May the Force Be with You
By Pastor Linda Dolby
Scripture: Acts 2:1-21
Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker go to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. They order, and when the food comes, Obi-Wan digs in with his chopsticks, while Luke sits there and tries to maneuver the chopsticks, and although he tries many times, he is unable to get any food into his mouth. Obi-Wan looks up and says, “Use the fork, Luke, use the fork.”
I tell us this because today is Pentecost the day the force of the Holy Spirit came as a force that freed the disciples so they could leave their locked rooms and set forth to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. The gospel of John tells us that after resurrection, twice Jesus came to find the disciples in locked rooms, huddled together in fear – not doing what Jesus asked them to in the great commission – to go forth and make disciples of all nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
No, on the day of Pentecost, they are still together in a room, not doing what Jesus asked.
Why didn’t they carry out Jesus’ command? Fear. Lots of fear. Fear that paralyzed them.
Fear. Are you afraid? These are scary times. Wars and rumors of wars abound. Families trying to cross the border are separated from their children, who are taken from them. Another mass shooting last week in Virginia, this time there are twelve dead. A terrorist planning to bomb Times Square is arrested. Farmers can’t get into the fields too wet from the rain. They fear the loss of all their crops this year. I could go on and on with examples, but you know what I mean. Tragedies abound and we are afraid.
Let’s get more personal. What are you afraid of? That you will lose your job and won’t be able to get another? That your child will fall in temptation and will be lost to you? Are you afraid for your health – awaiting blood test results or what the CAT scan will say? Do you fear that your troubled marriage may be coming to an end? Bad things happen to good people and we are afraid.
I want to speak specifically about our friends who are lbgtq – lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, or queer. June is Pride month, a time to celebrate coming out of the closet of fear into the daylight of living who they really are.
As we witness gay men and women being beaten and murdered at alarming rates and the present administration attacking the dignity, safety, and the very lives of LGBTQ people, we are reminded that Pride commemorates the history of LGBTQ people who refused to remain silent in the face of violence and police brutality. As people of faith, we must carry on the legacy of our forebears, fighting back against the brutality levied against LGBTQ people today and striving for a more just world.
Even our beloved United Methodist Church has recently discriminated against homosexuals, continuing to not ordain in ministry those who are gay. Recent actions adopted will punish United Methodist pastors who preform weddings of two people who are deeply in love and want to commit to sharing their lives until they are parted by death, simply because the two are of the same sex.
Into the closet they go, because they are afraid. I want to say from this pulpit that Trinity is a Reconciling Congregation, that all – no matter what – will be loved, cherished and respected here. You are safe here.
So then, what are we to do? We might read scripture, the passage for today saying that the scared disciples, together in a room wondering what will happen next. Hear these words again:
“And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” The force, the power of God, was with them.”
This, in a nutshell, is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Force – to come along side us in times of anxiety and remind us that because we are God’s children, we do not have to give in to fear. Actually, Paul goes a little further. We are not only children, but heirs of God, those destined to inherit all good things. And if that’s not enough, we are not only heirs in general but co-heirs with Christ. Co-heirs! Those God has called worthy to receive all the inheritance and merit and reward and favor that Christ is accorded and deserves. My goodness, when you’re loved that fiercely, even fear can’t keep you down.
The Acts story depicts a group of believers who had everything to fear and, indeed, had been nearly crippled by fear. And yet on Pentecost they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, a Spirit that encourages and equips them to go out into the marketplace and witness to their faith in Christ. In doing so, they risk not simply having people think they were drunk, but perhaps also treasonous, deserving of the crucifixion that their leader had suffered. Yet emboldened by the Spirit, they find the courage not simply to resist fear, but actually to step our in confidence and joy. The force was with them.
The disciples of Jesus experienced - fifty days after his departure, a radical change in their lives. They started - after the fire and the wind touched them and entered them to do things that they had never done before. They were made new creatures - brought to life - in a new way. The Spirit of God - that breath that proceeds from the Father and the Son - creates and makes all things new - it makes them all that God intended them to be.
That is what happened at the moment that the Spirit of God descended, at the moment that all the disciples of Jesus became not only capable of speaking all kinds of languages, but were willing to use those languages to contact people they never would have thought of addressing before. It happened when they went from believing in forgiveness to showing forgiveness,
It happened when they went from believing that God would protect them to actually venturing forth from the upper room into the danger filled streets of Jerusalem. It happened came when they went from thinking about what Jesus had said, to proclaiming what he said - in word - and in deed, and reaching out to heal, to serve - and to love - all those around them.
And, my friends, this is the promise to you and to me. The Force can be with each one of us, when we pray that the spirit will enter our locked rooms of fear and heal us and free us. There can be a mysterious moment in our all of lives - a moment when we are loved and beloved, God’s own child, perfect in every way, just as we are, knowing that God can and will remove our fears and lead us into faith.
That moment is the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Force is with us. That moment is the fruit of the Holy Spirit that now dwells in all flesh, and seeks to bring us closer to God - and closer to one another. For the first disciples that moment happened with a rush of wind and tongues of fire - and it still happens for each of us today.
God's gift took me from having belief in God - to having God's power in me. And while I can stifle that power within me for a time, or even for a season; while I can turn from it and conceal it for a while, I can no longer escape it. It is there - and I know it. And it struggles within me for expression - and when I let go - when I let God within me - when I let the Spirit within me - beautiful things happen. Indeed the Spirit does all that Jesus said it would do.
It brings to mind the words of God - the words within us, words that allow us to bring real comfort to a frightened friend- words that allow us really communicate forgiveness and love to someone in need - those words that convict - and exhort - and at last - when surrendered to, bring peace to the soul, my soul - and the soul of others. The Spirit flows in us, and through us it flows to others. It is like the wind, it is like the gentle flapping of a dove's wings It is like fire. It is like a still small voice within.
May the Force be with you. Amen.
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