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So there was this rocky sea coast where shipwrecks were frequent,
and somewhere along the shoreline there was a ramshackle little lifesaving station.
It was just a hut.
There was only one boat,
but the handful who worked at the station
were a devoted lot who kept constant watch.
With little regard for their own safety,
they regularly went out into a storm
if they had ANY evidence
there had been a shipwreck along the coast.
Many lives were saved,
and soon the station became famous.
As the fame of the station grew,
so did the desire of others to become associated with its excellent work.
They raised money for new boats,
more training, more crews.
The hut, too, was replaced by a comfortable building,
which could adequately handle the needs
of those who had been saved from the sea. A good thing.
And, since shipwrecks don’t happen every day,
it ALSO became a popular gathering place—a sort of local club.
…As time passed,
the members became so engaged in being together
that they had less interest in lifesaving—
–they did, though, enjoy sporting their lifesaving badges.
As a matter of fact, when some people actually were rescued,
it was kind of a nuisance
because they were sometimes dirty and sick
and soiled the carpeting and the furniture.
SOON, the social activities of the club became so numerous
and the lifesaving activities so few
that there was a showdown at a club meeting—
–with some members insisting
they return to their original purpose.
A vote was taken–they were a tiny minority—
and were invited to leave the club and start another.
Which is precisely what they did–a little down the coast.
They did so with selflessness and daring in saving lives–
–and after awhile, their heroism made them famous.
Whereupon, their membership was enlarged, their hut reconstructed—
–and you might guess how it went from there…
If you happen to visit that area today–
–you will find a number of exclusive clubs dotting the shoreline.
Each of them justifiably proud of its origin and its tradition.
…Shipwrecks still occur in those parts,
but nobody seems to notice much…
Here’s what I think: If it weren’t for Pentecost–
–this could well have been what happened to
the first followers of Jesus Christ.
Do you remember where you were or what you were doing
on April 6th this year?
Monday, April 6th… that was the day AFTER EASTER.
Had anything changed?
In the Gospels, even though we have these post-Easter appearances of Jesus,
his followers don’t really stop long enough
to enter a whole new life.
A slightly remodeled life, perhaps,
but like all of us,
it appears they didn’t like their routine disrupted.
There’s always a temptation to live much of life on automatic pilot anyway,
so there can be this implicit assumption
that Easter really just doesn’t change much at all.
The National Transportation Safety Board, a few years ago,
weighed in on actual automatic pilots–
– the ones that are on airplanes – by saying that:
When it comes to “automatic pilot” - -
–“humans are not good monitors of highly automated systems
for extended period of time.”
“We want to acknowledge,” one veteran pilot said at the time,
“that you can’t expect someone to be extremely vigilant
for seven or five or even three hours.”
“No light comes on to tell you that you’re being complacent.”
Pentecost moved EASTER out into the world –
–and deep into our lives…
where “automatic pilot” is just NO WAY to live.
But, Easter’s promise and urgency gets co-opted all the time.
Jesus…gets turned into whatever people seem to need Jesus to be,
no matter how far away it is
from the life of GRACE and HOPE
that Jesus lived for and died for.
One follower of the Easter Jesus recently put it this way:
“The other night I headed downtown
for a stroll with some friends from out of town.
We walked along the river,
where there are street performers, artists, musicians.
We passed a great magician who did some pretty sweet tricks
like pour change out of his iPhone,
and then there was a preacher.
He wasn’t quite as captivating as the magician.
He stood on a box, yelling into a microphone,
and beside him was a coffin with a fake dead body inside.
He talked about how we are all going to die
and go to hell if we don’t know Jesus.
Some folks snickered.
Some told him to shut the hell up.
A couple of teenagers tried to steal the dead body in the coffin.
All I could do was think to myself,
I want to jump up on a box beside him
and yell at the top of my lungs,
“God is not a monster.”
Maybe next time I will.
Shane Claiborne, the one recounting all this, reflected on the experience:
“The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus,
the more I have become convinced that Christianity
spreads best NOT through force but through fascination.
But over the past few decades our Christianity,
at least here in the United States,
has become less and less fascinating.
We have given the atheists less and less to disbelieve.
And the sort of Christianity many of us have seen on TV
and heard on the radio looks less and less like Jesus.”
Pentecost…is the gift of FASCINATION.
Delighting – and stopping cold ALL attempts by those
who want to turn God into a monster.
Jesus really did mean that the way of love is the way of life.
Jesus really did intend for PEACE to rule and JUSTICE to prevail.
The triumph over the cross
was a triumph over everything ugly we do to ourselves and to others.
It is the final promise that love wins.
Pentecost is the PROMISE that the Spirit of the Risen Christ
shows up every time Easter is about to be co-opted,
It is the voice of Pentecost that says:
“NOT that way…THIS way…
NOT for your own aims…but for God’s sake!”
Jesus really MEANT all he lived for and all he died for.
A colleague recently commented:
I saw the expansive Acts 2 reach of God
[he means this story we just read, of Pentecost]
[I saw it ]in the great mosaic
at the church in Monreale, Sicily—
–a wonder of the medieval world.
There, presiding over a dazzling array of jewel-like depictions
of the story of our salvation is, Christ Creator of all.
Having seen photographs of that mosaic,
I expected to be bedazzled by the Byzantine otherness of Christ,
Christ the Judge of humanity.
And yet the Christ I saw was Christ of the wide embrace,
reaching out from his majesty as if to encircle the whole church,
the whole creation in his reach.
All the stories of scripture—
–told with such vitality and wonder in the mosaics of Monreale –
–are vignettes of this grand vision of a God
who is stubbornly determined to embrace all of humanity.
Leaving the church at Monreale, a street vendor held up a trinket
with Christ’s picture stamped upon it.
“Don’t you want to take a little Jesus with you, mister?” he asked.
But NO, I realized…we don’t take Christ with us—Christ always takes us places.
The Spirit of the Risen Christ given to us on Pentecost
is the Spirit that reinforces that YES…
…Jesus really did mean EVERYTHING
he lived for and died for.
That Pentecost Spirit also PROPELS us into the world…
…and this holy Spirit of propulsion…
…may drive you into the streets to set things right;
…it may cause you to leave the comforts of home
for the next challenge,
or it may drive you to return to the HOME
where there are those who have known you longest
and know you best.
You may be propelled to Jefferson City, or to Topeka, or to City Hall.
Then again, you may find yourself discovering yourself
holding the hand of someone at a bedside,
or folding your hands in prayer,
or accompanying a friend to an AA meeting.
The Spirit of Pentecost can propel you raise your voice,
or to learn to LISTEN with a keener ear
than you’ve ever known before.
Whatever it is for YOU—make no mistake—God is speaking,
and God is telling us that Jesus really meant all the things
he lived for and died for…
In The Spiritual Life Of Children,
Robert Coles writes about Ginny,
a young girl from a poor family who is bright,
and has a keenly developed spirituality.
Ginny recounts, for example, that her UNCLE,
who was wounded in Vietnam,
is still nervous and upset, and prone to frequent crying.
Ginny wonders how God must have felt during the violence of the war.
“If my uncle cries now,” she reflects, “God must have cried, too.
God must have WEPT, don’t you think?”
One day, Ginny was walking home and, along the way,
encountered an elderly woman who seemed lost and confused.
Ginny asked the woman if she needed help,
and the woman, in relief, responded:
“If you could, that would be wonderful.”
Ginny discovered that the woman had been walking
to visit her daughter, but had gotten disoriented.
Although Ginny was late for her home chores,
she sensed that getting this troubled stranger safely to her destination
was the chore she MOST needed to be doing.
So she traveled with her,
talked gently to her,
listened to her as the woman spoke of the PAIN of her life,
and guided her to her daughter’s house.
When they arrived and Ginny started to leave,
the woman grasped her arm and announced
that God had sent Ginny to her,
and that LATER she would pray a prayer of thanks to God for having Ginny there.
On the way home, Ginny wondered what it would be like to be old,
wondered if she were in need,
if God would send some kid like her to help.
“Maybe God puts you here,” Ginny thought,
“and…gives you these hints of what’s ahead,
and you should pay attention to them,
because that’s God speaking to you.”
Will Willimon, recently retired Methodist Bishop in Alabama, recounted:
One of my churches served breakfast
to close to 200 homeless people every morning.
I was there awhile back, and on my way in
I noticed a man in the kitchen washing dishes,
up to his elbows in dishwater.
(The pastor of the church believes that the homeless
should always to be served on the church’s china, rather than paper.)
I recognized the man as a lawyer,
a member of the largest, most affluent suburban congregation in the city.
“I think it’s wonderful you are here, washing dishes for the homeless,”
Willimon said to him.
“Good for you” he mumbled, not looking up from his work.
“Have you always enjoyed ministry with the homeless?” Willimon asked.
“Who told you I enjoyed working with the homeless?” he asked.
“Have you met any of the homeless out there?
Most of them are crazy, or so addicted or messed up
that nobody, not even their family, wants them home.”
“Well, I, er, uh, I think that makes it all the more remarkable
what you are here doing” Willimon responded.
“How did you get here?”
The man looked up from the soapy dishwater and replied:
“I’m here because Jesus put me here.
How did YOU get here?”
Jesus really did mean all that he lived for and all that he died for.
And just to make sure we understand that –
–at Pentecost, we are given the Spirit
to propel us into those places we may not go on our own.
At Pentecost, we learn that there’s NO IGNORING Easter power,
and all Pentecost does to sing Easter’s song
in all times and in all places.
I read story this week about a major event in the history of Jazz in America
Two years before Duke Ellington died, in 1972,
Yale University held a gathering of leading black jazz musicians
in order to raise money for a department of African-American music.
Aside from Ellington, the musicians who came
for three days of concerts, jam sessions, and workshops included
Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle,
Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus,
Max Roach, Mary Lou Williams,
and Willie (the Lion) Smith.
During a performance by a Gillespie-led sextet,
someone evidently unhappy with this presence on campus called in a bomb threat.
The police attempted to clear the building, but Mingus refused to leave,
urging the officers to get all the others out
but adamantly remaining onstage with his bass.
“Racism planted that bomb,
but racism ain’t strong enough to kill this music,”
he was heard telling the police captain.
“If I’m going to die, I’m ready.
But I’m going out playing ‘Sophisticated Lady.’ ”
Once outside, Gillespie and his group set up again.
But coming from inside was the sound of Mingus
intently playing Ellington’s dreamy thirties hit,
which, that day, became a protest song,
as the performance just kept going on and on and getting HOTTER.
In the street, Ellington stood in the waiting crowd
just beyond the theatre’s open doors, smiling.
…Pentecost keeps playing the song of Easter –
– and plays it with such passion,
…that it just keeps going on and on,
getting hotter and hotter…
…It catches us up in its wake—
—and moves us into what Jesus cared about most:
a day, a life filled with HOPE and LOVE,
busy in bringing PEACE into the world,
engaged in opening up the spigots of JUSTICE
so it can roar down like an ever-flowing stream.
Jesus really did care about ALL the things he lived for
and ALL the things he died for.
And NOW, the Spirit of the Risen Christ has shown up—
–and Easter’s power just keeps going on and on and on,
it’s getting hotter and hotter…
…and you and I…have to get going!
 A story of Anthony De Mello, originally printed in The Prayer of the Frog: A Book of Study Meditations, vol. 1 (Anand, India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1988). This sermon is indebted to the work of the Rev. Mark Ramsey, and his sermon What If Jesus Meant All This Stuff.
 “As Attention Wanders, Rethinking the Autopilot”, by Christine Negroni, The New York Times, May 18, 2010
 Shane Clairborn, “What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?” Esquire, Nov 18, 2009 http://www.esquire.com/features/best-and-brightest-2009/shane-claiborne-1209#ixzz0ofmZhteS
 William Willimon, Pulpit Resource, Logos Productions, May 23, 2010
 “Life With Laity” by William Willimon, Journal for Preachers, Pentecost 2009
 “Black, Brown, and Beige: Duke Ellington’s music and race in America” by Claudia Roth Pierpont, The New Yorker, May 17, 2010