Three Beats to God’s Song

The text for this sermon is Acts 2:1-21.
There is a rhythm to how God works in our world. The heart of the Christian journey is to catch that rhythm, to move into it, and let it change you, your words, your thoughts, and your actions. This rhythm has three beats in the song God sings in our world and as many notes as people in God’s creation.
The first beat of this rhythm is the mystery of God that intersects with our world. What is God up to here? How is God found in our lives and our world? What miracle from God did we see today? The second beat is the witness of the people that spot God in our world. They connect the miracle we experienced with the greater story of God. They are the preachers, the prophets, the teachers, the prayer warriors, the faithful. They build a bridge between us and God. The third beat is us, you, me, her, him, them, all of us that experience the mystery, hear the words of hope that connect it to God’s story, then act, reform, repent, change who we are to match who God longs for us to be. Three beats, God acts, people witness, and then we change. Three beats, God, witness, us.
These three beats are behind every story in scripture. God acts and floods the world to cleanse it and start anew. Noah witnesses God’s judgment on the creation, but also finds God’s promise and hope for peace after the flood. Noah’s family acts, builds an ark, saves the creation, starts a new community centered on God. God acts and puts a child in the womb of the elderly Sarah. Abraham witnesses the vision that he will be a father of great nation dedicated to God. Sarah acts and makes room in her old age for the first child of these new people. God acts to give a new direction for the kingdom that Israel has insisted upon. Samuel witnesses to King Saul that he is no longer living in God’s story. David acts, anointed by Samuel begins his march to the throne.
Can you hear the beat? Boom, boom, boom. Boom, boom, boom. God acts, someone witnesses God’s purpose, we act. God, witness, us. The notes are different, the characters, the results, the change, they are all different, but it is the same rhythm. God acts in our world. God actions are connected to our story. The people change their direction after receiving this new blessing from God.
This is the rhythm behind the Pentecost story. God acts in a great and powerful way and God’s spirit lands on our flesh. It is like a rush of wind or a hot, intense fire that encompasses everything. God shows up in that room and makes God’s self-known. It is awesome. It is mysterious. It is surely God that does this. Boom.
The people wonder what just happened. How does that fit into who we know God to be? Are they all just drunk? Peter knows the words, to connect this Pentecost miracle of wind and flame to the story of God. This is God keeping God’s promise in Jesus he tells them. This is God’s presence, not in a temple, not on a mountain, not in heaven, not out there somewhere, but right here, right now. God’s spirit is within us now so that we can live and not die. God has not left us, but is with us powerfully by the Holy Spirit. Peter knows God’s story and how Pentecost fits into that story. Boom.
And the people act. They saw the mystery of God’s action. They hear the story of God’s promise. They change how they live in the world. They create the church to bear one another’s burdens, to lift each other up, to love their enemy, the least and the lost. The love of the early church was so crazy that their neighbors literally thought they were out of their mind. They died to what this world said was important and began to live to the new world the Spirit opened up. They were transformed. Boom.
Glenn Harris shared a powerful story last week. I had asked Glenn to tell the congregation why he supported the sanctuary renewal project in a temple talk. Last Sunday he didn’t talk much about padded pews, an expanded and modern sacristy, less clutter, or better sight lines for worshippers. Instead, he told us about a mystery of encountering God in this space in the back row of a Christmas Eve service when all he could see were hundreds of strangers holding a single candle in the dark. As he was grieving, crying out to God, angry at God, devastated by the loss of his mom, those single flames piercing the darkness as people sang Silent Night, got to him. God was here. Boom.
He didn’t receive any answers he had come to that night to find. Why had his mom died? Why couldn’t he get to her bed before she passed? Why had she suffered after living such a good and faithful life? He did though connect that mystery, that Christmas Eve night with God’s story. He knew that Christmas Eve God sighting was an invitation back to the body of Christ. In the church, his grief could be shared, his burdened lightened, his flame of faith connected to the hundreds of others who call this place home. Glenn made the connection between that night and God’s promise. Boom.
He changed. He became not just an occasional worshipper when it fit into his schedule, Glenn, Kim and Rain have become integral to who we are, leading ministries of teaching, enthusiastically serving the least and the lost with us through meals to the hungry, hospitality to the homeless, clothes, food and furniture to those in need, plus leadership in council and on our landscape group. By the following Christmas Eve, Glenn, Kim and Rain had reordered their lives so completely they were one of us, the church. Boom.
This is God’s rhythm, three beats. This rhythm plays behind our life together now. God is in this place. God can be seen in this community, the church. The mystery of God is in the beauty of our worship. Who could deny God’s presence when taps echoed here a few weeks ago? The mystery of God is in the new faithful servants that God sends us weekly. 75% of our leadership is people like Glenn who have been here less than ten years. The mystery of God is in the thousands of people every year that we serve in shelters, Joseph’s Coat and HEART, homeless ministries and many others.
The beats of God’s rhythm are here. What Glenn found out that Christmas Eve and witnessed last week, I am here to witness today. Our voices are that second beat. Listen. God is declaring life here while the entire world talks about the death of the church. People are being blessed and finding hope here. God’s mystery is felt by visitors in our pew, by strangers we serve, by faithful members every day. God is here. Boom.
We are the final beat to this rhythm at Messiah. So, what are we going to do about it? God has showed up. We have made the connection. Now we need to act. Change. Stop trusting in the scarcity of the Kingdom of Man and trust in God’s kingdom full of abundance. This place is holy, this sanctuary and I will take off my shoes within it. It is not enough for us just to say we believe. God is calling for our transformation, a reordering to match the power and mystery of God’s presence here. You, me, him, her, us, we, the church are that third beat. Boom.
God is here. Like a rush of wind, it looks like God has been blowing things around up here for a number of years. When God acts, things change and this worship space testifies to that. New organ, new piano, new drums, new electric piano, new screen, none of that was up here ten years ago. None of it. They are all gifts from God that have radically changed our worship space. While some may grieve that change, none of us should grieve without hope. There is no going back, only forward. God has acted in this place. Now, it is our turn to act, to respond.
If we didn’t have the resources to clean this place up, then God would be okay with that. We could worship on hay bales and dirt floors and lift a good voice to the Lord. But we do have the resources. It just calls for us to make different decisions with our wealth. It calls for us to act. We are the third beat. We can do this. God knows we can do this. The mystery of God is here.
There are three beats. The first beat, God acts in Messiah bringing us a richness of gifts in new people. The second beat is the story of life this has meant. These people have made us vibrant, diverse and alive. Now, it is our opportunity to be the third beat, to change this place to welcome so many more that are longing to hear the Good News. Listen to this music, the rhythm of God and prepare to make a good sacrifice to God and God’s church.

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