Come, Holy Spirit
Genesis11:19, John 14:17,26, Acts 2:1-21
I was at footy training the other night with the little kids (aged about 7). I was one of the parents doing some skills work with 5 of the 20+ kids at training. There was one little guy in my group who was really bugging me. He was bugging me for lots of reasons.
First, I noticed that he just wanted to do everything and be seen by all the other lads to be doing everything – he wanted to be seen to be the best. Instead of taking his turn to do things, he was dominating everything and everyone. He wasn’t backward in telling everyone how good he was either. Essentially, he was very self-focused and very unhelpful to this little community of lads.
But then he got me going. He called me a derogatory name! He called me “fatso”! I was a bit stunned. I have not been called that probably since grade 3! I have never been called that by a kid at school here or on any sporting field when umpiring, coaching or just hanging around.
Then this little guy thought it was okay to have a laugh at me (and others) when I or they fumbled or dropped the ball during the activities. I really couldn’t believe that this little kid would think this is OK.
That little guy was building a tower of self among others – a tower that did not seem to have any limit on height! He has obviously learnt that it is really all about him and that it is fine to make a name for himself at the expense of others.
He is a living example of our human will to make a name for ourselves and build towers of greatness as a monument to self. No matter how magnificent we are and how wonderfully and fearfully made we are (as the Psalmist says (Psalm 139), we are broken. We are self-orientated to the core.
I reckon this little guy is in for some very hard falls as he tries to keep building his tower of self. Instead of making a name of respect and experiencing positive affirmation from those around him, he might end up making a name of derision which leads to put downs. Then he will have to work harder to be the best and keep building that tower of self, and so it goes…….
How much do we need a super-human power to indwell us and spin our self-orientated spirit around!? That little guy needs someone to help him re-learn what it is to be in relationship to others. He needs someone with great wisdom, patience and love to help him turn away from those monument to self ways and show him that he does not need to do that to be loved or forgiven or understood.
He is not alone. Our whole community with its tower-building centre needs radical intervention to truly find community and peace and fulfillment.
Friends, this day is the day when God names the tower for what it is and knocks it down in order to make us all part of a grand temple of the Spirit of Jesus. This day and this era of Pentecostal gifts is the undoing of the age old human will to make a name for ourselves rather than let God name us.
It is the time of God’s great gift to make us into a community of resurrected self-less givers to little guys and big people who are still trying to build their tower.
The Day of Pentecost is the undoing of that moment when God acted to scatter the people of the earth and confuse the way they spoke in order to stop them building their tower to God’s heaven and “make a name for themselves”. Acts 2 is the reversing of that decision by God as told in Genesis 11. By the resurrection of Jesus and the Spirit’s power, God touches the world gathered in Jerusalem for the Harvest Thanksgiving festival in the OT worship calendar.
At this time, of all times, harvest time: when human hearts may be gathering to make a name for themselves all over again, God acts in an overflowing kind of way to pour out the gift of supernatural life to the world and give them a harvest celebration they would never forget, and one that began a new era of closeness and drive and community and life in his world.
He is still doing this – even right here. There are towers of self-centredness being challenged, chipped away at, even sometimes demolished in our community. It may have happened to you lately! This is the work of the Holy Spirit, according to Jesus, and this work of the Spirit is essential for us and always done for good intention – the intention of God’s love for us…
….This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
…the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sends in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. (John 14: 17, 26)
We need this teaching, reminding, abiding and seeing from our Advocate who goes into bat for us and with us in the journey of living out our faith. But because the Spirit’s work in us can be quite challenging and unsettling, we might be scared of opening ourselves up to his work. When the Holy Spirit starts to chip away at our self-made monument to ourselves and the thing starts to wobble and crumble, it can be scary. We can switch off to the Spirit’s work in us and through us.
William James, the philosopher, said, “In some people religion exists as a dull habit, in others an acute fever”. Brennan Manning, the Catholic author, suggests that “Surely Jesus did not endure the shame of the cross to hand on a dull habit.”
(The Signiture of Jesus, Brennan Manning).
The fifteenth century mystic, Meister Eckhart wrote, “There are plenty of Christians to follow the Lord halfway, but not the other half. They will give up possessions, friends and honours, but it touches them too closely to disown themselves”.
It is the hardest thing about being a disciple of Jesus isn’t it? Disowning the self and the drive to make a name for myself. The other stuff is easier in that we can do something and maybe even congratulate ourselves at how “Christian” we are being. But actually letting the Spirit of Jesus into the soul and welcoming his Word for us, which is always a Word that calls us away from building our own life and letting him build us in Christ’s form, is the real guts of living this life in Christ.
I have to make a choice, and so do you. Will I let God name me and his Spirit build my life or will I only follow some outward observances and serving activities and call that, “my Christian life”?
If I decided that I want the Spirit to form me and teach me and shape me so that I become more like Jesus his great love and grace, wisdom, understanding and experience his close relationship with God as my heavenly Father – my “Abba” as Jesus calls the God of all creation, then I need only ask.
That is what Jesus says to do. Ask. “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it” (John 14:14).
So, what do you want? What kind of life do you want? What person do you want to be? Will you enter the second half of the life with Jesus and expose the self-centred tower to the fire of the Holy Spirit and trust that it must become less and his life in you become more present?
The Spirit is saying that there is no need to be afraid of him. His work brings the one thing only he can give – peace – peace within myself an, peace with those around me, peace with the world in which I live and work, peace with the Maker of all, the only wise God.
Will you ask the Holy Spirit to come to you anew now?
Will you pray that ancient Pentecost prayer – the Mara, na tha – “Come, Holy Spirit”.