May 19, 2024

Don’t Let Your Flame Go Out

flame on a lit candle

Worship Service Sunday, May 19, 2024

Pentecost

Pentecost in the time of the apostles was a great and grand harvest celebration. The streets of Jerusalem were clogged with thousands of pilgrims who had come from every point of the compass to celebrate the goodness of God and the bringing in of the wheat. Today, we don’t celebrate Pentecost in the same way as the Old Testament Hebrews did. We just observe it in our Sunday service—no pomp and ceremony, no parties or anything.

Pentecost was the moment in history after Christ had ascended. As we talked about last week, his ascension was disconcerting to his disciples because now their mentor was gone. He had promised them that he was going to leave, but he also promised that he would send the Comforter. Who’s that? The Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is that moment when the Spirit came and empowered the early believers, specifically the apostles that were left. Most people today feel that Pentecost is the moment that the church was born because, as we know, thousands came into that faith that day. Acts 2:41, “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about 3,000 souls.”

Now wouldn’t that be cool if we could just all of a sudden have 3,000 people in the church? It doesn’t happen that way anymore. At that moment there was an unstoppable force that no one could really deny any longer.

Pentecost is that moment when the Spirit of God bursts forth—not in silent, serious reverence—but a violent rushing wind and tongues of fire resting on the apostles’ heads. I would say God definitely has a sense of humor.

Humor in the Bible

There’s a little-known secret: The Bible is funny. Yes, you heard that right. The Bible is funny. There are stories in scripture that are meant to be humorous, meant to bring a bit of levity, and meant to make you chuckle. You wouldn’t know that the Bible or God has a sense of humor by the way some people in the church think and act. They might say, “This is church; we can’t have nonsense here. This is serious stuff!” There can’t possibly be humor in the Bible because Christians are those people who are tight-lipped, buttoned up, and ready to squelch any kind of comical things.

That is sometimes the stereotype that churches and Christians project. But I must say, not in this church—especially this morning—the Bible does have humor.

What about Sarah falling down on the ground laughing because she couldn’t possibly have a child at her age? That’s like saying to Jan White: “You’re going to have a child tomorrow.” What would you do Jan? You’d go, “Yeah right, you’re funny.” Yep. Can you imagine how the people at that time laughed and joked about her having a child at her age?

How about the story we just heard recently about Jonah? He throws a massive temper tantrum because God wants to save people he doesn’t like. And of course, running away works about as well as the temper tantrum. What happens? He finds himself in the belly of a big fish. Can you imagine how that would play out today in today’s world? What a great comical movie that would make, wouldn’t it? Sitting in the belly of a fish going, “Hey, you know, I’ve got to cook,” you know whatever.

The humor in Pentecost

Pentecost itself can be a humorous story. Instead of coming in like a beautiful and serene dove, the Holy Spirit comes in more like a tornado. The apostles find themselves being thrown out of the house by this tornado-like wind. Then they find themselves in the midst of a crowd shouting and talking—except it seems that they had a crash course in all these different languages. And all the people are looking around thinking: “What are these country bumpkins doing speaking our language?” Some are receptive; some are curious; but others scoff and question whether they have been drinking a few too many. Peter, who is always messing up and really isn’t taken seriously comes to their defense in Acts 2:15. For these men are not drunk as you suppose for it is only the third hour of the day. The third hour of the day being 9 a.m. They shouldn’t be drunk at 9 a.m. But apparently Peter has never been to a college tailgate party on homecoming. Peter is being serious; the guy who is always messing up. There is humor in that.

Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection can also seem humorous to many people. It’s foolish and foolhardy; you’ll hear them say. Some might say it’s enough to make you laugh out loud, but that’s just how God works 1 Corinthians 1:27, ”But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.”

God chooses what is laughable to embarrass those who take themselves too seriously. In Ecclesiastes 3:4, God says, “there’s a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

God’s not a stick in the mud.The church needs to find that balance, so we’re not so serious all the time. God did not create us with the gift of laughter so that we should suppress it and not use it. Our Christianity focuses on the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, which are generally not funny. Christ’s resurrection is a reminder and reassurance that God always has the last laugh—He beat Satan after all. Our spiritual ancestors, the Jews, who suffered more than most people have always had a great tradition of humor; which is probably why all the great comedians tend to be Jewish.

For instance, one day comedian, Groucho Marx was getting off an elevator and he encountered a clergyman. The clergyman came up to him, put out his hand and said, “I want to thank you for all the joy you’ve put in the world.” Groucho shook hands and replied, “Thank you Reverend; I want to thank you for all the joy you have taken out of the world.” Is that how Christians are viewed? I sure hope not.

Can you see yourself kidding around with Jesus? Not likely—it’s probably because Jesus has been presented to you in such a way that suggests he would frown on anything joyful or amusing. Can Jesus laugh? Of course Jesus laughed! Every normal person laughs. Jesus was joyful and urged his followers to be joyful In John 15:11, He says, “ These things I have spoken unto you so that joy may be in you and that your joy may be made full.”

Jesus was all about happiness and laughter. His presence during Pentecost made the disciples ecstatic—they were so full of exuberance that people assumed they were drunk, yet apparently they were very much alive with the spirit of Jesus their mentor.

We know the sober Jesus. We know the suffering Jesus, but—what about the laughing Jesus? The Jesus who partied with wrong people; The Jesus who would bring dead people to life. That’s the Jesus we want in our lives.

Laughter is the presence of the Spirit

I would dare say that laughter is the presence of the spirit. It is a shared gift. Sharing laughter with a friend and collapsing with laughter in the presence of total strangers is a gift of the Spirit. Laughter enables us to experience the whimsical and creative aspects of God that we call the Holy Spirit. Should you laugh all the time? Should you laugh at everything? Of course not! People may think you’re insane—but some of the time certainly!

Harrison Butker Commencement Speech

I came across this story about a three-time Super Bowl champ, Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker. You might have heard about this, it made waves on the internet. And his commencement speech at Benedictine College last weekend reminded me of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit that filled him. He said, “the world around us says that we should keep our beliefs to ourselves whenever they go against the tyranny of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We fear speaking truth because now, unfortunately, the truth is in the minority.”

He didn’t allow himself to be bullied into silence about his beliefs. He received a standing ovation. He didn’t let his flame go out. But boy, the internet was ablaze.

Don’t Let Your Flame Go Out

Again, what a great thing that the internet was ablaze. That says Christianity is here to stay. Don’t let your flame go out. Allow the Holy Spirit to keep your flame lit with humor, humility, compassion, empathy, discipline, reverence, and most of all the exuberance along with God’s wisdom to bring the gospel to everyone you encounter. Amen.

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