Pentecost A Sermon (1999)

The Day of Pentecost
Texts: Acts 2:1-21;
John 20:19-23; 1 Cor 12


“All of the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit….”

When I think of being filled up, I think of eating too much. That connects with my favorite message to children, which you’ve heard many times over the years, about healthy diets: There’s poison, junk food, and healthy food. We learn to understand this for feeding our bodies, but we also need to learn this for feeding our spirits.

One point I haven’t made with the children over the years involves the fact that, even if you get too filled up with healthy food, it can become unhealthy. And if you are consistently filling up with too much food, no matter what kind it is, you’ve got a problem.

These days, we call that an addiction. And addictions are no longer just a physical thing. They’re spiritual. When we become addicted to food, for example, what is behind it is having an empty place spiritually needing to be filled up. You crave being filled up emotionally and spiritually. You want to be satisfied. So you try to fill up in other ways. Food can be one of them. Alcohol and drugs can be another, of course. There’s so much pain caused by addictions. But we have also discovered that there’s pain behind addictions, too, the pain of not being satisfied in life. Addictions begin as a comfort measure for those empty places of dissatisfaction. We crave something else in our lives, and it hurts. It seems like the things we’re addicted to help satisfy the craving, or at least cover the pain for a time. But soon those things we are addicted to begin to create their own pain, because we find that, in the end, they don’t really satisfy us, and so we’ve got to have more. Our addiction becomes a famished craving. We try and try, we take more and more, but we get less and less satisfied, more and more in pain. Food, alcohol, drugs. When we’re addicted to them, it is very much a spiritual thing. We crave to have our spirits satisfied, our spirits filled.

“All of the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit….” I was struck the other night, reading another translation of this line, that said, “The Holy Spirit took control of all the apostles.” The 12-step tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous is all about that issue of control. The first step, the hardest step, in beating an addiction is to admit loss of control. But step two and three are about another kind of control: turning control of our lives over to a Higher Power, turning our lives over to God.

I don’t think we realize what a problem we have with addiction in our society. There are the well known addictions like drugs and alcohol, and even food. But there’s others [extemporize about]:

  • Sexual relations: Clinton; the president of Harvard Divinity School (fired for downloading pornography on his office computer)
  • Hatred: Eric Harris and Dylan Dybold, the villains of the Columbine H.S. tragedy
  • Affluenza

We lose control of our lives. We seek to get filled up with these things. All the apostles, we read, were filled with the Holy Spirit, who took control of their lives. So what is the Holy Spirit? What makes it Holy? This is the spirit that can satisfy us. I think we see a big clue on that first Pentecost as the disciples were filled with it. It was like everyone could speak the same language, even when they didn’t. In other words, they were all together in spirit. That’s what ultimately satisfies us, fills us, when our spirits and desires and longings are joined with others….

[Extemporize around the following points:]

    • The remedy: worship. Holy Communion. Scripture passage for reflection:

Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood…. A dispute arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:19-20, 24-27)

  • Worship in the name of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being of one desire). We as God’s children can be of one desire with God.
  • Confirmation requirements: worship and service. Being fed with the one Spirit of God, love for this world, nurtures us for the practice of serving others.

Paul J. Nuechterlein
Delivered at Emmaus Lutheran,
Racine, WI, May 22-23, 1999

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