“Living in the Spirit”
Acts 2:1-8 & 12-15, May 28th, 2023.
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Memorial Day Weekend
‘Communion on Pentecost Sunday’
“Hear now this writing, from Acts, chapter two, verse one thru eight and verses twelve thru fifteen.
1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 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. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.
“Having now heard this reading, let us consider how the Spirit of the Living God is moving in our lives and in this community.”
“Living in the Spirit”
Today, we remember the day of Pentecost; a day set aside to remember how the ‘Living Spirit of God’ first came to the disciples and followers of the Risen Christ! Through God’s grace and mercy, this could be an amazing day! Pentecost was a time to be, “Living in the Spirit.” Might we also be “Living in the Spirit” as individuals and as a church. Could it be, that our God, the Living God, the Spirit of Christ, the God of Abraham, and all those who have come before us are now one with us in the Spirit of God. David N. Mosser tells us this could it be that “on this day of Pentecost, God shall take this group here gathered; a group of haphazard, assorted believers and unites us with the precious gift of spirit-language.” Is this not amazing and perplexing all at the same time? Let us pray the Spirit of Christ is here with us this morning!
John C. Holbert tells us “Many readers of this story focus their attention on the mysterious details of wind, fire, and miraculous speech, and miss the real story Luke is trying to tell.” “Well, what is that?” You ask.
One theologian, Nancy Rockwell, states it this way: “This is the promise of Pentecost: now we no longer depend solely on Jesus to be the one who understands. Now we, too, understand. And now we, too, can speak and our voices can spread the Spirit of understanding.” This new level of comprehension, and appreciation for one another; this ability to speak and hear from our hearts – without needing to fact check it with some lawyer or resource book. Today, we shall come together to share from the same table with an understanding which draws us ever more together in community. This, my friends, is the meaning of Pentecost! No, this is not some chance or fluke occurrence. This is the Spirit of God working in our midst! Let us take pause and notice and observe the fulness of God’s awesome power!
The coming of the Spirit of the Living God into one’s life, into one’s church, is meant to comfort yes, but it is more than that! The Spirit is our advocate, our supporter, our promoter, and our sponsor! The Spirit also comes to agitate us just a little bit. Sometimes we modern Christians get a little too comfortable, a little too complacent with God’s grace and mercy, we take it for granted!
As we continue our discussion this morning, on this Pentecost Sunday, seeking to glean some of the fruits of the Spirit… which are spoken of within the New Testament lessons that are available to us today, we need to clarify a few essentials before we go further. Let us acknowledge that Pentecost is on the seventh Sunday after Easter. It marks and celebrates the commencement of the Holy Spirit upon the Disciples and followers of Christ. Our scripture today from the Acts of the Apostles, chapter two, starting at verse one: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place”. It is very important to recall that everyone there received the Holy Spirit! Not just one privileged group! No ethnic group was excluded. No distinction between men or women was made. All received the Holy Spirit. Hear the next three verses again with this in mind: “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. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” /Acts 2:1-4/
In the gospel according to John chapter twenty starting at verse nineteen we are told that: “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked in fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” /John 20:19-22/ The many accounts of the Spirit being bestowed are each focused in making us aware of Christ’s Spirit is alive in those willing to receive it.
The point we ought to grasp is simple: Allow this message of hope – to rest in our hearts and minds: “The Spirit of the Living God is with us.” All we need do, to begin is accept, willingly accept this gift which is freely offered to all who are willing to follow – thereby allowing the ‘Living Spirit’ to lead us and empower us to do the will of God!
In contrast in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, (found in Romans chapter 8) he speaks of: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit… For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise, the Spirit helps us with our weakness.”
Paul’s message in his letter to the Romans moves us away from the ‘tongues of fire’ and the drama surrounding the sudden appearance of the Holy Spirit’s power within the ranks of the followers of Jesus. Now we are moved to begin seriously considering the foundation of what receiving, having available to us the Living Spirit of God, we are moved to seriously consider what this truly means! Consider Paul’s letter to the Romans, with words of affirmation of all that the Spirit does for us as followers of Jesus.
The Apostle Paul speaks out to the young church in Rome, a struggling church, much like a great many of us small churches who have been so disrupted by the occurrences of the times we now live in. Paul exhorts his listeners, which include us in our present time, to be uplifted and filled with new hope, as we have been blessed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet, Paul goes further to remind us of that young group of followers back in Rome that the Spirit is not easily seen, if at all. Thus, we must constantly rely on our faith to carry us forward during difficult and trying times. “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
The Apostle Paul likes to get his audiences’ attention – as he wrote his letters. You see, Paul knew how hard it is to get a ‘reader’ to hear the inflection of his voice, just as you now hear mine as I speak out loud to you today! Therefore, he often said the obvious over and over and in a loud and precise written manner! He was also seeking to instill hope for those who were listening and not to discourage them. Yes, he needed to tell them the truth. Through Christ we are given the Holy Spirit. “The good news!” Yet, we need to fight through our unbelief and accept, to invite, to actively invite the Spirit of God into our lives, even as we strive to work closely and in concert with God’s will for us – as we move forward in our lives! This is very important!
We humans often lose our way and forget Jesus taught us, exalted, and exhorted us, thereby urging us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves!
If you honestly look at history, you can easily see that when humankind focuses on their own wants and desires, rather than the needs of others, it is then that things go bad! Paul was striving to help those early followers seek out the ways of Jesus’ teachings thus the will of God, rather than rely only on human instincts!
Paul also inserted a gem for us to polish and hold up to the light. He goes beyond the use of flamboyant language such as that contain in chapter two of the Acts of the Apostles. Listen carefully to his words to the church in Rome. “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought,” / Romans 8:26/
Many of us pastors, in our mode of preaching find ourselves continually working to raise the power of prayer. Oftentimes we forget to point out that talking with God is only truly heard when it becomes a selfless prayer!
We talked about prayer a great deal last week.
The main point here is to accept that you, and me, that we all could use a bit of help from the Spirit of God interceding into our thoughts – as we seek to be in communion with the will of God! We continue to need a willingness to follow the Holy Spirits lead, with faith.