Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Spirit lives to set us free!

Acts 2: 1-21 (page 910 in our pew Bibles) The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the fulfilment of the prophesy in Joel 2: 28-32. The promise is that God's spirit instead of just being for certain people for specific tasks is now available to anyone who believes. 
1 Corinthians 12: 3-13 (page 959 in our pew Bibles). There is one Spirit but many gifts. None of us have all of them which is why we need each other to make ourselves whole. The gifts are for the common good.
John 20: 19-23 (page 906) John's version of the giving of the Spirit & John 7: 37-39 (page 893) Jesus promising the Holy Spirit make clear that while the Spirit comes from the Father, it flows out through Jesus. The whole Trinity is involved.

New Life. Sudden, unmerited, irresistible new life. That is what the Pentecost narrative transmits.
All the stops are pulled out for this one – a heavenly sound like a rushing wind, descending fire, speaking different languages, all try and convey the new birth of the church.

The day is highly symbolic as well. The feast of Pentecost, or weeks, comes at the end of the spring harvest, symbolising the great harvest of souls this event was to usher in, and at least for some Jews this festival had come to celebrate a renewal of the covenant – in the Jewish religion, the giving of the law, but now marking the giving of the new covenant – the law that would be written on our hearts.

A highly poignant symbolic occasion then. It is a birthing, a moving forward. It is both an end and a beginning.
The meaning of Pentecost is new life for the church. New life for individuals within the church. New life through the Spirit of God for each and everyone. No one is excluded.

Some mocked, some tried to attribute the occasion to alcohol but some will always react like that.

Peter knew exactly what was happening and why. This was God fulfilling his promises made in the Bible and promised by Jesus as well and he quotes Joel 2: 28-33. This was God unleashing his Spirit, but with one major change.

In Joel the outpouring of the Spirit was a prelude to destruction but on Peter’s lips this is transformed into the prelude to new life and its purpose, fulfilled in Jesus Christ was the redemption of all humanity.

After his sermon, some who had either mocked or said they were drunk were “cut to the heart” and converted.
“Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”

Now there is one spirit but many gifts and these gifts, are for the common good. All Christians have a role to play in the church.
Wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophesy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
These are all spiritual gifts, but practical gifts of service as well, and there are many gifts of service but one Lord says Paul.

Then Paul goes on to make his famous analogy that the church is an organic body and each of us has a role to play – all included.
We each have a role because each one of us who proclaims Jesus Christ as Lord has the Spirit in our hearts.

It occurs to me that in our current position at Holy Saviours, that is just so true.

As I sit near clueless in front of the church computer I am reminded that whatever other gifts I may have, administration is certainly not one of them.

But we all have gifts. As I am standing here in front of a multi-talented, educated and erudite congregation, many with great skills in diverse fields, all that stops us is having your gift identified and named and the confidence and license to use them.

Now no-one could say there is not a tension between the day of Pentecost and Jesus giving the spirit to his disciples in John’s gospel, but the manor and timing of the giving of the spirit are surely not as important as the fact of the spirit being given and John gives us a new perspective. The reality of the spirit is the main focus of this celebration not the chronology of when it was given.

John says that Jesus breathes the spirit onto the disciples on Easter Sunday after hs had just risen from the dead making the link between Jesus and the spirit much more direct and personal.

Many commentators have tried to give rational reasons for the rapid rise of Christianity throughout the world, claiming social and phychological conditions were just right for the emergence of a new faith and certainly these will have played a part, just as the moral vacuum that exists in China has helped pave the way for the explosive growth of Christianity in China in the 21st century but the gospel writers, whatever their perspective are united on this fact,

They are united in saying that the rapid growth of Christianity is due to God’s spirit being powerfully at work in the young church.

The spirit is a permanent gift and what was true then is true now.

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