In the gospel of John, Jesus begins his ministry with wine.
At a wedding feast, and at the direction of his mother, he converts water in to wine.
Not just a little wine. A lot of water. Six jars that could each hold 30 gallons. 180 gallons of wine.
And not just a lot of wine, but really good wine. The kind of wine that made people notice.
It was said, most people serve the good wine first and the bad wine later, but even people who had been drinking could tell there was something special about this wine.
Jesus not only begins his ministry with wine, he ends his ministry with wine.
He gathers his disciples and friends together around a table that we call the last supper. He shares bread with them and says this is my body given for you and he shares a cup of wine with them, a new covenant poured out for you.
After this meal Jesus is betrayed and arrested, beaten and killed, died and rose again.
The Resurrected Christ appeared among the disciples, showing them the holes in his hands and teaching them what all of this meant.
And as he ascended in to heaven, he told them to wait, that God would send another.
They waited together
Seemingly without warning
A violent rush of wind
Tongues of fire
And the Good News is proclaimed and heard in Latin and Greek and Hebrew and Egyptian and Arabic. In every tongue!
Most are amazed to be able to hear the story of God’s powers in their own tongue, but others sneered and said they are filled with new wine.
They accused them of being drunk.
Peter says they are not drunk, it is only 9 in the morning. Obviously, Peter has not been to some of the places I have been. In the community where I serve, a person drunk at 9 in the morning is not outside the realm of possibility.
Now, while I have talked with plenty of drunk people in the work that I do, I have never met a drunk person that I could understand more clearly than a sober person. So the accusation seems a little strange, not because of the time of day, but because of an increased ability.
And yet, without knowing it, the accusers were right.
They were filled with new wine.
Not the wine of alcohol, but the wine of the Holy Spirit.
Earlier in his ministry Jesus talked about not pouring new wine in to old wine skins. In Jesus day, new wine was a wine that had not yet been fermented. As it fermented and built up pressure, it would burst an old skin. Think of the pressure that is built up in canning and how that can burst.
In the book of Job, Job compares being filled with God’s Spirit to new wine. He says: I am full of words; the spirit within me constrains me. My heart is indeed like wine that has no vent; like new wineskins, it is ready to burst. I must speak, so that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer.
On Pentecost the disciples are filled with the new wine of God’s Holy Spirit that has been poured out. They can not stay silent. They are the rocks crying out. They must speak. They are bursting!
For the Good News of God’s work is a new wine given for everyone. This is not just a message for the Jewish people, but for every person. Prophets are no longer a special category of called religious mystics, it says even slaves shall prophesy.
God’s work of salvation is complete.
So much so, that every person who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Every person!
Pentecost is as significant to the work of God in the world as Christmas and Easter. It is on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit is poured out, that the gospel is spoken and heard in every language, that the invitation to be a part of God’s work is given to all people, that all shall be saved.
And the powerful thing about Pentecost is not merely its historical significance, but that it is a present reality. We are Pentecost people! Not because we wear red shirts when the church calendar tells us to, but because the new wine of God’s Holy Spirit is poured out amongst us every moment of every day.
I am blessed that I serve at a Pentecost church.
Now, we are not a Pentecostal Church. You wont normally see people speaking in tongues or expressing their faith charismatically, but the Church for All People is a Pentecost church because it is a place where God’s Spirit is moving and alive and bringing about new things almost every day.
When we begin our worship services, we use the same call to worship every time. Within that call to worship we say “God loves us just the way we are and God isn’t finished with any of us yet.”
God isn’t finished with any of us, but God’s Spirit is moving within us as individuals and collectively as the church.
This morning I want to share with you some ways that God is moving in the work we are doing at the church for all people.
When I was here with you last year, I told you about the work we are doing in housing. In the last decade, we have done more than $55 million of housing rebuilds and renovations, transforming abandoned and burned up properties in to new homes. We have touched about one in four homes in the neighborhood surrounding our church. We have taken properties that were once the place of unwanted activities and cleaned them up and made them places where children openly play.
But God isn’t finished with us yet.
This year we started a new pilot project called CareHomes in which we are taking pregnant women off the streets and putting them in housing. One of the major health issues in our community is infant mortality. In the United States, 6 babies per thousand don’t reach their first birthday; in our community the rate for African American babies is 19 per thousand. So we are treating housing as a vaccine, paying half the rent for homeless pregnant women, and connecting them with jobs and resources so by the time their child turns one they are independent and self-sustaining.
This summer we will be opening a complex of 68 apartments and townhouses that will include 2,400 square foot of workforce development space. A person can move in to the complex with a section 8 housing voucher and within that same facility receive training for specific jobs and we have employers lined up to hire people.
In the Healthy Eating and Living program I lead, last year we gave out more than 640,000 pounds of produce to more than 28,000 people. We trained almost a thousand people in how to make healthy meals for a family of four for under $5. We run six different exercise programs. But God’s isn’t finished with us yet.
But God isn’t finished with us yet.
The number one indicator of what your health will be is not your genetic code, it is your zip code.
If you walked out the front doors of our church and looked across the street, the first thing you would see is a drive thru liquor store. So while we are doing all this work to transform the health of our community, we still have the reality of our world right there.
The liquor store went out of business the first of the year. A couple of months ago the property was acquired and this summer we will be moving our fresh market in to what was a liquor store. We will be transforming the beer cave in to a classroom where health and wellness classes will be taught. The parking lot will be a home to farmers markets and health food trucks. This will be a space where we build community around healthy food.
God is not finished with us yet.
We are not just a place that offers social service programs, we are a church. And back in February we took 30 people from our community to the Holy Land.
I am sure that Clyde has shared with you the opportunity and power of making trips to the Holy Land. I went to Israel last year and had one of the most significant religious experiences of my life.
But that is an opportunity normally reserved for people who can afford it.
We took people who never could afford a trip like that, people who never can afford a vacation at all. People who had never been on an airplane, people who had never been out of the state of Ohio.
The very people Jesus described when he said “blessed are the poor” walked where Jesus walked and experienced many firsts.
One of the most significant stories came from a man named Donald who celebrated his 40th birthday while on the trip. At dinner that night, the lights were lowered, people sang happy birthday, and a cake was placed in front of him. Something that most of us have experienced.
Donald cried and said he had never had a cake with his name on it before.
God is not finished with any of us yet.
Our God is a God who does new things and who is always at work.
I know that God has done amazing things here at St Johns. You have two of the best pastors in the conference, an amazing choir, our kids played sports here, you support missionaries like me. This is a great church, but God is not finished with you yet.
In the coming months and years you have an opportunity to live in to a new relationship with Grace United Methodist Church. The church I serve today opened the first free store and Grace is one of over 100 churches around the country that now has a free store.
When we invite people to be a part of the free store community, we not only hope that people will make a donation to help someone else, but we invite them to follow the donation. To come and serve along side the people of our community, and to build relationships of mutuality.
When you serve with people, you learn their name and they learn yours, you hear their story and they hear yours, you build a friendship where you care about them and they care about you.
On Pentecost the story of God’s power was shared with every group of people and all were saved. As God has given you this opportunity you not only have the chances to share gifts of grace and love and salvation with others, but to experience them for yourself.
Be filled with the new wine of God’s Holy Spirit, for God is not finished with you yet.