McFarland

Pentecost Sunday May 23, 2021

Readings

First Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 104:24-35
Second Reading: Acts 2:1-21
Gospel: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Prayer of the Day:
Mighty God, you breathe life into our bones, and your Spirit brings truth to the world. Send us this Spirit, transform us by your truth, and give us language to proclaim your gospel, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Hymns of the Day

If you don’t have hymnals at home,
lookup the hymns on YouTube or other websites.

God of Tempest, God of Whirlwind (ELW #400)
Gracious Spirit, Heed Our Pleading (ELW #401)
O Holy Spirit, Root of Life (ELW #399)
O Holy Spirit, Enter In (ELW #786)
Holy Spirit(Bryan a nd Katie Torwalt, on YouTube)

Reflection on John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

by Pastor Tim Dean

Wild Goose Spirit

Today, the Day of Pentecost, we celebrate the gift and presence of the Holy Spirit.

We usually think of a dove as the primary image of the Spirit. But in the Celtic Christianity of Scotland and Ireland, the bird representing the Spirit is not the dove, but the wild goose.

I know. A goose seems a strange image for the Spirit. When I picture a flock of Canadian geese, I think of the mess they are making on the grass. Be careful where you step!

But if you ever try to walk near a goose, watch out! One time I got too close to some goslings, and the parents charged and honked. I quickly backed away!

One author says that the wild goose is just that: wild. “They are reminders that the Spirit of God cannot be tamed or contained…. reminders, when it comes to God, to expect the unexpected.” (David Clark, “Holy Spirit and Wild Geese,” bradt56.blogspot.com, 6/9/11)

The Wild Goose is on the loose!

We see the Spirit’s wild, untamable, unexpected qualities in our readings today.

Acts describes the Spirit’s arrival like the “rush of a violent wind” and tongues of fire resting on each disciple’s head (2:2-3). The Spirit transforms humble peasants into preachers of the universal good news.

It’s worth noting that “speaking in tongues” is not unintelligible babble, but speaking in the languages of the known world at the time Acts was written. The unexpected gift is communicating in a multitude of tongues.

Critics say this wild behavior is caused by “new wine” (Acts 2:13), but Peter rises up and proclaims that it’s not drinking, but being soaked in the Spirit. The Spirit’s energy flows out in surprising ways—on all of God’s people, not the elite or powerful, not simply the priestly class, but on daughters and sons, slaves and free, young and old (2:16-21).

This diverse crowd of people is, in fact, a sign—not of chaos, but the unlimited gifts the Spirit. Theologian Wendy Farley says that the “founding event of the new Christian community is the ability to speak to and understand a diversity of people.” (Farley, “Connections,” p. 315) The Spirit breaks through every barrier to celebrate diversity in disciples and throughout creation!

John’s Gospel also describes the Spirit as untamable and fierce.

Earlier in the story, when Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus, he says that the Spirit is like the wind, blowing where it chooses (John 3:7).

Now, as he says goodbye to his disciples, Jesus puts more definition on the Holy Spirit, describing it as the Paraclete. Our translation renders this word “Advocate” (15:26, 16:7), a courtroom term that signals a powerful attorney pleading our cause.

As indicated in verses skipped in the lectionary (16:1-4a), John’s community is facing external and internal threats. During this conflict and duress, the Advocate is the strong voice keeping the community grounded.

The Advocate keeps us focused on telling the story of Jesus with boldness, imagination and courage.

For Pastor Jason Byassee, this image of the Paraclete is not passive, but transformative. The Advocate is the One who is making all things new. “It is the comfort of One who will get the world God wants, despite whatever opposition or temporary victories are won by death.” (Byassee, “Connections,” p. 327)

The Wild Goose Spirit is on the loose, and cannot be contained, even by death! This life-giving Spirit breathes on us, so that we proclaim the good news of the resurrection.

Where does the Spirit shake us loose today? How does the Spirit help us share the love of Jesus in new ways, in diverse ways?

For us Lutherans, this wild, uncontainable Spirit can be challenging. Most of us like everything to be in good order. Order does have a good purpose to prevent chaos, bring fruitful outcomes and protect the vulnerable.

However, order does not work when we try to control God’s love or throw up barriers for God moving in new ways.

Rather, the Spirit pushes, nudges, guides us to step out of our comfort zones.

A friend of mine calls it “throwing caution to the wind.” The pandemic took the wind out of us. And we still need to take important health precautions for the sake of the vulnerable.

But perhaps it’s now time to dream dreams and see visions, to daringly imagine the wild Spirit moving through and renewing us.

As the pandemic lessens because of the gift of vaccines, we give joyful thanks for health and for steps to meet again in-person. We give thanks that the fierce, relentless Advocate has kept us grounded in the love of the risen Christ throughout this challenging time.

And now we ask this wild Spirit to nudge us forward, to embolden us to take risks for the sake of the Gospel, to share the new life of the Spirit.

The Spirit empowers us to deepen our connections with friends in Christ through our global ministries. To share and listen to people from other countries and cultures is a sign of God’s goodness.

The Spirit empowers us to have conversations about seeking justice and diversity. The Spirit helps us to speak truth in love, listen without judgment, and work bringing healing and unity.

The Spirit empowers us to find new creative ways of sharing God’s love. We’ve learned that we can worship outside or in our homes or through the internet, and we can build strong relationships—even when we are not together physically.

The Spirit empowers each of us, and all of us together, to tell the story with boldness and authenticity.

In the words of our hymn of the day:

“God of earthquake, God of thunder, shake us loose from lethargy!

Break the chains of sin asunder, for earth’s healing set us free!”

(ELW hymnal #400)

Thanks be to God, for the Wild Goose Spirit on the loose, rousing us from lethargy and complacency!

Thanks be to God, for this Spirit setting us free with many diverse gifts!

Thanks be to God, for this Spirit dwelling in us, our untamable, relentless Advocate forever.

Let Us Pray

God of tempest, God of whirlwind, as on Pentecost descend. Send your Spirit to shake us free from lethargy, and stir us with the fire of your love. Pour out your healing presence upon all who mourn, the hungry, the lonely, and the sick, especially those across the world suffering from Covid. Bless your church with abundant and diverse gifts, so that all may know your love. In the name of the Risen One, Jesus Christ. Amen.