The Yet; Not Yet
It was the celebration of the first harvest of the year. Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims from all the known world. The disciples were in the Upper Room praying eagerly awaiting the power from on high that Jesus had promised before ascending to be with his Father. And suddenly there was the rush of a mighty wind like we recently experienced in Greensboro. There was a mighty wind containing rain and hail. It was so powerful, and the hail was so strong it was hard to see out the window and I wondered if we were going to experience a tornado.
In the disciple’s case it was part of the event. Next, they saw tongues over the heads of each of them. They looked like fire and the disciples began to speak in other languages.
All the noise and commotion attracted a crowd of pilgrims from all the known lands and locations of the time. They were amazed these farmers from Galilee were able to speak of the mighty deeds of God in their own languages.
Some were skeptical. “They are drunk”. Peter with a sense of humor said, “These people are not drunk. It is only 9 a.m. in the morning. They are fulfilling prophesy that one day all our people; men and women; young and old; slave and free will tell of the mighty deeds of God and all who call upon his name will be saved.
And so, it has been with the church ever since. Through the power of God, we can proclaim the mighty deeds of God and make and grow disciples.
But in many ways the world is as messed up as it has ever been. Just look at the tragic events in the Holy Land of Israel and Hamas fighting each other and over 200 people have been killed. Our own nation is divided between different racial groups and our political parties are having trouble working together to improve the lot of the American people. And Covid is running rampant in places like India.
Yet during these tragedies we Christians believe that when we were baptized, we not only became children of God, and siblings with Christ, we received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.
In our Romans text for today Paul attempts to explain this paradox. The very creation is groaning with labor pains. God’s kingdom has come but it has yet to come in its fullness.
I remember when Ann was pregnant with our two children. We knew life was coming, with each month that passed as her belly increased in size. But the climax was very painful as she delivered our children. The first took four hours, and the second two hours as they were birthing. It was the yet, not yet. Since then, I have discovered many women have been in hard labor for more than 20 hours.
Our creation has been infected and the arc of history is bending toward justice, but God’s Kingdom is still coming.
I am now 80 years old. It has been 73 years since I was baptized. Almost 54 years ago Ann and I were married. 52 years ago, I was ordained and became the pastor of St. Michael’s in Mifflin, Ohio. Many times, I feel like I am still a rookie at being a pastor or a human being.
I am now serving you. I have learned much about being a pastor from the people in the congregations I have served. I have also learned about being a better human being from the guidance and role model of my wife.
It has taken over 50 years to get a sense of what it means to be a pastor and to develop the skills to do pastoral ministry. I am glad you have called me to join you in the ministry at St. Michael. Perhaps I will be able to use the abilities I have acquired in our work together.
But I am still learning. My very spirit is in the birth pangs of the Holy Spirit helping to grow from what I was to what God is changing to help me become.
I am appreciating more than ever before when we were baptized God’s Spirit made us his representatives in the world today. Recently ELCA developed the slogan; “God’s work. Our hands.” Even as we realize such a lofty calling, we fall short daily and come here and confess our sins before God.
The kingdom, if we are open, will continue to grow in us.
Then Paul talks about the awesome gift of prayer. He recognizes we have trouble saying to God what is truly on our heart. This is another place where we experience God’s grace. The Holy Spirit takes our inarticulate groaning and shares with God what they are in our soul, that we can never quite seem to put into words.
I also believe the Spirit communicates to us God’s communications with us. Trust that is so and it will happen.
There are Sundays when I am preaching, and I feel lifted and say things I had never planned to say. And such moments you communicate with me through your eyes and body language that God is speaking to you as well. It has happened enough times in my ministry to know the Spirit is at work.
Let’s trust that same Spirit that burst forth in the Upper Room on Pentecost is in this room today reminding us that God himself is present in each of our hearts and binding our hearts together as his people.
It is an action that has begun but has not fully happened in any of our lives or the world, but let’s live trusting that it is happening today and participate. Amen.