Yet To Be Determined

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Acts 2:1-21

On Tuesdays at our regular staff meeting, we review the worship bulletin and on the Sundays when Stephanie’s preaching… we all know what not to expect: a sermon title. I don’t know if you noticed this, but Stephanie does not use sermon titles. A few weeks ago at the staff meeting before she was to preach on confirmation there was a title in the draft worship bulletin… I thought it was a mistake… or that Joel had placed it there… Stephanie thought about using it, but did not… but I will .

The title was “Yet to be Determined.”

I think that is a good title for a day when we celebrate graduates—as they make the transition to a future that is largely unknown. In fact, if someone asks (as they surely will) what their plans are… or what the future holds, they should say, YTBD—yet to be determined. Or in the words of one of my favorite professors, Dr. Oglesby, “Lord knows and he ain’t tellin’”.

It was an answer the first disciples could have given if someone had come up to them after Jesus ascended into heaven… after they had chosen the replacement for Judas… If anyone had come up to any of them and asked, “what’s next”… they could have answered… YTBD—yet to be determined. They really didn’t know… No one could have predicted what was coming! Especially on Pentecost!

It’s quite a scene on Pentecost when you think about it… I like the way Shannon Kershner described it:
“The disciples had left the place of Jesus’ ascension and returned back to their own gathering space there in Jerusalem. All along the way they had run into teeming crowds. People were coming to celebrate the Jewish festival day of Pentecost, or the Feast of the Weeks. This festival day is the Jewish holiday celebrating the harvest season in Israel…

And so, people were coming into Jerusalem from all kinds of places to get ready for the celebration. They came from Parthia, Rome, Judea—all over the land. Different shades of skin, different languages, different ages—a cacophony of noise and smells and colors filled the streets. It was merry chaos!

The disciples had to elbow their way through the crowds, being careful not to step on the small children running wild, in order to make their way back to their locked-up gathering space.

But finally, they made it and were let into the room. They all gathered together, safely tucked away, and engaged in prayer and conversation about what they should do next.

How would they reach out into the world? What would be the shape of their ministry for the next five years?”[1]

They might have said, YTBD—Yet to be determined… For who knew? Soon enough they would learn the answer to the question… they would learn God knew…the Holy Spirit knew.

For into their comfortable, world of faith and fellowship… there as they live in that “in between time”—between the known past and the unknown future comes the one who invades their privacy… their regular time of prayer and sharing… to lead them into that unknown, yet to be determined future…

Into their lives comes “God’s rowdy and tumultuous spirit (who) broke down the doors. Now God could have simply slipped in, being respectful of their process, (their liturgy), and their prayers, not wanting to cause too much of a scene. But that is not what God was in the mood for that day. God’s Spirit blew in, swept in, and tore through the group, creating not just a scene, but pure chaos and confusion! [Hardly Presbyterian process you know…decently and in order] The Spirit completely unsettled their planning. And , much to their surprise, and later, to their delight, all of those in the room began speaking in different languages. They simply could not help themselves. God’s Spirit caused them to burst forth into unfamiliar languages to proclaim all the amazing things God had done in Christ.”[2]

Well, who knew? God knew! What happened to them that day was more than anyone could have planned or expected.

As Barbara Brown Taylor said,
“… before the day was over, the church had grown from 120 to over 3000. Shy people became bold, scared people had become gutsy, and lost people had found a sense of direction. Disciples who had not believed themselves capable of tying their own sandals without Jesus discovered abilities within themselves they never knew they had.

(Keep on reading in Acts you’ll see some things that happened to them that no one could have expected)

When they opened their mouths to speak, they sounded like Jesus. When they laid their hands upon the sick, it was as if Jesus himself had touched them. In short order, they were doing things they had never seen anyone but him do, and there was no explanation for it, except that they had dared to inhale on the day of Pentecost.They had sucked in God’s own breath and they had been transformed by it. The Holy Spirit had entered into them the same way it had entered into Mary, the mother of Jesus, and for the same reason. It was time for God to be born again—not in one body this time but in a body of believers who would receive the breath of life from their Lord and pass it on, using their own bodies to distribute the gift. The book of Acts is the story of their adventures…”[3]

Who knew? Well, God knew… and so do we thanks to Luke who wrote a whole story of where those adventures led.

Read Acts and you are reminded of that great book by Dr. Seuss given to graduates. Let me share a Pentecost version of it which I wrote… could have been written for those disciples on the day of Pentecost:

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Congratulations! Today is your Day… Pentecost!

You’re off and away…
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes… and if you listen to the Spirit, you will be amazed where you go and what you will do… what you will choose…

And when things start to happen, don’t worry, Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.

Oh, the places you’ll Go!

When the Spirit is here—Oh the places you’ll go—pay attention, God is here!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are adventures to be enjoyed, but not alone or as one.

The Spirit will lead you, one day at a time… and along with the others, what hills you will climb!

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.

So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact. And remember that Life’s a great Balancing Act.

Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed? Yes!, With the Spirit’s help, indeed (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)

Kid, you’ll move mountains! Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!”

Don’t ever underestimate the power of the Spirit… that’s one of the lessons from Acts… for when the spirit comes… when God pours out his spirit on flesh, as the prophet Joel aid, “sons and daughters shall prophesy… young men shall see visions… old men dream dreams… even slaves (both men and women) will prophesy…”

Which is what happened to them in the Book of Acts… and it took those very ordinary people and turned them into a force that changed the history of the world.

Who knew? God knew!

Barbara Brown Taylor raised a very important question that I would like to leave us with today. It is a sobering question:

“The only question left …(for me) is whether we still believe in a God who acts like that. Do we still believe in a God who blows through closed doors and sets our heads on fire? Do we still believe in a God with power to transform us, both as individuals and as a people, or have we come to an unspoken agreement that our God is pretty old and tired by now, someone to whom we may address our prayer requests, but not anyone we really expect to change our lives?”[4]

I pray… I pray the answer is Yes… we still believe in a God with power to transform us… and this world…

Lord knows the world needs us to believe it…
Lord knows the church needs us to believe it…
Lord knows, I even need to believe it… I need to believe that the Holy Spirit is still breathing down our necks… ready to blow into our lives… at any given moment… maybe when we least expect it…

And as Barbara said, “There is nothing we can do, of course, to make it happen… nothing except pray an ancient prayer “Come Holy Spirit” every chance we get.

If you don’t want anything to change in your life… if you don’t want to have to be surprised by the future that is ahead of us… if you simply want to keep your life together as you know it today, for heaven’s sake don’t pray, “Come Holy Spirit”[5]

But, if you are a person or a church who would like to go on the adventure of your life… if you are a person or a church who would like to be used by God… if you love the idea that you may dream dreams and have visions and be empowered to do things you cannot do alone… if you want to be transformed… then by all means… pray, “Come, Holy Spirit, come”

What happens after that… well it is yet to be determined… but if past performance is predictive of future results at all… we’ll be in for quite a ride… and oh, oh… the places we’ll go… Amen.

 


[1]Journal of Preachers, Pentecost 2006; Sermon Outside the Walls

[2]Ibid

 

[3]Home by Another Way, p 144

 

[4]ibid

[5]Ibd BB Taylor

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