Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sunday 15 May 2016 Pentecost

Theme             Come, Holy Spirit!            

Sentence         The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5) [NZPB, p. 604]

Collect            Come, Holy Spirit, our souls inspire,
and lighten with celestial fire.
Your blessed anointing from above
is comfort, life, and fire of love.
Overcome with eternal light
the dullness of our blinded sight. Amen [Adapted].         

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Romans 8:14-17
                      John 14: 8-17, 25-27

The most important point to any sermon on Pentecost Sunday is to draw out the meaning of Pentecost which is that God is present and active in the world today through the Holy Spirit.

As an event in history Pentecost is important, e.g. the birthday of the church, but Pentecost is a celebration of the present work of God not of the past.

Acts 2:1-21

Luke tells the story of the day in which Jesus' promise of the Holy Spirit coming with power was fulfilled. In turn this coming fulfilled an ancient prophecy in Joel. 

The Holy Spirit comes upon everyone (not just the apostles, both women and men). They speak in other tongues, in languages which the multitude of Jews gathered in Jerusalem from around the world could understand: 'our own native language' (2:8).  The import of this language fluency is that the Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus to give power to his followers to they could be 'my witnesses ... to the ends of the earth' (1:8). Jesus makes good that promise: his followers will be able to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth because through supernatural gift they have the ability to testify to Jesus.

The Holy Spirit both comes  on the gathered disciples (2:3) and fills them (2:4) meaning that the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers is overwhelming and complete: no aspect of life is untouched when God's Spirit comes into our lives.

Yet not all observers experience the same phenomenon as those receiving the Holy Spirit: 'others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine".' (2:12).

This accusation prompts an apologetic response at the beginning of Peter's sermon (2:14-16). No one is drunk, it is only 9 am in the morning, and let me remind you what the prophet Joel said! This is that, Peter argues.

This bold, courageous preaching Peter is a severe contrast to the Peter who denied his master three times. The most important outcome of the Holy Spirit working powerfully in our lives is that we are empowered to witness boldly for Jesus Christ.

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Just one note here, pertaining to Pentecost. In verse 30 we read, 'When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.'

In the original creation the Spirit of God hovered over the deep. Here the psalmist acknowledges the continuing role of God through the Spirit in sustaining and caring for life.

Romans 8:14-17

Apart from empowering us to be witnesses for Jesus to all the world, and sustaining the life of creation, what does the Spirit do? What are other dimensions of 'the work of the Holy Spirit'?

Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit coming upon believers in order to 'lead' their lives makes us 'children of God' who are free from the 'fear' of those who are slaves (to sin and its power).

As children we may call on God as 'Father' indeed as the intimate and affectionate father presumed in the use of the Aramaic 'Abba'. Wonderfully the work of the Holy Spirit is intimate and detailed within our lives: we are not merely made children of God by the Spirit, the Spirit works within us inspiring us to cry out in prayer to our Abba God.

But what are children in normal life but potential heirs to the benefactions of their parents. So in the divine life, Paul reminds his readers that as children of God we are 'heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ'. What that heirloom consists of is the theme of 8:18-23: the glory about to be revealed to us, the redemption of our bodies, in sum, the fulfillment of creation. 

Back to the last verse of our passage today: we are heirs, Paul says, 'if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may be glorified with him.' The Holy Spirit within our lives is not a 'Get Out of Jail" card which instantly releases us from all trials and troubles, let alone some kind of shield which prevents trauma coming our way. In this life we can expect trouble but the Holy Spirit at work in us will lead us through them to a better place, the life of glory shared with Christ himself in the fullness of God's presence.

John 14:8-17, 25-27

Focusing on the Holy Spirit in these speeches of Jesus, we learn important facts about the Holy Spirit, here called the (depending on translation) Advocate/Comforter/Paraclete/Helper/Counsellor. Paraclete is a transliteration of the original Greek and literally is 'the one called alongside'. In one sense, Advocate or Comforter or Helper or Counsellor do not do justice to Paraclete. It could be helpful to think of the Holy Spirit as the one who comes alongside us to help, to counsel, to advocate, to comfort (both to encourage, support and give strength to).

What are these facts from Jesus himself about the Holy Spirit as Paraclete?

14:16 with us 'forever'
14:17 the Spirit is the 'Spirit of truth' (this relates to our task as witnesses)
14:17 rejected by the world
14:17 we know the Holy Spirit because we experience the Holy Spirit 'abiding' with us and in us
14:26 the Holy Spirit will teach us 'everything and remind [us] of all that [Jesus has] said to [us]'
14:27 through the Holy Spirit comes the peace of Christ.

In other words, the Holy Spirit is the means by which Jesus remains in the world, abiding in the lives of his followers, continually bringing to their minds what he has taught, thus enabling and empowering us to be the kinds of followers he asks us to be.

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