Apocalypse Already: Acts 2.1–21

2017.6.4 pentecostDelivered at Ames UCC
on June 4, 2017

©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

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heard rather than read.
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THANKS, BUT NO THANKS
Sometimes this passage feels like a bait and switch. It lures us in with this marvelous moment of human unity and a prediction of even more, only to tell us it won’t really happen until after an apocalyptic encounter between the realms of Earth and those of heaven. I want a direct experience of God, for sure. But who would want the great and glorious day of the Lord if it must be preceded by blood, fire, smoky mist, a blacked sun, and a red moon?

Why does Peter interpret this joyous symphony of speech as a sign of some frightening end of time? Why does God’s presence require apocalypse?

The Bible is quite self-referential. Books of the Bible quote each other constantly, either to retell stories in slightly different ways or to prove a point. The Gospels in the Christian Testament, for example, draw heavily on the prophets of the Hebrew Bible to credential Jesus. So when we hear Peter respond to this theophany, it is not his original speech. He is quoting the prophet Joel.

JOEL AND PETER
Joel’s prophecy is in a book of his name, in a section of the Hebrew Bible known as the Nevi’im, or the Prophets. Like Lamentations, which I referenced last week, Joel’s book is about destruction and loss. But unlike Lamentations, Joel makes a case for God’s coming redemption from suffering in the form of equality among all people. However, that can only happen, Joel says, after an apocalypse.
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What Are We Doing Here? Acts 2.1–4 and 1 Corinthians 12.1–13

Delivered at Ames UCC on May 15, 2016
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Sermons are written to be heard rather than read.
Please join us for worship at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays

WHAT?
What in the world are we doing here? Why do you sit politely in those pews, as people direct you on when to sit, stand, and speak? Why do you literally let this institution put words in your mouth? What good is it doing any of us to participate in this ritual of Sunday Christian worship?

I ask myself those questions all of the time. All of the time I wonder how this—greetings, announcements, passing the peace, call to worship, hymn, prayers of confession and assurance, children’s celebration, scripture, sermon, hymn, Communion, prayers of the people, mission moment, offering, more prayers, another hymn, and benediction—how all of this came to be the primary corporate response to the stories of Moses and Hannah and Jesus and the Marys.

There is nothing in the Bible about pipe organs or stained glass, when to stand or when to shake hands. Yes, there is plenty of instruction about how to worship in a temple in Jerusalem that will never be built again. And the psalms give us more general instruction about joy and harps and horns and song.

But Jesus? Jesus told us to tear down institutions that exist only for their own sake, to pray privately, and to give away all that we have in order to be in utter service to God through service for others.
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