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The book of Acts begins in very dramatic fashion. Starting after the resurrection, and as a continuation to the Gospel of Luke, Acts tells the story of the earliest church, with the amazing ascension of Jesus leading the way. Before Jesus  ascends to heaven, he tells the disciples that they should wait for the Holy Spirit, who will come to them and show them how to proceed. Next, we find the disciples acting to fill the vacant position in their group left by the death of  Judas and, relying on the Holy Spirit, they choose Matthias. Then, Acts jumps to the day of Pentecost, when the  disciples are caught up in the Holy Spirit and empowered to begin to take the message of Jesus Christ to the world. In stirring prose, we hear the rush of a mighty wind and find the Spirit alighting upon each of the disciples, filling them  with the Holy Spirit. Flush with the Spirit, the disciples began to speak in various languages, and their words were understood by the travelers to Jerusalem, each in his own native tongue. Peter, filled with the Spirit, preaches the gospel message to the crowd, converting thousands to belief in Jesus that very day. And the church is born.

Do you notice anything similar about these stories, and what serves as the strength and power behind these mighty deeds? It is the Holy Spirit, of course, promised by Jesus to his followers and fully delivered on the day of Pentecost. It is because of this gift of the Spirit and the beginning of the Christian Church that our congregation has chosen to confirm our young people on Pentecost Sunday. By doing so, we connect ourselves to the very beginning of the sharing of the gospel with the world, and with the Holy Spirit whom we still proclaim and affirm as guiding the church’s life and ministry in the world. As our young people affirm their own baptisms, they also affirm their connection to a church that goes all the  way back to this eventful day. This church, the one born on Pentecost, is our church.

Yet, sometimes we feel  disassociated with the early church and the followers of Jesus who spoke so powerfully and were filled so full of the Holy Spirit. Where has this Spirit gone? Has God taken the Holy Spirit away from the church, or maybe pulled back on the gifting of the Spirit so that we, today, receive a smaller dose? Where is the Holy Spirit at work in our church? Why don’t we seem to receive such dramatic presentations of the Holy Spirit today? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Spirit would swoop in as if on the wings of doves and inspire us by showing us exactly what to do and say? And why aren’t those tongues of fire alighting on us anymore?

In fact, we do claim to be a church infused with the Holy Spirit. As God’s promised gift to the church, we believe the Holy Spirit is active still in the life and the future life of the church. One of our most important tasks as the people of God is to discern the Spirit at work among us, guiding us and empowering us to share the love of Christ with the world. While this may not seem as dramatic as tongues of fire or swooping doves, it is in fact how the Spirit has been promised to us, as the Counselor or Advocate for the Church. By the way, I still find the Spirit’s entrance into our lives to be dramatic. Have you ever watched a baptism? Have you heard the words of promise spoken over the child’s life as water and the sentence, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” are spoken? What can be more dramatic than an event where God claims to love an individual and give that individual life forever? Still, as the baptized, spirit filled people of God, we constantly try to discern the Spirit at work among us, through Scripture, through the proclamation of the Gospel, through worship and prayer, through dialogue, through insight and inspiration, through wisdom, and through whatever means the Spirit chooses to encounter us. The Holy Spirit has not left us, but continues to touch us, calling us to share the love of Christ with the world… our great mission. In Confirmation, as our young people affirm their baptismal promise, they, too, connect with this Spirit, as we did at our Confirmation. They, too, continue on a journey with us, Spirit-led, to be the people of God, actively sharing God’s love with all of God’s children.