May 27, 2012: Set On Fire for God – Pentecost

Posted on : May 24th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Wednesday I received a call from a newspaper reporter who used to work for the LA Times.  He’s actually interviewed me in the 1980’s regarding our ministry with persons with HIV-AIDS and in the early 90’s when I helped write the Presbyterian Study on Human Sexuality, “Keeping Body and Soul Together:  Sexuality, Spirituality and Social Justice.”  He now writes for the Christian Century, a Christian magazine whose audience is to progressive denominational churches.  He picked up one of the news stories about our transferring to the UCC.  The story he saw dated our ministry from the 1980’s.  His question was, “Aren’t you also that church on Sunset that was doing all that wild stuff in the 60’s and 70’s?”  And of course I proudly said, “Yes!  That’s us!”

We talked about our ministry with conscientious objectors and peace activists during the Viet Nam war, our outreach to run-away and homeless kids, our ministry with women who were caught up in the abusive cycle of prostitution, our ministry with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, our HIV-AIDS ministry, and our current ministry as we advocate for marriage equality, teaching respect and honoring all families, and our present attempt to offer a healthy and relevant way of thinking and living Christ in the 21st century.

Near the end of our conversation, he said, “Well, there’s no doubt in my mind as to why you left the Presbyterian Church to go to the United Church of Christ.  I just checked out their website and clearly they’re not afraid to speak up and they are right ‘out there’ with you.”

He’s right.  But even more, I’ve found the UCC is “On Fire for God.”

So much of Christianity today is focused on “power and control over others” as opposed to setting free people’s heart, mind, and love, so that we might love, care for and serve one another.

This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost – the gift, the blessing of God pouring out Christ’s risen spirit upon us.  The Holy Spirit sets us free to be amazing and wonderfully powerful bearers of God’s love.

Earlier this week I shared with you The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III’s letter to African American churches and pastors in support of President Obama’s recent announcement the he personally believes in equal marriage rights for same-gender couples.  He was unbelievably brave.  Yet even at that, I can only imagine the blow-back that he’s receiving.  His letter is like the “tongues of fire” descending upon the believers in this Sunday’s “gospel” from Acts 2.  Otis got it right.  100% right.

There is no doubt people who are same-gender-loving occupy prominent places in the body of Christ. For the clergy to hide from true dialogue with quick dismissive claims devised from poor biblical scholarship is as sinful as unthoughtful acceptance of a theological position. When we make biblical claims without sound interpretation we run the risk of adopting a doctrinal position of deep conviction but devoid of love. Deep faith may resonate in our position, but it is the ethic of love that forces us to prayerfully reexamine our position.

Gay and lesbian citizens did not cause the economic crash, foreclosures, and attack upon health care. Poor underfunded schools were not created because people desire equal protection under the law. We have much work to do as a community, and to claim the President of the United States must hold your theological position is absurd. He is President of the United States of America not the President of the Baptist convention or Bishop of the Sanctified or Holiness Church. He is called to protect the rights of Jew and Gentile, male and female, young and old, Gay and straight, black and white, Atheist and Agnostic. It should be noted the President offered no legislation, or executive order, or present an argument before the Supreme Court. He simply stated his personal conviction.

If we dare steal away from the noise of this debate, we will realize as a church we are called to “Do justice, live mercy and walk humbly with God.” Gay people have never been the enemy; and when we use rhetoric to suggest they are the source of our problems we lie on God and cause tears to flow from the eyes of Christ.

Those are words that come upon us through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Those are the words of someone who is “On Fire for God.”

They are not the words of a guarded and controlling church.  They are the word of a church that is “On Fire for God.”  Those are the words of a church that is filled with the Spirit of God.  Those are the words of a spirit-driven and spirit-blessed church.  Those are the words of a believer who can see and envision (as the prophet Joel said) the beloved community of God’s people.  And those are the words of the church that we are now part of – The United Church of Christ.

What a blessing to share in this profound word, in this profound faith, in this profound community of love.  Come and celebrate the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon us this Sunday!  [And don’t forget to wear RED!]



~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Acts 2:1-18

Luke describes the day of Pentecost, when worshipers were filled with the Holy Spirit.

1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  3And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “People of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,

that 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.

18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,

in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy!


Who has seen the wind?

by Christina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?

Neither I nor you:

But when the leaves hang trembling,

The wind is passing through.


Who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I:

But when the trees bow down their heads,

The wind is passing by.

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