With Much to be Thankful For – Pastor Jane –  6.4.17

Some congregations refer to Pentecost as the “birthday of the church.” One of the congregations that I did Field Work in actually had a cake with candles. More accurately, though it’s a time when the church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit. A time when we’re reminded of our connection to the life and the ministry of Christ. It’s a day that also reminds us of who we are as people of faith. The Holy Spirit comes to each of us, as we continue to grow and to change throughout our lives. God’s voice speaks to each of us in the quiet breath of the Spirit – both in our words and in our actions.

In our first lesson from Acts, the work of the Holy Spirit calls a diverse group of people into community as the Body of Christ. The Spirit stirs and reminds us – it’s God at work. God is at work in each of us, reminding us that a life of faith is one that is ongoing, it never ends. It takes place throughout our lives – beginning with baptism. And, it’s the Spirit that continues to prod us – and prompt us – to new ministry and outreach, making us living witnesses; part of this servant Body of Christ. A new beginning no more evident than today as we celebrate this gift with each of our Confirmands. In just a little while this morning Marco, Hunter, Matthew, Ashley, Grace, Michael, Aidan, Jack, and Walter will make promises that affirm their beliefs and understandings of what they’ve been working on for the past three years in our Confirmation program. Much of what they’ve done has been hands-on witness of their faith and sharing the Gospel. The Spirit stirring them to try new things. To take part in ministry and outreach at the Soup Kitchen – to help care for God’s creation repurposing used bikes and working at the Recycling Center – and welcoming and helping care for the homeless in our Hospitality program. In addition to their coursework and outreach, our Confirmands had one last requirement, which was to write a Letter to the Church Council. In the letter, they’re asked to talk about their personal faith; to talk a bit about faith in the context of the wider Church and this congregation, our Family of Faith. And I re-read their letters again this week. They talked generally about what ministries helped them discover that what they were doing was living their faith…doing their part to care for God’s world. Realizing that they were part of something bigger – as one put it, realizing they were one of “Christ’s living servants.” Another realizing after going to Soup Kitchen that “God is everywhere” and “that we take so much for granted” after helping with the Food Drive. There was the realization that ministry here is often inter-generational and expressed appreciation of “getting to know people of different ages.” Older folks – and Peer Leaders make no mistake, they were talking about you too.

Pentecost is a time to remind us of what the church is – about its identity, its sense of mission and purpose. It’s a special day, an opportunity to look ahead to new beginnings in our lives …and to new places for ministry. Today we have much to be thankful for. Each of us, as God’s children, is filled with hope…and with promise…and we’re filled with the Holy Spirit that calls us as individuals… and leads us as a church, giving vision and life to Christ’s mission. The Spirit that was alive for those first century believers is the same Spirit that has stirred the lives of Christians since. It’s the Spirit alive in baptism; and on this day, it’s the Spirit that’s infused by fire and wind. It’s the same Spirit that we’ll celebrate with our Confirmands reminding us that God continues to work in our midst. It’s the Spirit that empowers us and guides us as we proclaim God’s promise of hope and the gift of Christ’s love in the world. And, it comes to us simply in the language that calls each of us to faith, through the words of the Gospel. We are living witnesses to different ministries that speak to each of us in unique and special ways. Ministry that enables us to share the Gospel with many different voices. The Holy Spirit that filled the disciples breathes new life into our Confirmands – and into each of us – and we give thanks and share those gifts with others. We’re called to serve, to advocate for justice and peace in a world that needs God’s care. The Spirit helps us find God in the midst of those challenges, making God’s presence visible in creation and in the world. Pentecost challenges us to claim the gift and use our voices, to share the Gospel – to tell Christ’s story. Give thanks to God for the gift of Christ who every day gives us Easter hope. Give thanks for the Holy Spirit that empowers us and equips us for a life of Faith. Amen.