Cultivating People of the Spirit (Laura Crow and Phil Haslanger) 6.9.2019

“There was a sound like a strong wind and like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.”

audio version of Cultivating People of the Spirit

Pentecost – June 9, 2019

Reader 1: Phil Haslanger
Reader 2: Laura Crow

Phil: The story of Pentecost comes in chapter 2 of the Book of Acts. More than a tale of something that happened long ago and far away, this is a story that has been repeated all throughout human history and continues to today. It is a story of the movement of God’s Spirit moving through a community of believers, inspiring them, empowering them, and calling them to action.

Laura: To make this a bit more interactive, the ushers will be moving through you, passing out some props. You are all invited, on this Day of Pentecost, to play the part of the Holy Spirit, falling on the disciples as WIND and FIRE. At times, you will hear the words, “there was a sound like a strong wind and like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.” These are times to use your breath to represent the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s practice… “There was a sound like a strong wind and like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.”

Excellent! Now, let us still our hands and our feet, focus our minds on the presence of God here in our midst, and open our hearts to the movement of the Spirit in this place.

Phil: Our reading from Acts this morning comes from The Message.

When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?” Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

Peter recognized the work of the Holy Spirit and shared the good news of Jesus Christ with all who had gathered. Many believed and were baptized that day and a new movement was born.

There was a sound like a strong wind and like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.

Laura: These early Christians gathered in homes to study scriptures, share life together, pray, and celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The movement grew to include Gentiles and the gospel spread throughout Judea and Samaria, all the way to Rome and the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire. It would be a generation or two before these “people of the Way” fully separated from their Jewish roots and became recognized as a distinct faith tradition.

There was a sound like a strong wind and like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.

Phil: 1500 years later, in Germany, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door at Wittenberg. In Switzerland, Ulrich Zwingli defended his own 67 theses and the Reformation was born. Other reformers like John Calvin, Martin Bucer, William Tyndale, John Knox, and Conrad Grebel would follow, spreading Protestantism across Europe.

There was a sound like a strong wind and like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.

Laura: The Pilgrims established the Plymouth Colony in 1620. Thousands of other Puritans arrived in the Great Migration of 1630-1640, establishing colonies throughout New England.
In 1829, former federal judge James Doty purchased over a thousand acres of swamp and forest land on the isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona, with the intention of building a city in the Four Lakes region. The Wisconsin Territory was created in 1936, bringing settlers from the east coast. A handful of families from upstate New York, in need of a church home, founded First Congregational Church in Madison in 1840.

There was a sound like a strong wind and like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.

Phil: In 1954-55, First Congregational Church purchased 6 lots on Madison’s west side and thirty-five individuals combined their funds to purchase two additional lots. On Sept 18, 1955, the first worship service of Orchard Ridge Congregational Church was conducted in the home of Dr. Gordon and Mrs. Jeanne Garnett. Rev. Alfred Swan, pastor of First Congregational Church (and Jeanne’s father), led the service, standing behind the television which he was using as a podium.

There was a sound like a strong wind and like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.

Laura: In 1956, the church called Rev. Norman “Jack” Jackson as its first pastor. The church continued for meet in the Garnett home and then the Westside Businessmen’s Club. Sunday school was held in people’s homes, and the choir practiced in a bar. Church potlucks took place in the Garnett’s basement. In 1959, everyone, both young and old, brought shovels to join in the groundbreaking for the Worship Hall which intentionally placed the Communion table at the center, symbolizing the radical welcome and fellowship exemplified by Jesus and mirrored in this new community.

This hospitality is reflected not just in architecture and worship, but also is visible in the work of our Catering Mission Team and the numerous ways the Ministry of Congregation Life links people together and building relationship and nurturing community.

There was a sound like a strong wind and like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through our ranks.

Phil: In 1957, the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches united to form the United Church of Christ. Orchard Ridge Congregational Church voted to affirm this merger and changed its name to Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ in 1962.

The church continues to embrace both its independent congregational heritage and leverage the covenantal connections with the wider church, especially in areas of Christian witness and social justice. ORUCC has affirmed UCC witness resolutions as a Just Peace church, an Open and Affirming congregation, a God Is Still Speaking church, and an Immigrant Welcoming congregation. ORUCC also has embraced work of the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center and the progressive Phoenix Affirmations as central to its identity as a Christian community in the world today.

There was a sound like a strong wind and like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.

Laura: From its beginnings, the church welcomed diverse theological perspectives and showed an appreciation for all who journey toward divine wisdom. In the first year of its existence, the church was served by a variety of local clergy from neighboring churches, and even a rabbi from a local synagogue.

Today the church honors as sacred texts not only traditional Christian scriptures found in the bible but also inspired words of other sources that illuminate our path of faith. Today ORUCC shares space and occasional worship with the Madison Mennonite Church, has a dedicated education hour at 9am serving all ages from PreK through adults, and is beginning to take new steps toward laity-driven programming with the hugely successful Youth Forum, the newly created Java & Jesus Mission Team, and a revitalization of the Ministry of Adult Faith Formation.

There was a sound like a strong wind and like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.

Phil: Joy-filled music that delights the senses, inspires the heart, and enhances worship has always been a fixture at Orchard Ridge. The earliest choir rehearsals were held in a local bar – something that might again be a model for community outreach in our time! Vicki Nonn has been our organist and pianist since 1973, and the church now boasts not only a phenomenal choir under the direction of Dr. Bruce Gladstone, but a Hand Bell Choir directed by Bethany Schultz, TWO bands, TRU Function and TRU Gumption led by Rob Martens, and a Children’s Music program led by the amazing Julie Mazer. All genres of music can be found here – including the Bee Gees on occasion.

There was a sound like a strong wind and like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.

Laura: Orchard Ridge is a church planted in a neighborhood and concerned with its neighbors, near and far. Orchard Ridge Nursery School opens in September of 1967, shortly after the dedication of the new education wing and in response to racism cropping up in south Madison. In the 1970’s, ORUCC members helped Ho Chunk and Winnebago people in Black River Falls with a building project. Rev. Deborah Dean initiated the first Youth Mission Trip in 2000 to Red Lake Indian Reservation in MN; youth mission trips have become an annual event under our Youth & Family Pastor, Rev. Tammy Martens. The Southwest Partnership, Car Donation Program, and Heart Room are recent examples of ways this church continues to reach out to its neighbors in the areas of homelessness and economic justice. Gun Violence, Climate Change, Immigration, and Racial Justice issues represent growing edges for us as we respond to the ever-changing needs and opportunities in our community.

There was a sound like a strong wind and like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.

Phil: Orchard Ridge is also a community where life-long connections are made and authentic relationships are nurtured. Each individual’s spiritual journey is unique and can be strengthened through prayers offered in the context of worship, through meditation and labyrinth walks, through the creating, blessing, and gifting of prayer shawls, through a hot meal delivered to your door, through fellowship groups and prayer partners. It is a place of sacrament and ritual, and it is a place where experiments with new ideas and innovations are generally met with curiosity and open minds. Young people and elders, new visitors and long-serving members can find a place of welcome and a place to serve here.

The world is different than it was 60+ years ago when Orchard Ridge Congregational Church was founded, different than in 1840 when our parent church was chartered, and different still from the world of the first Pilgrims who set foot on this continent in 1620. Yet the same Spirit is present here fueling our hearts and inviting us to walk into a new future yet to be written.

There was a sound like a strong wind and like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks.

Laura: It is 2019 and we are the still Christ’s church. ORUCC has been blessed with outstanding pastoral leaders, each called to serve for a part of the journey: Rev. Norman “Jack” Jackson, Rev. Roger Knight, Rev. William Wineke, Rev. Dan Apra, Rev. Stanley York, Rev. Tim Kehl, Rev. Karla Schmidt, Rev. Doug Pierce, Rev. Winton Boyd, Rev. Susan Schneider-Adams, Rev. Deborah Dean, Rev. Tammy Martens, Rev. Ree Hale, and Rev. Ken Pennings. It is humbling for me to stand as your most recent addition to this list of pastors. We are still the church; the Holy Spirit is still active among and through you, the members and friends of this congregation.

As we look to the future, we look with hope that God will guide our steps and inspire our actions. We strive to open ourselves to continue to faithfully proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to all the world and trust the Holy Spirit to give us words to speak in languages that our current culture understands. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *