Like a dove, swoop down Holy God and gather up our offerings. Then like a wind, spread them in all places needing the warm fire of your love. This we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Jesus promises his disciples the Advocate, someone to argue in our favor and speak council to us. It will be a Spirit of Truth that comes from God and will testify, speak, words on Jesus’ behalf. This Spirit will guide us into Truth.
But when the Advocate came, after Jesus was gone, it sure didn’t look like Truth. The Holy Spirit took over the early Christians and they began to testify in many languages, babbling like at Babel, but instead of meaningless confusion, they speak meaningful stories of miracles and forgiveness and new life.
Some of the crowd sneers, “They’re drunk!” Drunk, and speaking nonsense.
As we heard, Peter counters, “They’re not drunk! Rather, ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.”
But did you know, prophecy and senselessness come from the same Greek root meaning. Mantis is a seer, a prophet who foretells the future in ancient Greek; and mania is senselessness, madness.
In the ancient world, great oracles tended to have a temple where they put their head over a volcanic crack in the ground, or drank chemically tainted spring water, or consumed oleander, or one way or another got high. And then, in their drugged state, they spoke of the visions they saw.
In the Bible, John the Baptist is either a maniac or a mantis. He is in the desert, eating honey and bugs, dressed in camel hair. He is also foretelling the future, speaking of God’s coming, and calling people to return to their faith.
Unorthodox. Not normal. Offensive. Crazy. Insightful. Humanizing. Challenging. Touched by God.
Teeched, is what we said back home. Someone is teeched in the head by God. Touched in the head by God. And we meant they were not normal. Mentally ill, mentally different, or somehow unorthodox.
It was a bit derogatory, just like the people in the crowd speaking about the apostles “they’re filled on new wine.” “She’s teeched in the head.” Dismissive. Those people don’t matter. They’re insane. They need counselors and medication and maybe an asylum.
I carried that negative attitude about mental health and abilities with me out of my home village.
And when I became depressed, I refused to get help. I’m not teeched. I don’t need medication or counseloring. What good does it do anyway? It’s just talking. I can talk. Besides, nothing is wrong with me anyways.
I poured myself into my job. And my classes. The harder I worked the less time I had to think about my own worries and sadness and anger.
The more anxious I got, the more it felt like I was choking when I went to eat. So I stopped eating.
Soon I was working full time, going to school full time, getting straight A’s, and losing weight and looking great. What could be wrong?
The thing about depression is it shows up in many different ways. Sometimes, it is sadness and sleepiness and weight gain. Other times, it is hyper activity and sleeplessness and weight loss.
I kept saying I was fine.
My employer knew better. A faithful Christian, and motherly, she took me aside and told me she knew how much was going on in my life, and she’d witnessed me working more and more hours, eating less and less, and my grades doing great… “And I think you need someone to talk to.”
NO! No! I’m not teeched! I’m perfectly normal and orthodox and ignore me!
So she rephrased it, “Until you talk with someone, I don’t want you working because you’re using it to avoid thinking about your troubles.”
So I went to go talk with someone. And sure enough – she said I was depressed; and needed medication, and meeting and talking. I was angry. I was … ashamed.
There’s such a stigma around mental health! Whether we are born with mental health concerns, like those we took an offering for at Hope Homes today, or whether we acquire them over time, like I had, either way… our society dismisses and disapproves of psychologists, counselors, and anyone who has mental health concerns.
If someone takes a “mental health day” we consider them weak.
If someone needs counseloring or medication, we consider them unfit for some jobs, and to own some items.
The stigma has us trying to hide such people away from society… and when there is no money to do so, we kick them onto the streets for short, hard lives.
Most homeless people have mental health concerns. And, poor, unable to get the medication to help them, they self medicate with street drugs and alcohol.
But it’s not just homeless people.
It’s also farmers.
Out of all professions, farmers have the highest suicide rates. We work long hours. Often lonely. And the margin between profit and loss is so slim… that every little movement made in Washington DC, every rain storm and frost and sunny day, every deportation and disruption of migrant workers’ lives, changes if it is a win year or a lose year. A 12 year low for crops is predicted for this year due to international sanctions and bans; the crazy weather; and changes in the Farm Bill. One of these changes is revising or removing crop insurance.
And farmers are killing themselves. Dairy farmers. Crop farmers. Small time farms that struggle against factory business farms are getting so deeply in debt that death looks like the only way out.
And in rural areas, there are few social workers, few counselors, few psychologists, and a great stigma against being ‘teeched in the head.’
… I know. I didn’t want help. I would have rather worked myself to death… and if a certain day the pressure was just too much… just find a way to relieve it. And end my life.
Religion was the bastion, the home, of original mental health help before there were counselors or psychologists. And many counselors and psychologists are deeply spiritual, but keep it from their practicing life unless the client invites such to not offend the person visiting them.
And almost every pastor sees a counselor or psychologist.
Our physical health is important. If we break an arm, we go and get it set.
If we are spiritually hurting, we reach out to a pastor or fellow Christian and ask for prayer.
Why do we deny ourselves mental help for when our minds, our emotions, need assistance?
Just stigma. Just not wanting to be seen as drunk on new wine or teeched in the head.
Well, it’s a bit too late. Just as your body and your soul needs tending, so does your mind. And we’ve all got the Holy Spirit within us. We’re all teeched. All Touched by God.
We’re all already the drunk ones, already the ones the world thinks are not normal, already dancing to the beat of a different drum.
Whether we call that mantis, and prophesy, or mania, and senselessness, is a matter of perspective.
A matter of whether we will embrace our mental abilities, and care for our mental health… or whether we will ignore it, deride those who seek help, and separate ourselves further into isolation.
This is a stigma the world places on us. Not the Bible. In the Bible, it is a very good thing to be touched by God and teeched in the head.
Let me set the scene for you in Numbers: the people are complaining. Give us meat to eat, Moses! We had meat in Egypt. Give us leaks or cucumbers or anything other than this manna! Day in and day out – all we have is manna. Moses!
So Moses and God talk about this. And God says it is too much for Moses to be the only one leading the people. Gather up seventy men, God says, and I will gift them the Spirit. Then they can help lead.
So Moses obeys God, gathers up the seventy, and they go outside of the tent village where God descends upon them like mist, or a cloud, and they speak wonders.
Speaking the word of God has a lot of power. Scripture tells us that it was God’s Words that created everything from Light to you and me. It’s no wonder that people told Moses that Eldad and Medad were acting as prophets. Moses’ friends probably thought these two were trying to take control of the camp. And if they weren’t, at the least, they weren’t part of the 70 chosen to be prophets and so God may be furious at their speaking God’s Words.
Moses’ right hand says — stop them!
But Moses isn’t worried, or upset, or slighted, or jealous. He’s thrilled that others are speaking Gods words, spreading God’s message and says he’d be glad if everyone did this: “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put the Spirit on them!”
Indeed, if you recall, later in the letter to Corinthians we hear that it is only by the Holy Spirit we are able to say “Jesus is Lord.”
Moses knows anyone that is working for God, even if they don’t have official permission to do so, or aren’t pastors, or maybe even aren’t of the same faith… as long as they are doing God’s work and speaking the Spirit of Truth – let them be!
In the days of Joel, the prophet foretells the end of the world. A scary end times full of blood and fire and smoke. He calls these the Last Days.
In the days after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, there were people prophesying without official authority. Without official permission. Without clearance. Once again.
We hear how the early Christians are gathered together when violence strikes. This microburst of wind bellows through the house and tongues made of fire appear above the heads of everyone there — every person — and every person suddenly spoke other languages.
Just like at Babel, languages are spread out.
Just like at Babel, confusion reigns.
People come running to the house – what was that roar from heaven? What is this that everyone is speaking all these languages eloquently and they are NOT from our home counties? How are we to understand this?
Like with Moses, some said — stop them! They’re drunk and out of their minds.
Like with Moses, a leader stands up: this time it is Peter. And Peter, like Moses, says don’t stop the Spirit! Interpret what is happening through the prophet Joel — in the last days, God will pour out the Spirit on sons and daughters, young men and young women, old men and old women, babies and toddlers and preteens and teenagers and the married and unmarried and those who are free and those who are repressed; those who are upstanding citizens and those with criminal pasts — everyone will speak of God and God’s wonders.
As Joel said — there will be signs from heaven. And signs have happened. The Lord’s Great and Glorious day is here: the reign of God, Heaven itself, has come close. All who call upon God are welcome in.
In our days, now, there were people prophesying without official authority. Without official permission. Without clearance. Out of the mouth of babes are words praising the wonders of God. Out of the dreams of the elderly are visions of heaven and God’s good work. Out of the work of the middle aged are glimpses of the Kin-dom of God. What is to be done?
Wherever the Spirit moves, inspiring people to praise God and spread goodness, love, mercy and forgiveness — it should be permitted to flow freely. ((I also don’t think we could stop the Spirit if we tried.))
God’s Holy Spirit comes upon us at all ages and all times infusing us with the power to have faith, keep hope, and do good to one another. It is outside all establishments, cannot be ordered about, cannot be silenced — as Christ told us, we do not know where the wind comes from or where it goes. The Spirit moves, enlivens, and we move and are enlivened with it.
What does that mean? It means in our days, now, the Spirit is testing our church and our lives. Showing us how we need to be more open, more inclusive, and speak words of love and welcome to people we’d rather not… but the Spirit gives us that language and Jesus tells us to go. Go and speak of God’s wonders wherever you find yourself in whatever languages you are gifted to whomever you meet.
The official authority, official permission, official clearance to be a prophet, a witness of God, a pastoral presence, has been given to you. You here today received this when you were baptized with water and with the fire of the Spirit.
Therefore, we are all God’s prophets. All God’s witnesses; because we are all God’s children.
John 14:8-17 [25-27]
I never met my great grandpa Lawrence “Bae.” He died before I was born. But I can tell you about him: he was a hobby photographer long before cell phone cameras or even Polaroids. He captured some of the only photos of the Delaware City Hall fire.
He fell in love with a girl too young to leave her mother. He promised her he was going on a CCC, a Civilian Conservation Corps trip– and then he’d be back to marry her. So Bae ended up in the Grand Canyon building the park we enjoy today. And after a few years, he went back to the girl — who now was a junior in high school — and this time, she was old enough to fall in love back. So Selma and Bae were married, and he signed her report cards while she finished school.
I know that it was actually she who worked – a restaurant, as a highly successful HER realtor – while Bae stayed home with the kids. This was pretty much unheard of in the 1940’s, and is still not common today.
I never met my great-grandpa, but I know him through stories, through his kids and grandkids, who have always tried to model what he taught: to value relationships. To go against the ‘norm’ in favor of doing what is best for those you love. To not be scared to forge new ways.
Have any of you literally met Jesus in the flesh – face to face? Then how can you say you know Jesus?
What about God?
Phillip stands before Jesus and says – Jesus, you know God face to face. Show us God, too. Let us know God as you know God.
And Jesus answers — Phillip? Do you still not know me? Anyone who knows me knows God. But I will die, and will no longer be here. Then how will you know me and know God? Through the Spirit which will abide with you. Then the Spirit will remind you of me, and I will remind you of God. Then you will live in the Spirit, live in me, live in God. Then the works you do will be more complete than those you’ve even seen now because you will be passing on the whole story of God’s love — which is only complete after I am gone.
The promised Spirit arrives fifty days after Passover: it’s been about fifty days since Easter. During this time, the disciples, the women, the little band of people who love Jesus have been keeping his commandments. They are in a locked room – perhaps the same room where the last supper happened – when there is a roar from heaven that sounds like the rush of a violent wind. Glowing threads, like tongues of fire, reached everyone person – and they caught fire with prophecy, with visions, with the ability to speak about Jesus with intense clarity in all languages.
And they passed on the story of God’s love, God’s power and works, as they had known them in Jesus. At Babel, humanity was fractured- each speaking a different tongue and therefore, spread out. But here, at this common house, Babel is reversed: all the different languages bring people together.
What does this mean? What is going on?
Some sneer – even when faced with miracles, some people choose not to believe. Those who sneered said, “These backwards, uneducated Galileans are drunk on new wine.”
Those who sneered didn’t know the truth of their statement. Remember: Jesus said he was bringing new wine for new skins. These people have new bodies – reborn in the Spirit – and now are full of new wine: the wine of Christ which is the Spirit of Truth.
Those who didn’t sneer listened to Peter who quoted the prophet Joel: In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
In Christ, there is no male or female, slave or free, child or adult, Greek or Jew, citizen or illegal citizen, Democrat or Republican, gay or straight, liberal or conservative, sinner or saint – in Christ – EVERYONE receives God’s Spirit. Everyone receives God’s love.
When the church began, that Pentecost two thousand years ago, we began with all tongues, and all view points, and all ages, and all genders, because God poured God’s spirit on EVERYONE who called on the name of the Lord.
And to this day, all who love Jesus, who follow Jesus’ commandments, are infused with the Spirit from God.
This spirit, the Greek word is Paraclete, is an Advocate. Paraclete means the “one who exhorts and encourages,” the one “who comforts and helps,” the one “responds to calls of help,” and the one “who makes appeals on your behalf.” This Holy Spirit, indwelling in us, encourages us to be Christ-like. Comforts and helps us comfort and help others. When we cry for help, the Holy Spirit intercedes, translating our tears and sighs into prayers.
Jesus said he was the first Paraclete, the first to comfort and help, plead our case, and sit with us.
The Spirit is the second.
And both are within and in God. Our God is God, our parent and creator. God our Jesus and savior. and God, the Spirit and Sustainer.
And how do we come to know this God-in-three-persons? This God who’s love is so radical it makes the world think we are drunk on wine?
Though relationships. Jesus tells his disciples he will die, he will be gone from the Earth, but the revelation of God through the Incarnation will not die, and not be gone from the Earth. It will continue in Jesus’ disciples’ community, and continue to be revealed by the Paraclete. The relationship the disciples have known with Jesus doesn’t depend on Jesus’ physical presence: it depends on the community of Christians coming together to love as Jesus loved, to model Jesus for the next generation, and to live into the new reign of God through the power and remembrances of Jesus through the Spirit.
I never physically met my Grandpa Bae. But I know him. I never have physically met Jesus, but I know him. My daughter won’t ever — likely– physically meet them either, but her communities: her family and church — will make sure she knows them.
We will pass on, we will advocate, with inspired tongues, the great deeds of power and love we know God has done in the past and in our own lives. We will pass on a peace that makes no sense. Peace – not as the world gives us in small doses. Peace from war, peace from insecurity, peace from disease – but we will pass on the Peace of Christ. The reassurance that God is with you, God has the final word, God knows what it is like to be human, and God forgives us of our sins. The Peace of knowing God loves us – no matter who we are, or where we are on our walk with God: God loves us.