Sermon for Sunday, May 20, 2018 - Rev Joan Gandy
Sermon for May 20, 2018
Texts: Acts 2:1-8; Romans 8:22-27; John 16:12-15
Sermon: "Come, Holy Spirit!"
The Spirit blows where God wills that it blow and how God wills it to blow.
Sometimes it is a soft wind; sometimes powerful.
It can be a gentle, healing wind -- sweetly comforting and healing.
But the Spirit also can knock us to the ground with gale force.
And, brothers and sisters, when the Spirit does blow mightily upon us, it is because God wants to get our attention.
When we gather as God's people, we invite the Spirit into our midst. We ask God to send the Spirit upon us. We long to be filled and moved by that Spirit.
What will God send today?
What will God send as we pray, "Come, Holy Spirit!"
We read what God did that day in Jerusalem. We see the small band of disciples, following what their Master had told them to do.
They awaited the Spirit's instruction.
They were few in number.
They were humble people.
But they were God's people, rich not in material wealth but rich in faith.
Even in their faith and trust in God, however, they were a little afraid.
They were lonely for their leader.
They did not know what to expect from the Spirit's gift to them that day.
Most important, though, was their togetherness.
They did not scatter.
They remained together as they had been told to do.
Until we read of this faithful little group of people, we may not even think about how important that can be -- staying together, praying together, following what Jesus has taught us to do. I look out at you and think: "Yes, Lord, here is your faithful people today, gathered in the church to worship you, together -- and ready to follow your lead."
And so I will say: "Watch out! The Spirit may surprise you today!"
An important component of the story that took place on that day we celebrate today as Pentecost Sunday is this: The people were ready for the Spirit to come. They were prepared. And when the Spirit blew into town, there was no question where the Spirit would land -- right in the hearts of the people who had faithfully awaited the Spirit.
The disciples were filled with the holy wind that blew through the city that day.
It led them to speak in languages they had never heard of, much less learned to speak.
That is the power of the Holy Spirit, to give unexpected life, energy, and gifts to ordinary people in what might be an otherwise ordinary day.
Jesus had promised new power to the disciples.
It came suddenly, moving the disciples to prophesy, teach, and baptize.
Understand: this day is not the birth of the Holy Spirit.
This is the same Spirit of God who swept over the face of the waters when the earth was a formless void; the same Spirit that breathed life into all creation; the same Spirit doing God's will in the world from the beginning of time.
This is the Spirit of God that was at work when Jesus Christ was born.
This is the Spirit of God at work in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But on this day in the middle of Jerusalem, God's Spirit appeared to announce a new beginning, a gift of power being bestowed upon the disciples of Jesus.
Jesus had told them, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
Then, as the new day dawned and the Spirit swept across the city, they were filled with excitement and power and energy such as they never had known before.
The once reticent disciples now preached boldly.
They had stayed together. They had prayed.
And then they let the Spirit lead them.
The disciples that day began what now is up to the church of today's world to continue -- to carry God's Word to the world in the power of God's Spirit.
And today -- as in all the years since -- the Spirit blows to revive us, to make our dry bones alive again, to give us new life to be God's church in the world
Paul has encouraging words for us about the power of the Spirit as we work today to be the faithful church God calls us to be.
In the letter to the Romans, the Apostle speaks to the Christians there as he might speak to the church today, saying "The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words" (Romans 8:26).
Every time we pray with our whole heart -- "Thy will be done," we are praying for God's Spirit to lead us into God's plan and purpose for us and for the church gathered and loved by Christ himself.
The work of telling the gospel is sometimes such a simple thing accomplished with simple -- yet powerful words. There is a beautiful illustration of that as told by a famous physician.
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, known worldwide for work she did on death and dying, interviewed many patients in the hospital as part of her research.
As she went room to room interviewing patients who knew they were dying, she began to notice a pattern.
There were certain patients who were calm and at peace -- and these patients were in rooms that were cleaned by a certain orderly in the hospital.
So she asked this person when she encountered her in the hospital one day, "What are you doing with my patients?"
The orderly was startled, thinking the doctor was admonishing her about something. She replied, "I'm not doing anything with your patients."
Dr. Ross said -- "It's a good thing you're doing. They seem at peace. What are you doing?"
The orderly said quietly, "I just talk to them. You know, I've had two babies of my own die on my lap. But God never abandoned me. I tell them about that, tell them that they aren't alone, that God is with them and they don't have to be afraid."
That was it.
Sometimes, the power of Spirit-filled Word is just that simple.
Sometimes a simple reminder turns the heart.
Sometimes a person in despair needs only hear about God's love.
"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13).
Yes, brothers and sisters, amazing things await those who are led and fed by the divine Spirit that blows through us and settles in our hearts. And it can happen today.
As we read further in the second chapter of Acts we find that three thousand people were baptized that day of Pentecost.
Pentecost Sunday is a beautiful day for a baptism in the church, and we turn with love toward the one within our body who has come to be baptized today, Priss Bryant.
We welcome her with love and joy. And, as we celebrate her baptism, we are called by the Holy Spirit to remember our own baptisms.
When we are washed clean in baptism, we are also loved tenderly by the One who created us, and we are grafted into the Body of Christ;
We are adopted into God's family.
We are called to live life in Christ and through Christ.
We are called into the church of Jesus Christ.
All of this is by the Spirit of God that gave birth to the church that day in Jerusalem.
The Spirit blows.
Open your heart and hear and feel what the Spirit is calling to you.
The powerful word promised by Jesus is promised to you.
Hear it. Believe it. Follow it..
Together, let us pray for God to empower us anew today.
Let us together pray that in the baptism we witness we will truly recall our own.
Together, we can catch the divine wind this very day, and see where it takes us.
We give glory to our great and wondrous God, giving God alone all the power, glory, and honor. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.