Summary: The Holy Spirit gives us everything we need in order to serve God and God’s creation. But, it is our responsibility to use those gifts for the glory of God.
No Pet Rock 5-27-07
As a society, we Americans are often sucked in by fads—some item or some activity that seems to capture all of our attention for a short time but, when the luster and excitement wear off, we forget about them and then we move on to the next fad. Every generation has their own fads but I can only relate to the ones that took place during my lifetime. For instance, one of the biggest fads in the last few years has been Texas Hold ‘Em poker. It seems like everyone is playing this game everywhere you turn. Some cable channels even show some of the professional or celebrity Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments on television. How long will it last? I don’t know— probably just until the next fad comes along. Another one of the more recent fads I wish would go away quickly is reality shows. I guess it’s just me but I can’t understand the appeal. But, they’re cheap to make and as long as people keep watching, studios will keep churning them out. The 90s had its share of fads. Remember the Budweiser “wassup” commercials. Boy, did those get old really fast. And who could ever forget the Macarena. In the 80s, there were fads like hacky-sack and “baby on board” signs for our cars. I guess those are still around in some form. The 70s too— soon after “Smokey and the Bandit” came out it seemed like every other car on the road was a black Trans Am. Another fad from the 70s was streaking. I guess that’s still around too but now it’s called performance art. But, probably the most memorable fad that I can remember, from any decade, was the Pet Rock. Never in the history of American society has such an absurd idea captured the imagination, and the dollars, of the buying public. For those of you too young to remember, in 1975 a man named Gary Dahl came up with the idea to take a small, smooth rock, place it in a box with some straw, poke some air holes in the box so the rock could “breathe,” and sell it for 10 bucks. As crazy as it sounds, he sold millions of these things. And, even though the fad lasted for only about three months, Dahl laughed all the way to the bank.
The thing about fads is that they usually come in with a bang and then fade off into oblivion— or, at the very least, they loose their mass appeal. We often get really excited about them when they first explode on to the scene and we think that this feeling will last forever. But, as happens with all fads, we eventually get bored with them— we stop participating in the activity or the item winds up in a box in a forgotten corner of a closet. And, you know, that’s what happens a lot of the time in the church. I’ve seen it happen to new Christians and people who have been in the church for years. Something new and exciting begins to happen in the church, a new program or a new opportunity to serve, and we become really jazzed about doing the work of God and getting out into the world and sharing our faith so that others will be open to God’s presence in their lives too. But, after a while, that feeling, that energy starts to wear off. We become complacent. We begin to spend more and more of our energies on the things of this world rather than on serving God and, soon enough, we stop serving altogether. And, we often become Christians in name only. It is a real danger for all of us. But, God gave us a way to combat complacency— to reenergize ourselves for service to him.
In our scripture today, we can see that the Holy Spirit really exploded on to the scene at Pentecost. It made its presence known to the crowd in a truly spectacular way— the Spirit like a “violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting,” and “tongues of fire … came to rest on each of them.” You can imagine how excited the people were. Nothing like this had ever happened before. The gift of the Holy Spirit that they received gave them the ability to speak and understand each other’s languages, even though they came from many different countries. I don’t think any of them ever dreamed they would be able to do such a thing. And they ask themselves, “What does this mean?” Well, Peter tells the crowd “what it means” — “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people… I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below.” Peter is reminding the people that God promised to send them the gift of his Spirit so that they would always be able to feel God’s presence in their lives. The gift of the Holy Spirit that they received is a clear sign of God’s faithfulness— clear evidence that God keeps promises. But, God also poured out his Holy Spirit upon them to inspire the people to use their gifts for the glory of God— to motivate them, to fill them with excitement to share with the world what God has done for them so that others will open themselves up to God’s presence in their lives. But, in order for this to happen, the people had to have willing hearts and they had to act upon their newfound excitement for proclaiming the greatness of God. It wasn’t enough for them to feel the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives— they needed to share that power, that excitement with others. And, they did. The excitement and the energy of the people at Pentecost helped faith in Jesus Christ spread all across the Roman Empire and beyond and the church was born. Through their efforts and the efforts of those who came after them, the world began to hear the good news of Jesus the Christ and feel the presence of God through the Holy Spirit. Because the people at Pentecost shared their gifts of the Spirit, their excitement over the promises of God, others could feel the presence of God in their lives and the world had hope.