Tommy Lasorda, long time manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers, was one of those colorful figures in baseball. He was also one of the few who believed in the inspirational value of the pep talk. Sometimes it worked. And then, sometimes it didn’t.
In 1985 Lasorda welcomed his Dodgers to Florida for spring training and immediately launched into a pep talk with a “patriotic” theme.
Tommy said to his troops, “If the president of the United States informed me I had to take twenty-five guys to Nicaragua to fight for the United States, I’d take you twenty-five guys who are going to play for me.” There was dead silence in the locker room.
Then Orel Hershiser, the mild-mannered, much admired right-hand pitcher, spoke up. “You better make that twenty-four, skipper,” Hershiser said, “And one conscientious objector.”
Sometimes pep talks work and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes we get excited for awhile, but then that excitement fades. The excitement and the enthusiasm of that first Pentecost didn’t fade. It made a permanent change in the disciples’ lives. Listen to the passage from Acts 2:1-21 (NRSV)
 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.
 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.
 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.
 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
When the sound like a rush of mighty wind came and the Spirit appeared like tongues of flame, “They were thunderstruck,” as the Message puts it. When the spirit came upon the disciples it changed everything. Just look what happened to them. From timid, tepid souls they became vital, vigorous almost unstoppable champions of this new faith. Look at Peter. This is the same Peter who stuttered and stammered, made all kinds of excuses and denied even knowing Jesus, not once but three times, on the night of the crucifixion.
Here he is, standing before the crowds, preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ so fearlessly and powerfully that when he finished, people were so excited, so moved that they began asking, “What should we do?” Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized.” They did and they were; to the tune of about three thousand of them. That was just the beginning. The power of God was in those words. Peter’s message was more than a pep talk. It was real and drew on the power of God. That made the difference.
Just like the disciples, we draw our power for living the Christian life from the same unseen presence of Christ, the Holy Spirit. In “The Korean Creed” one of our affirmations of faith, we have one of the best summations of the work of the Holy Spirit. It says, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, God present with us for guidance for comfort, and for strength.” And that’s the key. The Holy Spirit is simply God available and approachable, God present with us “For Comfort, Guidance and Strength.”
A. God is present with us for Comfort. Have you seen the new Star Trek yet? Mary and took time to go see it and it was great. There’s one scene that I think speaks to this whole idea of Comfort. Dr. Leonard McCoy is on a shuttle to take him to Star Fleet Academy. The problem is, he is afraid to fly and figures if he hides in the bathroom, irrationally reasoning that if he doesn’t have windows, and can’t see space, he’ll be safe. As the security officers are moving him to his seat you hear him say, “I don’t NEED a doctor, I AM a doctor” Watch
They haven’t even made it to Star Fleet Academy, and, already, McCoy is out of the battle because of his fear. Some people are that way, fear runs their lives. Peter was that way until Pentecost. The Holy Spirit filled him with the Comfort he needed to overcome that fear. James T. Kirk plays that role for McCoy. The point is, this is Pentecost Sunday today we give thanks that we have a very real comforter, a counselor, an unseen presence to see us through those times when we are filled with fear and doubt.
Did you know there’s an organization in Hollywood California called The Holy Ghost Repair Service, Incorporated. They’re not in the business of repairing shoes, watches or automobiles. On their stationary they state as their purpose “repairing broken lives for Jesus…in the power of his Spirit.” We might express it a little less colorfully, but that’s what our church is about! We’re in the business of “repairing broken lives for Jesus in the power of his Spirit.”
We’ve all had those times when we were in need of the Holy Ghost Repair Service. We give thanks for the comforting power of God’s Holy Spirit with us every day.
A. We all depend upon the Holy Spirit for Comfort. We also depend on the Holy Spirit for Guidance. We need that help us in our lives. Like the disciples, we can tap into the promised presence and power of God through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God with us.
Have you seen the movie “Glory Road” inspired by the true story of Texas Western’s Coach Don Haskins, who changed basketball history when he led the first all-black starting lineup team to the 1966 NCAA national basketball championship by beating the powerhouse team from Kentucky. Haskins recruited kids from the street. For many of them it was their only opportunity for an education or to play Basketball at that level. Some of them needed a little help and Guidance. Watch.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the Holy Spirit is going to guilt you into anything like that mother. But there are time in our lives when we all need help and Guidance. That’s where the Holy spirit comes into play. God’s Holy Spirit resides in us, encouraging and Guiding us. Through the Spirit, Christ himself comes to us; God comes to empower and enable our lives. Through the Spirit, Christ comes to stand beside us, to lead and guide us and walk with us through all the struggles of life. God IS present for Comfort and Guidance and that’s Good News.
A. God is present with us for Comfort, Guidance AND for Strength. We’re not talking about strength just to hang on. We are talking about strength to go out and be the disciples, the church, the force for good and God’s Kingdom in the world today which god requires. I am talking about the strength to be examples of Christ alive in the world through being alive in our lives.
That strength comes from knowing we belong to God, that what we do has God’s approval. That God is proud of us. You see, for some people, all their lives they have been seeking acceptance; seeking approval; seeking unconditional love; seeking someone to believe in them.
I think you can see that whole idea in a clip from the movie “Miss Potter” about the life of Beatrix Potter the author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and other stories. Watch.
Beatrix Potter glowed in her father’s praise, because there is nothing quite like a father’s approval. The Holy Spirit reminds us of God’s greatest gifts God knows us, notices us, loves us, and God approves of us.
It doesn’t matter what the world might say because the Spirit reminds us that we are the children of God. The Spirit reminds us of God’s deep love for us. The Spirit reminds us that God believes in us. The Spirit reminds us that one day we will hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” And that’s where we get our strength. The power of God through the presence of the Holy Spirit fills us with Comfort, Guidance and Strength.
A good friend of mine, Rev. Ron Albertson tells the story about a young lady named Sally. Sally was growing up, becoming a woman preparing to go off to college. Her mother had struggled to provide for her education, an especially difficult task since her father had died several years earlier.Her mother made every effort within her power to raise Sally right. Now she would be on her own, which was both an exciting and frightening time.
Sally had strong reservations about leaving her mother alone to mind the farm and the chores. She was also nervous about having to find her own way without her mother’s guidance. As she prepared to meet the bus, bags packed and ready, her mother took her arm and said to her, “You’re gonna see things an’ do things you ain’t never heard of, and you won’t know which way to turn sometimes. You ‘member how you used to tug on my apron string when you wanted something and I’d see to what you was after? You ‘member how when you was too close to the road and I’d holler to you to tell you to get away from there’?” Her mother gently reminded. “Well, I’m gonna be there with you in your heart, but it’ll be up to you to listen to what I told you. I can’t kiss your hurts when you fall down an’ skin your knee or quiet you when the big storms come rollin’ through. But, I’ll be close as a peanut in your pocket when you need me. If you’re afraid, I’ll stand with you. And if you are hurting, you can feel me close, and if you do wrong, I’ll whisper the truth to ya so you won’t do it no more.”
The tears came to both their eyes. Her mother opened the dresser drawer and took out a neatly folded handkerchief and placed it in the pocket of Sally’s dress.
Upon leaving, Sally felt completely alone. As she fought back the tears, she reached into her dress pocket to take out the handkerchief her mother had placed there. Then she noticed a knot in one corner just like her mother used to tie her milk money in her handkerchief. Upon untying the knot, she found a single peanut. She knew that her mother would always be with her in her heart. (3)
The Holy Spirit is in our lives and in our hearts, as close as a peanut in our pocket. All we have to do is listen for the Comfort, Guidance and Strength which God offers to us through the Spirit. And I promise, that’s not just a pep talk. Trust in the power of God’s Holy Spirit for Comfort, Guidance and Strength.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.