Paul’s Final Sunday at PRLC

Preached at Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church in Seattle, WA
on May 19, 2013

Pentecost, Series C

An apprentice to the devil was summoned by Satan for a conference. Your assignment is to go into the world and wreak havoc, the Prince of Darkness instructed. Tell me what you will tell them, he said, to test his young protégé.
I will tell them there is no heaven.
Satan snickered. They have all staked their lives on heaven. What makes you believe they will listen to you?
Then I will tell them there is no God.
This time Satan laughed aloud. I want you to wreak havoc with them, not entertain them. Do you not know that they see evidence of their God not only in the resurrection, but written in every leaf of springtime?
Then I will tell them there is no hurry.
Go, replied the devil. Go. And you will destroy them by the thousands.

There is an urgency about the work that we are called by Christ to do on behalf of the Gospel. An urgency and an importance that we seldom consider with the gravity that our call to follow Christ demands of us.
Here are urgent words – picked like ripened fruit from the texts for today…

the rush of a violent wind; divided tongues of fire;

I will pour out my Spirit; blood, fire, smoky mist

you did not receive the Spirit to fall back into fear.

this Spirit abides in you and will be with you

the one who believes in my name will do greater works than I

These are not the words of timidity and fear. They are not the words of a people who are in no hurry to do the work of God, a people who have no sense of urgency. These are pressing words that God is laying on us this morning: this urgent, poignant, Pentecost morning, because there is work to be done in the name of Jesus. There is work to be done in the world for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.

Being Jesus for the world is exhilarating, exhausting work. But it is work. There is no end to it, and there is never a last, parting word. The Gospel is new every day, in every situation, for every moment, in every person. There are no laurels to rest on; no chips to call in. The rushing, mighty, flaming wind of God blowing through this aching world of ours demands our best efforts, our keen attention, our sharpest wisdom.

There is probably no greater modern heresy than that on the bumper sticker that – thank God – is not as ubiquitous as it once was. You know the one I mean: God said it. I believe it. And that settles it.

There is NOTHING, EVER that is settled about God in this world. Because the world is constantly changing. If there were nothing new to be discovered about God, no new mission for the church each and every day of its life, then God would have sent us a stuffed mallard on Pentecost, not a living, breathing Holy Spirit. God is alive among us through the power of the Holy Spirit precisely because in the church of Christ, there is a constant need for urgent, pressing, work to be done in the name of Christ.

And here’s the thing: not only is change incumbent upon those of us who follow Christ, God is willing to change right along with us. Think of it. And the Word became flesh and lived among us – how dynamic and alive is that? Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Have any more fluid words ever been proclaimed? There is nothing settled about God save that God will never stop loving us. If we’re feeling a little off balance today – a little unsettled – then I’d say that God has us exactly where God wants us to be.

There are no last words or testaments to be given on this parting day. Anything that might be said as the last word will simply be blown through the moment they are uttered by the unsettling Spirit’s wind and flames. There are no last words, only first words. Words of power and joy and hope.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. And do not let them be afraid.

There is work to be done. It is urgent, holy work. And you are just the ones to do it.

If not here, where? If not now, when?

In the name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.