This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached this morning, the Day of Pentecost. The reading I preached on was Acts 2:1-21. Today we also celebrated the Confirmation of three of our young people, named Hannah, Lauren, and Owen. As I usually do on Confirmation days, I spoke to the confirmands for much of the sermon, and it was geared directly for them. For that reason, this may be less interesting or accessible for those who are not part of Prince of Peace Ev. Lutheran Church. I’d be curious to know if that’s the case…feel free to let me know in the comment section.
Good morning, Owen, Lauren, Hannah. Looking at the three of you here, you know what I’m reminded of? Hogwarts. Hogwarts, the school of magic in the Harry Potter universe. And here’s why. It’s because you remind me of the Sorting Hat.
When a young wizard arrives at Hogwarts, one of the first things that happens is they are sorted into one of the houses at Hogwarts. Each house has kind of a personality, a flavor, certain traits that everyone in that house fits into. And the Sorting Hat puts each student in the right house. that. It’s a magical, living hat that can read the student’s mind and heart, and it places them in the house that fits them best.
One house is Hufflepuff. Students in Hufflepuff are devoted to hard work, dedication, quiet loyalty. Lauren, if we had a sorting hat here, I think you’d be placed in house Hufflepuff. You work quietly behind the scenes here at church, setting up for events and worship services, working on service projects. You don’t like to be the center of attention, but you work hard to make things happen. You and Hannah and Owen each chose a Bible verse for your confirmation today, and yours was this: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” That’s a Hufflepuff Bible verse, Lauren. It’s not flashy, it’s not glitzy, but boy does it work hard. Martin Luther called it the gospel in miniature. Good choice.
And then there’s house Ravenclaw, a house focused on wisdom, intelligence, and wit. Owen, I believe that you would be a Ravenclaw. God has blessed you with quite an intellect, and I am heartened to know that you plan to use that intellect for good. Your dream right now is to become a surgeon, to hone your skills for the sake of saving lives. The Bible verse you chose was Proverbs 13:20: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm.” A Ravenclaw passage for sure. Keep walking with the wise, Owen. You’ll be fine.
And Hannah, House Gryffindor, the house of courage and bravery. I see that in you because whenever we talk about living our faith in our daily life, you are always trying to do that, Hannah. You are always willing to talk about your faith with others. You always try to put your faith to work. And that is not an easy thing to do, as many of us can attest. That takes bravery and courage and faith. Your Bible verse is Matthew 5:14: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.” And that’s you, Hannah. You are Christ’s light, bravely and brightly shining on a hill for all to see.
So here’s one thing I’m good at: putting people in boxes. I don’t mean literally putting people in boxes. I mean labeling people. Lauren, the hard worker. Owen, the whiz kid. Hannah, the brave one. I’m good at that. It helps me make sense of the world. If I can label something, I can understand it better. The trouble is that when I do this, it’s hard to see beyond those labels, beyond those boxes. One of the troubles with Hogwarts is that kids in each house tend to stay in their houses. They tend to become attached to that identity. Those houses actually build barriers between people. That’s a side effect of labeling people like I do: barriers are built.
But here’s one thing God’s good at: breaking down barriers. Breaking down all the barriers that are between us. And that, I think is one of the things that Pentecost is all about.
On Pentecost, the barriers between people dissolved, as the Holy Spirit filled the house where the apostles were sitting. Filled that house with wind and with fire. Filled that house with the Spirit of God. Filled that house so full that it burst. The house didn’t literally burst, but it might as well have, as the apostles came tumbling out, each of them filled with the Holy Spirit, each of them speaking words of hope, words of comfort, words of encouragement, words of resurrection to all the people gathered there, people who were so different from one another, people who had such barriers between them. Even language barriers. They all spoke different languages. But those barriers just faded away in the face of the Holy Spirit. And everyone was able to understand the apostles, to hear them speaking the good news about Jesus. And that was just the beginning. The Holy Spirit arrived on the day of Pentecost, but the Holy Spirit kept on going. And going. And going. And going. All through the book of Acts, the disciples remained filled with the Spirit each and every day, and the Spirit was a Spirit of Wisdom, like House Ravenclaw. It was a Spirit of Courage, like House Gryffindor. It was a Spirit of Hard Work and Dedication, like House Hufflepuff. The disciples were not stuck in any box. They were set free. The Spirit set them free to share that Spirit in all sorts of ways, through healing and proclaiming and encouraging. Just like the three of you. Hannah, Lauren, and Owen, I see you as fitting into Hogwarts houses, but I could be totally wrong about that. But God sees you as far more. You are filled with the Holy Spirit. You have been since the day you were baptized. Today we celebrate that Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the Spirit of joy in God’s presence. The Spirit that is within you. The Spirit that is bubbling up within you, filling you so much that you just might burst, that you just might overflow with that Spirit, that you just might share it with the whole world.
And you have done that already. And you will continue to do it even more. You have the gifts of the Spirit. And through the Spirit, you will share those gifts throughout the world.