New Wine — May 31, Rev. Stacy Swain

Acts 2:1-21 and John 15:26-27:16:4b-15

Will you pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

I love it when things are done well. I derive great satisfaction when our bulletin is without errors and our worship service ends exactly at 11:00. I am deeply pleased when our budget is balanced and our garden is without weeds. I like it when things are done well, because that gives our life together a sense of stability and security that puts us all at ease.


They were just beginning to feel at ease. It had been fifty days since that morning when they discovered that the tomb was empty and when they had received the mind bending news that Jesus had risen.

During those fifty days they had begun to settle into this new reality. They had begun to put some structures in place and things were working fairly smoothly. The bulletin did not have any typos. The services ended on time. They were even balancing their budget.

On this day that we hear about in from the Book of Acts, they were gathered as was the custom for Shavuot or as we know it by its Greek name, Pentecost.

Shavuot was both an agricultural festival of the bringing in of the first fruits, but also a holiday of revelation. I asked my friend Rabbi Gordon about this festival of Shavuot and he said that while Passover marks the start of the nation with the liberation from slavery, Shavuot marks the maturing of the nation with the acceptance of law on Mt. Sinai and the peoples’ freedom to follow God’s will. And the practice of Shavuot is to gather together and engage in the study of Torah.

So there was Peter and the rest, gathered together for Shavuot sitting around the Torah scroll in deep study and discussion.

Then a seam bursts. The fabric of reality is torn. A window is thrown open. Then comes a sound like the rush of a violent wind that fills the entire house. In the next instant the room is filled up with such energy that the very air around seems to be igniting with little tongues of flame flickering first here then there. Then those gathered together to study the word begin speaking the word but in ways they never knew they could. The text painstakingly lists all of the languages that were begin spoken which scholars tell us are basically all of the languages spoken in the known world at that time.

The crowd outside in the streets overhears this great racket of these Galilean’s speaking so passionately and emphatically in languages they should not be able to speak about God’s deeds of power. We are told “All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Now at this point, we too tend to snicker a bit at this charge that they must be drunk, that they must be filled with new wine. But according to one commentary, they were!! At least metaphorically. Rebecca J. Kruger Gaudino, UCC Pastor and Professor of Theology at the University of Portland, in Portland Oregon writes that these new Christians are indeed the new wine that Jesus had referred to in his teaching in Luke 5:37-38 when Jesus said “no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.” These followers of Jesus, filled by the power of the Holy Spirit, she says, have been made into New wine that is “[bursting] the seams of convention.”[1]

Filled with the Spirit, they were being transformed into a community that was to be defined not by the structures they put in place to give stability to their lives, but by the wild, fierce and sometimes terrifying possibility that life in the Spirit brings. If we keep reading in the book of Acts we will hear that these followers of Jesus went on to form a new community “that had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds[j] to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[k] and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.” (Acts 2:44-47).

This little rag tag bunch of followers of Jesus become living witness to the power of God not through their own ability but through the spirit of God flowing through them — recreating them and their life together in startling new ways that manifest the healing and blessing that is God’s desire for all people and all creation.

What a story, but what does that remarkable event so long ago have to do with us today?

Everything, because I believe that we live in a time when the Spirit is very much on the move. Like those disciples in the first century, , I believe that we too are living on the hinge of another axil age. We are living in the midst of a time of great transformation and reformation where what it looks like to live together, work together, and worship together is completely changing.

The way we live together is being reimagined and transformed building a sense of well-being and compassion into the very structures of our communities through opportunities for social interaction and exchange that builds social capital.

Economies are being reimagined and transformed in ways that are no longer based in production and consumption but in purpose and experience.[2]

And Church, is being transformed and re-created emphasizing experience, dialog, and action more than belief, certainty and structure.

And here in this church, I feel the power of the Spirit stirring. Here I see the hinge opening even wider to an exciting next chapter in our life together. Here I see new wine bursting forth. The power of the Spirit in this place is bursting forth in the warmth and embrace of this community, in its passion for justice, in its courage to ask hard questions, and in its invitation to enter into uncertainty and doubt. It is in you, as you lift your voices and speak and live words of comfort, hope and healing out to our beautiful but wounded world.

As you may know, this is the time of the year when leadership is busy reviewing the stewardship numbers, drafting the budget, planning for all that next year and the year beyond will bring. Do not worry. We will still work hard to have bulletins without typos and services that end on time. We will still work hard to have a balanced budget and a weed free garden. Our life together will continue to have a sense of stability and security that puts us all at ease.

But let us be clear. The ease we feel leads not to complacency but to greater boldness. It frees us to receive ever more faithfully the word of God for us. It frees us to ever more faithfully be filled with and inspired by the Spirit — that current of energy, that power of love, that divine radiance and glory that move in and infuses creation. To live a life of invitation to the in dwelling of the spirit is to speak truth and do justice. It is to live with vision and to realize dreams. It is to cultivate a disposition of openness, gratitude and trust. It is a life of intention and boldness. Yesterday, the eyes and hearts of so many were focused on the beatification of Monseñior Romero a man who is a witness to us all as to what Spirit filled living looks like.

It is my hope that on this day of Pentecost and every day, passerby’s will pause for a moment wondering at the good news that they hear rising from this place. Wondering at the care and compassion they feel radiating from this place. Marveling at the works of justice and healing being led from this place. Rejoicing that they too have found a home within this place. And if they think we are filled with new wine? Well that’s OK, maybe we are!


Thanks be to God. Amen.

[1] (New Proclamation Year C 2007 as cited in “Sermon Seeds” for May 24 by Kathryn Matthews and Mark Suriano at


[2] See Aaron Hurst’s ideas in the “Purpose Economy.”