Fire and Wind, Water and Word, Toothpaste and Dish Soap: A Sermon on Pentecost

A reading from Acts 2

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

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

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 
“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. 
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy. 
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace + peace to you from God our creator, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ – Amen.

We have a number of different things coming to a culmination in worship this morning. First, we have two years worth of work and study coming to fruition as our youth affirm their baptism this morning. Second, we have seven weeks worth of incredible generosity building to this day where we celebrate the final day of our donation drive for Lutheran Services in Iowa. And third we have almost two thousand years worth of tradition in the story we heard today from the book of Acts.

Two thousand years ago, the church was gathered together in a room. The resurrected Jesus had ascended and so they just showed up together trusting that God would show up. And all of a sudden there was a sound like a rush of a violent wind. Tongues of fire were coming down over each of their heads.

It’s these ordinary things like wind and fire — things that we can’t grasp, can’t grab a hold of, can’t control for our own purposes — that come to signal the presence of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Over the last two years, we’ve had youth from our community learning more about the faith and trying to understand the promises that God made to us in baptism as they prepare to make promises of their own today. I don’t mean to rain on any of your parades today but, though these promises are noble, brave, and certainly can help in guiding our life, we will break these promises… often. We all break these promises — to live among God’s faithful people, to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. We break these promises, and yet God never breaks the promises given in our baptism.

It’s these ordinary things like water and words of promise — things we can’t grasp, can’t grab a hold of, can’t control for our own purposes — that come to remind us that we are sealed with the power of the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.

Over the last seven weeks, we’ve been gathering basic household items together to donate to families in our community who are in need through Lutheran Services in Iowa. They are a wonderful organization that help people from before they are born until they are well advanced in ages. They have programs that help victims of domestic abuse, children in foster care, refugees looking to find work often coming from areas of severe oppression and violence.

And yet to people who are in need, these items like soap and shampoo, toothpaste and toilet paper can mean more than we can imagine. It’s these ordinary things that, when we give them for the sake of one another’s flourishing, do an extraordinary amount of good.

In simply gathering these items together, little by little, week by week, we are able to donate 1,485 household items to families across our community. 1,485! That’s incredible!


Our potluck lineup after church with the donated items in the background — almost 1,500 in total.

You see, we don’t have to worship in fancy sanctuaries or ornate cathedrals to have God be made known to us. It’s in ordinary things like fire and wind, water and word, toothpaste and dish soap that we are reminded of God’s promises to us and of God’s call to go and serve a world in need.

So, my brothers and sisters, as we go throughout our day of Pentecost, may we be blessed to remember that Pentecost was not a singular event that happened almost two thousand years ago and never again. It happens each and every time we feel that pull of the Spirit toward our neighbor and this world in love. May we be blessed to remember that God always keeps his promises, even when we break ours. And may we remember that our call as disciples is to give thanks to God for the blessings we have been given by sharing them with the world. And may we go on our way rejoicing, saying, “Thanks be to God!”


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