sermons, passionate worship, and flaming hearts.
     What a strange time of year for red hot Pentecost Sunday to fall on the church calendar. Just as summer arrives when we get TV commercials on how to stay cool. 
     Luke has a different message for us. Here is how you stay hot during these weeks. Allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart, to ignite your soul, and to inflame your Spirit. Don’t try to get cool. Get hot. Get red hot. 
     Maybe you heard about the church revival service where the preacher got everybody fired up about receiving the Holy Spirit. It was a fiery and passionate sermon.
     One man in particular was taken by what the preacher was saying. He interrupted the service by yelling out to God, “Fill me, Holy Spirit. Fill me!”
     But then he said it again and this time louder. “Fill me, Holy Spirit. Fill me!”
     He did it again and this time the people in the congregation were getting annoyed because he was disrupting the service too much and making it all about him.
     After the eleventh or twelfth time of this man yelling out, “Fill me, Holy Spirit. Fill me,” somebody in the back of the sanctuary yelled out, “Don’t do it Lord. He leaks!”
     And so as we begin these lazy summer weeks in Athens, here are some thoughts about how we can stay filled with the Holy Spirit in how we live out our faith. Here is how we can keep the hot air of the Spirit at work in our lives.
     The first thing I want to say is to enjoy your summer. Get outdoors if you can. Explore, and delight in God’s beautiful creation. The summer is a great time for spiritual renewal. Enjoying this time of year is one of the ways that we can live out our faith and not allow the Holy Spirit to leak from our lives.
    That’s the first thing I want you to remember. Enjoy your summer. Turn to someone near you and say, “Enjoy your summer.” 
     The second thing to help us not leak is to keep practicing the spiritual disciplines like praying, reading the scriptures, meditating, offering our gifts, serving, sharing our faith, and worshipping on Sunday mornings. Even though our church will be at a slower pace during the summer, remember that the church is still open and the sermons will continue to be above average. 
     I think it’s also worth noting that the official name for this season on the church calendar which begins next Sunday and lasts throughout the summer months is called “Ordinary Time.” The color associated with ordinary time is green which reminds us of steady spiritual growth.
    As you enjoy your summer, take advantage of the slower pace. It might not be intense like the build up to Christmas or the Season of Lent leading up to Easter, but it’s still a time that we can simply catch our breath and continue to follow Jesus. 
     And here’s a third thing to help us to continue to be Spirit filled people during these summer months. I’m sharing this with you ahead of time so that we can mark it on our calendars because August and the beginning of the school year will be here before we know it. Sorry, didn’t mean to depress you.
     I want you to take note of a church-wide event called “Faith Builders” that will be held on August 16 and 17, a Friday evening dinner through Saturday early afternoon. A good friend of mine, Rev. Jeff Motter will be leading this to help strengthen our relationships within the church and how we might connect with people outside the church. It’s going to be a great event. 
     It’s perfectly timed because this church-wide focus will help us to be ready for the students who will be coming back to campus and for families who will be looking for a church home. This event is printed in your bulletin so that you can put it on your calendar ahead of time. Please pray for this event because I believe it will have a huge impact on helping us to continue to be a welcoming, loving, and community focused congregation. 
     So remember these three things as you begin your summer as we continue to be a church that lives out Act V of the biblical drama in being the Spirit-filled people that God has called us to be. 1) Enjoy your summer. 2) Continue to practice the spiritual disciplines. 3) And mark your calendars for the August 16 and 17 church-wide Faith Builder’s event.
     On this Pentecost Sunday, I believe that these words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from his famous letter that he wrote to local clergy while he was a prisoner in the a Birmingham jail back in 1963 are very timely for us today.
     In referring to the Spirit-filled early church, Dr. King wrote, “In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”
     Dr. King was right. The church is called to be the thermostat where the hot air of the Holy Spirit will continue to fill us even during these slower summer months. 
     The biblical drama is far from over. It’s Pentecost Sunday. Take your places. Act V has already begun.      
ACT VSermon Discussion QuestionsActs 2:1-21June 9, 2019
Bible scholar, Tom Wright summarizes the biblical story as a five-act drama. The five acts are 1) Creation 2) Fall 3) Israel 4) Jesus 5) Church.How is this five-act summary of the Bible helpful to you in your understanding of the Bible? How can this be helpful to you in sharing your faith with others?
The church is ACT V of the biblical drama. Pentecost, the sending of the Holy Spirit upon the church marks the beginning of ACT V. We continue to live out this fifth and final act through the life of the church.What does it mean for you to be filled with the Holy Spirit? What helps you to stay filled with the Holy Spirit?
In the sermon, Pastor Robert offered three important ways that we can stay filled with the Holy Spirit through the summer months which is typically a slower time in the life of the church. He told us to 1) Enjoy your summer by being out in God’s creation as much as possible. 2) Continue to practice the spiritual disciplines of your faith like attending worship, reading the Bible, praying, serving, and sharing your faith. 3) Mark your calendar now to attend our church-wide “Faith Builders” spiritual retreat, August 16-17. This retreat will help us to build bridges with each other and with the people in our community. This event will fill us even more with the Holy Spirit as we prepare to see new families and new college students this fall. Share your thoughts about these three ways to stay filled with the Holy Spirit and live out Act V in being the church.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”
Say this prayer to help you and the church to be the “thermostat that transforms the mores of society.” 
Spirit of Truth, pour out your presence on us. Cause wonders to occur as we dream your dreams and see your visions. Creat unity and love as you weave us together as one body of Christ, one family of God, and one community of justice and peace. Amen.