The coming of God’s Holy Spirit-May 15 sermon- Sometimes it’s hard to find the truth. There are so many ideas and thoughts and opinions in the world that it’s hard to sort out what’s valuable and what can be thrown away. We don’t want to make a quick decision and then find out that we’re wrong. We always want to act with discernment and integrity and not jump on the first bandwagon coming through town. As a church, we don’t only speak for what we believe as individuals. We also represent Jesus and the love he brought.
Jesus’ first words to the disciples in the gospel lesson are, Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not let them be afraid, believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places-I go there to prepare a place for you. I will come and take you there, so we can be together. You know the way to the place where I am going because I am the way, the truth and the life. And soon, I will go to be with God the Father.
When Philip demands to see the Father, Jesus explains that they’ve already seen the Father because they’ve seen Jesus. They will do greater works than Jesus has done because the Father is sending in ground support for the disciples. Although Jesus is leaving, God’s sending the Holy Spirit, as their support and advocate in their ministry in Jesus’ name. If you think Jesus did amazing ministry, wait until the Spirit shows up-this is the spirit of truth, of peace who will live in you forever.
Now this sounds like an amazing and wonderful thing, but there’s something you need to know. The Spirit, like Jesus, can only be felt and experienced by people who believe that Jesus is the son of God.
Jesus explains this whole idea pretty clearly. This Spirit helper and advocate can only be seen and experienced by people who believe in God. The world can’t see it because they don’t believe. They can’t experience it because they don’t know it. It’s the same story we had at Jesus’ birth. If people didn’t believe in God, then the starry night when Jesus was born was another night with special planets shining brightly. They may have seen the light show, but they missed the point.
If they didn’t believe that Jesus was the son of God who could be raised from the dead, then Jesus appeared to be another victim on a Roman cross. Only the people who believed in Jesus knew that God raised him from the dead. They knew because he wasn’t in the tomb in which he was placed; God had raised him as Jesus had promised.
The resurrected Jesus first appeared to the friends and disciples to retell them the story, to fill in the blanks, to instill in them a greater peace and faith that would bring them to this miraculous, wonderful Pentecost day. Jesus gave them everything they needed. And today, their ministry began in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit blows them out of their house and into the streets with Jesus’ message that God loves and wants to save all people. Their experience is so powerful that they want the world to experience it, too.
What does a church look like or act like when it’s empowered by the Spirit? We had our own taste of it a few weeks ago at the anniversary service. The old and new, the past and future, the members and the saints all gathered for worship, using old and new language. The blend of structured liturgy and singing was an expression of the Spirit. I think that’s what the disciples are feeling today as the Spirit bursts into the room, fills them full and blows them out into the streets to preach and prophecy God’s old message in God’s new way.
Today’s story takes place on a big festival day in Jerusalem and everybody’s in town for the celebration. A few times a year, on high holy days, religious people come to the temple; you’ll find foreigners there all the time as they come to the Jerusalem marketplace. It’s like trying to drive on Highland Park Blvd on Christmas Eve. Everybody’s there, shopping for the holidays.
If you’ve ever seen someone preaching on the street corner, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what these disciples look like to the people in the street. These guys were from Galilee; they were fishermen. They weren’t rabbis or teachers or Pharisees or Sadducees. They had no standing at all in the temple, but here they were in everyday clothes preaching and prophesying, connecting Joel’s Old Testament scripture with the story of the risen Jesus Christ, son of God. They were speaking the language of every nation; every person knew what they said.
This is a pivotal moment for the disciple Peter, because in most of our stories of Jesus and the disciples, it’s Peter who jumps in without thinking about his words. Today as the disciples are preaching, some people ignore the message and claim the disciples are drunk. This is the growing moment, when the disciple Peter becomes the church father Peter. Standing with the others, he brushes off this comment with the command-Listen to what I say! These words were spoken by the prophet Joel and they are happening in your hearing today. God’s promise is coming true.
“In the last days, I will pour my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophecy; your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams. My spirit will be poured on both male and female slaves and they will prophecy.
I will show portents in the heavens and signs on the earth; blood and fire and smoky mist. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of God’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Wow! If these Galilean nobodies can preach like this in the spirit’s power, just imagine how that power would affect us. In a world that can’t stay quiet, imagine the power of words that can speak directly to the heart, life and experience of every person present.
Peter points the people in the direction that he wants them to go and then he shows them a vision of the future. He talks about the last days and explains that God’s presence and power are with God’s people. It’s their turn to use that power of prophecy in their own towns and villages, to take Peter’s spirit filled message home and to preach it because it’s deeply touched their own heart.
Times and circumstances change. Slaves no longer belong to masters; they’re slaves to God who claims and gives them the gift of prophecy. Barriers torn down, God’s message is taken to the streets.
Most important of all, the message of the spirit creates the birth of the church. The message goes out to all people, who carry it into the world. It’s the message of peace and the spirit of truth that comes from God-it shows that God is active and intervening in our world. It shows that God’s activity and God’s prophecy do not wait for us in the far off future. The Spirit comes to us in all times, all circumstances. It is the Spirit of truth and love of God. It is the gift of salvation for everyone who hears and comes to believe. Amen.
Rev. Dawn Richie