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The Rev. Dr. Brian Coulter The Rev. Dr. Brian Coulter
The Rev. Dr. Brian Coulter is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Aiken, SC.

Member of:

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Representative of:

First Presbyterian Church, Aiken, SC


Brian Coulter: If Children, Then Heirs

Romans 8:14-17

Day of Pentecost - Year C

June 09, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

 

The text says:

 

They were all together in one place that day,     

gathered together in one place that day.  

 

They had just selected another

to become their new ministry brother.   

 

One more disciple to partner with,  

            Judas no more, now Matthias.   

 

So, their work was now done,  

            yet, also only begun . . .

 

                                     and once again, they waited.   

 

They were all together in one place that day,    

gathered together in one place that day. 

 

            They still missed their friend,  

                        the one with the costly, crossly end.

 

Even though they saw him again,  

                        they see him no more, for he did ascend . . .   

 

                                    so once again, they waited. 

 

They were all together in one place that day,    

gathered together in one place that day. 

 

                        Suddenly, from heaven, there came a sound:

 

                                    this sound went all around,  

around the town went this sound.

 

It was the kind of sound that you couldn't exactly pin down.

It was the kind of sound that you can't really describe or bound.

It was the kind of sound that made your head spin and your mind frown.

 

Suddenly, from heaven, there came a sound:  

 

It seemed violent and fierce and strong.

It lasted only for an instant, but lingered like it was eternally long,  

 

                                    this sound that went all around 

 

                        . . . and it was so sudden.   

 

                                    As unexpected as a first hiccup,  

                                    like the immediate release of a hot pan pick-up.   

 

                                    It was unexpected - to say the least.

                                    It was uninvited and they wished it had ceased.

 

                                    But,              it was there to blow,  

                                                had nowhere else to go,  

 

                                                it was there to thrill,  

                                                gave each of them one of those spine-length chills.   

 

                        That it did,  

                        it did indeed!

This sound that suddenly came from heaven.   

 

They were all together in one place that day,    

gathered together in one place that day. 

 

            The howling, prowling rush of wind

            didn't knock, didn't wait - it just came in.

 

                        It appeared as divided tongues set ablaze.   

                        All the people fell back, looked up, and were amazed.   

 

                                    For it was a sight to be seen

                                    with its bright, holy sheen.   

 

                                                It was awful - yet it filled them with awe.   

                                                It was ugly - yet the most beautiful thing they ever saw.  

 

                        At first these things just seemed to appear, then disperse.  

                        They didn't know if this was a blessing, or a curse.  

 

                                    They froze in the space of that place as the Spirit looked to thaw their hearts.  

                                    They didn't know what to say, but one of them had to be the first to start. 

 

I'd imagine he either rose to his feet or he fell to the floor.  

            (I don't think many of them would have been seated anymore.)

 

            But he spoke, finally, he spoke out loud.  

            He spoke in front of the newly assembled crowd.   

 

            The motley crew that wandered outside.  

The motley crew that wondered inside - what was taking place.  

            So, everyone gathered in close filling all available space.   

 

            So, when the first one to speak finally spoke the first word,  

            everyone was astonished at what each one of them heard.   

 

You see,

he spoke in his language, his language of birth.  

He spoke what he knew, for what it was worth.   

 

But when he spoke the words as his people would speak

everyone out there heard them (each one of them) unique.   

 

They heard these words in the language of their choice.

They heard these words as if from a familiar voice.

 

These words that this first-man-to-speak was speaking

needed no translation - they needed no tweaking.  

 

The Holy Spirit was in that place.  

This reality was present on everyone's face.   

 

As their fear turned to bewilderment,

as their bewilderment turned to laughter,  

they all began to speak. 

And when one finished, one went after.   

 

They quickly discovered it's no talented, tricky speaker,  

but was the spoken Word itself that had become its own seeker.   

 

The Word of God moving in mysterious ways.

The Word of God moving to clear away the haze:

 

spoken through divided tongues set ablaze,

perplexingly overseen from a heavenly gaze.  

 

They were all together in one place that day,    

gathered together in one place that day. 

 

            The howling, prowling rush of wind

            didn't knock, didn't wait - it just came in -

 

                                    each voice transformed on its journey to each ear 

                                    so they could do more than simply listen, but actually truly hear.   

 

But now they were left pondering:       "What does this mean?

      "What was now right?     

      "And how to continue this scene?"

 

 

II

 

We are all together in one place this day,  

gathered (virtually) together in one place this day.   

 

                        Expecting the unexpected in a sense.  Expecting the Spirit to arrive.  

                        It is, after all, from the story of Pentecost that our expectations do derive.   

 

                                    But if it were all to happen like it had so many years before -

                                    honestly, I wonder, if most of us would quickly head for the door.   

 

                        We expect the Spirit.  We expect God's arrival,  

                        but we don't want to be un-necessarily startled.   

 

                                    And it's a terrifying story if you think about it for a while.

                                    It could leave you feeling queasy and uneasy - giving nightmares to a child.   

 

                                                This wind.  

                                                This violent, fierce, strong wind -

                                                uninvited and seemingly-uninhibited.   

 

                                                This wind that arose in their midst that day

                                                if it were to appear in this place:             what would we actually say? 

 

We are all together in one place this day, 

gathered (virtually) together in one place this day.  

 

                        But we do come from different places, different lives, different spheres,  

                        with different perspectives and different views formed over our different years.   

 

                                    Perhaps we'd all react differently.

                                                Maybe we'd all do our own thing, incidentally.

                                    Because we are different people

                                                even though we gather under the same metaphorical steeple.    

                                    Yet so were they - on that day - different.   

                                    Just like we, the same - on this day - yet different.   

 

                                                This wind that arose in their midst that day

                                                if it were to appear in this place:             What would we actually say? 

 

                        It's probable that it'd take us a minute to react to this sudden startle

                        and possible that we'd all decide to depart until . . .

 

                                    we knew how better to handle this sudden interruption.   

                                    (We don't always like surprises, especially not a bewildering eruption!)

 

                        We might leave and go home until we figured out what to do.   

                        We might leave and try to forget whatever conclusions we'd initially drew.   

 

                                    For if we are not still there,  

                                                no longer flames above the hair,

                                                no longer joined in a communal prayer,  

                                                and become armed with plenty of newly-rationalized

explanations to spare. 

                                    For if we are no longer there,  

                                                then we don't care as much about that initial scare.   

 

Because it really is scary to think about what this might mean. 

It'd be truly terrifying to actually reconstruct this as a modern-day scene.             

 

                                    For if we saw something that amazing

                                    and the hairs on our neck were physically raising:

 

                                                it'd be really hard to ignore

                                                            this church thing that many today think of as a bore,  

                                                it'd be really hard to deny

                                                            this Jesus - the crucified and risen guy,  

                                                it'd be really hard to go on with life as usual,  

                                                it'd be an experience infinitely un-doable.   

 

For, if we are honest, much of our life is really un-suitable

                                    if you realize that to God it is all viewable.   

And our inaction in this world would become inexcusable.   

                                    Life would never be the same after that experience - that would be irrefutable.   

 

                        So, it really is scary to think about what this might mean

if this was to become a true modern-day scene.             

 

But, if we actually all stayed in place  

(imagine if you would that this was the case),

 

                                                when suddenly from heaven there came a sound

 

                                    Imagine . . .

                                    we didn't head for the door. 

                                    We decided to wait a little while more. 

 

                                    We didn't flee. We didn't run.

                                    We just stayed put until it was done.   

 

                                    Imagine . . .

if we actually all stayed in the pew

long enough to figure out what this wind wanted us to do.   

God might open our minds to a re-creation           

once afresh, once again, once anew.   

 

This wind. 

This violent, strong, fierce wind:

                        perhaps we would cease to see it as a threat.    

 

                                    What God breathed into us in the beginning

would once again be given to us as a refreshing breath.              

The Spirit of the Living Lord would lead us,  

                                    if we would only let.    

 

And what Paul wrote in Romans

might reach a new level within our emotions:

 

"For all who are led by the Spirit . . . are children of God."

 

 

III

 

They were all together in one place that day,    

gathered together in one place that day. 

 

            The howling, prowling rush of wind

            didn't knock, didn't wait - it just came in -

 

"What does this mean?"  they asked.   

 

While some thought that this meant they had had a little too much wine,  

                                                one named Peter pointed out the time.   

                                                It was morning.  It was only nine . . .  

and if you want to think that - fine.   

                                                But if you want another reason, Peter said, listen to mine.   

 

                       "In the last days it will be . . .  (Peter said that God said.)

                        In the last days you will see . . . (Peter said that God said.)

 

God declares that 'I will pour out my Spirit.'

God will lead the way - there's no need to fear it.   

 

And if we follow, choose to follow the Most High,   

our sons and our daughters shall begin to prophesy. 

 

Our young shall see visions.  Our old shall dream dreams. 

The Spirit will induct us into a holy, whole-new kind of regime."

 

Our choice seems to lie

in whom we ultimately depend and rely -

                        for the Spirit wants to lead us.   

 

We didn't apply. 

We don't know why -

                        but, nonetheless, the Spirit wants to lead us.   

 

And if we are swept-up in all this,  

if we are gathered as an action-oriented squad,

then we are adopted through Christ our Lord:

"for all who are led by the Spirit . . . are children of God."

 

And if we are children                       

and to Abba go our prayers,  

if we are children - we now know           

"if children, then heirs."  

 

Heirs of the kingdom.  

Heirs of the covenant.

Heirs of the promise.

Heirs with Christ. 

 

Through the Spirit we are adopted out of any fear from this world

and we are glorified as we begin to live in this Year of the Lord.   

 

So much grace here,

so many layers . . .  

 

                        So much could be said here,

so many theological frontiers . . .

 

Yet, I'll simply say:

if we are Spirit led, then we know what our God prepares -                                    

for "if children, then heirs."  

 

 

IV

 

They were all together in one place that day,    

gathered together in one place that day. 

 

            The howling, prowling rush of wind

            didn't knock, didn't wait - it just came in -

 

                                    then it quickly led them out

                                    to show them what God was already busy about. 

 

When they chose to follow the Spirit's lead

(and follow the Spirit they did indeed)  

 

they became children of God and "if children, then heirs."

Heirs of the kingdom they were now helping prepare.   

 

The same is true for us

when we learn to trust.    

 

And follow the lead

like Peter and Paul did plead.   

 

If led, then children - "if children, then heirs."

            This is the hope - the promise - the subtext of all of our prayers.

 

So, friends, brothers, sisters, saints:

 

be led by the Spirit, however it may come -  

be led by the Spirit, the Spirit of the One. 

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

 

 


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