6/11/2000, Pentecost Year B
the Spirit Speaks
"Jesus said, I still have many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." (John 16: 12-13)
"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in many languages, as the Spirit gave them ability to speak." (Acts 2: 1 ,4)
One could argue that the entire scope of Scripture is a chronology of God's attempt to communicate with His Creation. Adam and Eve failed to understand the rules. Noah was the only one who continued to hear the voice of God. Abraham was selected because he would listen to God. And on throughout the Old Testament we hear God attempting to speak. The Christ even was designed to be God's supreme effort at grabbing our hearts. And in the Scripture above we see that one of the key ministries of the Holy Spirit is to speak. Still the Spirit speaks in our day. The God who flung the stars into space wants to hide in our hearts and guide us with His still small voice.
It is Pentecost Sunday again and some still ask every year, "What's That?" Actually, Pentecost is one of the Liturgical Church's holy days that is most adaptable to Methodism for its emphasis is on an active involvement of God in our current lives, and life together as a Church. Much of Scripture is historical, but the moment by moment involvement of the Holy Spirit in our lives is a current event. Spirit theology deals with what is happening now, not so much in speculating about the future, or looking back at the past.
As early Methodist Societies met in small groups for prayer and testimony, Mr. Wesley would not allow any personal stories that were not current. They did not focus on how redeemed sinners met Christ, but upon how growing believers were meeting Christ.
A fellow in his fifties went into his annual performance review with the attitude that because he had a graduate degree his company should somehow excuse his lack of current job skills. A big league pitcher who lost his fast ball feels that he should be brought back up to the big league because of past triumphs. A minor leaguer wants to make it to "The Show" at age 20, but he needs several more years to refine his swing. He has potential but the future does not win games in the now.
Spiritual development is a contemporaneous experience or it does not come about. This is never more clear than in the life of the First Century Church as recorded in The Acts (actions) of the Apostles: Things were popping, folks were hopping. It is that way at First Methodist Church too. Our church is different every time we meet. If you have been absent for a while you have been left behind. If you have considered coming in the future that's a great hope. Yet, the reality of His Presence is in the now, right here and now. It's a new church every time we meet. Still the Spirit Speaks.
What kind of things does the Father want to communicate to us today through the Spirit? "The Nicene Creed" says that, "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
Our "Modern Affirmation" leads us to repeat, "We believe in the Holy Spirit as the divine presence in our lives, whereby we are kept in perpetual remembrance of the truth of Christ, and find strength and help in time of need."
All of us are going to have times in which we will need strength and help. The Spirit speak to us during these times the help us make it through the nights and days of terror. When a loved one dies, nothing else seems to matter but our pain and deep sense of loss. But in those times of suffering, the Spirit speaks to our hearts and somehow we know that we will survive even the deep valley of bereavement. Indeed, it is not God's will that we suffer forever. This is why the Spirit come to us with comfort. Through time, and through communion with the Spirit we soon find ourselves coming out of the deep pain of loss.
Another work of the Spirit is to give us victory over enslavement to sin. Sure we sin daily and will always have something to confess and work on; but, the inward power of the Spirit wants us to allow Him to enable overcoming. Anyone who has struggled with addiction knows that ultimately it is the "Higher Power" that does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. And the Spirit gives us an inner assurance that we are truly forgiven and are a part of a Kingdom that will have no end.
And the Spirit gives Gifts: functional, practical, competencies that can be used by Him in the Church. Often He enhances our natural abilities. Sometimes He raises up natural talents and focuses then on Christian motives. For example, the main difference between singing and Christian singing is a willingness to allow the Spirit to speak through the music. A speech and a sermon are similar except for the element of the Holy Spirit. Our church is a business and a community organization, but when we allow the Spirit to lead and guide and keep us focused, great things for God can continue to happen. He speaks to us and wants to speak through us to everybody everywhere. Indeed, He has entrusted His mission to our repeating od the worsd He has spoken to us.
Still the Spirit Speaks, but will we listen, and will we allow Him to work through our lives?
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor