Sermon, The Hang given on May, 7, 2011Our text from the lectionary today is the start and end of Peter’s famous sermon in the second chapter of Acts. Funny how the lectionary cuts out most of Peter’s Pentecost sermon. If you get a chance sometime this week you should read the whole sermon. Peter often is maligned in the Church today. I even remember a friend in BSF wonder why Jesus would pick Peter. The picture of him in the Gospel is that of impetuous man prone to flying off the handle and jumping the gun. But, I love Peter. He is a good model for me of what the Christian life is about.
The worse portrayal of him is in the Gospel of Mark. Paradoxically as it sounds, the Gospel of Mark us why I tend to buck the trend in many popular protestant thinking and developed a huge respect for Peter. Why? Tradition has it that Mark was Peter secretary and the Gospel of Mark is nothing more than Mark’s notes about Peter’s testimony. Peter is open about who he is; he is so confident in the love of Jesus that he is willing to be authentic to the point of revealing even where he falls short. Today, though I would like to ask what are the two gifts the Peter says are at the very heart of the gospel at the end of our reading?
Forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. To understand the power of one lets ask about the other. When you hear about Holy Spirit what comes to mind?
Unfortunately, many times we think about the Holy Spirit, we tend to think about the Pentecostal revival. While I have a huge respect for the Azusa Street Revival, I think the focusing on the Charasma’s of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We confuse the gifts for the Spirit itself. The sprit of God of the Breath of God is the source of life. To understand the promise of the Gospel take a journey we me with the life of typical Human.
We are born full of wonder and discovery. Everyday something new happens. We learn new words; we learn things we can do; we learn to walk and talk. Then as we grow up life changes for us. We do bad things, like not east our spinach, and our parents are not happy with us. Our father beats us for not eating. We start building a protective shell. More things happen. Your father leaves your mother, the coat of protection grows. You blame you mother. You blame you father. You blame your self. But life still has wonder, you start hoping for the best.
Then you set a fire, not by accident, but by a certain unthinking. You are not sure why you did it. You feel guilty, but you learn to pretend as if you are okay. You notice others are also pretending to be okay. You think it is part of growing up. You get excited because a teacher is proud of a poem you wrote. She sends it to Jack and Jill magazine. It
is rejected and you feel like a failure. The coat of arms against the pain of life grows.
You do more things your are not proud of and soon your are so closed off, so full of pretension, you defenses are so thick that no one care hurt you. But you are so closed into you shell no one can get close enough to love you. You know you are dead.
We call this being adult. We call this the loss of innocence. But is that what live leads to. Being dead inside. Pretending that everything is alright, while having the memories of be free, full of wonder and discovery. The truth is that we are all dead spiritually. No joy. No love. No pain. Our sin and the sin of others makes us hide away, licking our wounds and settling for a life that is no life at all. Even when we try to do good, it falls flat. It leaves us empty, reminding us that we are so unconnected to each other and God. It reminds how alone we are. We feel forsaken, lost and terrible alone. Pauls says it best in Romans. The good I want to do is not what I do, but the thing I detest us what I do, oh what a wretched man I am.
We then put on a brave face and pretend that this not our lives. We pretend. Being a hypocrite does not only describe church goers, but it is a good description of the human condition. We drink coffee to get us up in the morning. WE enter a bargain with other adults; I won’t call you on your pretensions, if you don’t call me on mine.
But is there a way back to life of wonder and awe? Yes, Jesus lives. He says our past does not define us, but his love defines us. He takes our past and makes it irrelevant. If the past is gone, then Life can again rush into us. We Christians call us to be born again. To feel the newness of life. Turn to each other right now and see the glory of God.