Old Recipe, New Twist

Rebecca Sheridan
Sunday, June 5, 2022
Acts 2:1-21

    Recently, Rich and I wanted to cook one of our favorite recipes, but when I went digging through our refrigerator and pantry, I realized if I made it just a little bit differently than usual, I wouldn’t have to go food shopping.  Instead of regular tomatoes, we had these multicolored cherry tomatoes – yellow, orange, red, and even green colored tomatoes.  Instead of regular mustard, we had some Swedish honey mustard given to us as a gift for Easter. And instead of regular cheddar cheese, we had white cheddar – nothing too out there, but different from the “usual” way I made this particular risotto.  It was delicious – in fact, dare I say it, it was better than usual!  The white cheese and rice blending in with the sweet honey flavor of the mustard and the eye-popping multicolored tomatoes made me want to make this risotto this way every time!  But my kids, not surprisingly for young children, had the exact opposite reaction – “I like the way you usually make it, Mommy.  This way is yucky.”  Per our household rules, they had to eat it once, and then instead of leftovers, they got hot dogs the next time.  
    Today is Pentecost, the big festival of the Holy Spirit!  Pentecost is an old Jewish festival celebrating the wheat harvest – Shavuot in Hebrew.  It also is a time to commemorate the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.  Jews from all over are gathered in Jerusalem celebrating this ancient festival; but God changes the recipe for this particular Pentecost celebration and throws in a new tradition – the Holy Spirit fills the room and people who don’t speak the same language begin to understand one another and are able to communicate with one another.  Tongues of fire rest upon all of the believers.  People respond differently to the excitement and dramatic appearance of the Holy Spirit on this Pentecost.  They’re amazed, perplexed – wondering what it all means, and some sneer and suggest “this is yucky. I liked Pentecost the old way.  These people must be drunk.”  Ultimately, the Holy Spirit equips the growing church of Christ to continue to fulfill Jesus’ mission to baptize and make disciples of all nations.
    Peter in his preaching in Acts 2 tries to help everyone see that the Holy Spirit doing a new thing at Pentecost doesn’t mean throwing out the baby with the bath water.  God is still God and Lord of the harvest.  The Ten Commandments are still the Ten Commandments.  He quotes the prophet Joel to connect what God has done in the past to the new thing God is doing with the followers of Jesus gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit has been poured out upon all flesh so that young and old, men and women, slave and free will be able to participate in Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of God, dream, prophesy, and proclaim Christ’s salvation. It’s the same festival of Pentecost.   It’s the same vision from the prophets of old, but there’s a new twist – Jesus the Messiah has come, he has ascended, and he has sent his Holy Spirit to be our Advocate, Comforter and Guide so that we can live and love like Jesus loves.
    Just like the early church in Jerusalem, still today, there are at least two kinds of people – the people like my kids who like eating the same recipe prepared the same way time after time – celebrating the holidays and keeping the traditions, finding comfort in stability and knowing our God is unchanging.  And then, there are people who are on the lookout for adventure, who seek out not just different ways to make the same recipe but different recipes altogether, who get bored eating the same food too often and who welcome new experiences; knowing God’s Holy Spirit calls us to do a new thing.  And then here are people, like me, probably like most of us, who find themselves somewhere in the middle – liking mixing it up once in a while but also appreciating keeping old traditions.
    Pentecost is a day where we celebrate both.  We celebrate the Holy Spirit’s ability to challenge and surprise us, to do new things through us and call us to be in relationship with new people who are different from us.  We celebrate that the festival of Pentecost is rooted in an ancient tradition of worshiping God as the giver of all good things including rules for us to live by, and that the Holy Scriptures in the Old Testament with the prophet Joel as well as the New Testament in the book of Acts root us and ground us in our purpose as God’s faithful people.  Every Sunday, in fact, we listen to really old passages written by people who lived very differently from us and yet we hear a relevant word from God that speaks to our lives today – sometimes comforting us, sometimes challenging or even chastening us.  We sing old songs and new songs.  We pray old prayers and new prayers.  And we ask along with the people who were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Pentecost in Acts – “What does this mean?”  What has God done for us in the past, and what God up to right now, here today?
    Our scriptures today remind us that the Holy Spirit abides in us.  This is our foundation as people of faith.  Since the time of Abraham and Moses, we have been called by God to be witnesses to God being with us.  This is the basic message that will never change.  Jesus assures us especially when we are confused and afraid:  the Holy Spirit is with us forever and abides in us.  God is with us and will never leave us or forsake us.  But then, we are reminded that just because God is with us doesn’t mean that God expects all of us to be the same or do things the same way.  We speak different languages.  We are different ages.  We come from different socioeconomic backgrounds and genders.  God’s Holy Spirit embraces this diversity of people of faith.  The Holy Spirit inspires us to dream of new ways to tell the old old story of Jesus and his love and gives us the power and the strength to do it, even if we are people who usually would prefer to stick with the old recipe.
    For those of you who were able to attend our annual Memorial Day breakfast and parade last Monday, it was a Pentecost kind of moment for me.  It was my first Memorial Day celebration here in Syosset because of the pandemic.  We followed the basic recipe from past events – set up on the front patio with tents, provide bagels, juice, water and coffee.  Invite our Nursery School.  But we tried a few new things – a post on social media, some flyers handed out in the neighborhood.  Inviting groups like the Boy Scouts and Chinese Learning Center who use our space.  A few people from the neighborhood asked if THEY could bring something!  And people from all different languages and places – living right around the corner and coming from other towns in some instances joined us right outside the doors of our church for a fantastic community celebration.  It made me wonder what else God might be calling us to try – an old recipe with a new twist.  This Pentecost, let’s not only celebrate the Holy Spirit at work in our lives today, but every day, and look for ways we can be witnesses out in the world to God being with us – guiding us to new ventures and supporting us in our regular daily lives.  May we continue to be open to God doing a new thing in us, resting in the never-ending, always present abiding love of Jesus.  Amen.