Sermon on Acts 2:1-21 – Play the Spirit’s Song for You
This manuscript will miss the vital illustration from the sermon I preach. I will do something right at the beginning that I cannot recreate on paper—either in practical reality or in emotional weight—for many reasons, not the least of which comes from my fear of doing what I will do in front of people. I could only make writing as fear-inducing by including who I voted for in every presidential election and writing my detailed political beliefs on guns and making sure every member of Grace read it.
For those who read this away from church, imagine right now I picked up my guitar and “Come Thou Fount” and “Amazing Grace” as good as B.B. King would.
I did not play as good as B.B. King—more like the 31-year-old pastor who never had lessons who serves Grace—but please imagine my playing rivaled B.B. King.
Also imagine you responded in whatever way you would to the pastor playing electric guitar in church usually. I did not plan to get up and make a fool of myself—I can play some hymn melodies in mediocrely beautiful way—but I still played electric guitar in church.
Every Pentecost Sunday I make myself do something that I have talent doing but I fear doing, especially in public. Last year I played guitar and sang, something people bugged me to do for months.
This year I need to shake that up and take away the thing that I legitimately struggle with—try as I might, the ability to play well and sing in tune simultaneously eludes me—and add the element of probable dislike despite doing it well.
People will get mad at me for playing electric guitar in church.
We live with a difficult reality: some people hate how the Holy Spirit expresses her gifts in us, and some will try to silence our gifts. Look at how people respond to Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rob Bell, and Timothy Keller; each has brought people to Christ, and people have attempted to silence each because they hated the style of each. People need the message of Christ given to them by people of different styles but guided by the Holy Spirit.
People need the gifts of the Spirit we have to share. We may have gifts that make the church or her members uncomfortable but can, and will, bring others to Christ if we have the courage to use them.
Imagining the disciples on at the Pentecost. They had legitimate fears about the future. Each spent three years following a man who left. None had a life to go back to, and they had this edict to share the message of the man they followed after he left them.
In their confusion and lack of direction, this event happens. The Holy Spirit falls upon them as a tongue, allowing them to communicate with people of different languages.
In a moment, the Holy Spirit solves a major problem of following Jesus’ command. They could speak to everyone and everyone could understand them.
Some people rejoiced. They heard the message and understood. The Holy Spirit gave those who heard the message of Jesus Christ through these men.
I would hopefully shout, “Hallelujah!” but most had a different response. The “tongues” made people uncomfortable. A group of uneducated men could not possibly communicate with everyone in the crowd. The crowd needed a logical reason why this happened.
They came to an almost logical but really just judgmental conclusion: They must be drunk!
This happening at 9 A.M. had no bearing on their conclusion; they had to be drunk; they had no other possibilities.
It fascinates me when the faithful completely ignore and even stubbornly refuse to believe the miraculous, instead wanting everything to fit into neat, little logical boxes. God blessing them with language and voice does not fit into that box, but day drinking does.
A side point, but also relevant: incomprehensible drunks are incomprehensible. Their words sound nothing like real language. The drunken, slurred-tongued ramblings of a drunk do not sound like a holy message of love, or a message at all. Only other drunks can sometimes understand.
They went with drunk even though it makes no sense. “These oddballs did something, and we do not like it, so they must have drank too much wine this morning.”
This should make complete sense seeing as we do this Christians who look and act different. Cases in point:
- Traditional churches condemn contemporary churches as shallow and trendy while contemporary churches condemn traditional churches as dated and stuck doing evil traditions.
- Conservative churches condemn liberal churches as not following the Bible while liberal churches condemn conservative churches for following rigid, inflexible interpretations of scripture to the detriment of love.
- Politically active churches condemn politically inactive churches as being too passive while politically inactive churches condemn politically active churches as being too divisive.
If a Christ has a style we are uncomfortable with, we condemn them outright. Notice, too, I said nothing about not following Jesus or visible proof of not showing loving in those examples; we just assume God does not work in the “other” who do things differently.
Be honest with yourself. How many times have you agreed with members of Grace saying disparaging things—or saying those things yourself—about the way First does things? “Something, something, uptight, something, something, they need to relax, something, something.” And remember, we have a good relationship with First. I have just as much guilt as anyone else when it comes to judging how other churches do thing. I try not to, and I hope my work to get better helps, but, at the same time, have I really improved? How many times this month have I said bad things about one particular non-denominational church in town? A lot.
When we see the Spirit working through someone in a way we do not understand and do not like, do we hear refuse to hear anything but loud, offensive electric guitar, or do we list for “Come, Thou Fount” and “Amazing Grace” in their work?
And when confronted with those hate how the spirit works through us, do we play “Come, Thou Fount” and “Amazing Grace” with the Spirit, or do we allow them to silence our spirit-given gifts when they say we sound drunk or call our song nothing but noise.
Or does our fear silence out song?
Play the song the Spirit puts in your heart in the style the Spirit guides you to. The spirit blesses you with talents and gifts; use them so others can feel Jesus’ love. Whatever the Spirit blesses you with, whatever style God made you to use those blessings, use them so other can feel Jesus’ love.
And stop trying to silence gifts of the Spirit you do not like. You do not need to just fall in love with me playing electric guitar during worship or any other gift of the Spirit, and you do not need to need or want to experience everyone’s gifts of the spirit in your life, but stop tearing down people trying to share Jesus’ love in a way that looks, sounds, and feels different to you. Everyone needs something different to feel Christ; why do we not lift other paths and ministries up instead of making sure everyone knows we do not enjoy that particular thing?
Worry about Jesus’ love being felt. Lift up ministries and missions that you do not particularly enjoy so they can reach people you might not have the ability to reach. Sing the song the Spirit places in your heart in whatever voice you have.
The Holy Spirit gives us the path to Jesus’ love; follow it, allow others to follow it, and bring people along the path with the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives you. Amen