Preaching: Rebecca A. Henry
Date Presented: Sunday, May 15, 2016
Scripture Reference: Acts 2:1-21, I Corinthians 12:3b-13
Sermon: Pentecost Celebration
There has been a general theme to Jacob’s play this year. Whether it has been playing with his horses, his Halloween costume, or even at time how he chose to dress for the day, Jacob has been enthralled with the story of Secretariat, desiring nothing more than to be his jockey. It all started last summer when I was on the mission trip and my dad watched the movie “Secretariat” with the kids. Probably most of you know the story, but for those that don’t, Secretariat was a racehorse in the early 1970’s. He came under the ownership of Penny Chenery who was struggling to keep her family’s legacy of racehorses alive, in spite of very little funds, no trainer, and no promising horse. Enter Secretariat, but honestly, no one thinks she can do it, and quite frankly they don’t think a whole lot about Secretariat either. Only Penny sees something in this horse, a love for running. And slowly, Secretariat begins to show what he can do, even when racing against another tremendous horse named Sham. Secretariat goes on to win the Kentucky Derby in 1973, and then the Preakness, but many are skeptical that he can take the Triple Crown. They think that the Belmont Stakes is not a favorable race for this horse because it is too long of a race. He tends to start out behind before surging ahead and winning, but no one thinks he can keep up the pace. That is, except Penny. I invite you to watch the Belmont Stakes. [Show movie clip]
I am not kidding you, we watched this movie, and particularly this race, hundreds of times, and still I do not tire from watching it. Every time there is overwhelming energy and emotion, awe. It is something to see this beautiful creature run with such beauty and strength, I mean, Secretariat is in his element, and to witness that is breathtaking. I mean, that is part of what we see on the faces of people – disbelief at what they are seeing, wonder, awe, excitement. We hear Penny shout, “Let him run!” It’s as if she is yelling, “Let him live. Let him live into his very being, what God created him to do, with no restraints, no holding back.” It is that very unleashing that gives way to celebration.
Every time I have watched this scene I’ve thought of Pentecost, and the reactions of the crowd. The owner of Sham looking on in disbelief, saying, “That’s impossible,” mirrors that of the crowd in Acts asking, “What is going on? What are they saying?” In both there is this sense of marvel, to which Peter stands up and says, “This is what it looks like when the Spirit is at work.” These are the tremendous, unfathomable things that God can make happen; the joy and life-giving energy we experience when we not only live as we are created, but when we see it happen, when we see someone in their element, living out the gifts they were given.
Then these is that line when Secretariat rounds the turn, when we are beginning to see the fullness of what Secretariat can do, when there is no stopping him, no slowing him down; “He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing, can’t stand still when the trumpet sounds,” (Job 39:22-25). It’s a verse from the book of Job when God is responding to Job, reminding him of the bigger picture, the work of God. It is a verse that comes in the midst of God naming and defining the role and gifts of various creatures.
It isn’t all that different from what we hear in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, verse 11, “All these activated and given by the Spirit.” It is a celebration of the variety and need for all gifts. It is a celebration knowing God is anticipating, waiting to see us shine.
Pentecost is a celebration of the Spirit coming among us, unleashing the gifts we have been given. It’s what we hear happening when the apostles begin to see and realize what they can do. It’s the moment Peter stands and claims his voice, his witness. And because people are filled with such awe, because they see what is happening and are moved because they want to be a part of it, thousands are baptized that day. When people see the work of the Spirit, it has an impact. It calls all of us in, to experience for ourselves what the Spirit is doing.
What if we as a church allowed ourselves the freedom, what if we let go so we could experience the Spirit unleashed in us? What if we claimed and used our gifts? People would see the joy, the fun we are having even while working hard, and they would want to be part of it.
Only it isn’t just about what we have to offer as individuals, but as a community. The story of Secretariat is not just about the horse, but a whole community that made that moment possible. Yes, there was the horse, but there was also his owner, caretaker, trainer, jockey, office staff. They were each offering and giving all they had. They gave their best, and it was jaw-dropping, awe-inspiriting moments. If you think for a moment, I am sure you have had those moments of being full of awe when seeing the Spirit of God work through people. I see it every year with our Ecumenical Vacation Bible School, and all the gifts people offer (designing and making decorations, leading music, teaching the stories, and games, caring the kids, planning and organizing); all these gifts coming together to make a tremendous week. Or I can remember evenings on our mission trips of talking together in awe after watching Jake Roskom fix a sidewalk, or watching our youth play with kids at Kids Club. It’s what I marvel at when I think of all those people who take on leadership roles in our church to put in new windows, asses our investments, balance our checkbook, teach classes, clean when help is needed, just to name a few.
What gifts has God given you? What are you passionate about, good at, that you can offer the community? What is God waiting with anticipation to see you unleash? Pentecost is a time for us to celebrate because God has given us each beautiful gifts, and when they are unleashed, when we offer them to the community, we are able to offer a powerful witness to the world. It is as true today as it was on that first Pentecost. People will see, they will take notice of what the Spirit is doing, and they, too, will want to be part of the movement.