Monday, June 1, 2009

Pentecost: The Wonders of Conectedness

Scripture Readings: Acts 2:1-21; John 16:5-16

There is a warning about the Holy Spirit that is given to everyone who belongs to Jesus. Paul is the one who warns us. He says: “Do not quench the Spirit.” (RSV) “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.” (NIV) (First Thessalonians 5:19)

The Holy Spirit is our connection with Jesus and with his Father. This is what Jesus says about the Spirit: “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and declaring it to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14-15)

You are connected to this. If this is mind-boggling to you, this is as it should be; because you belong to God, and this is a mind-boggling reality.

If you belong to Jesus, you are a new creation. Your life is like the beginning of the heavens and the earth, when God declared, “Let there be light!” and there was light. Your life, as a person who belongs to Jesus and follows Jesus, is just as if the Holy Spirit took everything that belongs to the Father and everything that belongs to the Son, and declares this to you, “Let everything of Jesus, and everything of the Father, come and be here, with you and in you.”

We read about the event of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, on the day of Pentecost. We read that there was the blowing of a mighty wind, and fire appeared on each one of them. (Acts 2:2-3)

This happened because they were connected with something mind-boggling. The people who heard them speak said, “We hear them declaring the wonders of God, the mighty actions of God.” (Acts 2:11)

The disciples had seen what God had done in Jesus; in his life, and his sacrifice on the cross, and in his resurrection, and in his going up into heaven. They had seen wonders: great actions.

But they were not fit to declare these things until the Spirit filled them. Until that moment, even though they had seen it all, and been part of it all, and known it all; it was not nearly enough.

It had been something that happened on the outside of them. Now it was something that had happened inside them.

This fits another thing that Jesus told his friends about the Holy Spirit, when he was still with them, “The Spirit lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17) The Holy Spirit coming within the depths of your being brings the reality of Jesus and his Father into the depths of your being.

This is essential for those who belong to Jesus.

Through the Holy Spirit, the God of creation lives in you, who said, “Let there be light,” and so God makes many kinds of light dawn within you, and your are changed. The Holy Spirit, who inspired John the Baptist to point to Jesus and say, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29) points to Jesus in your heart and tells you that Jesus is there for you, to take away your sins; and Jesus is there for the benefit of the whole world, to take away its sin.”

Through the Holy Spirit, there is a Bethlehem inside you; with its manger where Christ is born. There is a desert inside you; where Jesus is being tempted for you. There are wide open spaces of Galilee in you, where Jesus feeds the hungry and heals the sick. Through the Holy Spirit, there is a mountain in you where Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Through the Holy Spirit there is a hill within you, with crosses raised upon it, where Jesus, dying before your face, says, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Through the Holy Spirit, there is a tomb within you, where the angels say, “Why do you look for the living among the dead. He has risen.” (Luke 24:6)

Whether the Holy Spirit speaks these things to you through wind and fire, or through “a still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) you have a connection with Jesus and everything he did, and everything he is, and everything he offers.

This is a mind-boggling thing.

We quench this Spirit. We put out the Spirit’s fire. We do this when we take the good news, the mind-boggling news, for granted. We quench what the Holy Spirit gives us when we neglect putting ourselves in his presence. We neglect his presence when we neglect worship, and prayer, and the word of the scriptures, and the fellowship of other believers.

We neglect his presence when we become self-satisfied, or self-defensive, or self-righteous, or even when we judge and condemn ourselves; as if we didn’t need grace, and mercy, and strength from outside ourselves. We neglect his presence when we avoid living by faith and trust in God.

But there is another connection that is just as important as the connection the Holy Spirit gives us with Jesus. That other connection is the one that the Holy Spirit works in the world to connect the people of this world with Jesus.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would convict the world, or convince the world. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase (“The Message”) says, “When he (the Spirit) comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment.” (John 16:8)

This is the very thing that Jesus constantly did. His life, and death, and resurrection all speak to the errors and the darkness of this world. And so the Holy Spirit speaks for Jesus to the issues of this world and everyone in it.

I remember once when I was at my folk’s house, and it had been windy, and that wind had gone to work on the roof of this big shed that we call the barn. The whole barn is covered with sheet of corrugated metal. One of the sheets got lifted, and then another, and then another, and then another. I remember going up, and fastening those down again.

The Holy Spirit is prepared to act like a mighty wind, not only within us, but also in the world around us. The Spirit really is at work, unseen and unheard, weakening the defenses of those who do not know him. One by one, the sheets of their defenses may be blown back and torn away; perhaps without their even knowing what is going on.

Often this makes them angry (just as you can make a whining child angry by trying to cheer them up); and this accounts for much of the anger in the world. The Holy Spirit’s work is the work of Jesus, and that is why Jesus got enemies, and why those enemies got angry enough to crucify him.

But they can’t crucify the Holy Spirit. They can only resist, and some of them do to the end.

The main point is one we often forget. Jesus promised the disciples that he was sending them on a mission, into a world where his Spirit would be at work. The Spirit would speak to people when they did. The Spirit would speak through them. But the Holy Spirit would also be at work before they ever came upon the scene. The Holy Spirit would be there before they said or did anything at all.

John Wesley called this prevenient grace. It is the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit that is always working in the world. The prevenient grace of God in the power of the Holy Spirit, goes to work in a person’s life, even before that person believes, even before that person is conscious of it. The Spirit of God is working even in a world that seems godless.

People hunger and thirst for something they do not know. A French mathematician, scientist, and philosopher of the 1600’s, named Blaise Pascal, said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus”

They go about trying to fill that vacuum with anything they can get their hands on; anything but the God who came in Jesus. They may find some form of contentment, but their contentment is always in the face of something they lack; something they have not found. They find their peace by accommodating themselves to what they have not found.

But this is still a vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum. Even human nature abhors a vacuum. This is why the crowd in Jerusalem listened to Peter, and believed.

We live in a world where the Spirit is at work; where the Spirit is establishing connections before we ever come on the scene, before we know who we are and what God calls us to do. We live in a world of prevenient grace through the Spirit of God.

The same Spirit, who connects us to Jesus, in all his fullness, sends us into a world that is also being connected by the Spirit to Jesus. We are not alone. We do not work alone.

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