Tag: holy spirit

Go with what you know

  Sermon, Easter 5B

Sunday April 29, 2018, St Petri

Acts 8:26-40

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a] eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

 32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”[b]

 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

 As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?”[c] 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

 

 My son, Dan and wife, Leanne, are both in the orchestra for the Faith Lutheran College musical, Cats. It will be a great show!

Of course, a show like Cats doesn’t just happen. It takes so much effort from so many – all the cast and crew, the orchestra … But it needs a Director too – the one who makes all the people work together to accomplish the goal of creating a something beautiful. The Director is the key in bringing it all together.

Just like Cats, this event on the road south from Jerusalem is part of an orchestrated movement of God, skilfully woven together by the4 Holy Spirit and told by Luke.

The Holy Spirit is the Director of this ‘show’. It is called Missio Dei – “The Mission of God”. The Spirit of Jesus risen is the master tactician who directs this “chance” encounter between a searcher and a disciple.

It is obvious……

  1. “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, Go …”
  2. The Spirit told Philip, Go …”
  3. “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture…told him Jesus” (This is not Phillip’s Word, but the Spirit’s Word)
  4. “The Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away …”

It all begins with the Spirit telling Phillip to “Go”. Phillip responds and goes. He goes south on the Gaza Road from Jerusalem and what does he find but a dark African man in royal clothes and carriage.

If that is not surprising enough for Phillip or us or his original listeners, the royal accountant for Queen Candice of Ethiopia is reading the bible!

Understanding No 1:

The Spirit begins and ends our life’s mission – God’s mission to “Go” to whom he sends us with the good news of Jesus’ forgiveness and love.

Understanding No 2:

God is already at work long before we turn up.

 

These two understandings clearly given by Luke make quite a difference to our life’s goal and our direction as a community of the Spirit.

Somehow, we tend to believe that WE determine our life’s mission and contribution. That is the age-old problem we have inherited from our first parents that still clings to us as forgiven and Sprit-filled people.

We also seem to easily believe that God is NOT at work in people’s lives until we turn up and do/say something.

Believing that we are responsible for our life’s calling and contribution and believing that nothing much happens until we do something FOR God, go together and they are wrong beliefs.

Luke is telling us that our life in God’s mission is not a solo, it is a band, an orchestra. And it is like Cats – the show has only one Director who is on to the mission and able to pull it all together daily. Want proof?

How often have you thought that a person you know of would have no understanding or connection to God or the Church or faith, only to find out in one of these “chance” conversations that this person understands quite a bit about these things, or has a spiritual side you never would have picked?

I find this all the time as I work with all kinds of people.

It would be easy to assume that non-church people have lived in a “no-God zone” all their lives. They seem besotted with the trappings of our culture, they seem captured by material or business or intellectual concerns. They might even swear and drink too much. They have relationship troubles, they are in pain, they are lonely, they are ‘all show’ at times, and yet, they have a searching and longing and even at times some experience of God in their life.

Being a being a disciple with Jesus on his Mission to seek and love all of us is actually a calling to join God in what he is already doing – not a crushing guilt trip and pressure cooker calling to have to make it all up in our own strength or out of fear of failure.

Our mission is not a demand by God on us but a gift of God to us. Our mission is not dependent on our solo efforts but on God’s solo grace and power.

All I see in God’s mission orchestrated by his Spirit here in the Gaza road and in the rest of the beginning of the church in Acts, is GOING.

All I see in Phillip is “going with what he knows” – he knows the word and he knows Jesus. He just shares what he knows, not what he doesn’t know. He is not asked to share what he does no know. He asked to share what he does know and learn as he goes.

I don’t see Phillip even waiting around long enough to check the score on his work! As the Spirit takes him away to another encounter way up further north in Azotus and Caesarea, he does not seem to have much idea of what will happen tomorrow, let alone in a week’s time. Neither do we. We do not have to.

We just ‘GO” or “start out”

That’s how we approach our task to share the gospel here – we start out every day. Like a traveller on a long journey with an uncertain shape and destination, we just pack up the cart, water the horses, pull on the boots and hat and start out.

Actually, this is how we Christians approach all of life isn’t it? We just start out every day – well, unwell, free, fearful, under threat of at peace. We just start out with Jesus every day trusting that he has our day, our death, our sin, our weakness and our life in hand.

Faith is trusting the Director of the show to make sense of it all, use of it all and something of us in it all.

We can be sure of one thing though: as we go with what we know and willingness to share it, the Spirit will do a “Phillip” on us. There will be an African man in a chariot with royal robes on and Isaiah the prophet in hand at school or work or footy or netball this week!

And here is the trust factor. Will we play our part trusting the Director of the Show for the quality of the overall show?

Thank Jesus today because I hear here in this carriage on the Gaza road that God says my going with what I already know will be enough – in all my failure, weakness and lack of understanding, he will be enough. He wants me in that carriage with all of me, not just the ‘good’ me.

When the questions come, the comments are made in jest or in barbed wire words or genuine searching, we speak what we have already heard, not what we don’t know.

When the day has not gone well, you have failed at something again, found yourself in the same old dark place or angry place again, or when you just cannot make heads or tails of what is happened and why it has happened and find yourself at ‘dead stop’, the call remains., “Go”. “Go with what you know of me”.

This is because the Spirit of the risen Jesus is already in the carriage before I get there and calls me to engage in the conversation. If the Spirit directs us he will give us enough for the encounter. The Spirit will take my words and make them count.

As Jesus promises to his mission team “…. do not worry about what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at the time what you should say” (Luke 12:11b-12)

Yes, God is already at work long before we turn up, but he calls you to turn up as you are and with what you know and leave the rest to his directing.

Better be ready this week. You might need to jump into the carriage and trust him for the words and the ways to be his witness in his mission…

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Read the text very slowly and intentionally in a quiet place. Do this out loud. If possible, stand up as you read…

Note the characters and their words to each other and Luke’s narration over the top of it all. What questions does this text raise for you? Note them….

What inspires you or makes your imagination kick into gear?

 

ICTS

Instruction: What does this account show be about who God is and how he works in people’s lives? Jot some things down….

Confession: What does this account lead me to confess in terms of my struggle with sin? Do that….

Thanksgiving: What does this account lead me to give thanks for? Do that…..

Supplication: What does this text lead me to ask God for and pray for others about? Do that…..

Unforgivable?

Sermonguilt
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday June 7, 2015. St Petri

Mark 3:20-35

20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family[a] heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

PRAY:
Spirit of God, open the eyes of our hearts so that we may know you better this morning in this Word.

Sometimes I have wondered if there is a limit to God’s forgiveness – especially for those who do very bad things like drive really slowly around the Barossa when I am in a hurry, don’t dip their lights from high beam when coming toward me at night, people who call me trying to sell me something I don’t need just as dinner is put on the table, people who park in the main street taking up two bays, birds that do their business on my motorbike, dogs who do their business on my driveway, pushy sales people and the bloke named Josh who kept me waiting on hold for two days while trying to fix a Telstra phone problem!

Life has taught me so far that any of us are capable of most unforgivable things given the worst circumstances. Like those people who for some reason place themselves in the worst kind of environment that is designed to bring out the worst in people – and all for us to see on TV, in those shows like “Survivor” or “Temptation Island” or “Big Brother”, we humans do have the propensity to do bad stuff.

In this word from Jesus my ears went straight to that power packed word about the “unforgivable sin”.
“Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; that person is guilty of an eternal sin”.

I find myself wondering if there is actually an end to God grace for me and you? Is there a limit to how much he will forgive me after all? Maybe I can be “too bad for God”. Maybe his forgiveness is withheld from people who do really bad things, and if so, does that mean I can’t be sure of God’s forgiveness of my sin? Maybe I really do have to do something or be something or understand the right things for God to forgive me, set me free, heal me and love me?

This morning, we hear that Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry is very popular. The public cannot get enough of him. He has such authority and he really gets thing done!

People are being called to follow and they follow (Mark 1:14-19: 2:13). People are being taught who God is with an authority long lost (Mark 1:21-28), hearing evil spirits tell the world who Jesus is – the Son of God (Mark 1:34; 3:11).

Jesus is pushing evil around as he heals Peter’s mother-in-law of fever (Mark 1:29-31), heals other sick people of their illness and frees those suffering under evil oppression and even possession. People are witnessing what was humanly incurable (leprosy) being dealt with on the spot (Mark 40-45).

The fame of the man was immense. Travelling around now becomes difficult, like it is for a Rock star or sporting hero or latest guru who promises the world.

Jesus ‘sees’ people’s faith in him and he does what he says is even greater and harder for him than the even the healing of the human body or freeing of the spirit, he dares to forgive people their sin (Mark 2:5). Now that IS ‘God talk”! It will eventually cost him his life.

The heavies are seeing too. Right here at the start, they begin to talk about removing this threat to their understanding of God.

Jesus crosses the boundaries and does not fit into neatly divided categories of faith. For some this is upsetting and confusing.For some it is inexpressible joy and truly life-changing to the good.

The now famous man returns home to sleepy little Nazareth where everyone knows all about his trade, his parents, his place…. or at least they used to. “He’s Joe’s carpenter son who left a while ago but now is back in town”.

Mary and the brothers wonder whether the home boy has gone out of his mind. They go to find out. They go to see him in the extremely crowded and chaotic house and conclude, “Yep. Like some crazy rock star full of himself or full of delusions of grandeur, he has lost the plot!”

The heavies don’t come to this home town to ask questions but to pronounce their judgement. Jesus is evil. This is why he can push evil around – because he is ‘Senior Evil’ – Beelzebub.

And then he speaks:
“I am not Evil. I am not ‘Senior Evil’ – Satan.

Jesus says that if Satan were using him to attack Satan’s own kingdom, then that Evil kingdom would fall! Jesus says that he is not pushing Evil around because he is more Evil. Rather, like Captain Jack in Pirates of the Caribbean, Jesus is actually tying up Satan (the Strong man) and carrying off his loot, which are oppressed, possessed and unforgiven sinners. He is doing this every time he calls a person, forgives sin and as a result, heals and sets free.

And then the real point: introduced by those words, “I tell you the truth….”.

“…people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter”

So, all sin and even blasphemy can be forgiven by God.

Blasphemy is mocking God, railing against God, insulting God, cursing God’s holy name and placing one’s self above God in in cynical or delusional or cutting tones. Even this can be forgiven by God. Remember St Paul who said to his young apprentice, Timothy that:

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13).

But sin still is serious. It is not easy for God to forgive. It did costs him the life of his Son! Forgiveness for not giving a toss about forgiveness as we keep on following the desires of our hearts and doing and saying whatever pleases us is by no means guaranteed of God’s forgiveness.

No humble acknowledgement and seeking of forgiveness from a gracious God equals no forgiveness.
As Paul says,

“God cannot be mocked” by flagrant and persistent flying in the face of his gracious love for you (Galatians 6:7-8)

But the next word can give us a lot of trouble.

“Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; that person is guilty of an eternal sin”.

Does this mean that there is actually an end to God grace? Is God not so gracious after all? Is there a limit to how much he will forgive me? If so, what’s the limit and have I reached it yet? Maybe I really do have to do something or be something or understand the right things before God will set me free, forgive me, heal me and love me?

No. This word is not saying that there is an end to God’s openhearted grace for even the worst sin anyone can muster or that there is a thing we can do or say that is so bad that even Jesus’ death for us did not cover.

Rather it is saying that there is a limit to what people are often willing to receive from God.

It is not that God is lacking authority, will and the love to forgive any sin, but that people can lack the good grace to receive his grace. They reject God’s hand of friendship and call it evil.

Some people, at different times and for various reasons reject God’s love in Jesus outright and persist in calling God in all his goodness evil (Like the Pharisees in Nazareth this day).

In so doing, for however long and in whatever way, they reject the work of the Spirit to “convict the world of sin” (John 16: 7-11) and so can only remain in the strong man’s house for as long as they persist.

So friend, there is no need to worry that you have committed some unforgivable sin.

The people who worry about this are those who are least capable of such rejection of God’s grace! If you are worried about committing some sin that will separate you from the good things God gives, you are unlikely to flagrantly reject the very God and his goodness you have grown to love!

And because you have complete confidence in God’s authority and will to forgive and heal and free and call you into his service in your place, you can go ahead and cross a few boundaries in your home, in this town, in your school, in your workplace, in our congregation.

As you speak his Words, do his Words of love, forgiveness, peace, kindness you will also tie up the strong man because now he is not is strong because of Jesus’ victory.

You are free and called to carry the “crazy gospel message” that God is, that God speaks, that God loves, that God forgives and calls sinners by sheer crazy and wonderful  grace.
Amen.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

PRAY: open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, that we may know you better. Amen.

Read through the text slowly/deliberately noting what questions come to mind and what fires your imagination as you hear this word from Jesus for you. Share your thoughts…

Can you imagine the scene – lots of people wanting to see, hear be healed and freed by this famous Rabbi. What do you think Mary and Jesus’ brothers were trying to do as they went into the crowded house to see Jesus?

Whatever they were trying to do they came away saying that Jesus “was out of his mind”. What do you think that means? Did they conclude that he had changed ad become quite strange to them? Did they think that he was living in some fake world – like a “fame bubble” the media often speak of with very famous people. They live in some very sheltered world that is all focussed on them…? Share your thoughts…

The Teachers of the Law have been observing Jesus and his speaking and action. Skim through Mark  1 and 2 to note the Pharisees involvement. No they conclude that Jesus must be very Evil to be able to push Evil around like he is. Why do you think they cannot give God the credit for being the source of all this “pushing around” of Evil?

Jesus says that this is illogical and untrue. Evil pushing itself around would make Evil fall! He says it is not by Satan that he says and does what he days and does. So then, Nicodemus’ words to Jesus in John 3 (check it out…) have to be the only alternative. Jesus must be sent by God. Why don;t the Pharisees receive this as good news?

Check Luke 15 and the parable of the Prodigal son and the last part of the parable that focusses on the older brother. His words may give a clue as to why the Pharisees (like the older brother) cannot receive Jesus’ words to all these new younger brothers coming into the family…. Share your thoughts.

Have you ever wondered if there is something you (or another person or group) could do or say that would signal the end of the the relationship with the Lord? Is there a particularly persistent, shameful, hurtful or serious thing that could sever your relationship with God for good? What does Jesus say about all this sin?

Check verse 28. What;s your understanding of what jesus is saying about all sins here?

Then what about verse 29. What is this “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” that cannot ever be forgiven? Share your thoughts..

I said,

No. This word is not saying that there is an end to God’s openhearted grace for even the worst sin anyone can muster or that there is a thing we can do or say that is so bad that even Jesus’ death for us did not cover.

Rather it is saying that there is a limit to what people are often willing to receive from God.

It is not that God is lacking authority, will and the love to forgive any sin, but that people can lack the good grace to receive his grace. They reject God’s hand of friendship and call it evil.

Some people, at different times and for various reasons reject God’s love in Jesus outright and persist in calling God in all his goodness evil (Like the Pharisees in Nazareth this day).

In so doing, for however long and in whatever way, they reject the work of the Spirit to “convict the world of sin” (John 14) and so can only remain in the strong man’s house for as long as they persist.

So friend, there is no need to worry that you have committed some unforgivable sin.

Share your thoughts on this. it is good news for some and bad news for others. Who is is bad news for? Who si it good news for?

Note John 16:7-11 and the Holy Spirit’s work of ‘convicting the world of sin’. People who call God’s grace evil are surely ignoring and rejecting the Holy Spirit’s crucial work of revealing sin and so cannot recive the wonderful grace of God in the forgiveness of Jesus. They place themselves outside the Spirit’s work and so remain bound up by the “strong man”. Do you hear it this way?

Every time your share the good news of God’s forgiveness and love in Jesus with a person, invite a person to follow Jesus with you, forgive a person, pray for person, care for a person Jesus is working through you to bind up the strong man (who is now defeated).

We are called to do this. What scares you about doing this? What is joy-filled about doing this?

PRAY

Jesus, use me and all of us as a local church to plunder the strong man’s house so that many more are released from sin and evil and the death they bring to people’s lives. Keep us free in the good news that we can never be too bad for you and yet, keep calling us to give our lives into your service with joy and thanks in Jesus’ name.

Truth Spirit

SermonPentecost Sunday
Pentecost Day
Sunday May 24, 2015, St Petri

John 15:26,27; 16:4b-15
26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

There seems to be both a great thirst for an experience of the Holy Spirit these days, and yet, there also seems to be some fear about the Holy Spirit’s work at times. A lot of churches want to talk about “Spirit”: all they mostly talk about is personal experiences of the Spirit. Other churches want to talk about “Truth”: they are a little afraid of talking about experiences of the Holy Spirit and just want to talk about doctrine and knowing the ‘right’ things.

So, a remedy for our blind spots, or fears or over emphasis on either side is to hear the bible’s teaching on the Holy Spirit: Spirit and Truth. We get the very basics right here in John’s gospel – Who the Spirit is. What he does and how do we receive him.

Who the Holy Spirit is
The first thing to say is that the Holy Spirit is a person not an ‘it’! I do hear people sometimes speak of the Spirit as an ‘it’ – a kind of ‘force’ or impersonal power of God or ‘electrical charge’.

We have never believed this. Jesus never said this! He names the Holy Spirit “he”. From Scripture we have always believed that the One God has revealed himself as three “person” or “faces” – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is very clear in this very part of John’s gospel…

26 “When the Advocate [Holy Spirit] comes, whom I [Jesus] will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he [Holy Spirit] will testify about me [Jesus].

In our Small Catechism), we hear again that the Holy Spirit is not an “it” but a “he”….

“…….the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith.” (Small Catechism, Explanation of the 3rd Article of Apostle’s Creed).

The Holy Spirit is a real person, as Jesus and the father are, in the Trinity.

The Holy Spirit can be grieved.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30

We can be ‘insulted’ the Holy Spirit.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth,…. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has …..who has insulted the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:29

The Holy Spirit loves.

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, Romans 15:30.

The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force but a person. In other words, the Holy Spirit is God – another Counsellor, like Jesus; another Advocate, Helper, like Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is a divine person in the middle of your life.
This matters because the Bible speaks about us being filled with the Holy Spirit – having joy and power to live in Jesus’ love and holiness.

If you try to get filled with an impersonal force, you go about it in some mechanical or formulaic kind of way. This is how Eastern religions work. To be one with or experience or be filled with God as an impersonal force one must meditate to “empty one’s self” of words and thoughts, and allow “the force” to fill you.

So, if you are seeking to be filled with the Holy Spirit as an “it” – some electric charge or impersonal being, then this can only happen as you tick the right boxes – pray in certain ways, sing in certain ways, refrain from certain things to get your life into some kind of place so ‘it’ can come in.

But, if you are filled with a person (the Holy Spirit), you don’t go about emptying the mind and soul but filling the mind and heart with him and his words – words that teach, give and love from a person who prays with and for you with groans to deep to fully perceive to the human heart (Romans 8:26).

Being filled with a person affects everything – the person changes you to be more like him. You have your life transformed by a glorious awareness of who lives in you and for you and you hang on every word he speaks.

This has already happened to you if you are baptised into Christ. This is the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4: 4, 30) – the thing that you can trust to know for sure that you are dwelt in by the Holy Spirit. But baptism is not only a past event – it is a ‘now thing’ of the Holy Spirit. Living in our baptism is living in the power and love of the Holy Spirit.

What he does: The Spirit of Truth
The Holy Spirit is the literal genius behind the Bible. He authored it just as Jesus promised the Apostles he would.

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you, and the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:25-26

“…..no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20

The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. John 6:63

As you embrace the Word of God written by the Spirit through his authors you receive his Word, his truth, his life.

This is why Lutherans place such a huge emphasis on the preached Word and the Word said and done in our Divine Service. This is especially so when it comes to the wonderful means of the Spirit’s grace (Baptism, Absolution, Holy Communion, Blessing).

This is why we are more interested in the words of a song rather than the musical notes. By the Word of the Spirit we receive him as a person and he transforms us from dead sinners, joyless believers, sleepy Christians, sad and grieving and broken people to alive, joyous, awake, comforted and confident people who trust his love, his peace, his comfort, his power, his gifts and we are glad and with him we serve in joy.

No wonder Paul can say, Colossians 3:16 “Be filed with the Word” as he says

“Let the word/message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

And then there is a list of what the Word-filled life looks like

“…..compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” and “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”

Then he can say in Ephesians 5:18 –

“be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit”.

And then he goes on the list of what being filled with the Spirit looks like…

“…admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks.

It’s the same list!

Being filled with the Spirit is being filled with the Word.
Being filled with the Word is being filled with the Spirit.

Being filled with the Word of the Apostle’s (the ‘Apostolic Word’) is being filled with the Spirit because he is a person and he speaks the truth, and as Jesus said the truth sets us free (John 8:32).

The Spirit makes the Word live in your life – first in Baptism and then ongoing. He is the difference between simply reading the Word and sensing the Word – the Word coming alive off the page in your heart.

“It is one thing to read the Scriptures and another to have the person of the Holy Spirit come to you and reveal the person, Jesus Christ to you”

(Tim Keller, Sermon on The Holy Spirit…..
http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sites/sermons2.redeemer.com/files/sermons/Who_is_the_Spirit.mp3)

Even though this is wonderful and without his Word and power we would not be anything, the Holy Spirit does even more.

If this was all he did, he would be kind of a consultant at best – someone you employ to come in at certain times to give you what you need.

Counsellor
The Holy Spirit, according to Jesus, is also a ‘Counsellor’ – OR Paraclete, Advocate or Comforter. Different translations have different words and that shows that the original word is just too big to cover in one English word!
“Comforter” – comes across in English as being a bit like a nice duna
“Counsellor” – comes across as being a bit like a therapist
“Paraclete”, is the Greek word – “Para”, means to be “along-side of”, and “kletos” means to call – to call someone along-side – and it comes from the language of a courtroom – a defense counsel – someone to stand with you and defend you, argue your case, fight for you.

So, the Paraclete is your legal advocate. He represents you before your accusers and he is loyal to you and he is for you. He debates. He defends and makes a case against your enemies.

Who are the enemies?
The Evil one who accuses us all day and night before God the Father. But even more, the old Adam within – our sinful attitudes and dispositions in the internal war we face (Romans 7).

The Holy Spirit defends us mainly against our enemies within:
He defends us against our fear of God’s judgement helping us trust that we are never not loved by our heavenly Father.

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, “Abba,[b] Father.” Romans 8:15

In legal words he “testifies” before God’s royal court that we belong. He give us no doubt that we are God’s loved people – no matter what.

16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:16

We can see in Hebrews 12 that the Spirit not only defends us against our enemies without and within, he also sits us down, confronts us and speaks sense into us. Like a good friend or a faithful marriage partner.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children….. God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.. (Hebrew 12:10-12)

See how the Spirit argues against you at times to keep you on track.

He has to. 1 John 3:20 we hear that God is greater than our hearts. Our hearts do not like grace – we want to earn it and control it so we get the praise and glory for ourselves. The Holy Spirit comes in and makes the case again for the gospel.

20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:20)

In James 4 the Spirit says that he defends us against temptations. The Holy Spirit within you longs for you to come back to God – leave money, sex, power, greed and return…

“…do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace…..” (James 4:5)

And his standing beside work never stops. Phil 1: Holy Spirit will not stop. He will not let you go. Love with teeth. Sometimes he needs to be against you to be for you.

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:3-4)

He does this by making his Word real for you – not just to give you a nice experience – but to complete his work begin in you at baptism until the final resurrection.

A permanent legal advocate. He is for you.

How you receive what he does.
How can you be sure that you are receiving the benefits of the Holy Spirit in your life making you who you can be and should be? The Paraclete tells you of the other One who stands beside you and with you. This paraclete is Jesus.

In 1 John 2:1 we hear that Jesus is also named a “paraclete”. John says, “We have one who speaks to the Father in our defence” – same as the Holy Spirit – the paraclete – a permanent advocate.

The Holy Spirit takes the work of Jesus, the Advocate/Paraclete/Counsellor, Helper – our permanent loyal loving Saviour and makes it current, real, “now” for you as he does the same loyal, loving, legal advocacy work for you now.

He does this as he calls you to hear Jesus through that Word of the Apostle’s that he provided for all of those of us who have come after them. The Holy Spirit gathers you into Jesus’ body, the church. The Holy Spirit makes you holy by the holy body and blood sacrificed for all sin and enlightens your inner world – body, mind and spirit.

He pounds into you to defend you, teach you, comfort you, counsel you as you live with the desires within your own heart that resist the gospel and the Enemy outside of you who loved to tempt and trap you so that you might.

He pours into you to give special gifts for the good of the body and to create good fruit from your life in the body.

So, no need to fear “Spirit” – no need to fear the special gifts and the good fruit of Holy Spirit at work in people, and no need to downplay or ignore his emphasis on “Truth” – on the Word of Jesus as our centre and source of life and love.

We talk of both and we learn how to let him “dwell in us richly” so that God, Father, Son and Spirit get all the glory for any good, and change, and wonderful gift, and sermon, words of witness and our very lives.

Friend, “Let the Holy Spirit dwell in you richly”. Hang on every word he speaks. Live a Word-filled life. All faith, church, forgiveness, healing and love depends on him. Amen.

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Skim through John 14 and 15 taking note of;

the names given to the Holy Spirit

the roles of the Holy Spirit

Share your awareness/understanding of the role the Holy Spirit plays in the Christian life.

Share your experience of the help/power of the Holy Spirit in your life so far.

Where are you on that scale between putting the emphasis on experiencing the Holy Spirit’s power and presence and that emphasis on the Spirit working through the Word and good teaching/doctrine?

What did you think about the difference between calling the Holy Spirit an “it” rather than a person. Have you been aware of this difference in the past?

I said that seeking to “plug” into an impersonal force will mean us doing or praying or not doing things in order to get ourselves plugged into this impersonal; “force” (the Holy Spirit as an “it”) will make it all about us – hard work, emptying ourselves…… But being filled with a person is being filled with what that person says and does. How do you react to this view?

Work through the sermon looking up the other bible texts and discussing your response to each…..

PRAYER: Spirit of God, open the eyes of our hearts that we may know Jesus better. Amen.

The Ordinary is not Mediocre

20121130_ordinary_-_LARGE“Changing the world” (emphasis mine) can be a way of actually avoiding the opportunities we have every day, right where God has placed us, to glorify and enjoy him and to enrich the lives of others”. (Michael Horton, ‘Ordinary – Sustainable faith in a radical, restless world’, p15-16).

In the Valley of the dry bones, the Spirit’s breath is raising up dead people through the ordinary words and actions of ordinary people God assembles for his ongoing extraordinary grace – be it in a family kitchen, state or government school classroom, hospital room, doctors surgery, church building, shop, mall or pub in this Valley.

Breathe: Confirmation Message

SermonPentecost Day
Pentecost Day, Sunday June 8, 2014.
St Petri
10.30am Service – Confirmation Day

John 20:19-23
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

PLAY MEDIA FILE “breathe.wmv”    

Yes, breathe Holy Spirit! Breathe into us and speak your word that heals this broken ground”. Breathe life and vision and power and peace into these young people today for the journey ahead. Say, what you will, Living Spirit of Christ, that we breathe in the very breath of our God today”.

That’s our prayer for you today, kids. It is a prayer about breathing…in and out: breathing in and breathing out in God’s presence and power….

That sure is what those frightened followers of Jesus needed the night they were out of breath, locked in that upper room very unsure of themselves and what they will become – if they even have much of a future after they saw him die that horrible death and after they had let him down so plainly and shamefully.

And then the ghost they think they see is no ghost but a man – a human being with his voice, his wounds, his character, his face – it IS him and everything he said was for real! Everything we have been through to this point is worth it. Everything we hope for ourselves and our futures remains possible.

And then he speaks. He speaks those simple but profound and deep words that heal the broken ground in our head and heart. “Peace be with you”.

They are the only words that count today for you, like it was for them. “Peace be with you”. As he breathes his life into your heart and mind by his Word now, he says what you have now – Peace: Peace with me, peace with you, peace with us, peace with Him, peace, peace, peace!

• When you are torn apart by a bully: Peace
• When you are worried about failing: Peace
• When you are putting on a show to be somebody you are not: Peace
• When they are fighting again: Peace
• When you lose someone or something loved: peace
• When you have no idea what’s next and if you can do it: Peace

Peace, peace, peace. And not peace you find in yourself of down the mall or on-line, or all by yourself, but His Peace: real peace; peace beyond yourself – longer, higher, deeper, fuller. Peace that crosses all the boundaries and streams out into every place and scene and person…Peace that goes where you go and stays where you stay.

YOU HAVE PEACE.
Such simple words for you: but life-giving and life-shaping because of who says it now.

It took all of his being born, growing up, learning, teaching, healing, suffering, loving, copping the pain and being completely lonely and in huge physical, emotional and spiritual pain to say those words. “Peace be with you”.

Only he can say this really. It is the peace he won for us and the peace that comes from him that gives us patience, poise and real promise. He won it. He earned it for us and now freely gives it away to all. He is our peace with God and with each other.

So, young people, you have his peace. You got the first breath of it when you were baptised into Christ. it was then that you were sealed with the Spirit’s power and peace in Jesus.

You’ve lived in His peace ever since. Sometimes you have been aware of Jesus’ peace and sometimes not. But he is always aware of you and always offering his breath of life to fill your lungs with life and your heart with joy as you face an unknown future like the rest of us.

In these teenage years you will need his peace. It’s a turbulent time – body changing, mind expanding, identity forming, relationships confusing, voices compounding and competing for your heart.

Your church community here get this. Sure it may have been a while since some of us were teens, but even if we forgotten that, we get it and we want to support you in it.

We thank the Lord that you are here and that you have his peace and that together we are peacemakers in this place.

YOU ARE SENT
Yes, YOU are a peacemaker – chosen by Jesus to bring his forgiveness to the places you go and the people know.

In the challenging years ahead, you have us and you have His peace to centre you and help you know who you are and whose you are. In an upper room when the fear is high and the future confusing or bleak, hear his words to you; “Peace be with you, young man, young woman – my child. Peace be with you”.

Breathe in:
• Hear those words of peace when you gather here in the same name into which you have been baptised – “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.
• Take in his breath of peace here when you hear those words, “I forgive you all your sin”.
• Taste his life-giving peace when you taste the body and blood of this man and Son of God, Jesus Christ at the altar.
• Enjoy his peace when you hear us sing and pray and preach and share and join into the new song of peace we share.

Breathe out:
And when he has centred you again and another day at school or home or sport or wherever is given to you, take that calm, the patience, the poise and the promise you have and practice the art of being a peace-giver and maker – a Christian young person who forgives, who kindly challenges when needed, who asks for forgiveness from others and gives forgiveness when asked for.

You may think you are;
• Graduated from church and learning and being used by God.
• You are young and church and mission is “adult world” – not for young people…
• Finally free to cut loose from here and return whenever you want on your terms when you feel like it or need it again….

Well, you are young and there is a lot going on. And you are discovering your character, your goals, your gifts, and who you are. But even if you think that being sent as peacemaker with the breath of Jesus to speak and do is not really a big deal, we are saying it is and that you are a big deal too!

This local church and this community needs young people who know how to breathe – breathe in His peace and breathe out his peace. You are the lungs of life because you carry his peace in you and now you are called to step up to the calling of the Spirit we all share – to be his peace here and now.

So, just hear his words today, kids. “Peace be with you”. They are your words. “Peace be with you. I send you. My breath of life is your life”.

Just sense his breath filling up your soul with life and hope and a huge reservoir of forgiveness to give as you are able.

And call to mind this day when this peace was re-established in you on your Confirmation Day – Pentecost Day,
the birthday of this global and ancient community called the Christian Church in which, by God’s grace we live.

Yes, breathe Holy Spirit! Breathe into us and speak your word that heals this broken ground”. Breathe life and vision and power and peace into these young people today for the journey ahead. Say, what you will, Living Spirit of Christ, that we breathe in the very breath of our God today”.

 

Light the Fire

Sermon, Pentecost Sunday, May 19, 2013, St Petripentecost

Light the Fire

Romans 8:14-17

 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Bonfires are great things to behold. A number of our families beheld one just the night before last at Roennfeldt’s property. We reflected on the description of the Holy Spirit as flame and fire in the New Testament. We can see that same description of the Holy Spirit as flame on our banners here in the sanctuary. It is good to look into those flames.

It was good to feel the glow of that bonfire and see the faces of God’s people of all ages lit up by that flame Friday night – God’s people, adults, and children and young people gathered around the flame seeing each other lit up by the fire of the Spirit as we live our lives in his glow, his love, his fire….

But, as we know life is not always like a nice cozy flame filled bonfire. Life can be cold. Life can be alone. Life can be doubting. Life can be confusing. What about when it feels like the flame is just not there? We can’t see the flame of the Spirit. We can’t sense the flame of the spirit working in us?

When we can’t or won’t sense or trust that God’s Holy Spirit is working in us we find ourselves giving up on all the St Paul says here.

When we are away from the flames either in fear, or doubt or because we are looking around in the dark trying to find some peace and joy in other things, we give up the truth that we are baptised dearly loved children of our God. We tend to dismiss the reality that we are still indeed being led by the Lord.

We think we are all alone in our day, having to churn out the good works to somehow stay connected to God.

We return to the slavery of trusting only ourselves or our idols for our day and our decisions and troubles which puts us right back onto that murky world of fear, self-centredness and timidity when it comes to bearing the grace and love of Jesus among others.

We reject the future we share in God – living outside of our inheritance – the truth that we are already adopted sons and daughters of God, heirs to all his promises and power for living this life well in Jesus’ name.

By our walking away from the bonfire of God’s Holy Spirit active in our day in love, we cannot hear the Spirit crying those beautiful words to the Almighty and Holy God of the universe, “Abba, Father, Pappa, Daddy”. In our cold fear and disconnected doubt, we feel fatherless, loveless, isolated and alone in this calling to live the life of a disciple of the resurrected Jesus. As a result we are a lone ember from the flames – slowly going out or of no warming, lighting value to anyone.

So, to live out our calling to be alive, be aglow, be functioning bearers of the gospel of Jesus, sharing the love and hope of Jesus with everyone, we need to hear, see, sense, feel and experience the warming presence of God’s Holy Spirit.

To be fully alive and fully aware and fully joy-filled and bold witnesses to the grace of God living in us we need to hear the Spirit’s cry, “Abba Father” in our own spirit and live from that warmth of belonging in the Lord and in each other as his church. To be the best partners, workers, students, friends, colleagues we can be we need to stay close to the glow of the Spirit’s counsel, power, dynamite, presence, wind and water…

But where? How? When? By what means?

  •  Do we have to reach some spiritual place to get close to the flame of the Spirit?
  • Do we have to achieve certain good behaviour in God’s sight to receive the strength of the bonfire of God’s grace and power for living?
  • Do we have to understand certain mysteries or acquire certain hard-to-find wisdom to truly live as a loved person of God with freedom and courage for all we face?

No, No and No. We do not have to reach some super-spiritual place, do some super good works or acquire some super spiritual knowledge to hear the cry of the Holy Spirit telling us we are the dearly loved people of the Almighty, Holy and only Living God.

Before we are spiritually aware, perfect in good deeds, wise to the ways of God, the Spirit comes to us in the grace and power of Jesus’ fiery forgiveness, just as he did to those 11 Apostle’s and the whole world present on that great Pentecostal Day.

WHAT DOES THE SPIRIT DO?

The Spirit calls us from our darkness, idolatry, death and doubt to light, the worship of our Father in heaven, faith and life. He does this when we were in those things and when they still entangle us. He calls to faith. He calls to hope. He calls to love.

The Spirit gathers us. He places us all on the knee of our Father in heaven where we bounce to heart’s content in the joy of belonging to God, whether we are doubting, dying, disconnecting or dead on the inside. We are us because he has made us his community and he is sustaining us and firing us up for our prime purpose – to call and gather them in to the fire of God’s love and grace in Jesus.

The Spirit enlightens – he expands our limited horizons, teaches us the narrow way of faith in Jesus’ love in the everyday experiences of our life – suffering, joyful or otherwise. He walks with us to offer us wise counsel, good advice, power – dynamite of brothers and sisters in the same fiery community to be the enlightening presence of Jesus in this town.

HOW DOES HE DO THIS?

By the wind of his Word blowing through our minds, spirits and bodies. The Spirit of the Lord is the Word of the Lord. The Word of the Lord is the Spirit of the Lord.

Apart from the Word of God spoken, preached, shared, prayed, sung, lived out there is no faith and belonging in the one holy community of God. With the Word, the Spirit living, breathing, acting on us as we sing it, share it one-on-one, proclaim it, dwell in it there is calling, gathering and the lighting up of our hearts and minds like a bonfire.

The Spirit is the Word and the Word is the Spirit, poured over our heads in baptism in water, heard in our ears in that beautiful word of forgiveness for our sin, taken into our bodies in the bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus in that holy meal of love, shared in our homes and our groups and between fellow travellers in this life led by the Spirit/Word, prayed to our Father in heaven in whose name we gather as we use the ancient words to sing, speak and pray our faith in his goodness and love.

So, can you see, friend, that you are always being called, gathered and enlightened by the Spirit. Will you trust that as you gather with everyone else here in large and small gatherings the Holy Spirit is offering you counsel, guidance, power for overcoming any sin and obstacle, power to live this life he has given you fully and freely with the joy of a little child being bounced on Dad’s knee?

WHAT’S HE DOING HERE?

St Petri – the community called, gathered and enlightened people by the flame of God’s grace, by the power of God’s dynamite of the Spirit rushing through our minds and hearts….

What shall we do fan the flame of the Spirit’s work here? What shall we do with this fire in the belly?

Mission. That’s what we shall do with this fire in our hearts. Mission. We will pull together and we will engage in the work of bearing witness to the flame holding us together in God’s presence. We will work while it is still day to be instruments of the Spirit calling, gathering and enlightening his people into the holy community of God the heavenly Father who loves all and welcomes all by faith in his Son, Jesus.

That is our task. The church only ever has one mission – to draw others to the flame. To be the flame in cold places. To be together so we can be apart so we can be together again – with a few extra people!

The flame s burning here, friends,. The Spirit is on to it. Things are on the move. The Spirit’s wind of change is upon us.

Here’s the Spirit’s question and invitation: What is God calling us as his community of the Spirit to do specifically in our place here?

That is the question on our minds and the question we are seeking the Spirit’s counsel on. Will you seek this with us and tell us what you here? What specifically is the Spirit wanting to make of us in these times ahead?

We can’t lose, even if we take some risks, because Jesus is the head of his church and the Spirit is the one active in love among us whether we get it right or get it wrong at times, he will stay and he will remain because he has said so.

What is the Holy Spirit saying to us about our mission – to be a celebrating people sharing the love and the hope of Jesus with everyone right here?

What might the Spirit be calling you to do and be here? Older, younger, newer, longer, saint, sinner, man, woman, powerful, weak.

What gifts has he given you for service in the mission we share?

Why has he placed you here now?

What changes is he nudging you to make?

What wind of change is blowing through your heart as you watch, do and listen here these days around St Petri?

It is time to think and pray boldly trusting each other and the Spirit’s promises and presence to call us, gather us and enlighten us on this question before us.

Spirit of the living God, come. Come to us your people here and show us the ways in which you are making us a community of people living in the last days who do indeed live in the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit, calling, gathering and enlightening

Jesus make us a people and a place where anyone and everyone can call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Acts 2:21)

Amen

MEDIA REFLECTION    

GROUP STARTERS

  1. Share a time when you senses the leading of the Holy Spirit.
  2. What kind of things hinder you from believing that the Holy Spirit is active in your life?
  3. What helps you believe that the Holy Spirit is with you and helping you?
  4. How has the Holy Spirit called you to believe and be a Christian?
  5. How has the Holy Spirit gathered you to St Petri?
  6. How has the Holy Spirit enlightened you as you have shared your journey of faith with other Christians?
  7. How does being named a “son” of God and heir to Jesus’ throne make you feel and how does this truth help you live with confidence in the Lord?
  8. The question, What is God calling us as his community of the Spirit to do specifically in our place here? was aksed. Share some of your thoughts on this question and pray that the Spirit would help us all ponder this and hear his voice as we journey on together in mission at St Petri….

       Greetings stpetripastor.com community.

Here is the sermon in audio form from this last sunday gone (May 6).

hope it helps you to “Go with what you know” this week!

click on this link →  16 Easter 5B Acts 8 26-40