I preached this sermon this morning to some of our residents. It is based upon the Pentecost reading Acts 2:1-21. The service I provide is very informal. We always have a discussion after the sermon. Today’s discussion was quite long and went into some unexpected places, which shows how the Holy Spirit moves.
Anyway, the sermon….
Today is Pentecost. Fifty days before, Jesus slipped death’s shackles. Upon leaving the tomb he returned to Galilee where he continued his ministry for forty days before ascending to the heavens.
People came to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost, a Jewish festival marking the end of the wheat harvest as well as commemorating the day Moses delivered the Torah, also known as the teachings, to the people.
Imagine what it must have been like in Jerusalem that morning. The city’s streets were filled with pilgrims from all around the Mediterranean. The Temple would have swarmed with people. There must have been incredible energy that morning, and then, a violent wind and tongues of fire. A cacophony filled the air as people spoke simultaneously in their native languages. That day 3000 people were baptized. That was the birth of the Church.
Peter, who only weeks before denied Jesus three times, boldly proclaimed the power of the Spirit. By doing so he became the defacto leader of the Jesus followers.
The Church was born of the Holy Spirit. When we read the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit’s presence cannot be ignored. It was powerful. It moved people to do the unexpected, such as creating a common treasury so no one would ever have to know scarcity or deprivation. The Spirit led Peter, and he became the movement’s leader and spoke boldly to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. The Spirit led Philip to baptize the Ethiopian eunuch and in so doing spread the gospel to the farthest reaches of the earth. The Spirit moved Peter to baptize Cornelius and his family, even though they were Gentiles, thus showing that Jesus came for all people.
After Saul was struck blind on the Damascus road, the Holy Spirit came to him in Damascus, which brought about his conversion. He stopped persecuting the Jesus followers and became the movement’s most persuasive advocate and supported Peter’s vision to open the movement to Gentiles. Filled with the Spirit, Paul made three journeys across the Mediterranean which spread Christianity far beyond Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit freed Paul and Silas from their locked cell in Macedonia, which enabled them to baptize the jailer’s family.
Without the Holy Spirit, the Church would never have gotten started. The Holy Spirit transformed the movement of Jesus followers into a global religion – something Jesus never imagined himself. That same Spirit dwells in each of us.
The Spirit gives us life. It was sealed in us at our baptisms. It is the breath of life, the same breath God blew into the clod of clay which gave it life. The Spirit is in us individually and moves us. The Spirit is among us collectively and enables us to do great things together. The Spirit enables us to live out God’s ways, which were taught to us by Jesus. The Spirit not only gives us life, it enables us to enrich the lives of family, friends, and strangers in order to be a vibrant community together because it moves among us.
The Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity – the other two being God and Jesus. We talk a lot about God and we talk a lot about Jesus. The Holy Spirit, however, gets a passing nod, despite the power it displayed in Acts.
I think it’s that power that sort of scares us. The Bible tells us that it’s powerful. Those stories in Acts are powerful stories because they all tell us in some way that the Holy Spirit can change us. These stories tell us that the Holy Spirit can move us to do something we could never imagine ourselves doing. These stories tell us that the Holy Spirit can move us as a community into becoming a community we never thought possible. These stories tell us that the Holy Spirit can push us to exceed our own limitations to accomplish the impossible. These stories tell us that with the Holy Spirit the power of fear and death has no hold on us and that love and life ultimately is the final word. Jesus demonstrated that when he left the tomb fifty days before that momentous morning in Jerusalem.
Yet, we hesitate. We’re reticent. We don’t give the Holy Spirit a chance because we’re kind of comfortable. Let’s be honest. Change doesn’t always come easily. We want to change. We know we should change. But, change also means that we enter the unknown. Sure, we’ll change, if we can control the outcome. We’ll change, if we can predict what will be. We’ll change, if we can have assurances.
When the Holy Spirit takes charge, change happens. When the Holy Spirit takes charge, we don’t know what will happen. We don’t have any control. We don’t have any assurances. When the Holy Spirit takes charge, get ready because God is in the driver’s seat.
Is that so bad, though? God in the driver’s seat? Let God take the wheel. We’ll be in good hands. Just don’t be a backseat driver. We don’t give directions because God knows where we need to go and frankly, we’d probably still be lost if we didn’t let God drive.
That’s the point today. We’re lost. We don’t know it because things seem OK. We don’t know it because we’re kind of comfortable. But we’re comfortable because our life is familiar, even when our lives are not completely satisfying or that we don’t have real peace. We’re comfortable because things are predictable, even when we know the outcome is not ideal. We’re comfortable because we’re in control. So we drive around aimlessly. We drive around and we get stuck in the same ditch time and time again. We drive around and pass that same landmark for the umpteenth time. We drive around and the scenery is all too familiar.
Why not let the Holy Spirit move in us and through us? Why not let the Holy Spirit, which was sealed in us at our baptisms lead us? As the hymn goes: “Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me. Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me. Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me. Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.”
When we let the Holy Spirit lead us. When we let the Holy Spirit melt us. When we let the Holy Spirit mold us and fill us and use us, then God’s driving. And when God is driving, we’re in good hands. God knows the way.