Pentecost Sermon: Love’s Revolution

wedding

How many of you got up early to watch the Royal Wedding?

I admit that I myself did not.

But I followed with great interest the wedding sermon, which was delivered by an American pastor, Bishop Michael Curry, who is a gifted preacher.

The Bishop did not disappoint.

He gave a deep and thoughtful reflection on the central hope underneath each and every Christian claim.

He talked about the power of love to transform the world.

It is a great sermon, and I recommend it to you warmly.

But if you look it up online, you will see that the sermon was not entirely without controversy.

Well…controversy may be too strong a word.

When a preacher preaches, there are some people who focus like a laser beam on that.

There are others who seem more interested in how the sermon appears to be connecting with the congregation.

And apparently….apparently…if you looked at the Americans who were actually in the congregation at the royal wedding, you could see that they were focused on that sermon.

They settle right in and nod and smile at all the right places.

But not so for the Royal Family.

If you watch them, you can see that they seemed to find it all a tad long. Worse, they seemed to find it all a tad sincere.

You can see it on the tape.

You can see them exchanging side-eye glances, even shifting in their seats a bit.

The speculation is running that from their point of view, a sermon about the power of love to change the world is not really their kind of sermon.

Maybe not for a wedding.  Maybe not for anything.

They’re the Royal Family.

Maybe to them, talking about “changing the world” through love or through anything else is like quoting that verse in Luke that talks about how God “has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the humble.”

My guess is that you hear that sort of differently if you’re a member of the British Royal Family.

Because it’s one thing if you come to a wedding and the preacher stands up and tells you that love abides…that love is eternal.

And if he or she goes on to say that love is from God, well, a lot of people probably shrug and say that’s just part of the price you pay.

It’s a preacher up there preaching…what do you expect?

Love abides — that’s nice to be reminded about.  Those are good words to hear.

But it’s something else when somebody gets up and says that love changes things.

That’s not necessarily all that great to hear.

Because that’s revolutionary.

And by God, it’s supposed to be.

Some people aren’t prepared to say that.  They don’t really want to take it that far.

I mean, many of us think, sure, it’s fine for love to change some things.

That’s great.

Sometimes you hear stories about someone who had a near miss with mortality…how at the moment when it seemed like the end they saw the faces of their children…and how then when they survived, they had a new lease on life.

That reminder of the love of their children means that from that day forward, they have decided to change some things.

That’s great.

But when the Church says that love changes things, or when Jesus says that love changes things, and the Church is tasked with trying to think through what that means, the point is not that love only changes some things.

The point is that love changes everything.

The task of the Church is about trying to discern what God wants love to change next.

And then the next task of the Church is to discern what God wants that love to look like.

And so if somebody hears that and thinks that God’s love isn’t revolutionary, well then…somebody wasn’t really paying attention.

Of course, this is not to say that the Gospel is somehow on the side of worldly revolution in any simple sense of that term.

Some people can be quick to baptize any revolution…every revolution…and that’s not right.

That’s not paying attention, either.

The point of this revolution is not regime change.

That’s thinking too small.

The point is regime transformation.

The point of this revolution is a world where love is not only the final destination.

Because in this revolution, love is also the way there.

It changes everything.  And everyone.

That’s what this is.

II.

Now the story of the first Pentecost is a wonderful story.

It’s as if the miraculous signs drop down from Heaven like fireworks, one after another.

Boom, boom, boom.

The disciples are together in a room, somewhere in Jerusalem, when boom… there came from heaven a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house.

And you get the feeling like they’re all looking around like, “What in the world??” when boom again, “divided tongues as of fire appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.”

Now these were miracle people, witnesses to the resurrection, the people who had journeyed with Jesus…Christianity’s first All-Star team…and yet this was unlike anything even they had ever seen.

“All of them,” it says, “were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages….”

And the story goes on to say that “at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.”

Each one, heard themselves, not only being spoken to, but being spoken to in their mother tongue.

It’s an incredible moment. An unprecedented moment.  A major God-moment.

So it’s probably no surprise if I tell you that this moment is considered to be the birth of the Church.

But you know, it occurs to me that there are two ways that we can hear this story.

Because I think some people who hear this story probably place themselves in the gathered crowd.

They think back on that first Pentecost and say “Wow…

wouldn’t be incredible if God spoke to me that way? Wouldn’t it be amazing if God reached out to me, speaking my language?”

“What a difference it would make if God reached out to me, just like that…here in my little world…to hear God’s voice call to me….”

But then there are those who approach this story from a different angle.

Because there are those who hear this story and go, (MG: whew), “What new language is God challenging me to learn?”

“What are the words that God has placed on my heart?”

“What message do the tongues of fire resting over my head tell me to offer to the world?”

And I want to suggest that it’s those people who are truly engaging with the revolutionary loveof God.

It’s those people who are learning to ask what it is that God wants love to change next.

It’s those people who see that part of what God also wants love to change next isn’t just the world out there.

It’s the world within each of us, too.

Because the world changes as we hear the Spirit’s call and learn to love in new ways.

In learning new languages, we will both transform and be transformed.

III. 

In the book of the prophet Isaiah, God tells his people: “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

And God says, “I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

On Pentecost, two things happened.

The Church learned for the first time that it was the Church….that it wasn’t just a random band of Jesus people, or people who got it, or whatever.

It was called to be a new thing: the Church.  As such, it was a large part of God’s plan for the healing and redemption of the world.

Second, if you think about it, making ways in the wilderness and springs in the desert sound pretty close to impossible.

These things are contradictions in terms.

Or at least, they are if all you speak is the old language…they are if all you see are things in the same old way.

God asks, “Do you not perceive it?”

Do you not perceive it?

It is nothing less than a revolution.

What does God want love to change next?

What new language do you need to learn in order to be part of that change?

To be a Christian is not just to believe that love would change the world, or that love will change the world.

To be a Christian is to believe that love is already changing the world.

Love brings down the mighty from their thrones.

Love exalts the humble.

This might be hard for some in the British Royal Family to hear.

But it is good news.

In truth, it is the very best news that ever was or will be.

 

Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s