Can the Spirit be Rekindled? [Sermon]

Have any of you ever had a campfire or fire pit?

When you put the fire out, what do you have to do?

You pour water on it, and you stir the coals, and see whether it is still hot and, if so, you repeat the above steps until it is cool.

If you had a really good fire, it may take a long time to ut the fire out completely, but it’s important because if you don’t, the fire can come back.

I remember one time I was camping, and we thought we had put the fire out, but the next morning I noticed there were still some glowing coals, and was able to get a fire going from just the few remaining hot embers.

Let’s go to God in prayer.
God of wisdom, may the words that I speak, and the ways they are received by each of our hearts and minds, help us to continue to grow into the people, and the church, that you have dreamed us to be.
Amen.

We are a small church that used to be two larger churches.

The churches have gone through cycles: from their foundations, to the large churches near old town, to the small building we had here, to its enlargement to its current size.

The number of members has also waxed and waned.

At some times, it has probably seemed like this church was in its last days, like when the building had to come down, or when embezzlement hurt the finances.

And this church is still here, and still serving people.

I want you to imagine a military invasion.

I want you to imagine being taken captive to another country.

I want you to imagine having to practice your faith in secret.

Now hear these words of the prophet Ezekiel, spoken to the people of Judea who had been taken captive by Babylon:

The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.

He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.

He said to me,
“Mortal, can these bones live?”
I answered,
“O Lord GOD, you know.”

Then he said to me,
“Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.

I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me,
“Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”

I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me,
“Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’

Therefore prophesy, and say to them,
Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.

And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,”
says the LORD.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Even in the darkest of times, a few embers of hope stay warm.

The flame of hope cannot be completely doused. The glow will remain, even if covered by soggy wet coals, waiting for an opportunity to spark a new flame.

Every year, seven weeks after the celebration of the Resurrection, we celebrate the day of Pentecost.

We read the story from Acts where people receive the Holy Spirit, appear to have flames over their heads, and speak in may different languages. People around them hear that speech in their own languages, and have various explanations, including

“they’re drunk.”

How many of you have been near someone who was intoxicated?

Did you ever hear an intoxicated person speaking in a way that was hard to understand, even though they were understandable when they were sober?

Did someone you could not normally understand ever become intoxicated,
and suddenly you were able to understand them?

I doubt that in the entire recorded history of humanity that there was even one documented instance of someone getting so drunk they could speak a language they had previously not spoken.

But even the idea that the Holy Spirit gave them the ability to speak languages they had never spoken before is a very surprising thing.

There are some people today who believe the Holy Spirit has given them the ability to speak in a special holy language that few understand.

But that’s not the power illustrated here, because these words were heard
by native speakers of these languages.

So where is the power to speak other languages today?

It is in those who study languages.

Yes, there are those who have learned more than one language,
and are able to share their faith with others in the languages they know.

It is also in those who communicate in others ways:

  • in kindness
  • in solidarity
  • in love.

And it is that spirit, that breath, which can give air to whatever ember remain, helping them t burn brighter, grow hotter, and to warm the fuel around them, driving out the dampness and growing once again into a roaring fire.

As a church, we won’t get there by merely gathering on Sunday morning.

Sunday is important because we keep each other warm and glowing.

But if we want our flame to grow, we have to reach beyond the walls.

We have to go where people are, and do the work we, as the church, are called to do.

Some of the outreach we have done is:

  • A presence at Friday Night Market
  • Participating in LGBT Pride in Eureka and in Ferndale
  • Showing up for Juneteenth

There’s a great camp song by Kurt Kaiser called “Pass It On.”

We won’t sing it this morning, but if you don’t know it, I encourage you to look it up.
It begins

It only takes a spark to get a fire going.

My challenge for all of us this week is to think about how we can rekindle that spirit of Pentecost in this church, so that our lives and our church will speak to people, in word and in deed, in ways they will understand.

Let the Spirit breathe on us.

Amen.


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