Holy Spirit, Holy Unpredictable

Traditional Sermon
Pentecost Sunday

A woman told me a story about something that happened to her several years before. She was a faithful woman. A lifelong Lutheran. She went to church every single week. Her piety was a quiet one. Not loud, not proud, just pious. One day she went to church and in the midst of intercessory prayers the pastor said, “O Lord we offer to you our prayers, aloud or silently in our hearts…” This was always her cue to become very quiet and silently pray for her family, and that’s when she heard someone. Someone near her speaking. Not only speaking, but speaking in tongues!

There was someone right next to her speaking in tongues. At a Lutheran church no less!She was amazed at this. No Lutheran she had ever encountered spoke in tongues. And then to her further amazement she realized that she understood what this woman near her was saying. She could interpret it all! And the words from St. Paul struck her “to each is given the gift of the spirit for some the various kinds of tongues and to another the interpretation of tongues.”

She realized her gift…she was an interpreter of tongues. Wow! Who knew!

And then it dawned on her. The tongue in which this woman was speaking…seemed almost too familiar to her ears. And that’s when she realized the woman’s tongue was Spanish.

The Pentecost story we hear today teaches us a few things and gives us a Linguistics lesson about the many languages of God and how regardless of what is our native tongue it can be a Godly one. We see in this story the very different expressions of where the Spirit is and how the Spirit leads.

And when it comes to the Holy Spirit, all bets are off. Things get pretty unpredictable. Just scan the pages of the new testament and you will see for yourself the unpredictability of God. The other week Pastor Craig and I were in one of the mission and vision forums. And as a group we were looking at core values that our congregation shares and doing Bible study. The core values pointed to some interesting things…oh by the way…we have another forum about mission and vision coming up next Sunday after church…but I digress.

The Bible study for one of our forums focused on the commission of the church as described by the Gospel writers Matthew, Mark and Luke. And each Gospel writer had something to say about how the gift of the Spirit of Christ directs the church…with the predictable–go, teach, baptize to the unpredictable. The group was surprised that the Gospel of Mark indicated that some of the signs of the spirit’s presence would be speaking in tongues and snake handling.

Now unless there’s a night that I’m not here for snake and reptile handling committee, I don’t think that’s been a practice at St. Peter’s, but for some of our Christian brothers and sisters in the world, it is. For some speaking in tongues is, as well. The spirit is unpredictable! Regardless of how the Spirit manifests, the spirit’s work is alive and well  when you see people working together in Jesus’ name to give God glory and to serve our neighbor and the the world that God so dearly loves.

There’s a story in Genesis where all the people get together and decide “let’s make a great name for ourselves…” so they decide to build a large tower a tower to reach into the heavens so that all would notice them and their achievements. And they built up their tower to reach to the very heights of God built on stone and their own arrogance and God humbles them.. And this tower from that point on was called the Tower of Babel because in the attempt to make a great name for  themselves they lost the ability to use the same name for anything, and lost the ability to speak in the same language.

And fast forward to that Pentecost morning when rather than men and women trying to climb up to God, God comes down in fire and wind. And again we see men and women struck with different languages, but rather than it leading to confusion it leads to communication. For the first time the church is able to tell the story of Jesus in multiple languages. And rather than being scattered by fear and disorientation they are scattered by the hand of God to the four corners of the world. With the Gospel on their lips and the Spirit in their heart. Gifted with the Holy Spirit to bless the world.

Now here’s the thing there wasn’t just one Pentecost a long, long time ago in a country far, far away. Pentecosts are happening all the time. In the book of Acts we read about Pentecosts erupting in unpredictable places. When the Apostle Philip offers some roadside assistance and the Spirit drives him and a foreigner into conversation, and grace and conversion. When the enemy of God’s people–a man named Saul encounters the risen Christ and becomes the great apostle Paul…who thanks to him we have many of the books of the new testament. When Peter is struck by the spirit in a dream that dividing lines and barriers that separated he and other people of faith are no more because of the work of Christ.

And the Pentecosts continue today…for whenever the Spirit is poured out, amazing things happen.

And God is scattering the spirit all over the world. And sending God’s people to different corners of the world God so loves.

From Tanzania where our brothers and sisters in Busoka with relationships strengthening and a mission shared…the world seems a small place.

To missionaries around the globe. In fact, we get to meet two of those missionaries this summer who were most recently in Kenya and Tanzania connecting doctors to women in need. And educators connecting youth to advanced schooling…a reality that would have been a distant dream twenty years ago.

To our backyard where in Manheim Township can attend school with dignity aided by clothes that you donate to Lydia’s Closet.

To men and women in our downtown who can find hospitality and a good food from the meals that St. Peter’s participates in.

To a Christian education year filled with holy conversation.

To a summer with so many opportunities for you to have heart-felt, caring conversations and holy moments.

Scattered to a variety of summer locations, many sent to outdoor ministry sites experiencing the Spirit’s guidance in Lutheran camps and beyond.

To the way you greet visitors who bless us and welcome them in Jesus’ name.  

To the dreaming that we can have about how God is calling us into the future. These are some of our Pentecost moments where we gather as one, the Spirit pours out and we are sent out in the name of Jesus.

The Spirit will continue to pour out in your life. This summer, what will be your Pentecost moment?



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Rev. Sarah Teichmann

Pastor of Christian Formation

Pastor Sarah served as Pastor of Christian Formation at St. Peter’s from 2014 – 2021. She now serves the wider church as a partner at Kirby-Smith Associates.


    1. Thanks for the lovely comment! With the internet sometimes these sermons can come to you! Blessings on the day and the week ahead.

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