Scripture/Sermon of the Day.  May 23, 2021
John 15:26-27; 16:13a-15   Common English Bible

26 “When the Companion comes, whom I will send from the Father—the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 You will testify too, because you have been with me from the beginning.
12 “I have much more to say to you, but you can’t handle it now. 13 However, when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in all truth.

Reflection/Sermon:

I.      I’m thinking about cigarettes.  Today is the day we call Pentecost, and I’m thinking about the packages that cigarettes come in.  Especially the warning label on them.  As of March, 2020, there are 11 warnings, one of which must appear on every pack of cigarettes.  They are written warnings AND a picture.  For example, one of the new warnings says:  Tobacco smoke can harm your children.  There’s a picture of a little boy or girl with a plastic oxygen mask covering his nose and mouth and his eyes have red rings around them and it looks like a five year old child who just woke up with a bad hangover and is breathing oxygen.  Another has a man who looks like someone in one of the Walking Dead episodes and it says, “Smoking causes cataracts which can lead to blindness.”
          There are two warnings on alcoholic beverages.  1) WOMEN SHOULD NOT DRINK ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES DURING PREGNANCY BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF BIRTH DEFECTS. 2) CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES IMPAIRS YOUR ABILITY TO DRIVE A CAR OR OPERATE MACHINERY, AND MAY CAUSE HEALTH PROBLEMS.

II.     I am grateful for these warnings but people may not listen to them.  Maybe that zombie picture of the man on the cigarette package will at least cause someone to stop and think before they smoke.
        It’s caused me to think.  I’m thinking about this day — Pentecost.  Pentecost is referred to as the “The Birthday of the Church.”  In the second chapter of the book of Acts a big crowd was gathered.   And “a fierce wind” blew through everyone and they all became ecstatic with love for everyone and they all started speaking and everybody understood everybody else even though people spoke in different languages.
        People were on fire with love.  Egyptians, Greeks, Israelis, Turks, Italians!  All loving each other, having a big party and everyone’s dancing and having so much fun — but nobody was drinking.  They were drunk with the holy spirit!
        That’s how the church started— with the breath of God blowing through everyone like the wind, changing everyone’s hearts from fear and suspicion to love.

III.    AND THAT’S HOW THE CHURCH IS LIKE SMOKING CIGARETTES AND DRINKING ALCOHOL — IT WILL CHANGE YOU.   Maybe churches also should post warnings on their buildings?  Because there is a risk that every time we open the Bible and read something, there’s a a good chance Christ will come into us and the hateful and bigoted and mean parts of us will die.
        We need a warning posted that when we follow Jesus, we will change.  There’s a serious probability we will fall in love WITH ANYONE!  That’s exactly what my father warned me not to do— he said, “Don’t just fall in love with just anybody.”
        But with the holy spirit and the life of Jesus Christ blowing through us — that’s what will happen!  We’ll fall in love WITH ANYBODY!  We’ll love indiscriminately!

IV.     So listen to my warning.  I THINK IT’S TOO LATE FOR ME.  I’ve succumbed to grace!  Just last Friday morning I was driving Annie to Hillhouse High School field house in New Haven for her 1st Covid vaccination.  I’m driving and Annie is next to me texting one of her friends and I saw a young man walking on the sidewalk.  He had on a backpack and looked like he was singing and moving his arms to a rhythm.  He was walking and dancing at the same time, and he wore these l brightly colored clothes, yellows, blacks, greens and oranges.  HE LOOKED SO BEAUTIFUL — I wanted to stop the car, right there in the middle of the road, cars behind me — and run over and hug him and say, “You look amazing!” Of course I didn’t do this — but as the holy spirit and Jesus come into us, we will have these hard-to-resist urges to love people and even to thank God all day long, whatever happens, just for the the gift of being alive.

V.      Tom Parlapiano had this great suggestion that we attach a simple but beautiful large banner which is made by our denomination to the front of our church.  It looks like a warning label on cigarettes and alcohol!  I like it because people drive by here and don’t know what we believe or practice.  And THE BANNER WOULD WARN THEM that what we do here will change them.
 It  says:
BE THE CHURCH
Protect the environment.
Care for the poor.
Forgive often.
Reject racism.
Fight for the powerless.
Share earthly and spiritual resources.
Embrace diversity.
Love God.
Enjoy this life.

VI.     Yes, because we need to let people know that there are risks and hazards in following Jesus.
        It’s pentecost today, so when you go outside and feel the wind blowing on your face and ruffling your clothing, know that God comes to us like that.  The holy spirit will blow into us and for reasons we don’t understand, we will want to thank God or hug somebody.  We will forget our grudges and forgive what seemed unforgivable.
        So beware.  God is here —
And Jesus will visit you today —
And the holy spirit will dance on your head like a fire!
And you will be born again in the image of God’s love. So don’t say I didn’t warn you!