Summary: Pentecost: When the Holy Spirit comes, He fires us from past traditions, old exclusivism, and tepid temperatures,and gives us passion for the future.
If you have ever suddenly and unwillingly joined the ranks of the unemployed, how did that feel? When you got that pink slip, what was that like? Oh, you jumped up and down and shouted, "Oh, goody, I don’t have to get up early tomorrow morning! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord, I’ve always wanted to be a statistic!" Yeah, right.
No, if you’ve been fired from your job, it was not a pleasant moment. It was not something to write home about. There are no more terrifying words in the English language than the words, "You’re fired." Harsh, cruel, and abrupt; forcibly and angrily rejected, tossed out of labor and livelihood, not wanted. A terrible feeling.
But if you’ve ever been fired from a job, can you now look back and see that it was really an opportunity in disguise? Some of us who have been involuntarily separated, as they call it in Washington bureaucratese, some of us can look back after a while and discover that they actually did us a favor to fire us. Because firing us from something we weren’t right for blasted us loose from the same old same old and gave us a new possibility. When we were fired from the old job, we got fired up about something new. It was an opportunity in disguise.
I was plugging along, doing campus ministry in Kentucky, and I thought I was doing just fine. I didn’t even think about doing anything else. I had grown up in Kentucky, I had gone to school in Kentucky; I had gotten married and fathered children in Kentucky. I had done my seminary training in Kentucky and when I got my first full-time ministry position, it was a hundred miles away from home, but it was still in Kentucky. I spent three years in that job, and the boss asked me to move from that small college and to go to the University of where? Right, Kentucky. The scope of my experiences was really quite narrow.
But I didn’t care. I was plugging along, doing my job, and thought I was doing just fine. The students and I made lots of changes in the program. We threw away old activities and we started new ones. We pitched out many an old worn-out tradition and began many a new venture. It was an exciting time, I thought, and I said so, every chance I got. I even told the boss I thought it was exciting. I wrote him a series of letters and described all the changes we were making, all the improvements, as I saw them.
One cold and dreary Monday morning, there was a letter in the mail, from the boss. I shall never forget what it said. First it mentioned that the things we had thrown out were programs he had established years ago. Uh-oh! Then it went on, "Now is the time for you to rethink the geography of your ministry." Huh? What did that mean? "Rethink the geography of your ministry?!" Oh. He meant that I needed to move on. Or else he would move me on. He didn’t exactly say, "You’re fired." But any fool could see what was coming.
Well, that almost, "You’re fired!" had an effect on me. The effect it had was to fire me up, and get me going in a different direction. That almost "you’re fired" got me going, and I ended up six hundred miles away from home, in the strange new world of the nation’s capital, doing a whole new ministry.
When the word is "you’re fired!" it not only means you are dismissed from doing what you were doing. It also means you are fired up to find a whole new direction. Sometimes getting fired is the best thing that can happen to us, because it fires us up for something new and wonderful, an opportunity in disguise.
A little band of believers gathered to celebrate the Pentecost festival. They had experienced a great deal in the last few weeks. Their world had turned upside down. The one whom they had followed had gone through several incredible events. Jesus had been arrested, tried, convicted, and brutally slain. That was certainly emotionally wrenching, to say the least.
But then on the third day He had burst from the grave, He had returned to life, and He had appeared among them, several times. Their minds could scarcely take it in, but there it was: Jesus alive, among them. A lot to take in.
But there was still more. After some forty days, this same Jesus had, before their very eyes, been gathered up into heaven, speaking to them about a Holy Spirit who would come. It was too much, really it was. Too much to take in. They gathered and they waited, praying, hoping, not knowing quite what to expect.