Sermon: Pentecost Sunday

READINGS:

  • Acts 2: 1-21
  • 1 Corinthians 12: 3b-13

Welcome to Pentecost Sunday – a day when we remember Jesus’ promise to the disciples to send “the Comforter”, so that they would never be alone.  If you recall, in John 7, verse 38, Jesus says:

Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”

And the disciples and followers of Jesus were waiting expectantly in Jerusalem for this.  I want to take a moment and look at the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit, as it is given to us in the Bible, before Acts 2:

One of my favorite verses is in Jeremiah, chapter 31, verses 33-34:

But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

And I am sure you all know Ezekiel 11: 19:

And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,”

And Joel 2, verses 28 & 29:

It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”

Maybe you remember John the baptist, who promised in Matthew 3, verse 11:

As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

And then Jesus promises, in John 15, verse 26:

When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,”

And a final verse: Luke 24, verse 49:

And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

I would guess that there was a LOT of expectation among the disciples and followers as they lived together in Jerusalem, waiting for this outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them, so that they could then go forth as commanded and testify.   As you will have noticed, the promise of the Holy Spirit was not simply a promise from Jesus, but rather a promise that was given time and again throughout the prophets, as being God’s promise.  We know, from Genesis 1 that the Holy Spirit is the creative power in the Creation story, the same way that Jesus is seen as being the Word and power of Creation.

Job 33, verse 4 reminds us:

The spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

David says, in Psalm 104: 30

“When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth

We also know from Proverbs that the Spirit is Wisdom: Proverbs 4, verses 5 to 9:

Get wisdom; get insight;
    do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
    love her, and she will guard you.

Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
    she will honor you if you embrace her.
.”

And so we find, on the day of Pentecost, the disciples all gathered together, waiting.  As we have read in Acts chapter 1, they were sharing everything, they ate together, and they spent their time in prayer.  Yesterday, in preparation for Pentecost, a small group of us got together to pray and prepare for today.  Our prayers centered on:

  1. Asking for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in this church:  “Pour out your Spirit upon us, for without You I am nothing. Clothe us with power from on high. You promised your Spirit would teach us; we need that teaching. You promised your Spirit would guide us; we need that guidance.”
  2. Submission – special prayers reminding ourselves that “Thy Will be Done”, as opposed to “My Will”
  3. Forgiveness & Reconciliation – the Holy Spirit came to a group where there was no quarreling or envy. They were no longer asking the question they used to ask, “Who is the greatest?” They were no longer seeking to sit on the left or the right of Jesus.  We all recognise that it’s hard to forgive if we’ve been hurt deeply, or something terrible has happened to us, perpetrated by another. But Jesus asks us over and over again:  forgive one another, love one another. We bring love, forgiveness and reconciliation into our world: if we don’t do this, who will?  What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus if we cannot forgive? And so, yesterday, we prayed for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, starting with our relationship with God, moving on to forgiving ourselves and finally with forgiveness and reconciliation with others.
  4. We prayed for unity and oneness of mind and purpose in Balboa Union Church:  The disciples were of one mind, one will, one feeling, one plan, one purpose, and one prayer.
  5. Gratitude – we practiced thankfulness and gratitude for the work that the Spirit does in each one of us, from the inside out.

And so, this morning, we read in Acts 2 of the actual coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples and followers of Christ in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost:

2:2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

As we know, some of those in the crowd, who were being addressed in their native languages (they could understand what the disciples were preaching because it was their language),  were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” Others simply thought they were drunk – this is all just a big joke.  And so Peter stands and addresses the crowd to say “this is what the prophet Joel promised:

2:17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
2:18 … in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

So, apart from having this divine experience of speaking in other languages and prophesy, what does it mean for the Church today to have an outpouring of the Spirit?  If we have a quick look at 1 Corinthians 12, which we read earlier this morning, we can see:

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good:

  1. There are many gifts and many services, but they all come from the same Spirit;
  2. There are many activities, but they are all lead by God;
  3. Some get wisdom
  4. Some get knowledge
  5. Some get faith
  6. Others get healing
  7. Working of miracles
  8. Prophecy
  9. Discernment of Spirits
  10. Speaking in tongues
  11. interpretation of tongues

But the most important thing to remember is:

12:11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

As a Church, each member has different gifts and strengths – but we need to be pulling together and working together towards one vision and one goal.

They say that there was a man called Louie,  and he was shipwrecked on a desert island.  Finally, after many years, he was rescued.  Now, before leaving the island, he gave the rescue party a tour:
“I built myself a house. That’s it there. Here’s the barn, and over here is the church I worshiped in.”
“What’s that building over there?” one of the rescuers asked.
Louie sneered. “That’s the church I used to belong to.”

It seems to be human nature to be divided and pulling different ways, and it takes a lot of effort to leave to one side our pride and our prejudices, the need to be right and the desire to have control, and put everything under the control of the Holy Spirit, so that as a Church we all pull in the same direction towards a common goal: Divine Will, rather than our personal agendas.

This morning, as we invite the Holy Spirit to flood this church once again with presence and power, I invite all of you to take a moment to put aside “ego” and “self” and to ask God for Divine Will and Divine appointment to take place in this Church, that we grow as God would have us grow.

Sermon: Oneness

I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you…

JOHN 14:15-21 (ESV)

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[a] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[b] in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

Good morning,

Two weeks ago we spoke about “the Good Shepherd“, and how we have protection, guidance, purpose, security, blessing, and healing every single day.  During this, we spoke about the Omni-Presence of God in all of life:  I AM the way, the truth and the life.  It is the breath of life that we breath each moment of every day.

Last week, María de Lourdes spoke to us about 1 Corinthians 13, and the love that we need to have in our lives.  More particularly, she spoke about how one of the translations for 1 Corinthians 13 is not whether we “have” love, but rather “I am” or “being” love.  So verses one to three of 1 Corinthians changed from:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

and became:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I am not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but I am not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but I am not love, I gain nothing.

And so today, in John 14, verse 15 we read:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Which commandments, well, quite simply the most important two that Jesus identifies, which sum up all of the prophets and the law:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

This reminds me a little bit of the safety briefing you receive when you are sitting on the airplane, waiting to take off.

In the event of sudden loss of cabin pressure individual oxygen masks will automatically drop from the panel above your head.  
If this happens, remain seated and pull down firmly one mask to start the flow of oxygen. 
Place the mask over your nose and mouth and breathe normally. 
Secure the mask, using the strap and adults traveling with young children, please attend to your own mask first. 

Before you can love others, you need to have God’s love filling you and your own life.  And so, I am struck by this passage we read in John 14, where Jesus assures us, time and time again, that we are going to have help, and that God will not just be with us, but in us!  Sunday, June 4th, is Pentecost Sunday – when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit as promised by the prophet Joel:

“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…” (Joel 2: 28-29)

So, in this passage in John, we find Jesus making a promise to the disciples, that God, represented by the Holy Spirit will be IN us – not just with us!

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[a] to be with you forever,17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[b] in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

How are we meant to interpret this statement from Jesus: to be “in the Father”, and us to be “in Jesus” and Jesus to be “in us”? I made the mistake of doing a Google search for “What does it mean to be in God?”, and the search results came up as:

  • What does it mean to serve God?
  • What does it mean to Seek the Lord?
  • What it means to be God’s Woman
  • What does it mean to be in the presence of God?
  • What does it mean to be God-centered?
  • What does it mean to walk with God?

In John 14, Jesus didn’t say ANY of those things… he said “in”, not serve, not seek, not in the presence of, not God-centered, not walk with… he said “in” God.  So, I changed the search: “What does it mean to have God in me?” And once again, the first result from Google seemed to ignore my question!

  • What does it mean that God is with us?

I didn’t ask that – I said “God in us”.

But, the results after that were a little different and more to the point:

  • Christ in us – from Life, Hope & Truth
  • How can God be inside us?  – and that’s from the newspaper Telegraph
  • 8 verses that show Jesus Christ Lives in You
  • Greater is He that is in Me (the Real Meaning of 1 John 4:4)
  • Union with God – the Way to Righteousness
  • What does abiding in Christ mean?

So, out of curiosity I went with the verses that mention Christ living within us, and then found some more:

  1. John 15: 5 – I am the vine and you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit
  2. John 17:21 – that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us…
  3. John 17:23 – I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
  4. 1 John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you…
  5. Romans 8: 10 – But if Christ is in you… the spirit is life…
  6. 2 Corinthians 13:5 – Or do you not realise about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?
  7. Galatians 4:19 – Christ is formed in you
  8. Ephesians 3:17 That Christ may make his home in your hearts
  9. Colossians 1:27 Christ in you, the hope of glory
  10. Galatians 2:20 – It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me

These verses are not talking about the Holy Spirit within, they speak of Christ being within.  Of Oneness with God, with Christ and with the Holy Spirit.  John chapter 1, verse one starts with:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Jesus, the Word, was with God and was God.  And Jesus promises the disciples this same level and quality of oneness or union with God.

How is your relationship with God?  Do you speak to God as “You/Thou”, as if God were separate from you?  Why the separation?  What is standing between you and perfect oneness with God?  I want us to take a moment and just contemplate this…

I don’t know what your experience of this is, but I can tell you mine:

That same separateness from God is exactly what separates me from others.  Whatever barriers I have between me and another person, are the same barriers between me and oneness with God.  When I experience, however fleeting, oneness with God, I experience that same love and oneness with others!  And each barrier that I allow to arise between me and another person, is the same barrier I experience when I try to turn back to God!  

And how do we attain that oneness?  In stillness and quiet: in opening our hearts and spirits to God and saying “I want to become One”.  Does it come at a price?  Yes – you may have to set your ego and pride aside.  You might have to deal with pain and hurt that you have been carrying. There are many things you may have to let go of in order to obtain that.  Remember the rich young ruler – he was happy to fulfill the commandments, but when Jesus asked him to sell all he had, and give it to the poor, he went away sorrowfully – he wasn’t willing to let that go.

I would invite you this week to do a simple exercise, for just one minute, five times a day:  when you awake, at each meal and before you go to sleep.  For just one minute, take a moment to be present, in the moment, and on each in-breath say “God is…” and on each out breath say “I am…”.  Ideally, if you were to add, God is “love”, you should be able to say “I am love”, and if you were to say “God is kind”, you should be able to say “I am kind”.  But for now, just try this – 5 minutes a day.  “God is… I am…”.  And just be aware of any responses or reactions that you feel, which may be the Spirit telling you what you need to deal with in your life.