Sermon, Pentecost Day, May 15, 2016, St Petri.
Genesis 11:1-9 The tower of Babel and confusion of tongues
John 14:8-17 Jesus promises the Holy Spirit
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
For some time now I have been struggling with the truth that it is only by the miraculous divine power of the God’s Spirit at work among us that anything good ever can happen; that it is only by God’s gracious and powerful Spirit that I can be who I believe I am called by God to be, that we can be who we are called to be, that you can be anything like you are called to be.
Of course, I know this. I know that it is the Holy Spirit who calls people to living faith in God’s grace in Jesus. I know that it is the Spirit who makes us Jesus’ body, the church. I know that the Spirit gathers sinners into God’s garden of forgiveness and life. I known that it is the Holy Spirit who alone lights up a person from the inside, like he did on that first day of the Spirit – the Day of Pentecost, for Peter and the others and those in earshot.
But just because you known and even welcome the truth in your mind, does not mean that you find it easy to trust the Truth with your heart in real life!
I am sure that sometimes I get in the way of the Spirit as I trust in other things, people or myself in my effort to fulfil my vocation in life, find direction, find meaning, be a catalyst for other people coming to living faith in Jesus.
Sometimes I think I am like a noisy gong or clanging cymbal when all the Spirit needs is a quiet whisper to do his work. Sometimes I join the crowd in building a stairway to heaven (as if we could!) like the people of Babel, rather than trusting that God’s needs no such minuscule tower to connect with us.
Sometimes I overthink, over-worry, over work in some vain belief that it is really all on me, all on us as a church, all on our learning, our understanding, our skills, our time, talents and treasure that the kingdom of Jesus comes into people’s lives.
Do we really believe that the church will grow just because we share the right information ABOUT Jesus so that a person can simply say yes to that information intellectually and ‘become a Christian” – as if Christianity was merely a set of moral rules or wise principals or correct beliefs?
Sometimes I think we act like this is all Christianity is – a set of morals to keep, a book of truth to agree with in the mind, an organisation to organise, a building to maintain, a name and history to uphold, a club to sustain.
Friends, how wrong we are if this is where we find ourselves today!
At our heart we Christians at St Petri are not in the business of building an organisation, building a building, giving people correct information, speaking correct words ABOUT the God of the Bible, maintaining our family name and history, or using any means to get people into our worship services. All these things are important and have their place but they are not at our core of who we are in Christ.
We are about breath, wind, words, voice, tongues, language.
4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues
“Glossolalia” in Greek – ‘Tongues’. Here, it was the understandable ‘language’ kind of tongues. In other places like Corinth, “glossolalia” is a heavenly language that needed a matching divine translation to be understood by the community (1 Corinthians 12:10, 28-30; 14:2-19).
At Pentecost Day it is a plain language spoken by people who could not have known the language! Aramaic speakers (mostly uneducated) speaking Arabic, African, European languages…. This was the undoing of that Babel confusion. The church is for all from its beginning.
This is the centre of the church – the presence and the resurrecting power of the Spirit of the risen Jesus here and now as his Word is said and done and we are transformed by him sometimes in a strong rushing wind, sometime in a calming breeze.
The Counsellor, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth is at our core and the Spirit of the living Messiah Jesus is our power supply, transforming our puny efforts into miraculous moments of love and life.
But strangely enough, the Spirit chooses to do his miraculous interventions through me and you! His breath in our words and actions. His voice in our voice. His movement in our movement to love and care and speak and do.
Friends, language counts. Words count. The Holy Spirit binds himself and his gathering, enlightening, changing and forgiving work to our words as we speak them and do them. And here in worship he works in voice and ritual action – baptism, Holy Communion, absolution, communal prayer, blessing of people and things and groups…..
The Spirit ties himself to us transformed humans – like Peter on that Pentecost Day. Once timid, unclear, lost, despairing Peter – now Peter the strong, the clear, the bold…
So, here in this church, we are not bent on information but transformation.
We are not selling truth but bearing faithful witness to the truth.
We are not centred on mere intellectually agreement with a biblical fact but the turning away from trusting anything and anyone more that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in life.
We are not involved in entertaining people but shaping gospel character in people.
We are indeed a Pentecost church as any other gathering of Christians is. We find our life and hope and the power for real change for real people in his breath, his Word as we hear it, speak it, pray it, share it, enjoy it, receive it actually done for our senses to receive – even physically in bread and wine, embodied in the preacher, the listener, the character of each other.
What does this look like in other things we do?
We don’t run youth groups to merely entertain kids, baby sit kids or try to get them to church, but to be instruments of the Spirit as we work with parents to make disciples of Jesus of the young.
We don’t ‘get the kids done’ in baptism. We’ get done’ by the resurrection power of the Spirit in water and word in that commanded act!
We don’t go through a process to prepare to confirm living faith in the gospel to follow a family tradition or keep up expectations, but to engage in the head and the heart with the breath of the Spirit, the story of the faith, the presence of Jesus for me right now as teen years continue.
We don’t enter the marriage covenant to look like they do in Hollywood or get our personal needs met by our partner, but to be a sign of the love of Jesus for his church and his world as we face life together in his love.
Those of us called to lead this congregation don’t lead by politics, manipulation or rely solely on our own experience or skills, we dwell in the Word of the Spirit and prayerfully decide the best course of action for God’s community and his mission.
We strive to engage with people on the fringes of the church or nowhere near the church at Branching Out, Shed Happens, The Family Centre, HoOT, Messy Church, Kid’s Connect and the like, not merely to talk about the gospel but to be the gospel for them and pray that in all we do, sinners would repent and believe the gospel and find the wonderful acceptance and love of Jesus all by the mighty working of his Spirit.
We don’t simply let conflict or disagreement and hurt go but try our best to love each other in these things, not letting relationships wither and die but try our very best to pull the log out of our own eye as we see a speck in our brother or sister’s eye and participate in that special ministry we all share – the ministry or true reconciliation with Jesus and with each other.
Friend’s, words count. The Spirit is alive and active among us.
“…. you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you”. (John 14:17b)
Be filled by the Spirit today here. “Come Holy Spirit, our hearts inspire and lighten with celestial fire”.
Speak. Speak your faith, your hope, your love as you live your faith, your hope your love.
Rest assured that he is in your words, breathing his life into others through your words. Through you he is doing his calling, gathering and enlightening work.
Read the Acts text noting the scene, the change in peter. Even read a bit of his sermon – quite a sermon!
Share your responses to the following ICTS way of hearing Scripture
Instruction: What does the Holy Spirit instruct you in in this text. What truths does he give in this text?
Confession: Asa result of hearing this word, what does the Holy Spirit convict you of. What in the text leads you to confess a lack of trust or awareness or wrong understanding words and behavior.
Thanksgiving: What do you want to give thanks to God for as a result of hearing this word?
Supplication: What prayer requests come from hearing this word?
Pray for these things……